Better Half A Loaf Than None: A Textual Analysis

Recently a friend of mine sent me a letter written by a leader within the church organization that both of us attend with the following note:

Hi Nathan,

How have you been? What is your take on this letter? Does it appear that [name redacted] is endorsing Donald Trump? Have you perceived a change in the church’s communications on political issues?
[Name redacted]”
My reply was a bit longer but still relatively to the point, and I commented that it would likely take me a full blog entry to describe the letter and how it did not mark a change of policy but rather an understandably more favorite view of our president than with his erstwhile opponent from the general election.  Naturally, since it often falls to me to interpret letters [1] and make my thoughts known to others, the recipient of my note requested that I write a full commentary on it, and this entry is the fulfillment of that request, to the best of my interpretive abilities.
My approach to this letter will be to quote relevant portions to provide context and then demonstrate how they represent both politeness and praise on the one side as well as a certain subtle shift of rhetorical distancing on the other side that may be possible to miss by those people whose views are particularly polarized.  As someone who both considers it an obligation on the part of all Americans to accept his authority as legitimate and also someone who is not a particular partisan of our current president, but who considers him better than the alternative would have been, the letter appears to mirror my own complicated and somewhat distanced view.  With that said, here is the first excerpt:

“Regardless of one’s political affiliation, it was a sobering event as the mantle of leadership of the free world fell on the shoulders of Donald J. Trump. In his inaugural address he denounced the current political establishment and pronounced power to the people. It was a powerful indictment of the former presidents and their administrations as four ex-presidents and their wives sat there with glum faces.

And once again, regardless of one’s view of Donald Trump, you would have to admit that it took great courage to stand in the presence of all those people and say what he said. What we are seeing is a challenge to globalism in which the world’s political power is in the hands of powerful world leaders and the elite class of financiers and so-called celebrities.”

Here we see two paragraphs that give cautious and guarded praise.  Both of the paragraphs begin with a disclaimer about something that is fair to say regardless of how one views President Trump, which indicates to a subtle reader that the writer is working very hard not to give an endorsement but to give credit where it is due.  The fact that the author appears hostile to globalism and the current political establishment also indicates that the author can recognize a point of connection between himself and the president, without feeling entirely in support.  Again, the focus is on the courage to stand up against something recognized as evil by both the author (and, presumably, his audience) as well as the president, as well as an openly-expressed hostility to the cult of celebrity and the power of contemporary financiers, which indicates a bias, to be sure, but far short of full agreement, a nuanced position that continues in our second excerpt:
“Trump is trying to lead a revolution called populism, which means power to the people with the return of national sovereignty, nationalism, patriotism and to some degree, biblically based values. I woke up on the morning of the inauguration thinking about the historic events that were about to unfold before our eyes. I wondered what the newly sworn-in president would say. And there came into my mind the words of a song made popular a few years ago by Billy Dean. The title of the song is: “We are only here for a little while.” The last few lines of the chorus kept running through my head: “I am going to pray what needs praying; and say what needs saying for we are only here for a little while.” I believe the president said some of what needs saying as millions cheered for what he said.”
Let us note the continued combination of cautious and guarded and partial praise with subtle rhetorical distancing.  The writer notes that the president said some of what needs to be said, but not all of what needs to be said, and that the values represented and promoted by the president represent a return of to some degree biblically based values.  In contrast to the godless secular humanism of the left, along with its mouthpieces of morally bankrupt social gospel peddlers, it is no wonder that the writer would praise the partial endorsement of biblically based values by our president, but this ought not to blind a reader to the fact that the author considers there to be a distance between the president and himself with regards to the fullness of what the Bible demands of a society, and to the fact that in populism and nationalism there are aspects contrary to biblical principles, even if those are not to the extent of the horrors of debauchery and mass slaughter of the innocents that spring from the worldview of the left it was opposed to in the recent election.  Again, what we see here is preference, but also a sense of distance because the author recognizes that neither political party, and certainly none of our political leaders, represent a genuinely biblical worldview, although we may see some as being better alternatives than others, even if this does not change the ultimately pessimistic view the author has towards our political system, which is well exhibited by the peroration to the letter, our third and final excerpt:
“The time is coming in which what you pray and what you say will mean the difference between life and death (Luke 21:7-19). After Satan is cast down at the end of this present evil age, three keys are given for overcoming him: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11, KJV).

Yes, the time is coming in which we must say what needs saying and pray what needs praying. It will be a matter of life and death. As described in Isaiah 61, the faithful will be in mourning and praying Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven (Isaiah 61:1-3; Matthew 6:10). God will be the protector of those who pray what needs praying and say what needs saying. And if you die—you will live in resurrection.”

Here we see the fact that the election of Trump to the presidency does not amount to any change in our church culture’s longstanding and immense pessimism about our nation’s political culture as well as the expectation that holding to biblical beliefs and principles will eventually result in persecution unto death as it did in early Christianity.  Certainly the failures of our previous president led many of us to have a rather apocalyptic feeling about the political future of our country, not dissimilar in degree, even if very different in reason, for the current pessimism among those on the radical left concerning our current president.  To be sure, our church culture has always had a strongly apocalyptic view of the failures of political leaders to lead moral revivals and turn the hearts of our wayward people to our heavenly Father, and that has not changed.  What has changed is that the larger culture around us has become more and more like us in viewing our situation with the same lack of short-term optimism, with a fierce and combative belief in the only possibility of a better future being the full success of a particular moral worldview.  No doubt this has greatly contributed to a general decline in civility and compromise, but it suggests that there are more similarities between us and the larger culture than is commonly recognized.
Overall, though, it ought to be evident from the letter as a whole, even from these few selections, that the letter itself marks no change in position whatsoever.  It represents an honest and partially positive appraisal of our president in the manner that the writer of 2 Kings gave a slightly positive appraisal of some of the kings of Israel who in their nationalism followed after the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat but who had at least some good in them and in their approach.  It is no wonder if, in the corrupt world of contemporary politics, we should prefer half a loaf to none, but it does not change the moral absolutism by which a godly people views the political sphere and recognizes that even the best of our leaders are still flawed human beings who, if used by God, clearly do not even remotely approach the moral standards practiced by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, whose job it will be to come down from heaven and establish His Kingdom over all authorities, who will either bow down in worship and honor to Him, or will be ground into dust like the kingdoms of the heathen spoken of in Daniel 2.
[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Church of God, History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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