Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Trouble with Trump

Prime Minister Theresa May and President Trump
Credit: Jay Allen. Crown Copyright. Under Creative Commons License
Yesterday, when President Donald Trump retweeted videos from the far-right and fascist organisation, Britain First, his actions were met with fury and disbelief by British people  across the political spectrum. It seems that nothing can unite the British people like their collective opposition to a man who is called the leader of the free world. Condemnation of Trump’s actions was universal. The Archbishop of Canterbury condemned his actions, as did Brendan Cox, the widower of the MP Jo Cox, who was murdered by a man shouting ‘Britain First.’ Condemnation was forthcoming from the opposition parties, from the media and even from Trump supporter, Piers Morgan. Most striking however was a rebuke from the Prime Minister herself. Theresa May's spokesperson said last night that Trump was ‘wrong’ to tweet these videos. Of course it is important to add that these videos from Britain First, which purport to show Muslims engaging in acts of violence, are there to stoke religious and racial hatred in the UK. However, it also has to be said that the content on these videos has not been verified, and could be what Trump himself calls 'Fake News.' Indeed, even the Dutch Embassy in US has said that the video said to show a 'migrant' committing a crime was actually of a Dutch national.

However, if the President’s tweets weren’t bad enough, this morning he tweeted again, this time lashing out at the Prime Minister herself who is caught in the unenviable position of having to condemn Trump’s actions and also having to work with him as our closest ally. Speaking for herself this lunchtime, Mrs May has again stated very clearly that Trump was 'wrong' to do what he has done. I’m sure that officials in both Washington and London are tearing their hair out over this most unsavoury and unorthodox president. Imagine the furore if Theresa May had retweeted videos from the Ku Klux Klan.

In a sense we shouldn’t be surprised by President Trump’s actions. He has shown time and time again that he conducts himself that is wholly inappropriate for the elected leader of the world’s most powerful country. In a blog post last year, just before the Presidential Election, I repeated Hillary Clinton’s words that Donald Trump is ‘temperamentally unfit to be President of the United States.’ Never has a truer word been spoken. 

Trump bashing is very popular - both on the left and the right in today’s politics - but hatred is never the answer. We should hate what Trump is doing but when we start hating another human being then we’re on very dangerous ground. To be honest, there is part of me that does feel sorry for Donald Trump as a human being. After all, people who peddle hate are often very broken people themselves. 

However, putting aside the outrage of what Trump has done, what really troubles me about Britain First and other far-right groups is the way in which they try and appropriate the Christian faith for their narrative of hate. Again I don’t want to demonise another human being; after all, we have to remember that everyone - no matter how abhorrent their views or their actions - is loved by God. However, when Britain First try to dress up their racist views using Christian symbols they are committing blasphemy. We read in Exodus 20 that the third commandment given to Moses on Mount Sinai was ‘you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.’ When racist groups use crosses on demonstrations or speak of ‘Christian patrols’ or of standing up for ‘Christian values’ they are guilty of taking the Lord’s name in vain and committing the sin of blasphemy. 

Blasphemy is one of those old fashioned religious words but for me it encapsulates what the far-right are doing. Anyone who uses God's name to espouse hate is getting themselves into big trouble. For while the far-right, and any other extremists for that matter, may be roundly condemned by the media, by politicians and the public, they are also opening themselves up to the condemnation of a much higher power. 

This Sunday is Advent Sunday. In the Church, Advent is not a time for Christmas shopping, office Christmas parties and decorating our homes but is instead meant to be a time of preparation. One of the key themes of Advent is also the Last Judgement. What is certain is that sooner of later each of us will stand before the judgement seat of Christ where we will have to account for our actions - whether we are the President of the United States, members of a far-right group or ordinary people like you and me. And for those who purport to stand for ‘Christian values’ but who do not know of the transforming love of Jesus, Jesus himself has a chilling warning: ‘Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’ (Matthew 7:21)

Jesus calls all of us to turn away from what is wrong in our lives and live lives filled with his love. So let's not fight hatred with hate but allow God's love to transform our hate-filled world.

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