As anyone in America with access to the news knows, the FBI searched former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday. Politico reported that the search was part of an investigation into the alleged mishandling of White House records, including potentially classified material.
However, at this writing, neither the Department of Justice nor the FBI has explained the reasons for their actions, despite repeated calls for them to do so.
According to the Wall Street Journal, legal historians could not remember a case in recent history in which the FBI searched the home of a former president. The Journal adds that officials can face up to five years in prison for removing classified materials to an unauthorized location. Penalties for breaking other laws related to the removal of official records also include disqualification from holding federal office, including the presidency. However, attorney David French is skeptical that this issue could disqualify Mr. Trump from the presidency.
Mr. Trump responded to the search of his home: “After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the action “an intolerable state of weaponized politicization.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis described it as “another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime’s political opponents.”
Conversely, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded, “We believe in the rule of law. That’s what our country is about. And no person is above the law. Not even the president of the United States. Not even a former president of the United States.”
Does our system of government still work?
In other political news, the House of Representatives is expected to vote Friday on the “Inflation Reduction Act” that the Senate approved earlier this week. The bill passed in the Senate on strictly partisan lines, with all fifty Democrats voting for it and all fifty Republicans voting against it. The House is expected to vote on similarly partisan lines.
Strict partisanship was also in evidence during the Trump administration, only in reverse. For example, when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed by Congress in 2017, every Democrat in the House and the Senate voted against it.
Unsurprisingly, 90 percent of Americans say they see strong or very strong conflicts between supporters of different parties. At the same time, only 13 percent of American voters believe our nation is on the right track, and a majority of American voters across nearly all demographics and ideologies believe our system of government does not work.
What explains the partisan divisiveness that dominates our politics?
Trouble on a road trip
Our system of government was founded on a belief in “self-evident” truths and “unalienable rights.” George Washington reminded the nation in his “Farewell Address”: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” The “father of our nation” added: “In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness—these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”
Tragically, postmodern relativism is subverting these “great pillars” by convincing our society that “my truth” is as true as “your truth” or “our truth.” All morality is viewed as personal, and tolerance of all views is now mandated. But what are we to do when decisions must be made and governance is required?
If you are taking a summer road trip but there is no north on your compass or map to follow, deciding the right way to go will be a matter of personal conjecture. If you and your travel companions disagree, one of you can try to force the others to submit to his or her opinion, or you can vote and adopt the majority position. Autocracies employ the former strategy, democracies the latter.
But in a democracy with no objective way to adjudicate our differences, majority rule is the only way forward. Politics then becomes a polarizing, vitriolic zero-sum game where, if one side is to win, the other side must lose.
“Let goods and kindred go”
The divisiveness of our day represents a strategic opportunity for followers of Christ.
In a confused culture that rejects objective truth and is paying the price, you and I are to “shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15–16). Each of us is to “speak the truth with his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25) and to “stand firm in the faith” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
At the same time, amid the rancor of our culture, Jesus calls us to “love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6:35). When we face opposition, we are told, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).
This week, we’ve identified persistence and discernment as essential traits for Christians who are making a transforming difference in their culture. Today, let’s add courageous compassion to the list. Let’s pray for the courage to declare and defend biblical truth in a divisive and increasingly antagonistic culture. And let’s pray for the humility and compassion to speak that truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Martin Luther knew something about such courage. In his most famous hymn, he made a declaration we do well to embrace:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
Whose kingdom will you serve today?
NOTE: For more on finding courage and serenity in the midst of storms, please see my latest website article, “Trapped on ‘It’s a Small World’ and looking for lost nuclear bombs.”