The Trump Apocalypse: An Invitation to Reflect

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I am clearly in a minority in Australia. I always thought, right to the end, that Trump had a solid 40% chance of winning, and that if he did win, it would be something decisive that would hand the Republicans control of most of the government for the next election cycle. So, when news of Trump’s victory arrived, I wasn’t astonished about the result, but rather I was shocked by the reaction of Australian Christians on blogs and social media. While we thankfully haven’t seen anything like the, appalling, protests undertaken by Democrat voters in the United States, there was still a very disappointing combination of shock, horror and condescension towards Americans, and particularly American evangelicals, for voting for Trump. Please don’t get me wrong, I am no fan of Trump and I think he’s a very unpredictable choice – he could be anything from another kind of Reagan to the worse President the U.S has ever seen. Voting for him is like playing football with dynamite.

Nonetheless, in the hands of God — however his presidency unfolds — Trump’s election serves us all because it is an apocalypse. It is a revelation; an unveiling of reality. A testament to the real state of affairs going on around us, and so it invites us to reflect and question whether we are seeing the world correctly. The fact that many Australian Christians are both shocked and disappointed in American Evangelicals may say more about us and our need for repentance than theirs. More about how out of touch we are than they are. So here are my thoughts on somethings we need to consider and, perhaps, repent of:

 

1. Thinking that it was straightforward as to who to vote for in the election.

The more I’ve thought about this, the same conclusion I keep reaching: I have no idea how I would have voted if God had put this test before me. If you think it was ‘obvious’ what Christians should have done, then I don’t trust how much theology is shaping your political thinking, to put it mildly.

It was a choice between a serial fornicator who may also be guilty of sexual assault, and a wife who enabled a serial fornicator and who may also be guilty of trashing the reputations and threatening women who were victims of sexual assault from her husband. A choice between someone whose great wealth was built on shady business practices versus a woman whom, most Americans think, almost definitely broke serious laws while holding down a high public office and got away with it unscathed. A choice between someone whose speech is so unfiltered that it is beyond crass and someone who speech is so filtered that most Americans considered her a habitual liar. Neither candidate was acceptable in terms of their personal morality.

In terms of policy, voting for Clinton almost definitely would have involved more stupid wars in the Middle East with large civilian casualties, and if she was really going to introduce a ‘no fly’ zone in Syria, likely a violent clash with Russia as well. On the other hand, Trump… Well we’re all taking the chance that his inability to handle personal insults won’t have implications for his use of the nuclear arsenal. However, he has also claimed that he desires to put an end to the practice of starting wars in order to introduce democracy. If he does, this would make the world a much safer place after the last two presidencies. Yet, between the two of them, I honestly have no idea which is the clearer option — it’s a hard question in terms of wisdom.

The additional problem is that Clinton is the poster-child for the aggressive promotion of abortion, and is, subsequently, completely unacceptable to at least 95% of evangelicals in the United States. An issue which, from my experience, doesn’t resonate the same way with Australian evangelicals. So, here’s a thought experiment for you:

Imagine that Clinton was the poster-child for the idea that black people are the property of white people and that white people should be trusted to decide for themselves whether the black person they own should live or die.

Whilst not a perfect analogy, this is a rough equivalent of the moral and emotional factors in play relating to abortion for American evangelicals. Think about it, and then ask yourself whether, in a match up with Trump, there would be any likely chance you could, or even would, vote for her. My suspicion is that you need to arrive to this kind of head space to understand why voting Clinton wasn’t even a possibility, and voting even for someone like Trump was a serious option. In fighting slavery, abolitionists on both sides of the Atlantic sometimes made some pragmatic political alliances with disreputable figures. Abortion fighters are often willing to do the same. That moral issue trumps (almost) all others for them.

For me, as I look at things like that, I still don’t know how I would have voted. Clinton would be a non-starter (probable crimes in high office and abortion would be the deal breakers for me), but would I have voted Trump? Or would I have not voted, or voted for a third party, and possibly help allow Clinton to win? I suspect the answer comes down to whether you believe that politics is about maximising the good out of the realistic options you have (the lesser of two evils, retrieval ethics, or pragmatic approach) or are trying to articulate your values (only vote for unambiguous good or idealistic approach).

If anything, what this election has shown me is that many Christians (including myself) have no developed theology of politics. So, we are unable to address these questions rightly. Everything I have heard sounds to my ears as theological justifications for a political position people would have taken anyway. The lesson here for us, is that as we too are likely to encounter a similar choice between two deplorable options in the future as our country also goes in a post-Christian direction, we need to learn to repent of our non-existent theological framework for politics. We may arrive at a place, in the future of Australia, where we only have a choice between a Clinton and a Trump, and we are clearly not ready for that test.

