SCRIPTURE: 1 Tim 2:1-4
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: Nov 10th, 2016
1I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. - (1 Tim 2:1-4)
For many people, the unthinkable happened. If Murphy was alive, he would have repeated with an i-told-you-so look: "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." For nearly half the population of America today, it has indeed gone wrong when their candidate failed to garner the required number of electoral votes to win.
On January 20th, 2017, the controversial and straight-talk tycoon, Donald Trump will become the next President of the United States. In a result that took many people by surprise, it was the Democrat supporters, the widely leftist media and pollsters who had to flee with their tails between their legs. Even today, some are still scratching their heads wondering what happened. Others blamed it on the complacency of the Democratic establishment while some analysts said many Democrat supporters stayed home and did not vote. Those who could not accept the result took to the streets and protested the outcome. I watched the media and saw a 180-degree turnaround in their reporting. All their predictions were wrong. Instead of Clinton winning by a huge margin, it was Trump who took in the majority of the electoral votes. Instead of the former First Lady and experienced bureaucrat sweeping into power, it was a boisterous and shrewd reality-TV personality receiving the prize. News agencies and reporters continued to analyze the results and the reasons. Some blamed, others shamed. Many people continued to talk about what happened on Nov 8th, 2016 where America elected her new President. Some people might want some guidance with regard to this event. Let me then offer five post-election thoughts.
First, we put our hope in God, not in earthly persons. It bothers me when Christians carelessly throw in the Bible and quotes verses loosely to prove that God had already ordained Trump to be President. With lots of biblical references and spiritual rhetoric, they talk as if God had used the new President-Elect to lead them into the promised land. That premise only holds true if America is the new Israel. That is most unfortunate and somewhat presumptuous. According to renowned Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann, there are at least three groups of people who claim to be the chosen. The first group are Christians who claim they are the "newly chosen" to the point of dismissing all others. The second group are those who claim "Americans are the most recently chosen," and the third who claimed that it is the "poor who are perennially chosen." All three claims will have counter-claims. Jews would protest against the notion of Christians only being the "new Israel." The Russians would argue against America being the chosen nation politically. The world outside of Latin America and the poorer economies would protest against the third view. Brueggemann concurs with Todd Gitlin and Liel Leibovitz that hanging on and proclaiming such definitions dogmatically would lead to negative consequences. He writes: "To cast some as chosen may evoke endless hostility toward others’ lives at the brink of violence. "
All of these views had one thing in common: They are human-centered. We must avoid this and to be reminded that it is not earthly beings we put our hope on, but on Christ alone. Being assured about our own chosenness is one thing. Telling others they are not chosen is another. The former we can do in humility. The latter we must avoid becoming judgmental. I like what Shane Claiborne said:
“The Christian icon is not the Stars and Stripes but a cross-flag, and its emblem is not a donkey, an elephant, or an eagle, but a slaughtered lamb.”We should not elevate the President-Elect above Jesus, for doing so would be idolatry. It is one thing to honour the winner of the recent elections. It is yet another to put our hopes on a mortal man. We should always put our hopes in God and God alone.
Second, the media is more biased than we think. Indeed, one of the key shockers in this election is not about who won but the margin of victory. For a long time, the polls and the media have literally promoted the Democrat candidate as the winner. They poured scorn on the Republican Party, throwing all kinds of names at them. Though the candidates hurl verbal punches at each other with the media taking sides, it is the voter who ultimately calls the shots. In fact, the media have indirectly promoted the discontent and disbelief through emotional transference of their shock from the studio to the streets. Day in and day out, as reporters and analysts ask "How could they have gotten it all wrong?" they continue to feed the protestors with incredulity. Fact is, they are biased and they have largely pulled public opinion to their cause. Watching the major news networks yesterday is a case in point. Why aim cameras at heavily-Democrat cities like Los Angeles, Hollywood, Chicago, New York City, and Seattle? What about the mid-West, the South-Eastern states, and much of rural America? Fair reporting must be done. Unfortunately, Christians are not in control of media. They are in turn being influenced and many are manipulated by the media opinions. I would urge believers not to be easily swayed by opinion polls or public media statements. Ensure we are anchored on God's Word by being anchored in the Truth of God. The Psalmist says it well:
"1Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night." (Ps 1:1-2)We can seek to understand but not walk in step with public opinion. We can choose to empathize with but not necessarily accept secular perspectives. We can acknowledge the presence of mockers but not participate in their vulgarity and loud protests. Our delight must be in God's Word and our actions be guided by God's love. The media may be biased to their own agendas. We must always be guided by the Word.
