Tearing Tyrants From The Their Thrones: A Reflection on Trump & COVID-19

“From the halls of power to the fortress tower, not a
Stone will be left on stone. Let the king beware for your
Justice tears ev’ry tyrant from his throne”
–from “The Canticle of the Turning” by Rory Cooney.

The news is spreading around the world that Donald Trump, perhaps one of the most polarizing figures of the 21st century, has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The reaction, for many has been one of joy–yet at the same time, for many this instant reaction has been followed by one of guilt for taking pleasure in the suffering of another.

Many Christians have been wrestling with how to react to all of this–are we allowed to rejoice in an enemy suffering? Or does love mean praying for his quick healing and minimal suffering?

In this, I think it’s important to look at Scripture. The Old Testament is filled with Psalms that both admit the failings of the writer and call for vengeance upon our enemies. In fact, the Old Testament may say that the Lord is quick to mercy and slow to anger, but crying out to the Lord, asking God to smite our enemies is actually portrayed as normal, and quite frequent.

The New Testament complicates things–after all Jesus and Paul are quite big on the whole “forgive your enemies, and bless those who persecute you” thing. Yet early in the Gospel of Luke, we read the beautiful poetry of Mary’s Magnificat. This poem is rejoicing in Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus, and her recognition of this pregnancy being a sign of God’s keeping the promise to redeem creation–to turn the world upside down. Mary celebrates that the powerful will be thrown down, and the lowly will be lifted up. Her poem stands in the tradition of prophetic witness and poetry.

Rory Cooney’s composition of “The Canticle of The Turning”, adapted and inspired by Mary’s Magnificat, lays it out more clearly–the tyrants will be torn from their thrones, God’s justice will have the final word. Authors such as N.T. Wright, Brian Walsh, and Sylvia Keesamat point out that the Pauline epistles, indeed especially the Epistle to the Romans, contain a host of double entendres and references in the original Greek that would have been read as a direct challenge to the Roman Emperor and his Empire. Thus, the Christian demand to love enemies does not preclude the demand for justice and the humbling of the powerful.

If I see one thing in the Scripture, God demands honesty–and perhaps most importantly, self-honesty. We are encouraged to come before God with our unmediated pain and despair and rage–God is big enough to take it, and knows what to respond to and how to respond to it.

So how does this all impact on our reaction to the news about Trump? First of all, while praying for him to catch COVID and/or praying for him to die from it, is not forbidden, it is certainly not ideal. Second, admitting to God and each other that there is a certain amount of joy in our reaction to his catching the virus is not a cause for guilt. It’s an honest reaction, and honesty is integral to emotional self-awareness.

Third, while Christianity would emphatically draw a line at personal violent action against Trump, Christianity does not prevent anyone from reaping the consequences of their action. Trump has consistently minimized the virus, as acted invulnerable, and has encouraged others to ignore best pandemic practices. His catching of the virus is not surprising, and indeed represents a certain amount of poetic justice. For a time, Christian theologians identified the cardinal sin as Pride with a capital “P”–this is not the pride found in being proud of one’s accomplishments, but is more akin to the arrogance and superiority captured in the Greek term hubris. The downfall of many “tragic heroes” and even more villians is this Pride–and in the Christian scriptures, enemies are often undone in a similar fashion.

Finally, while we are encouraged to pray for our enemies, I feel that this not preclude praying for God’s justice–in fact, for those of us who practice the Lord’s Prayer regularly that is exactly what we are doing. When we pray for “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”, this is exactly what we are doing–God’s kingdom coming is a direct challenge to the tyrants of the Earth, and a herald of God’s justice coming.

So do not feel guilty, my friends, that there is some joy in the news of Trump’s diagnosis. Do not feel obliged to pray for his health and quick recovery. Feel free to come to God with your joy and pain, rage and hope and despair, but come to God honestly. And I encourage you to continue to pray for God’s justice to tear the tyrants from their thrones, and God’s kingdom to come, on earth as it is in heaven.

Published by Devin Hogg

My name is Devin Hogg. I was born and raised in Carnarvon, Ontario, Canada. I moved to Guelph, Ontario, Canada in 2009 for university and lived here ever since. In my free time, I enjoy reading, watching TV and movies, going on long walks, swimming, and practicing Chen style Tai Chi. I love to write poetry and blog regularly about topics such as mental health, sci-fi/fantasy series, faith, sexuality, and politics.

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