 

2. Having ignorance of half of the United States.

We get most of our view of the United States filtered through the media, academia, popular culture, and through those Americans who live in Democrat country and who are much more likely to travel overseas. The problem with this, is that it only reflects only a segment of the United States, whereas the country is actually, incredibly, divided along urban, suburban, and rural lines. Increasingly, Americans in one of the two camps have no serious contact with Americans in the other. This distance between the two is marked by fear and hate of each other.

Our window into that country is largely provided from a handful of American media outlets (and pop culture!) which are firmly entrenched within one particular camp. Our views become further skewed and distorted, as our own media selectively pick up news stories which suit their own agendas and worldviews. Yet, how well did these media outlets do in explaining America as a whole to us? Well, were you surprised when Trump won?

Therein lies the problem, and it becomes evident with our haste to say that American Christians need to repent of their support of Trump. If working out who to vote for in the recent presidential election has been morally complicated and requiring much wisdom, then we need to have a clear understanding of what is actually going on in America. However, Australians have been, at best, stumbling around in the dark, listening to only one side of an acrimonious fight. The revelation of the Trump win as ‘astonishing’ is demonstrative that we in Australia are ignorant, profoundly ignorant, of what is entirely happening in the most influential country of the world.

That means we can’t easily pass judgement on the decision American evangelicals made. To think otherwise makes you no different from the journalists who were utterly wrong last Monday and instant experts by Wednesday. Trump’s election has reminded us again of how limited our wisdom is, and how incapable we are, of seeing what is actually happening. We err if we think we can, and should, lecture American evangelicals, as if we knew more than they do. They are the guys on the ground, whereas we are, charitably, clueless. We need to listen, not lecture.

 

3. Thinking that Anti-Trump evangelical leaders were automatically right.

Many American evangelical leaders, particularly those that Australian evangelicals look up to, stood against Trump. However, they failed to convince most of their constituencies to follow them. It is tempting, in such a situation, to see that those leaders were right and heroic, whereas the constituency was wrong and unfaithful. It might even be a legitimate perspective. However, if we acknowledge that we’ve had some ignorance of the political state of the United States, then we need to be also open to the possibility that the situation may have been more complicated.

Most of those American evangelical leaders, that Australians look up to, are like most Australian evangelicals on the web. In the sense that they are university educated people who are comfortable in the professional and white collar classes. As such, there’s possibly another factor involved, and that is that part of our revulsion towards Trump is not actually moral but due to class. You see, as I’ve mentioned, those evangelical leaders in the United States that Australians warm to likely share backgrounds, circumstances and/or experiences – and as such, share the same class prejudices that we would have. Being of a similar stock, I can say that Trump repels me.

Yet, I honestly cannot work out whether it is because he is immoral (a moral issue) or crude (which is a class issue). I’d like to think it was the former, but it could easily be the latter and I’d be the last to know if it was. His election has revealed the possibility of a blind spot.

Many American evangelical leaders appeal to us because we share many things, and they seem more like us. They too inhabit the global liberal cosmopolitan order of the cities, just like us, rather than the traditional American culture outside it. We like them because they are simply more accessible to Australians. However, we are in our own very small bubble in Australia, with most of our churches being overwhelmingly white collar and professional. It is certainly possible that if our churches, and our relationship networks, had much larger blue collar and rural constituencies we would see Trump differently than we currently do. We need to be open to the possibility that it might not be the broader American evangelical constituency that got it wrong, but the evangelical leaders we look up to.

Ultimately, we cannot simply say who needs to repent there, but it is evident that the gulf between church leaders and members on such prominent issues needs to be closed for the sake of the gospel. We can’t speak to that (we simply don’t know enough) but we need to pray for its closure and that it closes through acts of humility, repentance, and grace.

