Everyone should read the Bible, believer and non-believer, people of other faiths or none. You may be surprised to hear me say that, but real students of the Bible will not.
They know that bookended between all the hard to believe miracles – a man living in a whale, talking snakes, the dead brought back to life – is a cache of real and enduring human wisdom.
There is no voice more radical, or more challenging to the status quo, than that of Jesus in the New Testament. He was in many ways a first-century social activist, a person who encouraged you to embrace your enemies, to prioritize the marginalized, to expose wealth inequality for the rigged sham that it is.
He was of course mocked and hated for his radical messages. No one is more hated than an effective social activist, the kind of radical who stirs things up for the top tiers, waking the poor from their slumber and asking them why the world looks the way it does, why the rich lord it over them, and why they must always eat mere scraps from the table of plenty?
These days radical social activists are still feared and loathed in equal measure by those with the most to lose from the kind of tax and corporate restructuring that effective social activists promote.
But ideas are hard to kill, the thirst for equality and justice is hard to kill. When you have leaders that appeal to all your worst prejudices, as we do now, you should also keep a good eye on your own pockets, because whilst they are distracting you with anger and resentment you may be sure those pockets are about to be picked.
I returned to the Bible this week because a quote from it kept coming to my mind and I wanted to be sure I was remembering it correctly. It is Matthew, 12:25: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”
Centuries later, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln would remember those words and make them the centerpiece of his famous “a house divided cannot stand” speech.
I thought of Lincoln and the Bible this week because, as presidential candidate Joe Biden remarked at the Democratic National Convention, America is once again in the midst of a war for its soul and future.
I thought of the Bible this week too because it reminds us that our better angels are not always the victors in these kind of epic struggles, and because in our fear and uncertainty, we can often choose a path of darkness instead of a path of light and life.
I think the quality that most distinguishes our current president is how literally everyone who gets close to him, every politician who enthusiastically supports him or tries to befriend him, ends up with their career in ruins, their reputation destroyed, and their families left to bear the brunt of their dramatic fall.
It's truly remarkable how this process keeps repeating itself over and over, and yet there never seems to be a shortage of willing sacrificial victims ready to line up and become the next fall guy or patsy, putting their own neck on the block for no reward. What makes them volunteer?
If you really want to know the truth about the Trump years, just Google the term “Trump fires.” It details the humiliation and downfall of scores of human souls, one after the next, all of them true believers at first, then scorned and forgotten book-hawkers who have seen the light about just what kind of man they were working for all along.
This Oval Office to Barnes and Noble path has been worn thin by former staffers and supporters, all of whom suddenly see the light (and some dollar signs). It's remarkable to watch how this administration continually elevates and then condemns voices, like Doctor Anthony Fauci, who are thrown to the media like dog biscuits and then withdrawn and overlooked as soon as their usefulness as a shield is done.
Perhaps the most spectacular recent example of this meat grinder political model is the woman who has done more than anyone to keep its gears running, Kellyanne Conway. For years, Kellyanne has mocked the media from a great height and lied to it repeatedly. She has pushed policies that undermine our democracy, repeatedly.
Read More: Donald Trump throws God under the bus
She defended cruel and racist policies that separated children from their parents for months and even years and harmed them irretrievably, repeatedly.
But destroying other people's lives eventually uprooted her own. Her daughter Claudia, 15, appalled by the deceitful and propagandist work that her mother does for Trump, made her disdain increasingly public, forcing her mother to reluctantly choose between fame, fortune, and influence or the peace of her own home this week.
So if we have learned anything about the Trump years it is this, every home that he divides eventually falls, its peace destroyed. Even the homes of the true believers.
So why should we expect our nation to be any different?