I have been thinking about you a lot of late (and praying), especially as you were faced with what many my side of the Pond saw as Hobson’s choice when it came to electing your new President. I should add, I use the word “American” advisedly, for strictly speaking the term could apply to both those living near the North Pole as well as the South Pole, and not just the USA, although it is the USA I am thinking off here – millions of you who claim to be “Christian” – whether you are on not is for God alone to judge.
I have to confess, I have never visited your country, much as I would have liked to do. There is much I don’t understand about the American way and why we are different, and just as you may have a stereo-typical image of what us Briton’s are like so we have of you, some of it is complimentary but a lot of it isn’t. We don’t get, for example, your obsession with maintaining the Second Amendment or the relationship between Federal and State rights, why the composition of the Supreme Court is such a big issue among many of you, and we don’t go along with you calling the game of football, which we invented, soccer, but we do like the idea of the American dream. We wonder, how you have after months of campaigning decided on two, in the opinion of many of us Brit watchers, unsuitable candidates to choose from, opting for one, Donald J Trump. Ok, in my arrogance, I think I know more than most of my fellow Brits why, but even I am astounded you should have made that selection and would also have been if you had chosen Hillary.
One of the benefits of being retired, with access to the computer and Internet, is I have been able to listen to a wide range of your Christian leaders pontificate on the whys and wherefores, rights and wrongs on this election and the things that occupy the mind of the American people, always bearing in mind that despite one’s prejudicial upbringing, there is enormous diversity in thought and perspective. I also can observe from my computer desk huge happenings in the world and always lurking is America. I have been strangely, pleasantly surprised having been fed the notion that most religious wackery originates in the States, for many concerns raised and ideas pushed have a degree of legitimacy and soundness.
In my childhood, I don’t recall meeting many Americans, although I did watch my fair share of American TV shows. Shows like the Lone Ranger, the Waltons and Bonanza, strike me as being wholesome still. I first came across Americans in significant numbers when I had just left school and signed up to a religious crusade (Operation Mobilisation) to evangelise Europe. And in the main I found these were a great bunch of guys and gals. I sensed more a fundamentalist leaning than what I was used to in England (something I was to see later in life) but these were genuine, sincere people, who I liked hanging out with. Between then and now, I met with numerous other Americans, of various shades, and while some were rich, loud, big, bigoted, insular and ignorant, most weren’t. To coin a phrase beloved of your new President elect, I found them to be great people.
But the thing that has struck me particularly over the years is the American influence in the world. In one small corner that I happen to have a lot to do with, India, there is plenteous evidence. Not only do a fair splattering end up living in the States, pursuing the American dream and economic advancement, while supporting folk back home from afar, but some of the mission and compassion related activity I observe, and sometimes engage with, in my India travels, emanates from the States, making me realize there are many large hearted, visionary people there who understand that along with great privilege comes great responsibility. My main gripe is that some of this often comes with American hang-ups.
In one American sponsored Bible college I preach in, students are required to sign up to believing in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church, to which I wryly smile given I have studied this notion most of my life and don’t believe it. Over the years issues like Israel, creationism, the inspiration of the King James Bible, and how we treat LBGT folk, have all been sticking points in my engaging with a number of Americans, often leading to our falling out, although I recognize in keeping with the polarized aspects of American life, liberalism is strong too, and in some denominations those who don’t sign up have been severely censured. I realise, like us, we Christians are far from being “one”, which poses challenges for us all.
But here I come to the crux of my meditation. I don’t believe quite as one of your presidential candidates kept saying: American is great because it is good. But I do recognize a good degree of greatness and goodness. And because of good people who had had in mind lofty principles of freedom from tyranny and doing what is right, and in a way that honours the Almighty, God has been pleased to bless your nation. That is not to say, like us, American history throws up many examples of things you cannot be proud about e.g. the way you treated the indigenous Indian, slavery and racism. I think though the signs are that making America great again is all well and good but it cannot be assumed and cannot ignore God, or the world at large. As I am often reminded, we are where we are and life goes on. As your President remarked, the sun still rose the next day.
I don’t wish to harp on the matter, but killing half a million babies each year, before they are born, IS deplorable. But so are some of the societal inequalities and avoidable suffering we see among the significant number of “have nots” living in your midst. Let’s face it, many people suffering in the world do so now because of bad decisions made by America. I can’t help thinking there will be a day of reckoning given the enormous amount of money your country owes. America is in a mess and your President, regardless of who you had elected, can’t save it. Only God can, but you can always pray. This is a time of great opportunity amidst great need.
I am in two minds whether I can view President elect Trump as a modern day King Cyrus, but I recognize in Bible times that God raised up this unbelieving king to help restore the nation of Israel, but your calling is clear. It maybe American influence on the world stage will continue to diminish with the rise of other great powers but it can still make a great difference and still be the lighthouse many in the rest of the world admires. Closer to home you can serve the poor and marginalized, you can still be obedient to the one you claim to serve and you can still winsomely share the gospel with all and sundry, maybe more than ever before. But most of all you must take to heart what your country’s motto says: “In God we trust”.