Donald Trump arraigned today: Will US democracy collapse?

Monday, May 27, 2024

Site Search
Give

The Daily Article

Donald Trump to be arraigned today: Is democracy “in danger of collapse”?

June 13, 2023 -

Former President Donald Trump arrives at Miami International Airport, Monday, June 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Former President Donald Trump arrives at Miami International Airport, Monday, June 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Former President Donald Trump arrives at Miami International Airport, Monday, June 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Donald Trump arrived yesterday afternoon in Miami, where he spent the night. He will motorcade to the federal courthouse today, where he will be arraigned on thirty-seven felony counts to which he will plead not guilty. His supporters have already begun lining up at the courthouse; the city is preparing for five thousand to fifty thousand protesters.

Yesterday we noted the fraught nature of this moment in American history. To expand on its perilous significance for our democracy, consider two plausible scenarios.

“MAGA Republicans” and “socialist Democrats”

Outcome A: Mr. Trump is exonerated of the charges against him, but many of his opponents consider the verdict a miscarriage of justice. If he is reelected next year, they refuse to recognize the authority of the presidency, leading to unprecedented consequences for our democracy.

Outcome B: Mr. Trump is convicted of the charges against him, but many of his supporters consider the verdict a miscarriage of justice. If he is defeated next year, they refuse to recognize the authority of the presidency, leading to unprecedented consequences for our democracy.

When a significant number of citizens believe their government to be illegitimate, their democracy is imperiled. Such a government could then be forced to use force to compel its citizens’ obedience to its dictates. I have seen such autocracy at work during my many trips to Cuba over the years. We are watching the same story unfolding in China under Xi Jinping and in Russia under Vladimir Putin.

I am not predicting that America’s future lies in a similar direction, but I do believe that we are closer to a grave crisis of confidence in our leaders and institutions than at any time in many decades.

Consider this: a recent poll found that 69 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of Republicans say our democracy is “in danger of collapse.” Illustrating the danger, however, one side blames former President Trump and his “MAGA Republicans,” while the other side blames President Biden and his “socialist Democrats.”

“What religion without religion looks like”

When Adam blamed Eve for his sin, he objectified her as his moral inferior and a means to his ends. From then to today, one foundational characteristic of fallen human nature is our tendency to demean our fellow humans in the same way.

Philosophers refer to this as “Othering,” our propensity to “turn fellow humans into abstract entities we can distance ourselves from or treat as less-than-human.” Simone de Beauvoir noted that this tendency is basic to thinking: as soon as we think about something, we think about its opposite, the Other. But it is also central to our fallen “will to power”: once we identify people as the Other, it becomes easier to justify treating them in ways we would not treat our fellow humans.

Each time I visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, I am reminded of the horrific Othering of Jews by Nazis. The slave trade and the Rwandan genocide are other examples.

Now we are witnessing the Othering of Americans by Americans along political divides. Not only does each side see the other side as dangerous to society, they do so with a fervor that is religious in its zeal.

Shadi Hamid notes in The Atlantic: “As Christianity’s hold, in particular, has weakened, ideological intensity and fragmentation have risen. American faith, it turns out, is as fervent as ever; it’s just that what was once religious belief has now been channeled into political belief. Political debates over what America is supposed to mean have taken on the character of theological disputations. This is what religion without religion looks like” (his italics).

He adds: “Christianity was always intertwined with America’s self-definition. Without it, Americans—conservatives and liberals alike—no longer have a common culture upon which to fall back.”

“When the church is absolutely different from the world”

The solution to Othering is found in the Christian gospel, which Paul described as “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16, my emphasis). As Tim Keller explained, “The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me.” This means that no person—Democrat, Republican, or Independent—is fundamentally any worse or better than I am. No person is loved by God any less or more than I am.

Now it’s our turn to see others in the same way. Imagine the difference if America’s two hundred million Christians prayed daily for God’s Spirit to enable us to love others as Jesus loves us. Imagine the impact if we modeled unconditional love for others whatever our political differences. Imagine the difference if others saw the difference God’s love has made in our hearts as “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Josh McDowell was right: “Whenever Jesus has been proclaimed, we see lives change for the good, nations change for the better, thieves become honest, alcoholics become sober, hateful individuals become channels of love, unjust persons embrace justice.” This is because, as Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones observed, “The glory of the gospel is that when the church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it.”

How “different from the world” will you be today?

What did you think of this article?

If what you’ve just read inspired, challenged, or encouraged you today, or if you have further questions or general feedback, please share your thoughts with us.

Name(Required)
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Denison Forum
17304 Preston Rd, Suite 1060
Dallas, TX 75252-5618
[email protected]
214-705-3710


To donate by check, mail to:

Denison Ministries
PO Box 226903
Dallas, TX 75222-6903