Have you ever had a dream in which someone was chasing or attacking you? In dreams like this the attacker represents our Shadow, where we shove all of those aspects of ourselves of which we are ashamed, hoping that they never see the light of day. When the Shadow shows up in our dreams it is basically our subconscious telling us that some repressed part of ourselves needs attention. The world-renowned Jungian analyst Robert Johnson wrote that if the Shadow gains enough energy “it erupts as an overpowering rage or some indiscretion that slips past us; or we have a depression or an accident that seems to have its own purpose.” An out of control Shadow “is a terrible monster in our psychic house.” In other words, the Shadow escapes our nightmares and becomes a real life problem causing pain and disruption for us and those around us.
Donald Trump is the Shadow of American culture. He is the nightmare that reminds us of the misogyny, racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, etc. that lurks just below the surface. We’ve tried to deny and repress these aspects of our culture. We’ve tried to claim that women are given equal treatment, that black lives already matter, that we welcome the stranger, that we offer religious freedom, but Trump is revealing the falsehood of our delusions. He is our Shadow demanding attention. He is an eruption of rage, an indiscretion. As the raging Shadow, it’s not surprising that his entire persona has no real substance. He doesn’t offer plans or ideas but only anger and vague, grandiose boasting. It’s not his function to solve anything but only to demand attention.
Of course, if we elect Trump President he will become the terrible out of control monster in our psychic house. Nothing gets solved by electing Trump. Everything gets more dangerous and our problems get even more difficult to address. So, if not Trump, who can take our country in a healing direction? Realistically, no third party candidate is going to get elected and that leaves only one candidate, Hillary Clinton. Can Clinton bring healing? I don’t know. But she’s the only realistic hope in this election cycle. She’s not a perfect candidate, but I’ve been shocked and bewildered by how much people seem to hate and vilify her.
An article in the Washington Post offers a hint to at least why many Christian Evangelicals regard her with such a deep disgust: “She symbolizes much that runs against their beliefs: abortion rights advocacy, feminism and, conversely, a rejection of biblical ideas of femininity and womanhood. Perhaps even more significantly, Hillary Clinton, as an outspoken and activist first lady, is inextricably tied in the minds of conservative Christians to their loss of the culture war battles beginning with Bill Clinton’s first term in 1993.”
I can begin to understand this a little. When our world views are threatened, when things are not as we think they are supposed to be, it can feel as if the very fabric of reality is fraying. I’ve felt for a long time that this is why many Christians are so anti-gay. In reality, I think it has little to do with the Bible or religious doctrines. Those things simply become the justifications of a deep-seated fear that gay people represent a world they don’t and can’t understand. It doesn’t fit what they were taught about how the world was supposed to be. And that is frightening. I get that. So, perhaps Clinton, as the stalwart Democratic Party insider has become the symbol for a world that simply frightens us.
But is Trump really the alternative world we seek? That so many seem to be able to deny Trump’s empty, ignorant, raging bully persona in order to avoid Clinton boggles my mind. As a Christian minister, it seems highly immoral to support Trump. I don’t feel I even need to justify that claim. All one has to do is listen to the vile garbage that comes of his mouth. There is nothing about him that says “love your neighbor,” which is the command that underlies the entire Christian faith, according to Jesus himself.
Of course, there are some that would say because I’m a Christian minister I should keep my opinions to myself. Religion should stay out of politics – separation of church and state and all that. Actually, that can often be a convenient excuse for the church not to get involved, to just sit on the sidelines and bemoan its own internal problems. Then I think about Nazi Germany and how much of the German church either sat on the sidelines or even endorsed Nazism. The church has an obligation to speak up. The church has an obligation to say no to hatred and oppression and to demand all people be treated with respect, compassion and justice.
So what’s the solution for our country? I’m not sure, but it doesn’t lie with Trump or anything he represents. Does the church have a role in healing our country? I certainly hope so. Greg Carey, a seminary professor, offers some thought-provoking words on that subject at the Huffington Post.
But, nothing gets solved by electing Trump. Unfortunately, I don’t think that anything really gets solved by defeating him either. To be healthy and whole, the Shadow must be addressed, acknowledged, and integrated. We actually have to do something about our misogyny, racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, etc. We can’t try to lock these things back in our psychic and cultural basement. They will just rage all the greater. Trump as the Shadow is only a symptom of what ails our culture. In the same way, I think the disturbingly frequent violence we’ve been seeing in our country and the corresponding controversies about gun control are symptoms as well. At this point, things are bad enough that gun control may be necessary but my gut feeling is we’d just be treating the symptom and not the illness. Same with defeating Trump – necessary, but it won’t make us healthy and whole.
So, what does? That is what we have to figure out. We need to get back to the imperative to love our neighbor. We need to support each other instead of fighting each other. We need to demand our political leaders are really addressing the needs of the people instead of the quarterly profits of their corporate sponsors. We need to demand compromise in our politics instead of hateful rhetoric and obstructionism. We need to support efforts that demand our culture be just – efforts like Black Lives Matter. But we also need to give attention to the Shadow in our subconscious without letting it take control of us. We can’t lock it away. We need to know where the rage is coming from. We need to ask what lies at the root of our “isms” and phobias and address that with respect. That’s not an easy task. It’s complex and difficult. But to truly be a healthy and whole people, it is what we need to do. We need to put our trust in our higher power or in the resiliency of humanity – whichever inspires us – and get to work.