Third, the polls are misguided and mischievously cynical. Always question every poll by asking about sample size, type of respondents, margin of errors, etc. Data can lie. One can have all the facts and still not tell the truth. The secular press have prided themselves as being non-aligned and neutral. They often do polls and use quantitative data in their reporting. This election, they do a lot of polls and all the polls pointed to a Clinton victory. The experts said it. The polls said it. The media unabashedly reported it. Bradley Wright, a sociologist believes that we have been fed many lies or myths from media, both secular and Christian. One of the seven myths he helped to debunk is the negative portrayal of Christians. Note how he debunks them:
"Essentially, people who associate themselves with Christianity, as compared to the religiously unaffiliated, are more likely to have faithful marriages, commit less crime, interact honestly with others, and not get into as much trouble with drugs or alcohol. What's more, the more committed Christians are to their faith, as measured by church attendance, the greater the impact the church's teachings seem to have on their lives." (Bradley Wright, Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites . . and Other Lies You've Been Told, Bethany, 2010, p150)Perhaps, about this "How could we have been so wrong?" about Trump winning, the same could be said about their largely negative perceptions of evangelical Christianity? In fact, from what I have been reading so far, the media are zooming in on a few vocal evangelicals and are broadly brushing the entire evangelical community for being Trump supporters. That is simply not true. A lot of Christians I know do not support Trump. Beware of any media that cynically spin-reports a minority and projects it as a majority. The polls have been proven wrong for this elections and they could be wrong again.
Fourth, give people room to express their unhappiness. In a winners-take-all world, it is arduous to swallow a bitter pill of defeat. With protestors up in arms, calls are even made to change the existing electoral system. No matter where we stand, I believe we must be gracious to give people room to vent their frustrations. Disappointment and grief are real human emotions. It can come across as complaining. It can also be viewed as whining. We must learn to be gracious in our response and to allow space for expression, as long as they are done within the law, in legitimate ways, and without violence. Say what we want but remember to be responsible for what we say, especially when we start inciting others to do things.
Fifth, we must start building bridges of reconciliation from all sides. The elections are over. The winner has been declared. That does not mean that the losing party can be silenced. In fact, the work is only beginning. For some, the next elections will be in 2020. If the President-Elect fails to deliver on his promises, citizens can always vote him out. Until then, it is imperative that we stand behind him and support his efforts to unite the nation and to build good relationships with their neighbours. Trump is no longer a candidate. Neither is he a mere rich businessman. He is now the President-Elect, to be sworn in official as the Commander-in-Chief on Jan 20th, 2017. The world can only watch and wait for his next steps. At the meantime, the Church can pray. The Church can continue to speak up for the rights of people all over the world. More importantly, the Church must continue to be the conscience of the state. Ordinary believers from all sides of the divide can come together to pray for wisdom and discernment for Trump. He has won the elections fair and square. He is now in authority. Do not be distracted by his past statements about various things. Measure him on what he will be doing now and the future. Hold him accountable. We want him to succeed because we want America to succeed. More importantly, we want God's will to be done and this will is based not on human persons but on the Holy Word of God.
Let me close with the famous words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”May we learn not to rise up to control the state. Neither is it being controlled by trigger-happy secularism or the enemies of the gospel. Let us stand up to let the conscience of Christ reign supreme in our words and our works. Whether you are for or against Trump or Clinton, it's reconciliation time. The Presidential office is greater than any one perspective, larger than any one party, and definitely bigger than any one person. Now the results are out, we need to pray for the President-Elect and support him as much as possible. Yes, we must still hold him accountable. We must continue to stand against any forms of bigotry. We must all look forward and move on.
May all evangelicals pray with grace and wisdom.
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