How should Christians and the Apostolic Church in the UK respond to Trump’s election victory? Is it possible to see past the spin, through the confusing reports and behind the conflicting worldviews? What can we actually learn and do?
This challenge will not go away. Neither is it irrelevant to the UK simply because Trump is American. The polarization of American politics is mirrored by the polarization of British politics. The ugly post-Brexit feelings still remain. The vitriolic language used by each side of just about any debate is genuinely shocking. The inability to separate person from policy is astounding. These ae not just problems in America. They are problems in the UK as well.
What can the church do to help its members and its nation to move forward in a godly manner?
I think there are many things. Let’s start with a simple one today:
Separate People and Policies
Each side of the American election campaign made shocking personal attacks on the other side. Journalists now seem to prefer ad hominem attacks to real information. The reaction to Trump’s victory has been to condemn the people who voted for him. Surely 56 million people are not all uneducated, white, bigoted, racist, secret members of the Ku Klux Klan?!?
The instructions of Christ are clear:
Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.
Make friends with your opponent. Our aim is to fight battles over policy. We should never have to resort to simply insulting the other person in order to try to win. Trump insulted Clinton. Clinton insulted Trump. Obama insulted Trump. Trump insulted Obama. The list of insults is nearly endless. The presidential debates were laughable for how childish they were.
Now, after the election has occurred, we must make friends quickly. How can we make friends?
We need to be slow to speak and quick to listen. When someone’s policy is not your preference, do not attack it until you understand why they support it. Then, after you understand their policy and why they support it, provide an alternative. You should not attack the person to undermine their policy preferences.
We need to start by building on what we agree about. Trump pledged to repeal Obamacare. Democrats will obviously oppose such a move. What can the two sides agree on? Theresa May needs to deliver on Brexit even though she is opposed by Jeremy Corbyn and thousands – millions – of other people. What can the two sides agree on? In America, everyone agrees people should receive the health care they require. Start there and talk about insurance later. In the UK, everyone agrees law and government should be in the hands of democratically elected people. Start there and work out how to provide democratic government for the UK.
We need to work to build consensus. The UK government relies on a majority government to dominate the opposition. The US government is not designed to rely on one party dominating the other one. The inability to build consensus and pass laws, bills and changes with wider support is a leadership failure. Good leadership draws support rather than demanding surrender.
What about the church?
The Christian church plays an important role in society. We are a force for good. We are a group people turn to for healing. We are God’s ambassadors of reconciliation.
Perhaps a simple observation will underscore how relevant the state of national politics is to the life of the church:
I have seen many churches damaged, split and closed because of a failure to separate people and policies. In their pursuit of the ‘right’ policy, churches have often damaged people. Church leaders have fought ‘bad’ policies harshly and harmed people in the process. These political lessons are, I think, just as valuable inside the church itself.
Itchy Twitter fingers and fickle Facebook posts will not serve us well. We can begin to demonstrate Christ’s value for people. The church has loved people for years in her soup kitchens, healing ministries, counselling services and pastoral care. Now the church can demonstrate its love for people through its willingness to love people regardless of their political stance.
We can be slow to speak, quick to listen, work from places of agreement and we can build consensus in our communities.
We have been committed to the ministry of reconciliation.
Let’s get to work.