When I was invited to undertake a three week ministry trip to the USA in October/November 2016, I had no idea that the American election would happen during my stay. It has been truly fascinating being here ‘on the ground’ so to speak – and experiencing the build up to what many are saying is the most shocking upset in US political history.
Interestingly, pretty much from the moment we arrived in New York in late October, I sensed the very same pre-brexit atmosphere that we experienced in the UK last June – with pollsters predicting the status quo position would prevail, a media with a clear ‘for’ and ‘against’ agenda and a LOT of doom and gloom being spread. But behind the headlines, the story was very different.
I talked to one highly educated & successful businessman, a liberal minded non-Christian who had no particular allegiance to any political party. When I asked him which way he’d be voting, he seemed reluctant and embarrassed before finally admitting that he’d be voting for Trump. Asked why, it was clear that he felt this was the ‘lesser of two evils’ and that things needed to change.
In the midst of all the social media bile that is being written about the election (much of it based on hysteria & ignorance), there is a powerful lesson that MUST be learned from both the Brexit and Trump victories. When people are made to feel shamed and embarrassed for holding genuine convictions, then this is the sign of a very sick democracy. Yes, those views might be unedifying and even sometimes offensive. However what tends to happen when people feel they are ignored and held in contempt is that they retreat into an eerie silence, like the calm before the storm. Then they enter the polling booth at election time and their roar of frustration is heard, hence the typhoons of Brexit and now Trump.
Both Trump and Brexit were not particularly votes which were FOR anything. Rather they were protests AGAINST what many people perceive (whether rightly or wrongly) as an elitist political establishment who are aloof from reality, only interested in their own advancement and contemptuous of any view which they might find offensive or politically incorrect. In a sense, we are witnessing a modern day peasants revolt by those who feel left behind. It’s messy. It’s unpleasant. It’s ugly. But we ignore it at our peril.
My very real concern now is that politicians & the media will fail to learn the lessons of both Brexit and Trump. If positions harden and the divisions become even more entrenched, then the grave danger is that politics will grow ever more extreme. Wisdom really does need to prevail otherwise Brexit and Trump could look tame compared to what might potentially come further down the line. I don’t mean this to sound apocalyptic – but it is a very sobering wake up call.
Meanwhile, as believers in Jesus, we need to keep praying, believing and carrying the hope of the Gospel in our everyday lives. The world needs us! I sense a desperation out there that I’ve never seen before in my life time. In the midst of all the chaos in our world, it’s good to know that there is an answer. It doesn’t lie in a political philosophy or a theoretical concept. It’s a person. His name is Jesus. His grace changes everything. This is exactly what our messed up world needs.