In my childhood, one name was synonymous with evil and villainy: Cobra. This wretched organisation, helmed by the Cobra Commander and Destro, used all manner of intimidation and treachery to accomplish their ends of world domination. Yet I knew the simple truth that in the face of evil, a hero would surely arise. Who dared to stand against Cobra’s tyranny? G.I. Joe, that’s who. The Joe Team (Go Joe!) armed themselves with the most advanced arsenal and tactics – but their greatest weapon was the American spirit.
At the time, the real world seemed just as straightforward. For good American Christians like myself, the U.S.S.R., then under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, had long been the enemy. Sure, Gorby was no Khrushchev. But behind all the rapprochement and the Glasnost, we knew a snake in the grass when we saw one. Should we show any sign of weakness, the commies were certain to strike. Good thing we had a hero named Ronald Reagan, who spoke the only language the Soviet understood, the language of strength.
That storied rivalry kind of fizzled out and we looked long and hard to fill the vacant position of ‘arch-nemesis’, but none of the Husseins or Milosevics had any real menace about them.
Enemies Foreign and Domestic?
Certainly none of them could compare to the most vile fiend ever to rise against God’s people and the American nation…Barack Obama? Wait, seriously? And the champion who would finally liberate us from this wicked regime is…Donald Trump? You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Yes, so embroiled have we become in an endless culture war, so entrenched behind our walls of ideological superiority – and so fearful of anything or anyone who might dispute that ideology – that we’re no longer content to dehumanise foreign entities; we’re now determined to do the same to our domestic political ‘adversaries’. And tragically, more than a few Christians participate in this kind of vilification.
President Obama is merely one of the most recent targets of this trend. We said he wasn’t really American (That’s, like, the top sin there is!). We called him a secret Muslim and insinuated he was some sort of terrorist double agent. We called him a godless liberal. We called him a communist. We called him a ‘baby killer’. We called him a pathological liar.
No More, No Less than Human
When we repeat and collude with such absurd and incendiary claims, we return to immaturity, to our action figures and our cartoons. We surrender some of our own humanity. We make a crude caricature of another human being and thereby shamefully denigrate the God in whose image that person is created.
Because President Obama is just a man – no more and no less. Like the host of presidents and world leaders before him, he made decisions, some good, some not so good. He no doubt exaggerated certain realities and obfuscated others, though I suspect that his economy with the truth was no worse than our own. Many of us may not have agreed with his every policy, or even most of his policies. Yet he held himself with dignity and undeniable personal character and displayed love and warmth toward his family. Are these the ways of a cold-blooded villain?
The Question for Us
And now, you and I must ask ourselves a very pointed question: Will we berate President Trump in the same way many of us berated President Obama? Sure the temptation is there, not least because President Trump regularly antagonises his own ‘enemies’. But what does resisting this temptation mean for us?
It doesn’t mean mindlessly supporting the president’s policies or lionising him in gushing adoration. That’s the flip-side of the mindset described above – balancing the ‘villain’ with a ‘hero’, fashioning a god from mortal flesh (It’s important to note here that President Obama’s supporters made this mistake in 2008, elevating him to an almost messianic status in their imaginations). Contrary to a belief common among some Christians, nowhere in the teachings of Jesus, his disciples or Paul do we find blind allegiance to authorities advocated. New Testament theology and the early Christian kerygma were, in fact, subversive at a foundational level (but more on that at another time). Indeed, much of the incoming president’s platform and aggressive rhetoric demands our calm, determined and humble resistance.
It does mean refraining from childish and cartoonish insults. These don’t become us; we have to be better than that.
And it does mean avoiding wholly partisan criticisms. For us, our ‘party’ must remain Option C: the Kingdom of God, which calls us to serve as its ambassadors, to distance ourselves from political sides, and yet to invest ourselves deliberately in the physical, economic, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing of our neighbours.
It means admitting that the world and its politics aren’t as simple as I thought in my younger years, with very few clear-cut ‘G.I. Joes’ and ‘Cobras’ to be found. Which makes reserving our loyalty for Jesus and his kingdom that much more important.
- Barack Obama, Senator of Illinois, 2005 (Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons)
- Donald Trump (Photo by Michael Vadon – Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons)
- Cobra Insignia (Joepedia)
- G.I. Joe Logo (Joepedia)
- Senator Edward Kennedy speaks to more then 500 honoured guests and distinguished visitors aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) during a twilight reception (Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons)
- Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton – January 20, 1997 (Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons)
- Hamburglar still and awestruck (McDonalds Wikia)
- Official Portrait of President Reagan 1981 (Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons)
- George H. W. Bush, Vice President of the United States, Official Portrait (Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons)
- He-Man and Battlecat (Wiki Greyskull)
* All image ‘doctoring’ done by me (Thank you, Apple, for your user-friendly software)