A question from high school geometry: How many diameters are there in a circle? One answer might be “an infinite number”. Another might be “only one”. In the first answer, you’re thinking that any two directly opposite points around the perimeter of a circle could be a diameter. In the second answer, you’re responding that because any diameter is the same as all others, there is actually only one defined line across a two-halved circle.
This question comes to mind as I continue the difficult task of trying to come to terms with the persona of our current president. Using either definition, I am “diametrically opposed” to his mindset or values. I see how far apart we are—opposite each other as far as the circumference of a values-circle might allow. Even when I seek other diameters and look for other positions where he and I could find common cause—even then I come to the same conclusion: There just don’t seem to be any places where we see the greater good in the same way.
As one encouraged (and also accused) by the Eighth Commandment’s exhortation not to bear false witness—per Luther, “to explain his actions in the kindest way”—I still can’t find any connecting line between Mr. President’s place in the larger circle of life and my own. I’ve been around too many trees, too many life cycles to give up easily on the promises and perils of the Christian life, but this is hard work.
What I’ve come to believe after the past three years is that obeying the Eighth Commandment isn’t possible. I can’t come alongside the immorality of this leader—and those who condone it. His lying spirit is abhorrent to me. His disregard for others is the opposite of what Jesus commands. His ego-driven decision-making can never square with loving, caring or forgiving.
If a diameter allows the two opposite sides of a circle to communicate, I can’t find any possible across-the-circle connections that would help me understand or accept this man’s worldview. But I still ask myself questions that might encourage redemptive understanding: Where in all the possibilities for rational, emphatic thought can I find this guy’s mindset? Where might God be working somewhere in this man’s frame of mind? What’s useful or redeemable about his personality?
I’m not proud that “diametrically opposed” characterizes my present views of the President. I don’t like the idea that I may be part of the problem. At this stage in life, I want to find myself positioned more closely to the leaders we elect. I hope to find ways to approach them with deserved respect and admiration.
That doesn’t seem possible—none of the diameters appears to be a bridge. The void between us is too large, too consuming, too ominous.
So at this point in my life I regularly find myself flummoxed by what seems to be a necessary position of opposition to this man and all he stands for. This is not how I want to live, not who I want to be.
And I still hope for fullness in these years.