 

4. Thinking that American Christians might have made the worse decision they could for the gospel.

Given our ignorance of the whole story in the United States., we should not be too quick to accuse American Christians of not prioritizing the gospel in their lockstep support of Trump. They have faced eight years of what must seem to them to be very aggressive attempts by the federal government, the media, big business, and the universities to define freedom of religion as simply freedom of worship. A Clinton presidency would likely have continued, or even accelerated, that trajectory. It is quite possible that our brothers and sisters did what Christians and others, who feel that they are oppressed by more powerful bodies, have repeatedly done throughout the ages —voting as a unified block in the interests of stemming the pressure on them. As the collapse of Christian communities in the Middle East has demonstrated – Christians sometimes only survive in hostile environments due to the support, or rather benign neglect, of immoral strongmen. Criticizing white evangelicals for voting 85% for Trump and, subsequently, for supposedly aligning the gospel with Trump only makes sense if you are prepared to say precisely the same thing for similar levels of support for Clinton among African American Christians, a pattern of voting that has held for decades irrespective of the morality or policies of the Democrat nominees. Is the latter a scandal that brings the gospel into disrepute? Is it really such a black and white matter? Is the only way to honour the gospel through the division of evangelicalism’s votes between parties? Again, we need a robust theology of politics. The vacuousness of the judgements and comments coming from Australian evangelicals directed to our fellow believers testify to this.

Imagine a person believes that one side of politics is depicting them, through words and actions, as deplorable and bigoted and in need of forceful change, particularly changes which would deny any right to have religious opposition to government policy (which Clinton has publicly stated). Imagine such a person was in a place where their community has concluded that that their best interests lay with Trump. In this scenario, then a vote from Trump might have been the best option open to that person for the gospel. After all, all that person’s evangelistic opportunities are in Trump-country, whilst all the person’s Clinton supporting contacts had already unfriended them on Facebook due to being a bigot in having a biblical stance on sexuality and gender issues.

The problem is, though, almost none of us here in Australia know enough to ascertain whether that’s true or not. We need to have the humility to concede that many of us don’t aptly know the going-ons in the entirety of the country, and that we don’t know everything, we might not even know much. We are not able to judge their service to God on this. They are God’s servants in the United States, they have a better understanding of the context, and God will pass a verdict on their service in due time.

For us, however, many of us need to contemplate, reflect, and repent on how we’ve responded to what has happened in the States – for the things we’ve said, the comments we’ve written, and the thoughts we’ve had. We need to realize that this was a very hard test of faithfulness for our brothers and sisters, and it might well come to us in a similar form, and we need to be prepared for it – because, currently, we are not.

By the mercy and graciousness of God, even the election of Trump serves us in an important way: by showing us just how little we actually know, how critical and judgemental we are, and how much we need to repent.

 

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Mark Baddeley
Mark is married to Jennifer and they have two sons. Mark teaches doctrine at QTC in Brisbane and is an elder at Redlands Presbyterian Church. Mark is currently undertaking doctoral studies on Athanasius and in his spare time enjoys reading, board games, growing vegetables, and learning to play the piano.
  • noel

    It was the electoral college that got him in. Hilary won the popular vote. His support came from states with large evangelical numbers. You talk about Bill Clinton’s faults but what about some of the people who will be potential secretary . Gingrich, Julliana all adulterers. Obama stands out as the best example of a husband and father. Never would he say of one of his daughters “If she was not my daughter I would be dating her” He would never enter a room where teenagers were undressing. He would never say anything sexual about troubled girls like Lindsay Lohan being easy.

    • Mark

      Hi noel, Thanks for the comment.

      I’m not entirely sure what your overall point is, but I’ll comment on a couple of things you’ve raised.

      The electoral college is odd from an Aussie perspective, but then we don’t elect what amounts to a king or queen every four years. In that situation I can understand why you might not want it to be a straight majority vote – too much chance of big majorities in small parts of the country ruling without support of large tracts of the country. The system was designed to produce this result, I’m not sure it changes the legitimacy of the outcome, as the parties campaign for electoral votes, not popular votes.

      The system was designed to stop you running up big majorities with people who already agreed with you and craft a position as attractive to a wide a range of Americans as possible. Trump did that, Clinton did not.

      Whether electing a temporary king without those safeguards is better – well imagine a President Trump or President Cruz getting in due to enormous turnout in Republican states and explicitly running against people in the coastal cities, to see where some problems might exist with a straight popular vote. I can see an argument either way as no system is perfect. But you have to understand the rationale for the electoral college before you seek to dismantle it.

      As I understand it, Trump got reduced margins in conservative heartlands by moving more to the center than previous Republicans, and so won ‘battleground’ states. Clinton moved to the left and so got bigger majorities in her heartlands than she would have otherwise, but alienated middle-of-the road voters in swing-states. The system was set up to reward Trump’s strategy and penalize Clinton’s.

      This article here is the best non-partisan discussion on this I’ve seen so far and is very much worth a good read:

      http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2016/11/16/the_god_that_failed_132363.html

      I don’t think Clinton gets a pass on moral issues because Obama is a good man anymore than I think Trump gets one because Bush was.

