By Nik Grosfield
No one is surprised when The New York Times criticizes President Donald Trump. Nor is anyone impressed when Fox News defends him. The reverse was typical during the prior administration. These trends are not inherently wrong, discrediting, or new—they neither started nor ended with Trump’s inauguration speech. But they carry less sway than when a supporter opposes his ally or an opponent defends his enemy.
President Trump’s inaugural address was short in length, but long on hyperbole. Phrases such as "scattered like tombstones," "every breath in my body," and "never, ever let you down" ranged from partly false to entirely divine descriptions.
But a phrase that really made headlines was putting "America first." Some of Trump’s detractors called this ignorant of, or akin to, the fascist-friendly pre-World War II America First movement. The new president wants to bring down the unquestionably preferable multilateral global system, they cried, and replace it with backward or dangerous self-interested nationalism. One complaint lamented the lack of a Lincoln-esque appeal to "the better angels of our nature."
First, both those who love and hate Trump need to start accepting that he is no Abraham Lincoln. Second, as geopolitical forecaster George Friedman pointed out several months ago, fascism has two characteristics that need not correspond to nationalism: restricted self-determination and rise of dictators. Third, media outlets do not tend to vilify Uganda, Egypt, Paraguay, or Norway when their domestic and foreign policies put their own countries first. But for the same crime, it seems they think America should leave the planet—just not back to the Moon. Fourth, wise and humble leadership can steer patriotic fervor toward positive domestic and foreign policies and away from extremes like isolationism or belligerence.
On the other hand, normal Christian citizens have a higher calling than nationalism. In fact, they can exchange "America first" for "soli Deo gloria" (to God alone be the glory). They can wait to raise President Trump’s popular slogan of "Make America Great Again" until long after they proclaim the character, works, and name of God in America. In fact, this may be how to make America great.
Ponder whether the following verses allow any rivals to God in the hearts of His people. Note the faith, humility, action, and priorities of each psalmist. Then try praying them in your own heart’s longing for God’s glory in, and mercy toward, your country.
Nikolas Grosfield is a writer from Montana. His work has appeared 180 times in national, local, and other media outlets. He earned a B.A. in History at Cedarville University, lived five years in the Middle East and East Africa. He is a devoted child of God, husband of Elsbeth, and daddy of Oliver and Elias.
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28 State of the Union Address