Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live. (Ezekiel 18:31-32 NRSV)
Say to them, As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; (Ezekiel 33:11 NRSV)
Donald and Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19, the Corona virus pandemic that has killed more than two hundred thousand people just here in the United States. Though he knew better, Trump has consistently dismissed the virus as a hoax, a conspiracy against him, or a mild problem no worse than the flu. Our current president has been the outstanding purveyor of misinformation about this pandemic and its true dangers.
Facebook this morning is oozing both satisfaction and disgust. “I wouldn’t wish the virus on either candidate,” says self-righteous outrage at the thought that anyone would call Trump’s infection karma or express pleasure of any sort at the news. Columnist Nicholas Kristof, hardly a fan of the president, takes the civilized approach of wishing the Trumps recovery and good health. Others do indeed celebrate this turn of events as the just deserts of a president who has deliberately misled his followers and insisted his servants put themselves at risk, mocking any who dared wear masks in his presence.
What is likely to happen if Trump’s case of the virus proves mild? Will he not use his narrow escape from the ravages of COVID-19 to double down on his dismissal of its dangers and refusal to do what the nation and world need to control the infection and death rates? Will he not gloat and swagger as more people die? Will he not try to shame people who take precautions and even incite violence against them? How could we possibly expect him to do otherwise when such has been his method of operation all along?
For those who care what the Bible says, we are assured that God takes no pleasure in the death of any person. But. The rest of the message is that God wants the wicked person to turn from evil ways and act justly.
Trump’s infection is not something to celebrate, but his presidency is even less so. What are the chances he will turn, face the truth, and act justly? Our own medical science suggests the chances are nil. We have no cure for malignant narcissism, and a lifetime of practiced cruelty, swindling, and bullying present an overwhelming challenge to hope for repentance from a man who refuses to admit he has ever done anything for which to ask forgiveness.
But, we read, “with God all things are possible.” My skepticism whispers in my ear that moving Donald Trump to repentance, a true change of heart and way of life, would make walking on water look like a party trick, but such matters are left to God, not to me.
So, what do I pray for Donald J. Trump? I cannot bring myself to pray for his quick and easy recovery, knowing he would use it to mislead and destroy more people, to strut his arrogance and further inflame his cult followers to violence. Neither will I pray for his death but only for God’s grace for the nation, the world, for the children in cages, for the victims of his racism and cruelty, and, yes, for Trump himself. But God’s grace excuses no evil but, rather, deals with it, offering life to the wicked who will turn from the evil they have been doing.
My watchword, then, for this day, this turn of events, is what Moses is told by God to say to the Israelites caught between the Sea of Reeds and the pursuing Egyptian chariots. Stand, stand firm, and wait.