Since his acquittal, I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Analysis of Trump’s influence on the American political system, and politicians in particular, remains a common topic on TV commentary shows. Whether or not you like Trump as a person, politician, or leader, or agree with his beliefs and the political policies he championed, there’s no denying the fact that his stamp on our nation has left an indelible mark. From what I can tell, even were he to fade into the background as a political leader, the effects of his presidency will be felt for decades to come.
I will go on record to say that I believe the House Managers successfully showed that the events of January 6 were the direct result of the actions and words of President Trump over the course of his four years in office. The fact that Mitch McConnell, one of Trump’s most ardent supporters and defenders, came to the same conclusion, lends a boatload of credence to this perspective. From the evidence I saw and heard presented, personal political biases aside, I think the facts are indisputable. What may be disputable is the constitutionality of convicting a non-sitting president. However, in this case the U.S. Senate determined by official vote that it was constitutional to try a non-sitting president. So, with the constitutionality argument against conviction removed, based on the evidence alone, I believe ‘guilty’ was the only verdict that would have any integrity to it.
Back to my self-reflection. In the days since, I’m experiencing an emotion that, for the most part, is foreign to me. That feeling is deep disappointment. I think my sense of disappointment is rooted in my own commitment to living a life of integrity even if doing so somehow “costs” me. Personally, I put a lot of stock in Jesus’ statement that it’s the truth which sets us free from the emotional and spiritual bondage caused by lies (see John 8:32). I believe most of those who voted to acquit the President ignored the evidence (even if they publicly said they we not convinced), and instead put their own political ambitions ahead of standing for the truth. Their unwillingness to stand against the actions, and certain inactions, on the part of the President for the purpose of maintaining their own position of power deeply disappoints me.
At first, then, the object of my disappointment were the leaders—mostly Republican—whose vote all along the way supported not holding the president accountable.
But then I heard that little voice in my head which almost always speaks up whenever I start to dole out blame. The first thing I heard that voice say was, “Drew, do you really believe that had the shoe been on the other political foot, Democrats would have acted differently?” As I emotionally positioned myself in the “balcony” and tried to get a better view of the big picture, I was able to see that this really isn’t a Democratic-Republican problem. It’s a human problem. Self-preservation at all costs is our human condition. As much as I’d like to think I’d always stand up to what’s wrong and do the right thing no matter the cost, it’s probably more likely that I, too, would choose saving myself were my back against the wall. Ouch!
Then that voice spoke some more, reminding me of one of the thirty-four ‘marks of discipleship’ from the Disciple Bible Study. The starting place for each Disciple Bible study lesson is a ‘human condition,’ and closes with a ‘mark of discipleship,’ which is the Christian response to the human condition.
Lesson 9 is about when Israel asked Samuel for a king. Even after he warned them about the ramifications of having a king, they still wanted one, so that they could be like all the other nations around them. When Samuel took this request to God, God told him, “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king” (1 Samuel 8:7). The human condition for lesson 9 is We demand leaders, hoping they will bring security and peace. We want our leaders to make decisions for us, to tell us what to do so we won’t have to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions. But power tends to corrupt; and we discover our leader, like us, have feet of clay. (emphasis added). For this lesson, the ultimate mark of a disciple (a follower of Christ) is this: Disciples maintain a perspective on leadership that supports and respects godly leaders but gives true allegiance to God.
With this, the disappointment I’m feeling is put into proper perspective. Yes, I’m still disappointed that many of them put their own ambitions first. But I can also see that my disappointment is rooted in my experience of our human condition, which is that there’s a real part of me that expects those in public office to live by superhuman standards, when the truth is probably that very few of us would do so were we in their shoes.
Maybe the disappointment I’m feeling is really a disappointment in the reality of human brokenness and sin. Maybe I’m experiencing the metaphorical scales falling from my eyes. I mentioned at the top that disappointment is a foreign feeling to me. Generally speaking, I’ve always maintained a pretty high regard for the motives and standards of our elected leaders. But this situation is a stark reminder that ultimately, there’s only one leader and person who will never disappoint us, and who always did the right thing even when it eventually cost him his life, and that’s Jesus Christ. As Christians, our true allegiance is to God alone.