In my formative years there used to be a weekly radio slot I was a regular listener to, titled “Letter from America”. The broadcaster was Alistair Cooke. While I couldn’t go along with all his opinions, I found in his talks, as did many others, an intelligent, fair minded assessment of what was taking place in the USA at the time, and he did so in such a masterly way such that I could not be anything other than captivated. It has occurred that this is one job I would like, except I am not in the same class and no one has approached me yet.
It has crossed my mind recently, what the great man, a Brit who had settled in America, who died in 2004, might have made out about what is going on in the lead up to next month’s US Presidential election. While we no longer can benefit from Alistair Cooke’s profound insights, hundreds of others have thrown in their two penneth worth, and while there is considerable variation when it comes to the relative merits of what is said, there is a lot worth considering. That applies to the Christian perspective too, although in truth the variations are so wide it is fair to say there isn’t one. Because I am a Christian and I try to ensure my faith informs my every thing taking place in this world, I take particular note.
In my last Trump / Clinton blog, posted only yesterday, I expressed a forlorn hope that the two would stand down and be replaced by Mike Pence and Bernie Sanders. When challenged as to why, my response was: “It has been a while since I considered Bernie Sanders but when I first come across him he seemed like a breath of fresh air and gave me the impression he was a man of principle in the Tony Benn mould, especially on social justice issues, and this despite my antipathy toward his socialism (reminds me a bit of Jeremy Corbyn and Michael Foot) and his anti-Manhattan views. Unlike Hillary, not only is he untainted by scandal but he does not appear to be in league with a discredited establishment that seeks to part of a global elite, something that Trump has tried to challenge, albeit with limited success. I like the little of what I have seen of Mike Pence and see him as one of the good guys. I see Tim Kaine (Clinton’s running mate) as a bit lightweight and not presidential material, unlike Pence. At least if we had a Pence versus Sanders contest Americans would have two quite different visions for their country from which to choose from, without the distractions we have seen in the Trump versus Clinton battle”.
There is still a long way to go before the election and much still can happen, but things aren’t looking good for Trump (I often look at Bookies odds, which show Clinton well ahead), and this in the light of significant defections from among his supporters in the light of recent revelations highlighting his personal failures. (Even after I posted this, there was a further revelation that casts dispersion on Clinton’s character (see here) and one is left wondering where it will all end – ed). I suppose strategically, if one were a Republican, there are many other offices up for grabs, and while the Presidency is the greatest of these, he/she is limited if he/she does not have the support of the Congress or Senate. No doubt the Democrats will respond, being mindful of this. I thought to check the story on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee to replace Justice Scalia, which is being blocked by the Republican dominated Senate. While all sorts of reasons can be advanced for this, it is in part as I had guessed – Obama’s nominee is seen as being too liberal. The issue of nominations to the Supreme Court is one of the reasons why some Christians from my own theological stable have reluctantly opted to support Trump despite his glaring personal failings.
This brings me to one of the better Christian analysis of what is going on and how our (as Christians) response ought to be. It comes from Christianity Today and it makes the point at the outset it is not endorsing either of the two main candidates and is equally scathing concerning both: “Just because we are neutral, however, does not mean we are indifferent. We are especially not indifferent when the gospel is at stake. The gospel is of infinitely greater importance than any campaign, and one good summary of the gospel is, “Jesus is Lord.”” Having been influenced in my early years by the Christian Brethren, who were in the main of the view that Christians should not be involved in politics (or even vote) but rather they should focus on saving souls, recognizing the world is doomed and can only be reclaimed when Jesus returns to it as its reigning king, and then later rejecting that teaching to one that recognizes the need to do good on the earth by whatever legitimate means, yet with our eyes still focused on heaven and intent on saving souls, I was particularly interested to check out what the author had to say.
Regarding Clinton: “The Democratic nominee has pursued unaccountable power through secrecy—most evidently in the form of an email server designed to shield her communications while in public service, but also in lavishly compensated speeches, whose transcripts she refuses to release, to some of the most powerful representatives of the world system. She exemplifies the path to power preferred by the global technocratic elite—rooted in a rigorous control of one’s image and calculated disregard for norms that restrain less powerful actors. Such concentration of power, which is meant to shield the powerful from the vulnerability of accountability, actually creates far greater vulnerabilities, putting both the leader and the community in greater danger. But because several of the Democratic candidate’s policy positions are so manifestly incompatible with Christian reverence for the lives of the most vulnerable, and because her party is so demonstrably hostile to expressions of traditional Christian faith, there is plenty of critique and criticism of the Democratic candidate from Christians, including evangelical Christians”.
Regarding Trump: “What Trump is, everyone has known and has been able to see for decades, let alone the last few months. The revelations of the past week of his vile and crude boasting about sexual conquest—indeed, sexual assault—might have been shocking, but they should have surprised no one. Indeed, there is hardly any public person in America today who has more exemplified the “earthly nature” that Paul urges the Colossians to shed: “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry” (3:5). This is an incredibly apt summary of Trump’s life to date. Idolatry, greed, and sexual immorality are intertwined in individual lives and whole societies… Most Christians who support Trump have done so with reluctant strategic calculation, largely based on the president’s power to appoint members of the Supreme Court. Important issues are indeed at stake, including the right of Christians and adherents of other religions to uphold their vision of sexual integrity and marriage even if they are in the cultural minority. But there is a point at which strategy becomes its own form of idolatry—an attempt to manipulate the levers of history in favor of the causes we support”. It concludes: “In these closing weeks before the election, all American Christians should repent, fast, and pray—no matter how we vote. And we should hold on to hope—not in a candidate, but in our Lord Jesus. We do not serve idols. We serve the living God. Even now he is ready to have mercy, on us and on all who are afraid. May his name be hallowed, his kingdom come, and his will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”.
While the prospect of a Trump versus Clinton showdown fills me with foreboding, naturally speaking, as does so much that is going on in the world today, starting in Syria and spreading out to all four corners of the globe, I know my place is to be the Lord’s servant and to do His bidding. I do not look optimistically on what is going to happen in the near future, where I have no doubt that the “New World Order” some look forward to will happen but it will not be a benign one. But I do see the longer term future for Planet Earth, and for those who do repent and turn to Christ it will be a glorious one.