Like many Americans, I watched the Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States of America yesterday. Although many of the people I know heralded it as a great triumph, others viewed it as “the worst or saddest day in their lives.” Nevertheless, with great interest Judy and I watched the so-called “peaceful transfer of power” and rejoiced that in God’s Providence, we are citizens in the United States of America.
It should be obvious to everyone that we live in a greatly divided country. Some grieving that President Obama was leaving the White House, some devastated by Mrs. Clinton’s loss and others rejoicing that Donald J. Trump was now President. As polarizing as this issue is, it is not a simple one. Many, including myself, were more “pleased” with the defeat of Mrs. Clinton and her liberal political and social agendas than with the victory of her political opponent. We saw this as a reprieve from the rapid demise of many Christian/traditional values. We rejoiced that this onslaught had been (temporarily) halted.
Personally, I’m amazed that President Trump has been elected. Who would have thought of this two years ago? In the months leading up to the election, it became apparent that the Republican party chose a candidate who demonstrated that he could win. I was unsure of many of his views and positions. So, I ended up voting for him as a vote against the platform of progressive liberalism. Put simply, I voted against one candidate more than for her opponent.
With that mindset, I watched the inauguration of Mr. Trump as President. I listen to his inaugural speech and recognized his attempts to rally the troops – get everybody on his side and bring positive change to our country. On most, if not all of these issues I agree on the direction of the statements. But as I listened, I was not always quite sure what he meant.
Thanks to modern technology, I obtained a full text of his comments, which enabled me to look at them more closely. Having done this, and now resisting the temptation to pick at words, one recognizes his intent to be inclusive – to stir and motivate every citizen to back his agenda to “make America great again.” His goal seems to include “all people.” In fact, he pledges his allegiance to all Americans.
To make his point, he states: “… Today’s ceremony, however, has a very special meaning because today we are not, merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, DC and giving it back to you, the people.” He then goes on to say: “what truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became rulers of this nation again.”
I recognize that he is clearly attempting to generate unity and support for his master plan to improve conditions for all Americans. However, in laying out his broad agenda for the future for all Americans, I wonder if he overstates the place of the people.
Our Constitution guarantees the rights of citizens to be governed (ruled) by elected representatives to three branches of government: legislative, executive and judicial. The legislative branch is comprised of the Senate and House of Representatives, who make the laws. The executive branch executes (not meaning to put to death, but to implement) the laws made by Congress. The judicial branch adjudicates or judges disputes arising from, laws made by Congress. The power, privilege and obligation of the people is to elect representatives to these branches of government. Thus, the President is the Chief Executive and Commander-In-Chief of the military services, and is elected by the people.
To state the obvious, then this “transfer of power” is executive power. Congress, specifically the House of Representatives and the Senate, have legislative power. While judicial power is posited in the Supreme Court. This is what is provided by the Constitution. This is what I learned in ninth grade civics and this is what the US Constitution still mandates. So, when President Trump speaks of giving the power back to the people, he is promising that he will be attentive to the needs and problems of all people as opposed to only a few.
I know this seems pedantic, but we seem to be living in a context which confuses, conflates and usurps power and authority. This is true not only of many people, but particularly of those having authority.
I am saddened by the speech’s lack of dependence on God. I’m not surprised – just saddened. It was given by a savvy businessman who has relied on his own position, wits and abilities to accomplish great success. His one reference to the Bible assumes that America is “God’s people” and seems to be thrown in for good measure. He then says that America will always be protected by God. On the bright side, he does seem to refer to the Judeo-Christian concept of God. Things could be worse…
This is where the Bible helps me to refocus. A couple of passages come to mind; they are applicable to all of us.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:1–4, ESV)
Thus, Scripture says that civil government is authorized by God. When a civil ruler is invested with power, he is in a sense “ordained” by God. His rule is not independent of God; he or she is accountable to God. In our day, the concept of separation of church and state has been widely, misinterpreted to mean the separation of God and state. Increasingly, civil government attempts to remove itself from the authority of God. While it seeks his power and authority.
This brings to mind Psalm 2: “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2, ESV)
God the Lord is not quivering at the rebellion of the political powers of this world. He has made a promise to his Son (Jesus Christ): he will govern the entire earth and subdue all who oppose him. He further promises to bless all who take refuge in him.
So, the long-term future looks wonderful for those who take refuge in Jesus, the Son. Those who continue to resist him will be crushed. There are only two sides – the Son’s and those who oppose him. Where do you fit?