My earnest hope is that no one who reads this blog to the very end will actually enjoy it!!
By a process of confusing ‘suggested friends’ on Facebook with ‘friends that Facebook is recommending me to connect with’, I find myself with 2,768 online friends. I was a newcomer to social media 5 years ago and I assumed (wrongly as it turned out) that the whole point was to connect with new people that might share common interests. As I clicked frequently on ‘suggested friends’ more and more people accepted my friend requests and I find myself connecting with vast numbers of people I know little or nothing about. Not all of this is bad, I have made remarkable friends with people in Australia (one of whom actually sent me a food parcel of Aussie goodies), Western Europe and North America. Over the years I have had to ‘unfriend’ a few who definitely did not share my values, and I’m sure quite a few ‘unfriended’ me when they got to know me better. But it was a recent invitation from a ‘friend’ in North America to ‘like’ Donald J Trump that made things interesting.
I am mindful of people’s absolute freedom to make their own choices morally and politically. I am also aware of the context and importance of St. Paul’s instruction to young Timothy in 1 Timothy 2: 1-4, ‘I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness’ (N.I.V.). What makes this passage and approach all the more remarkable is that Paul was writing at a time of emerging persecution of Christians by religious and political leaders. He was effectively urging Timothy and others (including us?) to pray for Emperors and corrupt officials who were out to destroy Christians and their faith.
Now let me be clear, and here is where I may well reduce my Facebook ‘friend’ count significantly; Donald Trump is a thug, a bully, a misogynist, a manipulator and a narcissist. I do not like him, I abhor his treatment of other people, his bombastic showmanship and his policies, ( I can actually feel all my left-leaning friends hover their index finger over the ‘like’ emoji at this statement), but he is also a father, a husband, a son, a friend, a human being loved by God (fingers quivering there folks!). As I have reflected over why I chose not to ‘like’ Donald J. Trump I realised much of my reasoning was based on other people’s opinion and commentary about him. I obviously have never met him and actually know very little about him. In short, I have bought into one of his most dangerous attributes: Donald Trump is a polariser – someone who deliberately drives people to extremes. He is brilliant at this, he is not a stupid man, he’s obviously incredibly clever; but the secret of his success is that he moves us to extremes, (most politicians do btw). He cares little which extreme he pushes us to; by polarising us he cleverly creates a scenario where he can control the narrative. He simplifies any disagreement, logical questioning and challenges as ‘nasty’, ‘fake news’, ‘conspiracy’. This frees him from ever having to answer any question he doesn’t like. His base love it, his opponents were never going to vote for him anyway!
So how can we respond to this, (and here may well be where I lose quite a few of my left-leaning friends). I truly believe I am not called to like Donald Trump, but I am commanded to love him, and to pray for him. Honestly now, how many of you who hate Donald Trump and all he stands for, have ever actually prayed for him? This is how he wins, by pushing us past our calling to love as Christ loved and loves. The simple reality is that when we let ourselves be swayed by him, he gets into our heads, he demands a reaction, a response. The best response to someone like this is to not let them shift our eyes and hearts away from being fixed on Jesus. He alone is worthy of the kind of attention others (including us ourselves) crave. Don’t forget that EGO can stand for Edge God Out. While we are distracted by others there is less room for God who alone deserves our full attention.
I often wonder whether in the incredibly unlikely event of my ever meeting the current President of America, I would actually shake his hand. My instinct would be to silently protest by turning my back and ignoring him, but I know in my heart of hearts that Jesus expects so much more of me.
I recently used my God-given right to choose, by declining my friend’s invitation to like Donald J. Trump, but as I did so I also made a conscious decision to be led by Jesus in the choices I make rather than by the agendas of others (including myself).