Romans 13 in the Age of Trump

Eight years ago my mom happened to be in town during President Obama’s first inauguration. As a daughter of a political junkie, we watched the ceremony, the balls, and the celebration that comes with the peaceful transfer of power in a democratic nation. Four years ago, I watched his second inauguration in the warmth of my own home while big and pregnant with the twins. Even though I didn’t vote for him, I appreciated what his inauguration represented. I’ve watched his state of the union addresses. I enjoy the political process in our country, even if my preferred candidate doesn’t always win.

But I’m struggling with this inauguration.

I was a “Never Trump-er” from the beginning. Up until the bitter end, I stood by my commitment to not vote for him, even if it meant the person who won in the end was another candidate I didn’t really want to win either. I seriously never thought we would be here, on the eve of a Trump presidency. Yet, here we are.

I’m too young to say that this is the worst it has ever been. I’m too young to really weigh in on the strangeness of it all. I’ve only voted in three presidential elections, which hardly qualifies me to have an informed opinion on the historical effect of this election cycle. But I will admit, I’m having a hard time saying the words “President Trump” without smirking or groaning.

And then I read this verse in Romans 13:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

My first reaction was “yes, but this can’t mean President Trump.” And then I read it again and again and again. With all of my angst and dread over the next administration, I was reminded in this verse that this is no surprise to God. The word still stands and still demands obedience, even if I’m less than thrilled by the governing authorities that are about to be put in place. I’ve been convicted by verses in scripture before, but up until this point I’ve never really struggled with respecting my elected officials, even if they weren’t the ones I picked for office. But this time is different for me. With every late night or early morning tweet, every angry response to journalists, and every sexist or racist statement made I cringe and think: Can this really be happening? Yet, Romans 13 is true for us, and whether we want to accept it or not, Donald Trump has been put in office by God. Perhaps he is there as a means of judgment or perhaps he's there for another reason entirely, we don’t know. But we aren’t the first people who have been placed under unjust and unfit rulers, and we surely won’t be the last.

On the eve of the Trump inauguration I have been confronted with my own subjective approach to scripture, something I thought I had crucified long ago. Old habits die hard, and this one is still hanging on for dear life. I’m confronted with the command to obey, respect, and honor the leaders God has appointed, whether I cast a vote for them or not. God put Trump in office, and while it’s a hard pill to swallow, at least I know the character of the God who put him there. The man who holds the office might not have good character, but God who sits on the heavenly throne is always good and always right in all his ways. God was not taking a break on election day and we all are now living with the results. And as a Christian, I must humbly submit to the leaders placed in authority over me (submit to, not worship or blindly follow, by the way), hard as that may be.