Americans are nice people – really they are! This is what I am reminding myself frequently at the moment. I’ve met many Americans, and they are generally very kind generous, warm-hearted people. Some have followed their national stereotype of being entertainingly gullible, but have always been pretty decent. Based on the Americans I have met, I would happily live in America. Based on the vitriol of a Clinton vs Trump presidential election, I wouldn’t want to live in America, even if you paid me!
Like many of us though, I am fascinated / appalled by the election, and intrigued by American Christians view on politics. I’ve probably known over a hundred American Christians over the years, but in all that time I have only met one who voted democrat (or was brave enough to admit it publicly!) I am old enough to rate Jim Wallis’ ‘Soul of Politics’ as one of the best Christian books on politics I have read – and Jim Wallis was a clear democrat. Tony Campolo is another gifted communicator who stands out as Christian democrat, even if he did take on the fairly hopeless task of being spiritual adviser to Bill Clinton. Despite this the overwhelming majority of American Christians are Republican.
So what do they make of the current two candidates? Way back in 1997, I preached to a fairly American congregation. In it I quipped that the anti-Christ may have come already. It may have been Stalin. Maybe it was Hitler. It may have been Hilary Clinton. After the sermon many of them came to me and commented that, for an outsider, I had an amazing understanding of American politics. I just nodded sagely, rather than admit I was just after a cheap laugh! She headed up the controversial health reform bill, and took the political hit in place of her husband. The effect was lasting, and even though justice for the poor could be argued as being a basic tenant of Christianity, she found herself repelled by the Christian right.
But the alternative is Donald Trump! I genuinely cannot imagine how any Christian could vote for him! But they will – and probably call themselves evangelical as they do.
Trump’s view of women is truly shocking.
It’s hard for him to dismiss that video (#notinmylockerroom). In my time I have played a lot of football and rugby. I’ve been in many ‘locker rooms’ and have never heard anyone try to normalise predatory sexual assault without consent . Donald – this is not normal locker room talk!
We’re now up to 11 women making groping accusations against him. He suggests this is just part of a conspiracy against him. He asks why similar accusations aren’t being made against Obama – as if this is evidence of conspiracy! The answer is much simpler – these accusations are consistent with what Trump has said about women and are likely to be true. Obama has never said anything remotely comparable. Even Trump’s responses to this Clinton conspiracy have been self-condemning. “Believe me, she would not be my first choice” is an outrageous response. To paraphrase, he said about Jessica Leeds “Believe me, you are not attractive enough to have the honour of being groped by Donald!”
Trump’s view on paying tax is shocking.
In his campaign he is reaching out to the industrial heartlands of working class America. I’ve no doubt that there are countless hard working, honest Americans who recognise tax as being an important part of how a modern civilised country operates. Paying their fair share is a virtue. It’s what hard working people do. Trump using his wealth to avoid paying federal income tax for over a decade is an anathema to those low and middle earners who faithfully pay their taxes. It may not be just income tax he avoids, (read more here). In Trump’s defence, at least he was spending this money on altruistic causes. Oh no he wasn’t! He was allegedly paying $10,000 soliciting a porn actress to come to his room!! The same amount many Americans pay in income tax per year.
How did it come to this?
Trump and Clinton are probably the least popular candidates in history. Are they really the best America has to offer? Are the primaries the problem? If I was a staunch Democrat I would vote for Trump in the primaries, as I would see him as the best chance for a Democrat victory. If I was a staunch Republican I would vote for Clinton in the primaries, as her very chequered history over 25 years in politics represents the best chance for a Republican victory. This has always been a genuine questions of mine. What is there to stop this kind of cynical voting in the
primaries? Doesn’t this contribute to the race to the bottom that has dogged this campaign?
But especially for the Republicans, this has been a massive missed opportunity. There is so much disquiet in American politics. After eight years of Obama, the time seemed right for a change. The potential was there, a chance to unite behind a strong, honourable candidate. Instead the Republicans nominated the Freddie Krueger of the American Dream as their candidate!
Where were the evangelical Christians in this process? During the primaries Max Lucado wrote an excellent blog titled “Decency for President“. I was encouraged as I read it, then dismayed as I read the comments. It seems that too many evangelicals, are so blinded by their anti-Hilary rhetoric, that they are happier posing with Jerry Falwell and Donald Trump in front of a copy of Playboy, than listening to true Christian leaders like Max Lucado and Russell Moore. (Apparently, according to a Trump tweet, Moore is a nasty guy!)
Is there any hope?
I struggle to see any. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a Evangelical campaign for voters to spoil their ballots? Imagine the strong message that would send. It would give the incoming president (probably Clinton) the weakest political mandate ever. If they maintain control of the Senate, this could put the Republicans in an unassailable position, as long as they have more leading Republicans withdraw their Trump nomination and start now finding their next candidate, choosing on the basis of virtue and political acumen, rather than money.
The Moral-Majority launched themselves into politics in the hope that they could use their faith to mould politics. Now, sadly, they are letting the worst of politics mould their faith.