      On secretary, I have no confidence that either Clinton or Trump would care two hoots about the morality of the person they pick – only their effectiveness and how it would look politically. That’s a wash for me.

      And yes, Trump is a very immoral man. And that matters. No disagreement there.

      I still think it was a hard election to work out how to vote.

    • Andrew

      On electoral colleges:

      (1) It is the nature of electorates to return different results to that of direct popular election. We’ve got them in Australia, and they’ve got them in the US also. A mismatch between direct votes and parliamentary seats is more common that you might think.

      It’s not like this is a new concept to anyone other than aggrieved individuals claiming “Hey, if everything was one electorate, our party got more votes”. That’s not the game being played, and it’s naive to think that changing the system to a single electorate wouldn’t affect how the game was played. (And no, I’m not talking about just this particular election).

      (2) One concern in electoral system is preventing core population centres from dominating. There’s a reason that each state gets 14 seats in the Australian senate – the states were very concerned that the Australian parliament represented more than just Sydney and Melbourne.

      Is it just that Tasmania’s 0.5 million get the same senate representation as NSW’s 7.5 million? Actually, this is the wrong question. The right question is to consider what sort of tradeoffs you are willing to institute between various people and influences in your fledgling democracy, and create an electoral system that implements this. The US electoral system by design creates an incentive to field candidates that are acceptable across the US nation, not just in the largest population centres.

  • http://st-eutychus.com Nathan

    I guess as someone who has:
    a) Written a few things about Trump that were critical, and
    b) suggested that there are big problems for the church as a result of its support of Trump, and
    c) done at least some thinking about what a political theology should look like

    I feel like chiming in a little.

    There’s much I agree with here. I think there are a few systemic problems in the way the church relates to the state in the U.S, and to some extent they’re reflected here. We tend to, as James Davison Hunter (who coined the term “The Culture Wars” amongst other things) buy into the prevailing view in our culture that the best solution to moral issues, or social issues, is political and from the top down, via elected officials, laws and courts. This is a failure of the imagination, and I think a failure to see the church as an alternative polis that exists to live out an alternative ethic driven by love for God, expressed as love for our neighbour. So to frame an election as a chance to fix abortion might in fact be a massive failure to take up the task of doing something about abortion; and to frame our approach to politics and theology as ‘what politic best suits my theology’ is actually a failure of theology, and probably a failure of politics as well, and it has led us to make massive compromises as ‘the institutional church’…

    I think there’s a difference between how Christian individuals participate in the political process (up to and including running for office or membership in a party) where a very wide possible number of options for civic service are available (and there’s some precedent for this Biblically with Erastus in Corinth), and the role of the ‘church’ as what in England was ‘an estate of the realm’ (whether we’re officially an arm of the state or not). There’s a different problem I think between the 85% of white evangelicals who voted for Trump, and the church leaders who did or didn’t endorse him or oppose him. Our job as the ‘church’ is to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus and salvation by grace, through faith, and then cultivate Christlike virtue in people who are first citizens of his kingdom; to call people to live in the tension of life in a world where humans wielding power is a pretty dangerous thing, beastly even, and where that power is often used to shore up idolatry, civic or otherwise. When the church (as institution) cuddles up to civic power to secure some power over the polis, that’s, I think, a failure in our mandate; when Christians vote according to conscience and wisdom in a way that helps them to articulate what matters to them, and to obligate them to act towards those ends for the good of their neighbour, then I think that’s a good thing. Participating in a democracy as an individual will almost always involve ‘dirty hands’ that are working to some sort of retrieval ethic/lesser of two evils; and Christians are, I think, called to be part of messy solutions pursued out of love for our neighbours. But there’s a difference between Mike Baird’s role in public life and yours (Mark), or mine; and that has to leave some of us keeping our hands clean in order to articulate the sort of ideal kingdom ethic that a guy like Mike is working from and towards as he makes compromises.

