America the Ugly, America the Beautiful

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Watching the second Presidential debate (which was anything but ‘presidential’) left me with a feeling of depression, nausea and sorrow for my American friends. With a population of 324,769,696 these are the two candidates to be President?!   It was an ugly debate and it showed the ugly side of both America and humanity.   On the actual debate side Trump was a clear winner, but the bar was set really low, and in this particular contest you cannot help but feel that it is the American people who are the losers.   If we deserve the leaders we get, then what have the American people done to deserve this?!

 

 

The Hypocrisy of the Culture

 There was uproar after the latest videotapes came out concerning what Trump calls his ‘locker room’ talk eleven years ago. No matter the attempts to explain it away there is little doubt that these tapes show a man who abuses his power to get what he wants and that includes sexually. At best it was crude and offensive, at worst it indicates that the next President of the US could be someone who would normally be regarded as a sexual predator.

There are no excuses. However there is a great deal of hypocrisy in the moral outrage against Mr. Trump.   The trouble is that you can hear and see language (and actions) like that, and indeed far worse than that, every night on US TV and even worse on the Internet. We have created a sexualized culture that is crude and rude, which worships money and power and rejoices in the liberty to do whatever we want. And then we get all outraged when someone who worships money and power does what the media has made the culture to be.    Did the millions of women who bought 50 Shades of Grey not realize what they were buying?   In the UK we have comedians like Frankie Boyle and Jimmy Carr, who in their ever more desperate attempts to show they can be shocking, sink to ever lower depths.   Trump is not an anomaly. He is a product of our dumbed down, sexualized, greedy, reality TV culture.

But the hypocrisy is worse. Because in this Trump at least was right – Bill Clinton was just as bad. He used his position as the most powerful man in the US to get his own way with at least one intern. And he lied about it. Who can forget ‘it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is?!

 

Now Hilary Clinton cannot be held responsible for her husband’s actions (any more than Donald Trump can be held responsible for the actions of his model wife – although that still seems to make her fair game in the liberal press), but she does need to disavow them.   Besides which that star of the American left, President Kennedy, was a noted philanderer and adulterer. Perhaps in days gone by these things could be kept hidden but with social media, 24-hour news TV and the Internet there is little chance of that happening today.

Donald Trump is not unique. He is not the anti-Christ. He is not the devil in a very poor disguise. He is what you get if you take the worst of American culture (consumerism, individualism, crudity and instant gratification) and leave out the best (Christianity and its fruits). I have always argued that America without Christianity is a nightmare than none of us would wish to see. In Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton we are getting a foretaste.   In the hit TV series House of Cards we are presented with an amoral, scheming, power hungry politician who uses his power to indulge his appetites. Frank Underwood (brilliantly played by Kevin Spacey) is the rogue/hero Democrat politician. It’s a long way from the West Wing – and going by today’s politicians, it’s a lot more realistic and accurate.

 

Mind you if this was a House of Cards plot, they would have had Donald Trump running as part of a conspiracy to ensure that one of the most unpopular, manipulative and dishonest politicians in living memory could get elected.   As regards Hilary it astounds me how many politicians, media and educational elites are so quick to condemn Trump but stay silent about Clinton. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.   During the second debate there was a very revealing moment when she cited her ‘friend’ Michelle Obama telling her how to respond to Trump’s attacks – ‘when they go low, you go high’, before then going on to engage in a series of personal attacks. In the world of US politics today it appears that ‘high’ is pretty low.

A world in which either Trump or Clinton is President is for me a sure sign of the judgment of God.

Speaking of which – lets turn to the Church – which has bravely stood apart from the culture and shone the bright light of the Gospel on the whole dark charade. I wish!

Hypocrisy of the Church

When it looked as though Trump was going to be elected there were those of us on this side of the pond, as well as in the US, whose immediate reaction was ‘oh no…not only will he be a disaster for the US, but he will be a disaster for the Church – even here’. Why?   Because we figured that there would be ‘evangelicals’ who would come out in support of Trump as the least worst option and that he would inevitably be portrayed as the ‘Christian’ candidate. And so it proved to be.

