Jim Harnish

What Donald and I Have in Common


“You Have Sacrificed Nothing” 

I finally found one thing that Donald Trump and I have in common.

In the eloquent words of Khizr Khan, Donald Trump and I “have sacrificed nothing” for this country.  (I’m sorry, Donald, but working hard to make lots of money is not generally considered to be a sacrifice.) The Khans earned the right to point this out on behalf of all the parents who have buried a child in the service of our nation.

Mr. Trump and I both had deferments during the Viet Nam draft.  In 1968, I received a 4-D deferment because I was going to seminary to prepare for ministry, for which I’m both unashamed and grateful.  In addition to four college deferments, Trump got another one because he had bone spurs in his heels.

Neither of us made the sacrifices that some of our peers made by being drafted or enlisting to go to Viet Nam.

Nor did I make the sacrifice of others in my generation who protested against the war in Viet Nam.

Bob Lyon was the first Christian pacifist I’d ever met.  He was my New Testament Greek professor in seminary.  I’ve forgotten most of what he taught me about Greek, but I’ve never forgotten what he taught me about taking Jesus seriously in ways that have challenged and guided me ever since.  But I’ve never made any sacrifice for attempting to follow Jesus in the way of non-violence (except for the loss of some friends along the way).

Mr. and Mrs. Kahn reminded me of the unearned gifts enshrined in our Constitution that Donald Trump and I inherited from the generations who came before us. They are a legacy I want to pass on to my grandchildren and to the immigrants Emma Lazarus  described as “the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Donald Trump and I have made no sacrifice for this nation.  The difference is that I  humbly acknowledge that fact and Trump either cannot or will not.

Trump’s behavior has demonstrated that he is apparently incapable of empathy for the pain of others, humility in the face of suffering, or the slightest bit of remorse for his self-aggrandizing arrogance. It continues to confirm his declaration that he never apologizes and never asks for forgiveness. 

Changing My Heart 

None of this comes as a surprise.  The surprise has been the way my heart has begun to change.

Diana Butler Bass is a leading scholar and writer on American Christianity.  Her recent reflection on Donald Trump challenged me, as a follower of Christ, to move from disgust through pity toward compassion.

My heart, my baptism vows, my sense of ethics compel me to respect the dignity of all human beings and to try, try, try to navigate my words regarding others with kindness…

And this is the best I can do: Donald Trump is a broken, wounded, person who seems painfully unaware of his own humanity, unfit for the office for which he is running, a violator of the American community, and one who does not know what truth is…The kindest thing we can do is tell Mr Trump as loudly and consistently as we can that we — the good people of the United States — reject him as a leader and that he needs to go home and examine his heart and rediscover his own soul.

God loves you, Mr Trump. And the hope and dream of that God is that when we find ourselves wrapped in the presence of ultimate love & mercy, that we treat others with equal grace and tenderness. This is the path to human maturity. Your money, your television show, your fame, and your quest for power mean nothing if you lack love.

I do not fear you. I pray for you. (https://www.facebook.com/Diana.Butler.Bass)  

The deepest thing Donald Trump and I have in common our common need of undeserved forgiveness and unearned grace.

The one whose wrongdoing is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered over, is truly happy!

When I kept quiet, my bones wore out;
    I was groaning all day long—
    every day, every night!—
because your hand was heavy upon me.

So I admitted my sin to you;
    I didn’t conceal my guilt.
    “I’ll confess my sins to the Lord, ” is what I said.
    Then you removed the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:1-5)

Although we have sacrificed nothing, the greatest sacrifice of all has been given for us.

This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other. (I John 4:9-11) 

For a multitude of reasons, I can never vote for Donald, but I can pray him.

Grace and peace,