If Not Now, When?


This is certainly an opportune time. A kairos moment as the Bible might put it. The Lord has called us to love one another and now is the time for strategic, bold, and courageous love in action.

We have an unusual man in the Presidency–perhaps without parallel in American history, and so in global history. All American Presidents, good or bad, have tried to serve all the people with dignity. This President panders only to his “base.” He respects only those who, support him unwaveringly today. What you did yesterday doesn’t matter. This President only possesses, and only uses, the tools of bluster and bullying that have served him well in the real estate business. But these are the very tools that divide the people and bring contempt upon the office of Presidency and upon the place of the United States in the family of nations.

The phenomenon that now makes this a particular time of crisis is that there are groups of people who recognize many of the character flaws of this President, but who make excuses for his behavior and support him in any way they can despite those flaws. They do so in the vain hope that in his exaggerated appetite for power he will drop some crumbs their way. Republicans hope for control of government. Their benefactors in business want less regulation and taxation for the sake of more profits. Evangelicals hope for a Supreme Court to roll back limits on their influence and roll back the laws that protect reproductive choice.

All of you who support this man, please wake up!! The man in the Presidency holds all the principles you think you share with him in utter contempt. He has amply demonstrated this in his career as he has run vastly different flags up the flag poles until he gets enough salutes. And he never, ever, takes responsibility for his own mistakes. He never cleans up his own messes. He never flinches at throwing his allies under the bus when it seems expedient. So, eventually he will do the same to you.

The saddest thing of all is that these many supporters of this President, people, full of resentment over their own lack of power, and full of appetite for power at any price, are allowing this President to destroy our fundamental democratic institutions. The bedrock of all these institutions consists of the pursuit of truth and fairness and our system of checks and balances. This President now attacks all time-honored principles of objectivity. Daily he attacks what he childishly calls the MSM (main stream media) and “fake news,” when they have only followed long established processes of fact checking, and even when they have largely only shared what he himself has said and done. He sees nothing wrong with his own allies making vast profits by the public policies they set. This President blatantly undermines the all important freedom of the press, the independence of the courts and even now his own staff and the entire intelligence establishment and the Department of Justice. And he has a well practiced habit of, whenever he is caught out for his own blatant crimes and faults, concocting lies by which he attempts to smear his opponents with the very same kinds of sins. The upshot of all of this is that our citizens are being fooled into thinking there is no such thing as truth at all. They are being made to think that anyone with a gift for government is an agent of the “deep state,” that anyone who points out the President’s mistakes or lies is out to destroy him, and that anyone who advocates cooperation with other nations is selling out American sovereignty. So citizens are being fooled into mistrusting any honest government and trusting only their strong-man President.

And so, we should embrace the ageless wisdom of Rabbi Hillel, recorded in the Pirkei Avot and the Mishnah: “If I am not for myself who is for me? and being for my own self what am I? If not now when?”

We need to act on enlightened self interest. We need to act for the sake of our community, our society, our nation and our world. But that last part is most urgent now. This is the time for action. We cannot allow this President to establish a new normal. He is President and will be for four years (God willing, no more!). But we are the nation. And if we refuse to be bullied or to have sand thrown in our faces–if we refused to be silenced, but speak up often and loudly, we can join our voices and make a difference.

We are waiting, defiantly for the election of 2018 when we can cut away some of this President’s cheering section in congress. We are leaning out toward 2020 when we have the opportunity to elect a brand new President who is an adult and is not so pathologically self-centered. But these dates will come up on us fast, so we must make this a fruitful waiting. We must talk to each other, listen to each other, respect each other, and make plans with each other to bring this nation back from the brink of a very bleak new normal.

If we are giving our President the benefit of the doubt, we should say, “Resist till he grows up.” But it is a bit late in the game to be expecting him to change. He has not the talents nor the character nor the inclination to be presidential. So we must call him out, resist, and act.

If not now, when?

About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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1 Response to If Not Now, When?

  1. Bonnie T. Amesquita says:

    This is great assessment of our political climate right now. I can’t think of any way to add to it. Regarding the need for civil discourse, I wholeheartedly agree. I, like many others, sometimes become angry and frustrated with Trump, his administration, the GOP and its supporters. I have indulged in caustic rhetoric, though I’ve begun to try to use rhetoric that is more civil. I cannot promise that I won’t lapse into angry language again. I can only try to contain myself.

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