I know I’m not alone in having those moments when you shout at the TV or radio when you hear what a politician’s said. It is of course easy to criticise and as a Christian I am told not to judge so I need to challenge myself as I write this.
However there are times when things just jar.
I had one of those moments when Theresa May suggested extending the transition period to leaving the EU. Brexit is clearly not a simple job but it laid bare the elephant in the room, which is that we don’t know how to do this. Regardless of where you stand on Brexit (and the wildly astute may be able to guess my position), it’s clear that those advocating for Brexit didn’t have detailed plans for it. As with all politicians the effort went into the campaign. At no point during the campaign did a Brexiteer step off the shiny ‘£350 million quid a week for the NHS’ bus and discuss what Brexit would mean for the Irish border.
I had another of those jarring moments when Donald Trump suggested that Jamal Khashoggi had been killed by rogue agents. There have been a lot of twists and turns within this sad tale but certain things seem indisputable:
- Khashoggi was a critic of the Saudi ruling family
- Khashoggi was seen going into the Saudi consulate in Turkey and was then not seen to leave
- The Saudis are responsible for what happens in their consulate
- Khashoggi is dead
- The UK and the US are still selling arms to the Saudis
Trump’s position has changed frequently over all this but the ‘rogue agents’ comment seemed a blatant attempt to somehow separate what had happened in the Saudis domain from the Saudi state to avoid having to challenge them and take meaningful action.
Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked by a world leader sidestepping an inconvenient truth. Putin is happy to lie about Novichok, Blair misled the British people about the Iraq war, and even Churchill was a bit economical with the truth as he sought to rally his people.
Do I just need to get over it and accept that that’s what politicians do and even sometimes should do? Does the end sometimes justify the means?
The problem with lying is that once people start how do they then stop again? What is a good lie or a white lie? When lying becomes the norm then truth goes from a reality to a marketing tool. When politicians lose their integrity why should we believe they make decisions out of anything but self-interest, popularity, re-election and their desire for a legacy?
When I see Donald Trump I don’t see integrity. I see a man who has devoted his life to pursuing money and chasing attractive women. I see a man who sends his press secretary out to tell lies about how many people attended his inauguration. I see a man who bullies opponents, mocks disabled people and glories in violence against journalists.
Of course he has a right to stand for office and people have a right to support him. In an electoral system that puts huge power in the hands of one person who needs to source massive wealth to run for office it will be difficult for anyone not to be tainted and compromised. Where I get a bit angry is the idea that Trump is being backed by the church.
I’ll say now that without being a member of any political party I am left of centre. I respect people having different political views but I cannot find a basis as a Christian for supporting the politics of the individual. I believe that God has made us to live in relationship and community, which means we have responsibility for others as well as ourselves, recognising that not everyone has a great start in life.
The only way that Trump can be seen as a Christian candidate is to boil Christianity down to a series of moral issues for the individual. By supporting an idea of faith as the totality of these defining moral issues we present Christianity as a law. This is expressly what Jesus came to overthrow because it fails to change the human heart.
What Jesus offers is the Kingdom – a way of life, lived out of a relationship with him, full of his grace, led by his Spirit. Make no mistake this should affect everything, including the decisions we take on key issues but not as the Pharisees did by burdening people with law but rather by walking in step with our creator.
Trump cannot lay claim to a Christian morality by seeking to impose Christian values. Christian values come out of a decision to follow Jesus not legislation. Trump, I fear, like Putin is amoral – he will do whatever it takes to further his own powerbase such as ignoring the inevitable logic that more guns equals more dead people.
Jesus of course said the truth sets you free. I know from experience that the truth is a challenge – it knocks us off the pedestal of pride we foolishly clamber up but once on the solid ground of truth God is always able to lead us forward.
This article first appeared in www.christiantoday.com