Trump and the Trinity
By Glen Argan
After well over a year of presidential campaigning in the United States, Donald Trump has increased his support to more than a third of the electorate. It boggles my mind that such a vast swath of the population in a highly-educated country could buy into his conspiracy-laden, fear-of-the-stranger, lie-every-minute brand of campaigning.
Just so you know right off, I don’t hold any candle for Hillary Clinton’s campaign either.
However, by now it is clear that Trump’s paranoia is precisely what is drawing millions of Americans into supporting his unsavoury brand of politics. The country that possesses massive military might, including more than half of the world’s nuclear weapons, and that is built on an ideology that it is the world’s shining light is actually more fearful than other nations with far fewer attributes.
Afraid, deeply afraid.
It is also worthy of note that the U.S. is the most religious nation in the Western world. How one describes that religion is another matter. Is its religion Christianity, as most assume? Or, is it militarism? Or, is it blind patriotism?
Let’s be charitable and say that its religion is Christianity, that Americans are deeply committed to following Jesus Christ, Son of God, prince of peace and friend of the outsider.
Lately, I began reading Communion and Otherness by John Zizilouas, one of the Orthodox Church’s leading theologians. Zizioulas asks what does it mean to be a person? He recalls the fifth-century definition by the Christian philosopher Boethius: “A person is an individual substance of a rational nature.”
That definition held sway in the Western world for more than 1,500 years. Zizioulas maintains that this focus on the individual has led us to fear the other. “In our culture protection from the other is a fundamental necessity. We feel more and more threatened by the presence of the other.”
Zizioulas says the Western fear of the other is pathological. It is not only fear of the other, but fear of all otherness, of all difference. Difference creates division.
However, when we study the doctrine of the Trinity, a discovery awaits us. Here, otherness is not to be feared, but is rather the very foundation of unity. “God is not first one and then three, but simultaneously one and three.”
A divine person does not stand alone, is not one of Boethius’ “individual substances.” Instead, divine otherness is inconceivable without divine relationship. “No person can be different unless he is related. Communion does not threaten otherness; it generates it.”
Christianity has, for far too long, acted as though it were a religion of monotheists. However, Christian faith is unintelligible without the Trinity – without the unity in diversity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A Trinitarian faith calls us to be in communion with those who are other. It does not divide, but unites.
It needs to be said that Trump’s appeal is the antithesis of Christianity. He offers fear where those who believe in the Trinity would seek communion; he lambastes the other where the Christian would seek out the other and welcome them into his or her home.
We have a long road ahead of us, those who call ourselves Christians. It is our task to live as the Trinity lives, to make communion with the other our hallmark, not the cause for sowing fear.