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Lessons from the US presidential election for the worldwide Church

This weeks Christian Today article seeks to broaden the horizon, to look at the bigger picture and ask what lessons the church throughout the world can learn from the US election.  I argue that the election has demonstrated some paradigm shifts that we need to be aware of – you can read the original here. 
Joe Biden(Photo: Reuters)

At long last it is over. The endless cycle of news about the US presidential election will hopefully now be coming to an end. We will get back to endless Covid stories and more culture wars. Although President Trump is still challenging the result, it seems as though there is little prospect of it being overturned and so we wait for President Biden in January.  We pray for him and for the whole of the US.

As I reflected on these past few weeks, I wondered if there were some lessons for the church throughout the world to learn from this election. In no particular order can I suggest the following:

1. Class matters

For someone who was supposed to be a white, racist supremacist, Donald Trump did rather well amongst those who are not white. In fact, the only group he lost ground with were white middle-class people. He got the highest percentage of any Republican since 1960 amongst Blacks, Latinos and Asians.

It seems as though the narrative of critical race theory (about to be reinstated by Biden) is false. The fundamental shift in US and other Western politics is not based on identity politics, but on class. If you are working class, you are more likely to vote conservative. The more middle class you are the more likely you are to vote for a ‘progressive’ party. The question for the church is whether we recognise the importance of class and whether we are on the side of the poor or, as we often have been, are we on the side of the wealthy powerful Establishment? I make that comment as a matter of spiritual priorities not political.

2. Don’t neglect the ground war

The pollsters had yet another bad election. In fact, it appears as though opinion polls are now used primarily to seek to influence elections, rather than reflect what people’s real opinions are. Trump did much better than expected, with less money and the hostility and even hatred of most of the media, corporates and Big Tech. Why? Because the Republicans were great at the ground war. They got out their troops, went door to door and enlisted many voters. Where the Democrats did the same, with for example their inspiring campaign in Georgia, they too saw results.

Relying on media adverts, big spends and grand narratives just did not work. The church too is, or should be, an army of ordinary people – working on the ground, with and for the people. We don’t, or shouldn’t, do spiritual trickle-down theory!

3. Money isn’t the answer to everything

The US election cost almost $12 billion – half of it on the Presidential and the rest on the Congressional and Senate elections. That is an obscene amount of money spent on one election. Just how many vaccines could that have bought?! The Democrats spent over 55%, the Republicans 39%. The Democrats spent over $100 million each on two Senate races alone trying to unseat a couple of vulnerable Republican senators – they failed. But the problem is that given that most of the money comes from Wall Street and the corporations, they operate on the basis that ‘he who pays the piper, calls the tune’. Democracy is becoming undemocratic. Sadly, the church seems also to follow the ‘follow the money’ mantra.

4. Humility not Hubris

There was a really ugly side to the US election. To be fair, after the election, Biden spoke with a degree of humility – at least in comparison with Trump’s often narcissistic comments. But the reaction after the election (apart from Biden’s warm and gracious speeches) was in general,vicious. Political leaders, celebrities and media commentators were exultant in claiming that things were back to normal, the Deplorables were out and the Establishment was back in power. The mockery, abuse and demonisation were chilling. Again, in the church we need to remember that we are all fallen human beings and stop demonising others. Never was the command ‘love your enemies’ more necessary!

5. Get over our obsession with America

There was an amusing incident in Sydney after the 2016 Presidential election. A group of Australians were marching with shirts and banners that stated, ‘Not my President’! The trouble is that much of the media and political class are obsessed with America. It was the same when the UK ruled a third of the world. What happened in London mattered everywhere. It appears to be the same in the dying days of the American empire – with the additional aspect that America dominates the media in a way that the UK was unable to. After the election Biden commented: “There is no reason we can’t own the 21st century.  We just need to remember who we are, this is the United States of America.”

This Americentric way of viewing the world was amusingly illustrated when a well-respected US based news outlet tweeted pictures showing massive firework displays that people in London and Edinburgh were supposedly having in celebration of Biden’s victory. The truth is that it was November 5 – Guy Fawkes night – and had nothing to do with Biden’s victory.

The sense of America as ‘Saviour’ of the world is one that is often translated into the Church. The American Church is rich, powerful and has the greatest media influence – not least because of the predominance of American media (including Christian media) throughout the world. This can often be harmful in the wider Church, with American media, money and ministries exerting an unhealthy influence as well as doing a great deal of good. One of the problems in pointing this out is that people immediately label you as ‘anti-American’ and thus ensure you lose American funding – ironically proving the point! We need a bigger world vision.

6. Call out the False Prophets

There were a significant number of self-styled ‘prophets’ who gave us ‘words from the Lord’ that were absolutely certain. According to these ‘prophets’, God said that Trump would win. He didn’t. So now we have two options. Either God got it wrong or these prophets lied. Sadly, this kind of thing has become all too common. “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds” (Jeremiah 14:14).

7. Maintain justice not bias

The reporting of the election has largely been depressing. It was intriguing to watch ABC here in Australia, the BBC and others declaring that Donald Trump was accusing the Democrats of electoral fraud and always including the phrase “with no evidence”. Yet these same organisations did not use the phrase “with no evidence” when it was falsely claimed that the Russians had enabled Trump to win the first time. If sexual allegations are made against Trump, they are front page news; if against Biden, they are a soon forgotten side paragraph. It is little wonder that our media are not trusted. And again, the Church needs to be different. We need to tell the truth even when that truth hurts us or the people we support.

