As a pastor, a Christian, and an American, I’m feeling increasingly alienated from my country’s political process. I’m probably not the only one.
It may not surprise you that a pastor isn’t happy with politics. But what may surprise you is why. It’s not because I’m a shill for the Republican or Democratic parties. Neither is my greatest alienation over a particular policy (though books could be written about policies I dislike). I’m not even most disturbed about the petulant tone of the discourse (even if it happens to resemble a middle school student election I once participated in). No, my deepest problem with our politics is a theological one.
What disturbs me, perhaps more than everything else, is the way in which our political process has abandoned the most foundational doctrine of my faith: the doctrine of the Trinity.
Trinity is a word that described the tri-unity of God. He is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This fact about God’s nature holds endless implications, but the one most important for our current political discourse is this: If God is trinity, we matter and you matter.
Trinity Means We Matter
Christian theologians (the good ones, anyway) derive their conclusions on human interactions from the nature of God. So, if God were a radical individual (one God, one person) we may reasonably conclude that individuals may exercise supreme authority over others. But, God is not a monad (radically one). God is three-in-one. He is unity and community — a tri-untiy. That means that, for God, three matters as much as one.
Because God is Trinity, we matter — communities of individuals matter. That’s not a view that started with 19th century Liberalism. It’s a view that starts with God. Vintage Trinitarianism.
Trinity Means You Matter
If you were to only read the first heading, you might begin feeling the Bern. Socialism FTW, right?
Slow your roll, comrades. It’s not that simple.
Because God is one God, and the individual Persons of the Trinity are in fact individual persons, individuals matter. On the Christian view, individuals should own property, do work, and exercise authority as individuals. Oneness doesn’t trump three-ness. Neither does three-ness trump oneness. I matter and we matter, because the Father (and the Son, and the Spirit) matters and the Godhead matters.
Without Trinity We Trend Totalitarian
In a world of political and social brokenness, we can easily see what happens when individuals are sacrificed for the good of the community or state. We only need look as far back as World War II to find out what happens when a society decides that a certain group of individuals is undesirable. The killing fields of Cambodia, the concentration camps of Dachau and Auschwitz — these stand as monuments to the idea of the supremacy of the society at the expense of the individual. If God is simply one without internal diversity, then we would have no way to justify the rights of individuals in communities.
However today we live in an age when the rights of individuals are so over-preferred that a single person’s preferences, feelings, and proclivities can change the course of the entire society, because the individual is the basic unit of society, or so it is said. If there were three separate gods, then we would have no theology to support a strong community. But, because within God there is unity and diversity, and we are made in his image, we have a means to hold in balance the rights of individuals and needs of communities. God’s very nature gives us a great resource to develop a proper understanding of the balance of a civilization and its parts. Without this, what anchor have we against tyranny of the state or the citizen?
Socialism in its various forms is the idea that the “we” matters more than the “you.” As I Christian, I just can’t feel the Bern, I’m afraid, because Socialism is simply anti-Trinitarian. But before you righties start cheering, the Truth cuts both ways. We can’t prefer individual rights at the expense of the community — Trumpian triumphalism means certain people win, while a lot of others don’t. The “You” doesn’t matter more than the “we.”
This basic understanding was, at one point, built into the fabric of our Republic. It seems to be absent now. One party seems poised to elect a totalitarian individualist while another is tilting toward the totalitarianism of the state. Without Trinity, I’m afraid the totalitarian trend is inevitable.
What to do (and how to vote) is, well, a post for the future. But until then, vote Jesus for King.0