    I think the real problem is in deciding ‘which sins’ and ‘which virtues’ are the ones we should oppose and cultivate. Abortion is a terrible evil; absolutely, and I think political solutions on the whole might be a good thing (the best thing would be the church living in such a way that abortion becomes a less good and plausible option for those considering taking the step). But capitalism/materialism as it currently operates in terms of what it does to people (impoverishes the vulnerable) and the environment is also pretty evil, clearly idolatrous, and systematised in a way abortion isn’t; such that the solution might need to be political there. Racism, in its systemic form, particularly in the states, is also arguably as grave a moral concern as abortion (and is why many of the never-Trump voices I respected opposed Trump, and I’m in a couple of virtual communities with strong never-Trump voices and noticed it was particularly women and people of colour, and the same sex attracted, who, within the church, were voicing particular concern about Trump and I want to hear those voices); not to mention the treatment, or abuse, of women both systemically and in the immoral way Trump spoke (and allegedly acted towards them), not to mention the increased oppression of those already systemically oppressed in the US that’ll continue with Trump, it’s easy for me as a white bloke to point to abortion as a problem I think is a big deal, but I’m largely unoppressed and most of the oppressors look like me. There’s enough in the Bible about God’s kingdom being particularly geared towards the poor, the widowed, and the oppressed, that I think a political theology built from a king who was crucified should at least have us rest our gaze there, and speak truth to power on the behalf (and help them speak truth to power), if not head to the margins ourselves… I think we need to get the good bits of liberation theology and the social gospel movement and add them to our robust heralding of the coming of the kingdom via the proclamation of the Gospel (ethos meeting logos), not just toss out baby and bath water; but where I see this failing in the states, and in the way we currently do politics as the church in Australia when it comes to marriage etc or just lobbying in general, is caught up in our assumptions about who and what the government is, and our relationship to it as the institutional church, and as individual Christians, and I think we’ve conflated the two to our detriment in a way that leaves individual Christians feeling like they shouldn’t participate by getting their hands dirty, or has left the institution so dirty and corrupted by worldly power we’ve lost our ability to speak ‘prophetically’ or even to articulate why the church should be an alternative political reality to the ideal version of the state.

    • Mark

      Hi Nathan,
      Thanks for the very thoughtful reflections. Here’s a few of my scattered thoughts in return:
      1) I think we broadly agree on most of what you wrote. Criticism of Trump himself is in my mind particularly fair game. As long as you are happy with criticising Christian leaders who spoke against voting for Trump as much as you are with those who gave him some kind of endorsement then we’d be on the same page there – either way is *in most situations* an unhelpful misuse of the office of the ministry of the word.
      2) If you’re the Nathan I think you are, then based on my conversations and readings of you, I don’t think you have a good worked out theology of politics any more than I do. I think you’re ahead of the game in that you are seriously thinking about it, but my impression of where you land at present is much the same as the rest of us – I think you’d land in much the same place even without the theology; no positions you take surprise me given what else I know about you. I think one of the marks of a better theology of politics will be more surprises in people’s positions. That’s not meant to be offensive, and I’m putting myself in the same camp as you here – I just don’t see anything like a real theology of politics anywhere on the scene. I think we’re going to need one, or a couple of ones. I’m glad you’ve at least started the process, but I think that process will be long, possibly very long. And it’s probably going to be a community-wide process, not just something a few of us can do on our own.
      3) The most disagreement between us is likely to be over your third paragraph. Although even there, I think your big point is roughly in the final eight lines, and I agree with those. Where I think we might see some of that differently is:

      I’m much less convinced of the value of liberation theology or the social gospel—I think both are forms of heresy. Finding good bits out of them is like trying to find good bits of the prosperity gospel, which is the analogous heresy on the other political side IMO. They just need to be opposed, not cherry-picked, as our fundamental stance. Once that is genuinely locked in, then sure *everything* has some truth in it, somewhere.

      I’m not as convinced as to Trump’s racism—he decreased his share of white votes and increased his share among blacks and Latinos. That’s odd if his underlying DNA was white racism. This long and well-researched blog post by an anti-Trump Democrat voting psychiatrist pretty well demolishes that narrative, as well as the broader “Trump is an existential threat to minorities” : http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/11/16/you-are-still-crying-wolf/ . It’s similar on LGBT issues where he would be the most pro-gay Republican Presidential candidate, and more pro-LGBT than Obama was on his election.

      On the economy, Trump is more likely to ameliorate heartless capitalism than Clinton. He was clearly to the left of her on that. I doubt he will, but he at least named it as an issue. Clinton would almost definitely have worsened that, and tried to use welfare benefits to ameliorate the damage. Trump has at least indicated he wants to get jobs back into the parts of the country outside the cities.