There were a string of evangelical endorsements – such as this by James Patrick Riley who called those Christians who disagree with Trump, Pharisees and who declared “this Fall Jesus is a Republican.” In the eyes of the American Right – whenever was he not?! It is this identification of Christianity with right wing politics that has done so much harm and continues to do so (as it does when Christianity is identified with left wing politics).

http://www.jamespatrickriley.com/index.php/religious-spirit/

And then of course in stepped Jerry Falwell to remind us where large sections of the US church went wrong decades ago. To be diverted from the pure paths of the Gospel into the false wilderness of the Moral Majority, was always going to end up with the church becoming a House of Cards, easily blown down, rather than the building of living stones envisaged in the New Testament.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jerry-falwell-jr-trump-is-the-churchillian-leader-we-need/2016/08/19/b1ff79e0-64b1-11e6-be4e-23fc4d4d12b4_story.html?utm_term=.674fae5786e4

I kind of expected that the Moral Majority folks and some of the Charismatics (God has anointed Donald Trump) would go that route, but I was shocked when Wayne Grudem, and others whom I totally respect came out in favour of Trump. To give a great deal of credit to Wayne, he has admitted he was wrong, but the fact that he could even consider going that route indicates how deep the malaise is. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/10/09/in-a-stunning-reversal-theologian-pulls-back-support-from-donald-trump/

All of this can be seen as hypocrisy because some of  the same evangelicals who were telling us that Christians should not vote for Clinton because he was sexually immoral are not telling us that we should vote for someone who is sexually immoral – thereby indicating that political views sometimes are considered more important than moral ones.

The problem is that evangelicals have believed all the overblown hype about us having tens of millions of voters and the subsequent power that goes along with that. But this is not how the Kingdom is built. You don’t build the Kingdom of Christ from the top, down; you build it from the bottom, up…with the foundation being Christ and the apostles and prophets. The American church has far too easily given itself over to the gods of the culture, entertainment, money and power (and we are not that far behind!).

But not all. In fact its even questionable as to whether the majority of evangelicals will vote for Trump as Darren Patrick Guerra argued on First Things – https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2016/03/the-myth-of-the-evangelical-trump-voters

And thankfully there have been stand out evangelical leaders such as Al Mohler President of the Southern Baptist Seminary whose articles and podcasts have been a consistent beacon of Christian sanity in the midst of the mess. His summary of the second debate as “an embarrassing night for American democracy” was spot on.

Here is my problem. American Christians can vote for whoever they want, and they can argue for whoever they want, but all we would ask is please don’t identify your politics with Jesus Christ.   They are political not theological views. Over here we had a vote on leaving the EU. From a personal, political and social point of view I was on the Leave side and argued for it publicly. But I would never preach that, and I would never say this is how a Christian should vote. People have to work things out for themselves. My job is to teach the Bible and the Bible says nothing about many political issues. It does however say a great deal about associating the Gospel with people who lie, commit adultery and are misogynistic racists!

But I really do feel for my American brothers and sisters. Who can they vote for? I don’t know, but I found Erik Eriksson’s article in Resurgent to be very helpful.   If I had a vote I would cast a protest one and pray for the Lords mercy to be upon the US – there is no way in good conscience I could vote for either of the main candidates.   http://theresurgent.com/coming-to-terms-with-trump/

America – the Beautiful

If the debate showed us America the ugly we need also to remember America the beautiful. For all its faults the USA is one of the greatest and best nations that has ever been on this earth. She has been a place of refuge for refugees. She has offered new hope and new life to many from all over the world. She has developed an accountable and workable system of democracy and been a defender of democratic and properly liberal values for many years. She has been a defender of religious freedom for all of her life. Our world is a lot richer in every way for having America in it.   I love American music, culture and history.   The American people have much to be proud of and much to be thankful for.  I am deeply thankful for America.

We must pray that America’s beauty will be renewed.   The idols of money, power, entertainment and sex are creating a profound ugliness of which Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton are only the symptoms, not the causes. If America gives up her Christian heritage then what we saw during that debate is only a taste of the evil, hatred and darkness that is to come.   It may be that the Lord will permit this. If he allowed his own people, Israel, to be sent into exile and to be defeated because he would not permit his glory to be given to another, then why should we think the American church should be any different? All we can do is humble ourselves and cry out ‘O Lord, in wrath, remember mercy!”

May we yet see the day when ‘America the Beautiful’ can be sung and be true!

