A man and his oath

“It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.”
~ Aeschylus

On Friday Donald Trump will take the oath of office to become the 45th president of the United States, bringing unmitigated joy to some and plunging others into deep despair. Judging by social media, these two reactions exhaust the range of possibilities:  there are only lovers and haters.

In reality, many find themselves somewhere in between. I feel something like a man who has experienced a narrow brush with death, relieved that the republic avoided the almost certainly fatal wound of a Clinton presidency, and cautiously optimistic that the wound that is Trump, though serious, is curable. As I told my family on election night, “The good news is that Clinton is not president; the bad news is that Trump is.” It turns out that the most beatable Democrat lost to the most beatable Republican.

To be fair, I only had two objections to Clinton:  her character and her political vision. I am a bit more sanguine about the general tenor of Trump’s political vision than I could ever be about Clinton’s, especially the commitment he has expressed to appoint an originalist to the Supreme Court in the mold of Antonin Scalia.

My cautious optimism, however, is tempered by concerns about his character. He doesn’t have a very good track record with respect to keeping his promises. He has cheated on and divorced two women to whom he had sworn to be faithful “until death do us part.” His third wife has been spared divorce, but perhaps not being cheated on.[1] He has also shown little regard for the marital vows of others, boasting that he has bedded numerous married women.[2]

When I watch him this Friday taking the oath of office, I won’t be able to avoid remembering the words of Aeschylus, the 5th century BC playwright:  “It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.”

I hope—and pray—that he will keep his presidential oath and turn out to be a far better man and a far better president than anyone expects. The Scriptures instruct us to pray for “kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Tim. 2:2). Let us do so sincerely and fervently, remembering that the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord, and he can turn it wherever he wills (Prov. 21:1).

[1] His intentions for Ariane Zucker, as he described them to Billy Bush in the infamous Access Hollywood video were expressed when he had only recently married Melania:  “I've got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything... Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
[2] “If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller.” (The Art of the Deal)


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