8. Stop looking for political saviours

I am astounded at how the election of Biden has been greeted in some quarters as though it were the second coming – just as much as I am astounded at those who considered Trump to be the Lord’s Anointed. Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that light had come into a dark world. Others were just as over-enthusiastic, calling for 4 November to be called Biden Day!If half of what has been said and promised were to come true, then some of that praise would be deserved. But no thoughtful person really believes that Biden will deal with Covid, fix the economy, bring world peace, solve racial tensions, guarantee justice, and “own the 21st century”.

It has been distressing to also watch Christians get caught up in the spirit of the age. We are not going to be saved by politicians, nor are we going to be damned by them. Our enemy is not the toothless political foes we dread, but the one who goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Our Saviour is not the politician who promises world peace and healing, but the One who delivers it. Psalm 72, which speaks about the king bringing peace, prosperity and justice for the poor, was not written about Trump or Biden or Xi Jinping or Morrison, or Macron…

“Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvellous deeds. Praise be to his glorious name for ever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen” (Psalm 72:19).

After I wrote this article I read this brilliant piece from Douglas Murray – who more than any other commentator I know – gets it!

The Healing of America

A letter to Evangelicals for Trump -CT

15 comments

  1. This election was about love vs hate…and hate won. So be it! But President Trump will not go down without a fight….laws suits are being readied all over the place.
    But what this season of sordid election vitriol had shown me is how much I have made my country an idol ahead of Jesus, and how much I need to repent of that, how far from the Lord I have grown also. I have also realized how far into disintegration we have fallen (I never realized how far from “the norm” we were, how like Rome we have become!) UGH!
    The good thing is that you will never hear anything about covid now because the bad orange man is now defeated. I am strangely at peace with whatever comes next. Our church has been studying the suffering church around the world the last few weeks and I know that whatever happens next, it won’t nearly so bad as what happens to a Muslim convert to Christianity or a Hindu convert. We will be fine, different but fine.

    Love your blog, Pastor David. It has lifted and enlightend me numerous times!
    God Bless you!
    Deborah

    1. Tonight I watched a 28 minute talk between Lance Wallnau and Rick Joyner on Mr. Wallnau’s Firewall program. Pastor Joyner talked about a coming second Revolutionary/Civil War to America and why it’s coming, from God’s perspective. It is and isn’t what most may think it’s going to be about. It was recorded after the 9/29/20 president debate in which former V. P. Biden said, “Antifa is just an idea.” Mr. Wallnau wrote God’s Chaos Candidate in 2015, and it came out two months before the 2016 election. In it, he prophesied that Trump was definitely going to be president. Pastor Joyner has something called Rick’s Rants, short comments on God and the world, that he usually does 2-3 times a week, outdoors. But, he’s had Covid since late October, and they haven’t started back up yet.

      1. Don’t believe one particular person too much, which can be a cult. You have an ability to hear His voice and know His heart. Seeing from outside (I am not Us citizen), I have so much concerned about American Christian brothers and sisters who have been manipulated and deceived by corrupted leaders. Relying too much on what some leaders say will bring you to the same situation as that where people in the Dark Middle Age were blinded by the extremely autocratic Middle-Age Catholic Church.
        I personally don’t trust Rick Joyner, even thinking he is a false prophet. If so, God will punish him. I leave it to Him.

        Also, please remember Christian Church is not only in the US, but also everywhere in the world. Likewise, Jesus believers are not only in the US, but also everywhere in the world. Political scene is different in each country, so Christians outside the US think differently as you, US Christians in terms of political issues. I think some Christian leaders including Rick Joyner have crossed a line they should not. To me, they are working with their own fleshy ambition and desire, which does not come from the Lord.

        Please ask the Lord whether what I am saying is proper or not.

  2. A lot of good in this article, but to simply accept Biden as the new president and write off prophecies regarding Trump is premature in my view. I respect your writing and podcasts greatly but I feel you were slightly off the mark in a few places this time around.

    Firstly, any inauguration is not until January, and formal nomination of the next president does not occur until the electoral college convenes in December. A lot can happen between now and then. Once Biden is inaugurated, by all means label the prophets (fellow Christians who are seeking the Lord’s will, and wish to see the Lord’s will done on Earth as it is in heaven, as much as you do) as false, but not before.

    Secondly, as for “no evidence” of electoral fraud, that is simply the deeply biased MSM saying that. The Republicans have hundreds of witnesses from 10 different states who are ready to testify regarding voting irregularities and electoral fraud, including postal votes from dead people and “software glitches” that turned Republican votes into Democrat ones. I would suggest that until the forthcoming legal cases are concluded, nobody should be saying the election is concluded.

    Good that Fox News (whatever you think of them) has the courage to run this:

    https://youtu.be/uaVEppGkTQw

  3. Hi,
    Can you send the link to your statement that ‘He (Trump) got the highest percentage of any Republican since 1960 amongst Blacks, Latinos and Asians.
    I can find evidence only in exit polls, but have found that post election ‘The AP found that 90 percent of Black voters went to Biden and 8 percent to Trump’.

  4. Contrary to what is being portrayed by US media and others, not one state has certified either presidential candidate as winner. The votes are not all counted, and several states are in litigation for voter irregularities of varying degrees. There is no official President- elect at this time.
    Our Constitution provides a process for determining the next President of the USA. That Electoral College process is open until Dec 14. Please confirm for yourself.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Cathy – yes I am aware of that. It is the same with every presidency – when Donald Trump was declared the winner in 2016 I suspect you were not saying that this is not official until Dec 14th. You are clutching at straws…

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