Humility, moral clarity

Two qualities could change the course of politics

Oct 14, 2019 by

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God’s word to Solomon after the dedication of Israel’s temple offered a remedy for a wayward nation. A time of judgment will come, God says, and then “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).

It’s a favorite scripture when calling for a revival of faith. The message never goes out of date. We’ll always need prompting to seek God and turn away from sin. But there are historic moments of urgent need for a nation’s healing, and this feels like one of them. In the United States today, God’s answer to Sol­omon’s prayer offers hope for Christians divided over whether President Trump should be impeached.

For the land to heal, God says, the people need to be humble. In U.S. politics, humility would defy all expectations. That alone could make an impact. Even more, if U.S. Christians combined humility with moral clarity, they might change the course of current events.

Moral clarity, in this case, would consist of holding President Trump to a high standard of ethics and integrity. Evangelical Christians have an important role to play in how the president will be judged. They’ve formed a key part of the base that keeps the party loyal despite his abuse of power.

That loyalty, seemingly ironclad, has underlying weakness. Washington insiders, both conservative and liberal, have observed that many Republican members of the House and Senate who publicly support Trump admit in private that they find his behavior appalling. But they remain silent, fearing that criticizing him might cost them their jobs. If public opinion shifted back home, the political climate in Washington would change.

The results of humility would be less immediately dramatic but no less important in the long run. In a political culture that lately rewards rudeness and swagger, humility might look like a loser’s posture. But that is exactly why Christians need to model it: to turn it into a winner — a requirement for political success — and to prove that decency, integrity and civility still matter.

Most of the time, on political matters, we already practice humility among ourselves in the church. We have learned to live with the fact that Christians can read the Bible together and hold opposing political ideas. Ideally, we accept this reality with grace and tolerance. We refuse to let political views poison our relationships or claim our highest loyalty. We must resist the temptation to compromise our beliefs or lower our ethical standards because we want our political side to win.

Humility should not stop anyone from expressing opinions about public figures or political issues. It does rule out the arrogance of identifying a specific political agenda with the cause of God. It rejects stereotyping: assuming, for instance, that Trump voters lack compassion or condone all of his actions or policies. They don’t. Mennonites who voted for Trump but welcome immigrants are one example. Those who believe conservative Su­preme Court appointments outweigh all else are another.

Humility is not a sign of weakness but a mark of peaceful strength. It asserts that truth-telling and empathy ought to defeat lying and bullying. Such confidence might prove wrong in any given election. But eventually, we hope, it will be rewarded. Meanwhile, Trump’s evangelical supporters must hope that if the president is rebuked — by impeachment, by the voters in 2020 or by the verdict of history — their faith’s reputation doesn’t suffer lasting damage. Harm may already have been done.


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