Giles Fraser is a priest of the Church of England with an honourable record of putting his own interests at risk for the sake of justice. He writes a weekly column in the Guardian newspaper in which he reflects on political and social issues from a religious perspective. Today his article is a denunciation of Donald Trump, who is certainly a deserving target; but the arguments used in the article are lazy, trite and prejudiced about American Christianity in particular, and Americans in general.
Giles Fraser assumes the Trump is nothing but an ignorant, rich, blowhard. This may not be true: Trump is more critical of American wars than most Democrats have dared to be. Of course, Trump is a parody of conservative politics, he doesn’t even pretend to think about policies but simply expresses his prejudices, but he’s nothing like as abhorrent as those who confidently state that their prejudices are based on God’s Word. Still, I suppose, I shouldn’t regret an attack on the Trump.
It’s when Fraser seeks to explain Trump’s appeal by claiming that the Pilgrim Fathers saw themselves as God’s chosen race, and therefore established a nation which sees itself as divinely appointed, that he begins to annoy me. Of course, there should be critical examination of the the connections between Calvinist faith and the American Dream, but Fraser’s assertion that the Dream is simply a screw-you capitalist rush to the top, is just a prejudice. Martin Luther King amongst others made the American Dream into a revolutionary dream of equality. Obama probably got elected because his story seemed to many to be a fulfilment of that Dream. Of course it gets used by greedy bastards to justify their evil, but even a superficial view of the facts undermines Fraser’s description.
He goes on to say that the American nation is its own God and that the most important article on its church’s altar is the flag and not the cross. This sort of general slur is the stuff of prejudice. Of how many Americans and churches are these statements true? One might easily imagine from Fraser’s article that the vast majority of Americans were behind Trump and committed to Tea Party religion, when as far as we know, the majority are likely to vote against him if he becomes a Presidential candidate, and reject that kind of religion as hateful. It may be easy to forget the huge amount of good scientific, sociological, political, medical, philosophical and religious thinking and practice which is done in America and exported to the world; it may be easy to forget this, but it is not excusable for a man of God.
We cannot destroy prejudices by beating a drum for our own.
Christians are commanded to speak the truth in love. This requires the help of the Holy Spirit which opens the understanding of creatures to each other, even, as Jesus insisted to our enemies, so that we can see the world from their perspective. If that perspective is warped, we must of course characterise it as such. Our expression of this judgement need not be mealy-mouthed; it can be as robust as we wish. But we must always keep in mind that we are dealing with our brothers and sisters and not a bunch of zanies whom we can dismiss from serious consideration.
George Clooney, speaking as a concerned fellow citizen has called Donald Trump a fascist. This may not bother someone who knows as little history as Trump, but it invites Americans to look at the the policies Trump has articulated and to compare them with those of, for example, Mussolini. That’s unfriendly but fair, because it can be examined and found to be true or false. It is part of a debate between fellow citizens.
The guidance of the Holy Spirit is not irrelevant, because if we open ourselves to our opponents we will be able to offer a more devastating critique of their views than if we remained at a safe distance from them. So this is not a diatribe against gloved- up politics, which I love. But you only get points in boxing for actually hitting your opponent. Jesus had the gloves on when when he described the Pharisees as whitewashed graves; and he scored a hit because he understood so well their desperate desire for outward respectability. His empathy with them led to his a devastating accuracy.
I think Giles Fraser swung and missed in his Guardian article today, but my guess is that he was rushing to meet a deadline and gave it what he had. I’ve done the same thing many a time in sermons…….
( readers who may have missed my own take on The Donald can find it at:
xtremejesus.co the last trumpet )