Our nation has drastically changed since the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States — a change that exemplifies the deep tears within the fabric of our society.
Immediately following the presidential election, I experienced a profound inner turmoil regarding the social and moral condition of our country and what it portends, especially for the non-white segments of America. I felt a sense of threat to my own well-being — a realization that I, as a person of color in American society, am now less safe than before and could be even more vulnerable to some random act of racist violence. Images on television (and more recently on Facebook) showing white supremacists blatantly emboldened by the Trump election to voice their racist and often violent views caused me to have strong feelings of fear and dread I had not felt before.
A month after the election, for the first time in my life, I came down with a painful case of shingles. The doctor who treated me explained that the shingles virus had been lurking in my body since I had chicken pox as a child. The inactive virus can erupt many years later if a person encounters stress in their life. The doctor asked me if I had been under any unusual stress lately, and immediately I knew the cause of my skin rash — it was the election of an unprincipled man and the potential threat that he and his ardent supporters posed for me and for those not in the privileged class of whiteness.
This increased sense of physical threat made it difficult for me to feel that our mighty Creator and Sovereign God was in control and watching out for me. I could not wrap my head around the idea that based on his own public statements, a morally corrupt and demonstrably despicable person had been democratically elected as our national leader, let alone supported by the evangelical vote. The moral structure of my universe crumbled as all the values I had been taught as a child, either in school or church, such as being truthful and humble, showing compassion and kindness, having integrity and honor — all the qualities required for a good leader and a good person had been torn asunder. I felt despair and a loss of hope that ultimate righteousness and justice will indeed prevail through the making of a civil society.
This increased sense of physical threat made it difficult for me to feel that our mighty Creator and Sovereign God was in control and watching out for me.
I was hoping that God would quickly make things right regarding this political aberration — perhaps a timely heart attack or some intolerable outburst by the president that not even his most ardent admirers could swallow. But on the other hand, I knew about the example of King Manasseh in the Bible, considered by many to be the most evil King of Judah, and God allowed him to reign and commit all kinds of terrible deeds for over 50 years! God allowed Donald Trump to become president, but I struggled to see how it could be God’s will or a part of his design. The thought of this president leading our country for a full term and maybe even a second term of havoc and lies felt terribly burdensome.
As one solitary human being, I felt puny in the midst of a vast universe and I became overwhelmed by these larger events and feelings that I didn’t matter.
I felt puny in the midst of a vast universe and I became overwhelmed by these larger events and feelings that I didn’t matter.
Feelings of anger and depression came over me whenever I heard the name or saw the face of you-know-who (I can’t even say his name anymore), I thought the only way I could cope with this political tragedy was to avoid watching or reading any political news — particularly news that dealt with DT. My wife helped by warning me whenever the news came on the TV or by turning down the volume so I could not hear it. This helped improve my physical and mental constitution.
During this time of travail, God gave me hope through an unlikely connection between the Bible and the news. I was reading an article in the June 18, 2016 edition of the Los Angeles Times California section featuring some physicists who presented a paper at the 227th American Astronomical Society meeting in San Diego describing a recent scientific experiment that once again confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The experiment strengthened the theory of gravitational waves and how ripples could be formed in the cosmos. There was a photo of physicist Gabriela Gonzalez from Louisiana State University who held up a scarf to illustrate gravitational waves and ripples in the fabric of space-time. This photo and article was seared into my memory.
I thought the only way I could cope with this political tragedy was to avoid watching or reading any political news.
Reading about gravitational waves did not affect my sense of despair, but amazingly, during a subsequent personal Bible study time following that Los Angeles Times article, I came across the following verse:
“You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands; they will perish, but You remain; and they all will become old like a garment, and like a mantle You will roll them up; like a garment they will also be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end” (Hebrews 1:10-12, NASB — a re-quote from Psalm 102).
As I read this passage, I was struck by a picture of God, who is timeless and who created the vast universe from nothing into something in a cataclysmic flash (or a Big Bang), and who some day in the future will roll up the heavens like an old garment; I pictured the Creator rolling up the fabric of all that he created — the entire universal space-time continuum — as easily as folding one’s daily clothes. How cool is that! In this verse, the Bible described the universe as a piece of fabric — a mantle — while the physicist used a scarf. How amazing that the scientific experiments going on right now describe the universe in a way consistent with a picture of the universe written by a psalmist 3,000 years ago!
I was struck by a picture of God, who is timeless and who created the vast universe from nothing into something.
This moment was more than a wake-up call; it felt like God was gently reminding me that he could be trusted, that his truth is timeless in a world of fake news, that his Word is relevant even to modern science … and modern politics. The timelessness of God’s Word gave me the assurance that God’s truth and power will prevail in this present time as it has throughout all of history, and I suddenly felt a reaffirmation that God’s truth is consistent and everlasting, and that God is and always will be in control of our world. This Scripture gave me a new sense of hope that my trust in God is true and timeless and a reminder for all who seek compassion and justice that our Sovereign God is still in control of all things, from the smallest subatomic particle to the politics of our country, the welfare of the world, and the care of this vast universe.
Everything that is happening still bothers me, but I was reminded that this is not the end, not the final result, and that this, too, will pass. I’m not a victim yet; maybe I will be. Maybe we’ll suffer, but whether we suffer or not, we’ll get through this. I have a feeling that the worst is yet to come, but at this point in time, and beyond, God’s Word is a reaffirmation that he will give us strength to face whatever does come.
I suddenly felt a reaffirmation that God’s truth is consistent and everlasting, and that God is and always will be in control of our world.
Of course, we have to be ready to act if something does happen. Knowing that God is in control does not mean that we can just sit back and watch. There may come a time when the next egregious event takes place and Christians must take action along with others. As we stay aware, we need to keep reading Scripture and allowing the timelessness of God’s truth to lead us to that future action.
God’s power and control and ultimate plan for humankind will abide, no matter who our political leaders may be, no matter how despicable they are or how long they remain in power. We humans may be puny, but we matter to an infinite God and can rest our hope in that eternal truth.
Knowing that God is in control does not mean that we can just sit back and watch.
By Bill Watanabe
Bill Watanabe retired in June 2012 after serving for 32 years as the founding Executive Director of the Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation (LTSC CDC). Starting as a one-person office in 1980, LTSC under Bill's leadership became a multi-purpose community-service agency in downtown Los Angeles with over 140 paid staff providing services for seniors, youth & families, low income housing, childcare and many other programs in central LA. It is recognized as one of the premiere nonprofits in community development work. Bill volunteers his time mostly with the Little Tokyo Historical Society and other projects related to historic and cultural preservation. He is a member of Evergreen Baptist Church of San Gabriel Valley and has served as the Moderator for many years. Bill received his Masters in Social Welfare from UCLA, is married and has one daughter, and lives in Silverlake, only a short drive to his ethnic neighborhood of Little Tokyo.