Since the election, I’ve seen widespread use of the hashtag #NotMyPresident. While I understand the sentiment, I think #NotMyMessiah is a more appropriate hashtag for Christians. Here’s why. Because of our deeply polarized two-party system, #NotMyPresident inevitably carries partisan overtones and invites partisan debates. Conservatives expressed that sentiment when Barack Obama was elected, and liberals are using #NotMyPresident to protest the Trump presidency. If believers want to retain a prophetic voice under this administration or any other, however, we can’t allow our faith-based concerns to become indistinguishable from partisan voices. We need to abandon the ways of the world – its weapons, its methods, its ethos, and its forms – and connect with a biblical paradigm instead.
#NotMyMessiah is a prophetic statement that issues a corrective to both Christians walking down an erroneous path and non-Christians who are hoping for some kind of deliverance from a political savior. It applies to the Trump presidency, and it could have applied to that of Obama, whose campaign in 2008 was filled with messianic implications.
When Christians Place Their Faith in False Messiahs
The messiahship of Jesus Christ is core to Christian belief, but because many who identify as Christians think about this doctrine strictly in terms of going to heaven, they often fail to recognize how they place earth-bound messianic hopes on political figures, whether they’re on the right or the left of the political spectrum. The sticky problem with earthly messiahs, however, is they always require human sacrifice, some kind of scapegoat, on the altar of their causes. This is true whether the cause is to overturn Roe v. Wade or to preserve Roe v. Wade. And when we pledge unflinching fidelity to a political messiah because of unflinching fidelity to a specific cause, even a so-called “pro-life” one, we end up participating in some form of human sacrifice anyway.
Under the banner of white MAGA nationalism, the dignity and safety of refugees, immigrants, and people of color are being sacrificed on the altar of the pre-born; and American Muslims are being sacrificed on the altar of national security. This is merely a different manifestation of the same spirit that sacrifices the pre-born on the altar of choice. Trade-offs are the only way the fallen world, with its fallen power structures, knows how to do things. But Jesus never requires human sacrifice. He values and upholds the dignity of every life. That’s why his kingdom is not of this world.
When People Seek Deliverance Through a Political Messiah
For many poor white Americans whose circumstances feel apocalyptic, Trump’s messianic role is more obvious. For them, he evokes longed-for feelings of validation, safety, and hope for imminent relief. On the campaign trail last year, he assured them, “No one knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” On March 27, 2016, he tweeted: “Another radical Islamic attack, this time in Pakistan, targeting Christian women & children. At least 67 dead,400 injured. I alone can solve.” In his inaugural address, he reiterated his messianic message: “The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes — starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.”
Refugees, immigrants, Muslims, and people of color are freely sacrificed on the altar of their promised deliverance. But from a missional standpoint, our most potent message to the followers of a false messiah is not, “You’re racist” but embodied witness that testifies, “Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Messiah. Jesus alone saves.” I say embodied witness because people who are economically oppressed by harmful federal policies find little that’s attractive about salvation that has implications primarily for a future reality. They need to know Jesus cares about their lived reality. They need to see evidence that Christians, those who claim to live under his lordship, do too. Otherwise, there’s little we can say to dissuade them from believing that their survival demands racism.
Recovering the Ethic of the True Messiah
We need to recognize that at least some of the rise in overt racism that we’re seeing among disenfranchised groups is the fruit of the dominant-culture church’s spiritual unfaithfulness. The financially and socially resourced church has to acknowledge and repent of the way it has failed ALL people on the margins by not caring about their poverty, their suffering, and their disenfranchisement. It has passively and actively participated in the draconian forces of corporate greed and capitalism and allowed them to gut both black and white working class communities over decades, exacerbating and complicating unhealed racial divides. It has passively participated in and accepted the structural racism of American cities without critically engaging the vast implications. Collectively, we’ve given in to the tyranny of the private life and abandoned the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount, which demands intentional solidarity with those who mourn, who are poor in spirit, who suffer injustice, and who are enemies. It’s time for us to be the church and recover that ethic.
Part of that means relinquishing the partisan-tainted battle cry of #NotMyPresident in order to take up the kingdom struggle against the deception of false messiahship. Donald Trump may be my President, but he is #NotMyMessiah.