In January 2009 I found myself speaking to a congregation largely made up of African-Americans. There was an anticipation that a new era was emerging as President Obama was taking office. The first Black American in the highest office. I had assumed that all those who in Worship were Democratic supporters, but I was wrong. Obama was considered as a good choice by many, but not all of them. I must admit that I was then and am today, confused over how American politics actually works. Republican and Democrat don’t seem to match our options of Conservative and Labour (with various other hues in between). So, I, like many in Britain are now anticipating the term of President Trump with interest, to say the least!
President Elect Trump (as he is at the time of writing) ran an election programme like none other. Bold, colourful, objectionable, with personal insults, his speeches were lauded by some as ‘freedom of speech’, but resulted in stirring up anger and fear. The ‘Reality TV personality’ and businessman uses a rhetorical style promising utopia (an imaginary perfect life) to those disregarded by previous political movements. However, he is really promising the impossible. So, we speculate on how, what and which promises will actually be kept. It is early days, but we are seeing an approach to public office which is post truth. Many statements just weren’t true, but they sounded ‘right’ for his local audiences. Already he has been drawing back from some, but not all, of his pronouncements. If America had no international influence, I would be happier, but it does and the fact that the President of the United States can make decisions which are earth shattering is troubling. Trump uses Social Media, especially Twitter. Social Media (Face Book, Twitter etc.) is described by some as an ‘Echo Chamber’, the place where we hear what we want to hear. Truth, truths, ‘my truth’, ‘your truth’ and ‘untruth’ all get posted to bring comfort and affirmation to personal views.
‘A leader is a dealer in hope’ so said Napoleon Bonaparte; my comments on Donald Trump are offered not so much in criticism, although you may spot I am not a supporter, but as an observation about cultural change, on both sides of the Atlantic. I know a leader who ‘although he had equal status with God, didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honoured him far beyond anyone or anything, ever.’ This leader, this person, is Jesus, the one whose influence far surpasses any leader and who, exemplifies leadership as servanthood.