Finding the Green Light of Love I Was Blocked by a Trump Caravan, Too.
I have several American dreams.
One of them died when I saw the President of the United States belittle a disabled person. I knew I could never admire him. I assumed that most good-hearted Americans felt the same way. Another dream died gradually, as I realized that forty percent of Americans, including Christians like me, support him. What his own former chief of staff, retired general John Kelly, called his “moral flaws” just didn't seem to matter.
I’m not sure which death has been most painful: the dream of a kind and generous president, or the dream of a kind and generous people.
The second death reached a symbolic peak on Saturday, Oct. 24, when my wife and I were driving from Mayflower, Arkansas, to Conway, Arkansas. We were stopped at a red light as we entered Conway, and a very long caravan of pickup trucks with Trump flags drove by, taking a left at the intersection, passing in front of us. They were waving flags, honking their horns, and flashing their fingers with the number four, signaling “four more years.” One sign on one truck read “Jesus is My Savior; Trump is my President,” and underneath it was a huge image of Trump.
Our red light turned green, and I thought they would stop and let us go forward. But a big red truck in the caravan pulled up and blocked the way, so that the caravan could continue.
At first, I thought the truck must be part of a police escort, but then I realized that it belonged to a member of the caravan. He felt that he had the right to stop traffic and he was quite sure that everyone whose way was blocked agreed with him. Indeed, some of the people flashed thumbs-up signs. But Kathy and I didn’t. We flashed thumbs-down signs. I think it shocked the caravan folks; several of them gave us an alternative finger signal centered in the middle finger. They thought “everybody” is for Trump.
* There’s a third death that is happening in America today. It’s the death of Jesus. For some, this may not be a big deal, but for me it is. For many throughout the world, whether Christian or otherwise, Jesus symbolizes something good and beautiful: kindness and inclusion.
Ask an African Christian, where the majority of Christians now live. Jesus is not an American and he is not about America. He is about loving your neighbor and even your enemies. He is not xenophobic or nationalistic. This is what makes him so radical.
The sign that said “Jesus is my Savior, Trump is my President” kills that Jesus. It makes Jesus an American and, for that matter, a Trump supporter. It makes Jesus someone who supports the belittling of disabled people and worshipping an American flag. This is idolatry, of course, but some don’t seem to realize this. For many Christianism and Americanism are two sides of a single coin. On the other hand, for many of my friends Trump and his followers have killed Christianity by equating Jesus with Trumpolatry. These friends love Jesus, but they can't call themselves Christian anymore, because the very word has been hijacked by Trumpists.
For my part, I still call myself Christian. The Jesus in whom I believe has not been killed by hatred. Well, that's not quite true. One time, many years ago, Jesus was killed by hatred. When the Roman soldiers nailed his body to a cross, they were killing him.
Today many Americans are those soldiers, nailing his body to a flag. The good news, though, is that Jesus rose from the dead and lives still today as the living presence of love and inclusion, hope and beloved community. So, for me, the real Jesus – the one who lives as the hope of love – is both a comfort and a challenge.
I don’t want Donald Trump to be my president; Trump causes me and others so much pain. But I also don’t want to hate him. I pray for his well-being, albeit with conflicted emotions. A friend of mine, a Methodist pastor, says that he prays for Trump and then asks God for forgiveness for not really meaning it. I suspect I'm in the same boat, but it's better than no boat at all.
And I certainly don’t want to hate my fellow Americans, including those in the caravan and the man driving the big red truck. I want him to know that I don’t support his cause; I want a president with dignity and empathy, who unites rather than divides. I'm sorry for the conflict but glad that Kathy and I gave the thumbs-down sign.
But I don’t want to hate this man. I’d like to meet him sometime over coffee and talk about things we love: food, music, stories, family, nature. And I recognize that strong passions, including strong hatreds, often stem from wounds and grievances. I’d like to listen to him and hear things from his point of view. I believe in deep listening.
This listening, it seems to me, is part of what it means love your enemy. It’s not to agree with him or her, but it is to listen and understand. After all, isn’t even God a “fellow sufferer who understands.” That's process theology. God is the deep listening in whom all lives unfold, our lives and our enemy's lives. As we visit over coffee, I'd also like to put in a word of my own. I’d recommend that he hear the pain caused by Trumpism and, next time, let those of us who have the green light go ahead and pass.
After the election there will be more caravans, I’m sure. And also more civic disruption on the side of whoever “lost.” You will be disrupted either by the right or the left. Yes, yes, I know. As Trump supporters so often say: “The left does it, too.” Got it.
But so what. If we are trying to walk with Jesus, we will need to find an equanimity of heart that reaches out in love to either side and both sides. We may find ourselves in protest rallies because our side lost. Or we may find ourselves in the presence of such rallies, among people who block our way and carry deep resentments. My suggestion is that we follow the green light of love, as best we can, and forgive ourselves, too, when we have to get up and try again. If Jesus died but rose again, we can fall short of our own hopes and likewise get up again. That's process theology, too. It's the idea that we are all in a process of becoming, and that at every moment we can shape new futures even as we are influenced by the past, Deep down, God is a green light in the heart. It's time to follow it, no matter how many red trucks come our way.
- Jay McDaniel, Nov. 1, 2020
The FBI is investigating a “Trump Train” incident from Friday, in which a Biden campaign bus was surrounded by a dozen pickup trucks driven by Trump supporters as it traveled down a Texas interstate, according to a report.. (The Daily Grind)