Election season is always nasty, brutish and long. This cycle is no different, really, except that it’s worse. There are candidates running now who make some of the folks from the past few elections look like scholars and saints. Bread and circuses, indeed.

Of course, the chief offender is Donald Trump, and most of the culture hates him for it. Left, right, center, every major news outlet regularly publishes diatribes against him or exposés about him.

Some people have thought about Trump more creatively, though. For example, Paul Zahl used Trump as an instrument for identifying some of what ails modern American society. It was brilliantly articulated (and not an endorsement, to be clear): Trump captures the spirit of freedom. He gives people the assurance that they are not alone in their frustrations and anger. He’s not rehearsed or timid. He shows disaffected Americans that they can speak their minds – critics and consequences be damned.

The troubling thing about PZ’s analysis is that he’s right, and as such we’re forced to reevaluate who’s actually responsible for Trump’s appearance on the political scene. Is it really those “others”, the racist, nationalistic, angry, uninformed citizenry? Or is it the citizens who have made saying a certain thing or thinking a certain way into a crime against humanity, such that a figure like Trump was inevitable?

But apart from what he might signify about our cultural moment, who is Donald Trump, really? What role does he actually play? A simple one: Donald Trump is unadulterated law.

The Law is good, and does good work. It’s given to us by God to expose us for who we really are. But Trump is less like God’s good Law and more like our inner-prosecutor. The law, with a lower-case “l.”

In his relationship to the other candidates – or even just people he doesn’t like – Trump is always on offense, making accusations. Fiorina is a terrible businesswoman. Carson is a hypocrite. Obama has done nothing for the black community. Cruz’s faith is a sham. Sanders is a liar. Kasich doesn’t belong. Rubio is a thief. Clinton is a coward.

Accusing is Trump’s primary campaign strategy, and it’s not to expose error. It’s to make people look and feel inadequate or inferior. Just when they think they’re on a roll, Trump accuses. Then, the accused presents a defense. Most of the time, they can’t give a good one, proving Trump was right about them all along, at least in the public perception.

So Trump puts the inner-law on display. He personifies the nagging voice within. His accusations against his opponents sound disturbingly like our accusations against ourselves. You’re not so great after all. You did the sinning, and what’s more, you wanted to. You’re a disgrace. You’re hopeless. You’re unlovable. “You’re fired.”


Accusations like these punch us in the gut every day. We put our best foot forward, don a perfectly pressed suit and flash a smile. We’re running for office. President of our Children’s Hearts. Secretary of Impressing our Neighbors. Captain of our Financial Situation. Minister for Marital Bliss. And as soon as we start to think we may be ahead in the polls, our inner-prosecutor raises a familiar point of order. We dive right back into the well of inadequacy and shame.

But God.

Those two words ring out again and always. But God rescued you from yourself. But God repented you. But God declared that you are not guilty. But God finished the work. But God adopted you. But God in his mercy made you alive in Christ even though you were dead in your sins.

Our inner-prosecutor has no power where God buts. Neither depths nor heights nor Trumps can separate us from God’s love. In the political arena, petty, nagging accusations stick. But in God’s court, who can bring any charge?

To paraphrase Martin Luther – when the world or the devil or your inner-prosecutor or anyone else tells you that you deserve death and hell, tell them this: I know that I deserve death and hell. But God.