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

 


20 thoughts on “America the Ugly, America the Beautiful

  1. Hillary is much, much worse. I would go as far as to say there is no comparison between the two. How many have mysteriously died under Bill and Hillary? The drug running in Mena, Arkansas-the FBI has pictures of Bill receiving the sale of drugs out of Nicaragua- (Barry Seal) and it goes on and on…

  2. …but am I scared? Yes. This “house” could have a major collapse anytime. We are living less and less on a Christian memory. I think only a move of the Holy Spirit will save us-with repentance…

  3. Really good read as usual.
    I think equating what comedians have said with what Trump has done a bit harsh. Comedy is an art form that in many of these instances is dependent on the knowledge that such actions are hideous and inappropriate and draws attention to that. There would be no humour at all if there was a belief that the characters they portray were in any way associated with the sort of action they are referencing. What makes Trump different is that it was an after the fact boast and not not humour derived from suddenly dragging us out of our social norms.
    I’m also curious that you saw Trump as a clear winner, I thought Clinton came out far the better and that Trumps only victory was that it wasn’t as catastrophic as predicted.
    But I do very much appreciate reading your posts, long may they continue.

    1. But thats not really how comedy works….stand up comedians are the prophets of our age – which is why you will hear the values of our age reflected in their comments. I’m not sure I would go to another stand up show – 50% of the last two I was at were just mocking blasphemy (although not against Islam!) and much of the rest was playground sexual stuff which makes Trump look mild. I think comedy currently reflects the social norms – it does not drag us out of them…

      1. As much as I do like your comment about stand up comedians being the prophets of our age it’s important to point out that only some comedians are prophets (whether they be true prophets or not).

        And on that note did anyone see the you tube video of these two overdubbed with the love song as if they were singing lovingly to each other.

        Sorry it’s late here and my brain is tired, cant remember the name of the song but a little looking aroud you tube should bring it up.

  4. I was 100% with you until the “misogynistic racist” comment. Name does get quite tedious. If you want to label, you should go the whole nine yards and stick Hillary with “rape-enabler”

    1. Misogynistic racist is an accurate and good description from his own words and actions. You are missing the point of the whole article – you can have your politics and the abusive behaviour of both candidates. Just please don’t link either of them to the Christian church..

  5. As with the last debate I dont know what metric you are using to decide who won.

    The content of 50 Shades of Grey was not the same as sexual assault. I am pretty sure that women who bought that book could tell you the difference between that book and sexual assault.

    I have wondered about support for Trump from Christians. I can see why Evangelical Christians don’t really support Clinton (abortion and the fact that she is a woman) but Trump is no better. Next time you are on with Janet Parshall you should ask her about her public appearances supporting and arguing for Trump.

    1. So Fifty shades of Grey has nothing to do with male dominance, sexual exploitation, crude language and sexual violence?!

      And your prejudices keep showing up – evangelical Christians don’t care whether Clinton is a woman or not!

      1. Depends on your definition of sexual violence. The key word is consent. (actually, there are many in the BDSM community who dont like that book as it portrays a scenario that looks to be exploitative. There was an interesting disconnect between a number of women who condemned the film because of that exploitation when it was released and the large number of women who went to see it cause they read the book differently. Perception and, again, consent are important).

        They do care. There have been a number of blog articles, radio programmes on the religious networks and other online discussions about this. Where do you think I found out about complementarianism and male headship? That would not normally be something that would even enter my mind as a thing but then I was raised differently.

    2. Douglas haha you crack me up.

      In 50 shades of Grey, Annabel sees sense in the end, says not to the power, money and sexual thrills finds her own empowerment and walks away from the dominance of Christian Grey. Did you not see the part of the film where she ends up experiencing physical harm? It depicts Grey having been abused by a woman and then him abusing her. there is consent in it I will give you that but hardly a healthy way of being. Most women I know think it’s a whole pile of tosh.

      You used the word “fetish” to describe a head teacher that insisted on discipline with the wearing of school uniform not to long ago. And in all that David wrote that you could have commented on you focus on sex and then imply yet again some inappropriateness of a Christian leader and evangelicals, implying some perverted anti-women agenda.

      The respected and influential psychologist Carl Jung talked of a darkness he called the shadow which he believed everyone has. He said that commonly this “shadow” manifests by projection onto others.

      Maybe you want to think about that.

    3. Douglas,

      So in saying “because of that exploitation” you acknowledge that there is inappropriateness with regard to how the character Annabel is treated by the rich and powerful Christian Grey in the film.

      You seem to be trying to draw a comparison with complementarianism consistent with your previous comment re evangelicals and women. This is ridiculous. The complementarian relationship is one of mutual submission. Written to a patriarchal culture in which the apostle Paul lived male headship would be prevalent within marriage and society. So the man would be head of the family. As a husband he is to “love as Christ loves the church”. That is relate to his wife as Christ to the church – the bridegroom to the bride. To be as Christ was, to serve and enable the fullest of life. He is to use his position to serve her, to submit to her (as she to him as wife) not to Lord it over her.

