After just his first week in office, I’ve been astounded at the actions and words of Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States. Decision after decision is made that is not wise, kind, or just. There are a lot of ways to look at people’s worldviews in life. One way I look at these worldviews is through the lens of The 3 Laws. These laws are levels of interacting with the world and society. And I’ve been thinking about how Donald Trump fits into this framework.
Law 1: The Law of the Jungle
The first law is The Law of the Jungle. This is a law that says “you exist to serve my needs.” As I watch a lion go about life in the Masai Mara in Kenya or a coyote in the Western United States I observe an animal which is looking to dominate others and pass DNA on to the next generation. A few years back I interviewed a fairly drunk man on 6th Street in Austin, Texas. Through slurred words he spoke into my video camera, “The point of life for me is to spread my seed as far and as illegitimately as possible so that my DNA will be passed down to future generations.” Wow. That is the Law of the Jungle. It is a law where we take what we want, deceive, steal, mate at will, intimidate the less powerful, and arrange our community (or pack or pride) in order to serve our own needs. It is understandable for animals. But the majority of humans would find this worldview unacceptable for human life. It looks like the life in The Pirates of the Caribbean.
Sadly, this is the worldview that I see evidenced in much of Donald Trump’s life, words, and actions. And this is the perspective that is now guiding the government of the United States. The demand that Mexico pays for the proposed border wall is an example of this. A wall is the right of a nation to build on its own territory. The value of this wall definitely can be debated. But it is certainly within the rights of a nation to build a border wall. But Donald Trump currently is demanding that Mexico pay for this wall. It’s probably true that Mexico could do a better job policing its borders. But to try and force another sovereign nation to pay for a unilateral national construction project is an act of international piracy. It is an example of The Law of the Jungle.
Law 2: The Law of Decency
The second law is the Law of Decency. The early nation of Israel was governed by this perspective. It is a step up from the Jungle Law. “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” is the perspective of Exodus 21. This law says that there is a law of justice that must be applied to society and to human relations. If someone injures your eye, you can injure their eye – and no further action should be taken by either party. Or you might stretch this to the text of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” The idea is that we should treat each other with respect and not be unjust or unkind to others.
Many religious worldviews share this perspective. It is so helpful for the functioning of a normal society. Be decent. Don’t do evil. Treat people with respect. Don’t tip the scales in your favor. If you are wronged, seek a reasonable compensation for the wrong that was done to you. This is the idea behind “Karma”. You’ll get what you deserve. So be good and don’t cheat.
Law 3: The Law of Grace
A third law is the Law of Grace. This baffles humanity. It says “even though you don’t deserve my kindness, even though you were evil to me, I will forgive you and reconcile.” From an evolutionary standpoint this makes no sense. It may mean that your DNA is wiped clean from the face of the earth. It means you might be taken advantage of.
This was fully realized in the grace of the Messiah on the cross. According to the gospel account, Jesus of Nazareth was understood to be God. His contemporaries did not observe him doing anything wrong as they lived and ministered with him. But he willingly chose to be crucified and take the sins of the world upon himself. On the cross he cried out “Father, forgive them,” as he looked upon this cruel executioners. This Jesus preached this Law of Grace to his followers over the course of his three years of ministry. “You have heard it was said, ‘eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Grace does not make sense. The Bible tells us that in fact it requires a supernatural act of God in order to live fully according to the Law of Grace. If a person has tasted grace, it is an intoxicating feeling. It turns ordinary human life upside down. We are stunned with gratitude and want to turn around and show grace to others. We want to pay it forward.
Sometimes I live days according to the Law of the Jungle. Sometimes I hang out on the level of The Law of Decency. And on special days I fully realize the gift of God to me in the Law of Grace and I become fully alive.
I’m saddened right now that Donald Trump and the United States are acting according to The Law of the Jungle. I have hopes that this will change. I pray that there will be movement toward the Law of Decency or even to the Law of Grace.
To those in the Trump administration (and those who support Trump), I ask you to consider these words. If you see truth in them, please speak up and help turn the ship around. Elevate the conversation. Talk about compassion and kindness.
Talk about the Law of Decency.
Or better yet, talk about the Law of Grace.