22 January 2017

Inaugural Wisdom

One perk of partial employment was being home to watch the inauguration of now President Donald Trump. I sat attentively, one third cringing in anticipation of an assassination, one third cringing at the reality of that comb over being in charge, and one third appreciating the pomp and circumstance - and impressive show of clenching bipartisanship - on the capitol steps. I confess to talking out loud to the television throughout the various speeches, nodding in affirmation and snorting at the absurdities.

Imagine my surprise and delight when Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York, was the first religious figure to take the microphone. After all, Trump is Presbyterian. It seemed odd that a figure of another sect of Christianity should be the very first to speak - not to mention one from a relatively divisive sect in contemporary circles. By the second line of Cardinal Dolan's recitation from the Book of Wisdom, I was grinning oh so very widely. He could not have picked better words to serve as a subtle critique, call to arms, and firm foundation for the years to come.

The entire passage, included at the bottom, is profoundly relevant, but the first few lines immediately struck me as full of truth and, perhaps too, a bit of mirth.

"And in your providence have charged us to rule the creatures produced by you, to govern the world in holiness and righteousness, and to render judgment with integrity of heart. Give us wisdom, for we are your servants, weak and short-lived, lacking in comprehension of judgment and of laws."

These two sentences address the heart of some of the major critiques of our new president.
  1. "Rule the creatures" - Someone who continues to argue whether climate change is real; someone who nurtures relationships with Bayer and Monsanto (while simultaneously still possibly risking jobs) seems to not understand the importance of being stewards of all earth's creatures. Trump's nominees for Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, and the EPA come from different backgrounds and hold differing opinions on these issues. It will be interesting to see how our creatures and environment are cared for in the years to come.** 
  2. "In holiness and righteousness" - Many people still question Trump's authenticity when it comes to faith. Raised Presbyterian, does he still practice any form of spirituality or church-going? His choices in the past and celebrity identity for the majority of his life certainly do not point to righteous decisions, not to mention, the whole scandal surrounding his possible history of sexual misconduct. Can someone so brazen act as a role model for the entire country, and even world?
  3. "Render judgment with integrity of heart" - Ask any of the thousands of women who just marched in DC and across the nation and world what they think of this one. His flippant use of the word "nasty" not only towards Hillary Clinton but also Ted Cruz and, one can assume, others; his aggressive demands of punishment on women who have abortions; his staunch stances on immigrants and people of color have led many to be concerned whether he has any integrity, any respect at all. It seems to me what President Trump lacks at large is the knowledge that he is not the judge at all; only God can be the judge. And, I suppose for our purposes, the courts of our nation. 
  4. "Weak and short-lived, lacking in comprehension..." - This is where we can all breathe out a chuckle. Many, even those who eventually voted for him, question whether Trump is qualified for this position. The real issue at stake here, however, is servitude and humility. Does Trump see himself as a servant, acknowledging his weakness? He often speaks of inexperience, but has used it as a strength to move the power away from Washington and towards the people. Is he able to accept wisdom from others? Is he able to listen?
Given all of these points, the passage from the Book of Wisdom suits our president well. However, it does not only apply to President Trump; it applies to all of us as well. While it is easy to use him as a scapegoat, as a source for accusation and blame, the passage very clearly uses the plural - "us". In some strange way, the language of Solomon complements President Trump's campaign to put the power in the hands of the people. If we are to be as instrumental as he calls us to be over the next four years, we need to take this passage to heart. Are we making decisions each day that better all creatures of the earth? Are we striving for holiness and righteousness? Are we treating each and every person with the respect and integrity he or she deserves? 

The activism in response to Trump's election and inauguration has been staggering. This is important, and if he is serious about what he says, then this is what he wants, too. He wants us in power, and activism is part of that. Yet, so many responses have included marginalization, disrespect, harm, and hate, often times masked in narratives of inclusion and love. How do we reconcile this? How can we better govern with integrity of heart?

We all need wisdom, just as much as President Trump does. Only with wisdom can we act prudently, and we need to act prudently amidst all the chaos that is modernity. The next four years will be a challenge for us all, in many different ways, whether we voted for Trump or not. May we remember Cardinal Dolan's invocation frequently, and may we be comforted knowing we are safeguarded by wisdom's glory.

"God of our ancestors and Lord of mercy, you have made all things. And in your providence have charged us to rule the creatures produced by you, to govern the world in holiness and righteousness, and to render judgment with integrity of heart. Give us wisdom, for we are your servants, weak and short-lived, lacking in comprehension of judgment and of laws. Indeed, though one might be perfect among mortals, if wisdom which comes from you be lacking, we count for nothing. Now with you is wisdom, who knows your will and was there when you made the world, who understands what is pleasing in your eyes, what is conformable with your commands, send her forth from your holy heavens. From your glorious throne, dispatch her that she may be with us and work with us, that we may grasp what is pleasing to you. For she knows and understands all things and will guide us prudently in our affairs and safeguard us by her glory."

**For further reading that might be of interest pertaining to agriculture and the environment: Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change, Nutrient Density Comparison, Laudato Si

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