      In context what the apostle Paul is doing is empowering and emancipating women. You might even reasonably call him a feminist in this instance for what he is doing!

  6. Thanks again David. The “Resurgent” piece should be compulsory reading for all Christians, pointing to a clear distinction between our duty as Christians and any duty as citizens and that the former takes precedence over the latter. Reading inPsalms this week I noticed (for the first time although previously read many times) that when God led Israel through the wilderness there was fire and cloud, but He did not leave a footprint. Jesus physical body left footprints. What are our footprints, as His body today, saying about our values, our priorities, our view of God? “If My people… will humble themselves and pray…then will I hear from heaven and heal their land”…”

  7. Thanks for your usual clarity in commenting on our election. This says it perfectly, “Trump is not an anomaly. He is a product of our dumbed down, sexualized, greedy, reality TV culture.” Many American evangelicals (I use the term loosely) have made entertainment and celebrity the high places and Asherah of ancient Israel. Maybe this is what America has done to deserve our current two main political party candidates. I am happy to have the choice to
    support the Independent or the Constitution Party Candidates. From what I can learn, either of them fit the definition of the quaities of civil leaders God requires. Ex 18:21

  8. I don’t understand it either, Christians supporting either candidate. It dishonours Christ and his Holy name and those who love Him. It is like wearing fithy rags and passing them off as Christ’s robes of righteousness, when either of them, or their supporters by condoning, assert a higher moral ground while snorting in the stye. Is it a balancing exercise, bad v badder and baddest? The generation of heat, without light. This matters. It is of universal significance.

    “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” Genesis 6:5

    “You brood of snakes…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Alt: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”) Matthew 12:34

    But to quote Al Mohler: “Optimisim is naive, but pessimism is atheistic.” Christ gives a new heart and righteous mind, cleansed by the washing of the word.

  9. I’m sad that this post has drawn my first comment. I believe that casting my vote for D. J. Trump is the only moral choice.

    In your piece above I think you followed the formula you correctly condemn.
    1. Exaggerated the size and threat of the person you are ‘denigrating.’
    2. Presented your case in the simpliest black and white terms.
    3. Made sure that everyone understands you are on the side of the good guys.
    4. Finally – wanting to have an effect on folks, leave the implication hanging that this is where Christianity really leads you.

    Still blessed by your efforts.

    1. 1. The ‘threat’ was not exaggerated. in my post I explained the facts and numbers behind Steven Anders. Perhaps you could explain how the threat of Donald Trump was exaggerated here. Having a sexual predator, business gambler and inexperienced immoral politician in charge of the most powerful country in the world is not a threat?!

      2. Actually I presented it in quite complex terms to counter the simplistic ‘anyone but Hilary must be God’s choice’ simplistic view. Stating ‘I believe that casting my vote for Donald J Trump is the only moral choice’ strikes me as being about as simple as one can get!

      3. If being against both Donald J Trump and Hilary R Clinton is ‘being on the side of the good guys’ then I plead guilty!

      4. Yep – the only effect I want is for people to stop associating Jesus and his gospel with Trump…..that is where Christianity leads us. On the other hand you can decide that Christianity compels us to vote for a man who even on Sunday lied about not sexually assaulting women – as todays revelations tell us. What has the Church in the US come to when Christians actually think that they are defending Christianity when they defend Trump?!

      1. Stating ‘I believe that casting my vote for Donald J Trump is the only moral choice’ strikes me as being about as simple as one can get!
        — That was a fair response.

        One of two candidates, HRC or DJT, will be elected president.

        It is a citizens moral responsibility to discern for whom to vote. This is not a uniquely Christian responsibility – it is by common grace that I am enfranchised. In this regard my primary Christian duty is to revere God for the responsibility which citizenship confers.
        I think abstention, blank voting, and voting for alternative candidates, all are examples of avoiding responsibility in this case. As a citizen I am called to vote.

        Christian prayer and witness are privileges to be exercised at every opportunity. God, however, no more needs my agency to exalt Trump politically than He needs my agency to humble Trump spiritually. If God wills that Trump be reconciled to Him, he will be reconciled even if he resides in The White House. As Erick Erickson correctly observed “To think otherwise is to think God is not God.”

        If allowed: http://townhall.com/columnists/terrypaulson/2016/10/14/why-vote-trump-n2231991

  10. Douglas,

    It’s great that you are learning about complementarianism. May you know the great complementarian Christ. A unity in diversity, a oneness that onlycomes in and through Him. (And, for the benefit of doubt I don’t mean any complementarianism within the Trinity). You are entering into dangerous waters visiting Christian sites.

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