Big changes came to the world a century ago.
With the end of World War I, the German Empire — a collection of Germanic principalities — was dismantled, and its emperor, the kaiser, lost his job.
In Russia, the imperial rule of the tsars ended in a revolution and communists took power over the huge empire and established a dictatorship.
The Austro-Hungarian emperor not only lost his throne, his empire fractured into a batch of squabbling ethnic groups, each of them wanting a nation of its own.
Along with those three great emperors, kings, dukes and other hereditary rulers who governed nearly every nation in Europe lost their kingdoms as well, when their nations turned — not always successfully — to democratic forms of government.
Other nations, mostly in northern Europe, kept their monarchs, but adopted constitutions giving the people more authority, joining England as constitutional monarchies.
There were many differences among those kings and emperors before the horrors of The Great War. Some had more power over their kingdoms than others and some were more authoritarian than others. In general, though, they all owed their crowns to heredity; they had belonged to families that had traditionally produced crowned rulers.
Many of these families were, in fact, related. One of history’s ironies is that, when Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm went to war with England, he was going to war with his first cousin, King George V of England. Both were grandsons of Queen Victoria.
Because one has no control over who their ancestors are, it’s not really surprising that most of these European monarchs tended to believe they were meant to wear the crowns they had inherited. Taken a step further, that meant that God had played a role making them kings. This was probably best exemplified in the Russia tsars, who not only reigned over the empire, but also over the Russian Orthodox Church. The tsars and most Russians assumed that the tsar ruled by divine right; what the tsar wanted was what God wanted.
Well, when all those monarchical governments collapsed a century ago, the notion of rule by divine right faded — at least in the Western world — but it didn’t really go away. It’s not uncommon for a winning candidate in a democratic election to credit God for his/her election, and occasionally a candidate and/or their supporters will go a step further and tell the world that he/she is God’s choice to take over and run things the way God would.
This sort of claim continues because it has a couple of advantages for the guy in power. For one thing, if a candidate can convince people that God has especially chosen him to win the election, he can count on the votes of people who believe God intervenes in human history. That might be enough to put him in office, and once he is there and wants to do something, he can say God wants him to do it. Who can argue with God?
Furthermore, if a candidate is really God’s choice, then anyone who opposes him or his actions is on the other side; the opposition then becomes the personification of evil, so they can be demonized in all his campaign speeches.
Recently, Sarah Sanders, President Donald Trump’s press secretary, played this game when she was interviewed. She told the interviewer that she has no doubt that God wanted Trump to be the president; Sanders said he had done a “tremendous job” in supporting things Christians care about.
This is nothing new for Republicans. A few years ago, I was told from the pulpit one Sunday that George W. Bush was God’s choice. A few years later, some preachers decided that Barack Obama was the anti-Christ and, in at least one case, a pastor urged his congregation to pray that Obama would die in office. It’s quite natural, now, for them to believe that Trump is God’s choice for the White House.
Well, I don’t believe it. I’ve been listening to God for nearly three-quarters of a century, and I don’t remember that he ever told me who to vote for. Consequently, I’m a bit suspicious of people who try to tell me what God wants me to do, especially since I’ve learned over the years that the people who make the most noise about what God wants aren’t always the best Christians when something needs to be done.
I don’t mind the fact that Sanders — and a lot of other people — think God wants Trump to be president. She has the right to believe that and say so on television. Maybe she’s right, although I’m inclined to think God is saddling us with Trump as punishment, not sending us a miracle. I suppose time will tell. As an old hymn says, “Farther along, we’ll understand why.”
I have, however, after decades of Bible study, learned a lot about God, and that leads me to conclude this with a question.
Take a rich man in a position of power over U.S. immigration. Match him with a poor Guatemalan man hoping his family will be admitted to the U.S. as refugees because his family is in danger from elements of Guatemala’s military. Whose side do you think God will be on?
Look for the answer in the New Testament.