It wasn’t surprising that comedian Kathy Griffin earlier this week released a photograph of her holding what appeared to be the severed, blood-soaked head of President Trump. The media feeding frenzy surrounding the president has reached such an insatiable level that Griffin’s publicity stunt was inevitable. The surprising thing is that someone hasn’t done it before now.
Celebrities aren’t the only ones making the president their whipping boy. Prominent politicians and media analysts seem to be in competition with one another to see who can express their criticism in the most vulgar way. John Burton, outgoing Chairman of California’s Democratic Party, may be the winner to this point. When he presided over his state’s annual conference earlier this month, he led the crowd in a Trump broadside that included extending his middle finger while chanting, “F*** Donald Trump.”
Many segments of the nation have such hatred for the president that they will go to any length to discredit, humiliate and vilify him. I’ve been around a while, and read a good bit of American history, and I’ve never encountered anything like this. It’s not that I don’t recognize the problems that President Trump has created for himself or the principled opposition that can make a case against his policies. Neither am I attacking the Democrats in some Fox News sort of way. Politics is politics, and the American tradition of freely criticizing our leaders is one that I cherish and respect.
What concerns me is how the president’s critics are so easily mocking the virtue that makes possible all meaningful relationships. The Bible calls this virtue “honor” and says that where honor is embraced, people flourish; but where it’s forgotten, people and the institutions that make possible their community life fail. The vitriolic and even irrational hatred of President Trump evident throughout the country is laser-focused on dishonoring him and his office. Whatever the result may be for Trump’s administration, the long-term impact for America may be catastrophic.
California Representative Maxine Waters captured the mood with her remarks to the House of Representatives in a March 27 speech. “My position against this president and his administration is clear,” Waters said, “I oppose this president. I do not honor this president. I do not respect this president.”
“I do not honor this president,” she said. What neither she nor the many others who agree with her realize is how the honor we give to others determines our own destiny.
The Bible says honor isn’t an option, not if we want to experience God’s blessing. The word essentially means to accord value to someone or something–to show honor is to recognize the God-given importance and place that person or institution carries. God himself is the One to whom ultimate honor is due (in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, “honor” and “glory” are the same word), and from him honor flows downward through the earthly authority structures he has put into place. When we extend honor to those in biblical authority over us, then, we align ourselves to receive God’s promises of security and abundance. When we show dishonor, we expose ourselves and the people we care about to chaos and want.
The Fourth Commandment makes clear how honor functions in a reciprocal fashion regarding our parents: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). Children who honor their parents receive in return the promise of a long life in the place of God’s abundance. The principle of honor also is at work in marriage. “Let marriage be held in honor among all,” Hebrews 13:4 tells us. Where husbands and wives honor one another in their marriage, they position their relationship to be a blessing to them and their children.
The church functions the same way. “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17). When church leaders are honored, their congregation benefits. Romans 12:10 even extends the command to individuals within churches: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
And the Bible also says honor is the foundation of effective earthly government. The thirteenth chapter of Romans puts it this way:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. (Romans 13:1-4)
Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:7)
The apostle Paul’s admonition isn’t a blanket endorsement of all governments and we need to be careful that we don’t interpret it in a way that stifles individual conscience. Still, the last line goes to the heart of where our nation is at the moment. If honor is a prerequisite for blessing—it is—then dishonor is a recipe for disaster.