      The treatment of women issue is a much bigger deal IMO, but I’ll note that he carried a majority of white women, and an enormous majority of non-college educated white women, who would arguably be among the most vulnerable to an increase in sexual predatory behavior. It’s possible we aren’t seeing this through the media filters the same way all of America itself saw it. He may have been helped by the way that Democrats, and the media, have argued for decades that Bill Clinton’s sexual behavior is irrelevant, and how Democrats eagerly court the support of pop culture celebrities who are often sexually objectifying women. Given how badly America’s popular culture treats women on sexual matters, it is hard to see Trump as a complete outlier – he’s more of an apocalypse, showing us just how bad things have gotten. The sexual revolution hurts women. Trump is just one more sign of that. But given the overall trajectory, I think it was reasonable for someone to think that not much was going to change on that front either way with his election or non-election in a match up against Clinton. My best guess is that that is what all those white women who voted for him concluded.

      On abortion’s relative strengths to other moral issues – I think we’ll just disagree at that point. My argument on that is there with the analogy to chattel slavery. I don’t think anything else he’s done or said rises to that level, even though he’s said and done much that is a serious moral concern. God’s concern for the orphan and the most vulnerable surely has to centre on those who truly are so vulnerable they can be disposed of legally. At that point I am very sure I am not just speaking as a white male, but in line with 2000 years of Christian thinking on the subject. Part of my use of tradition in these areas is its capacity to help us escape prejudices arising from our particularity.

      I suspect that part of thinking about this one is to recognise that Clinton has gotten behind the idea of actively promoting and extending abortion in the country – so it isn’t quite as simple as Christians trying to use government to force an end to the practice, as them trying to stop people using the government to increase the practice. Democrats used their power the last eight years to push harder on the abortion question, and deliberately overturned some of the compromises that had be in place for some time. (And one could then argue that they were doing that because there were shifts occurring in a pro-life direction at state levels, and in levels of popular support for abortion.) That may or may not nuance some of your points on that issue.

      I think even with all that disagreement, given your comment you and I should both land roughly where my post is: This was a hard election to know how to vote. We aren’t in a position to criticize American evangelicals for how they *voted* in this election. We should be aware that we have a lot of work to do to establish the theological foundations to handle a similar test in this country.

      • http://st-eutychus.com Nathan

        “I don’t think you have a good worked out theology of politics any more than I do”

        I am that Nathan… and yet I didn’t claim this; I claimed to at least have done some thinking (and some reading, given that I referenced Hunter). I also think you have a relatively good sense of what a good theology of politics might look like so shouldn’t sell yourself short… but I did like this piece by Jonathan Cole on what might be required for this to happen (http://www.politicaltheology.com/blog/christian-political-theology-needs-to-grow-up-and-become-a-real-discipline-jonathan-cole/).

        “On abortion’s relative strengths to other moral issues – I think we’ll just disagree at that point.”

        I also didn’t actually say where I landed on abortion over against the other issues; personally I think it’s the bigger evil, but I’m inclined to think that political solutions won’t make much difference to the numbers of abortions, I might be naive, but I actually think persuading people (not just legislators) to think about life and where it begins, and what value it has, is where any substantial change to abortion is going to happen, that, and creating communities and an economic climate where having a child seems more plausible than destroying one. I couldn’t have voted for Hillary; I’d have voted third party (McMullin) and Republican in the house and senate I think… Part of my growing sense of a ‘political theology’ is first an ethical theology that is built on the idea that there’s no speech, speech-act, or ‘vote’ that does not oblige a person towards a certain sort of life, or ethos, if you want to be someone of virtue/integrity; and in order to ‘oblige’ myself to pursue a certain sort of political change in politics-beyond-the-election on the issues I care about, I’d have gone that way; I can understand good arguments against third party votes, and for either other candidate; but as an individual (not as a part of the institution of the church), this is what I’d have done.

        “I’m much less convinced of the value of liberation theology or the social gospel—I think both are forms of heresy.”

        Again; I’m not convinced by them at all. I am convinced that there’s more to the sort of people Jesus said he came to free in Luke 4 than simply people who are impoverished because of a lack of the Gospel… There is a sense where the Gospel is more plausible and looks more like good news for those who are powerless, than for those who are powerful (see also Paul’s stuff on weakness and strength in 1 Corinthians). And I’m convinced that you can’t do the Gospel as logos alone, you need ethos, not in a ‘preach the Gospel, when necessary use words’ way but in a ‘Gospel proclamation only really works (humanly speaking) when it has the integrity of kingdom living underpinning it’ kind of way; and part of our testimony being plausible rests on the sort of loving communities the Gospel creates (which is pretty much the idea of 1 John); and that’s got to involve the church being a particular sort of ‘polis’…

        • Mark

          Hi Nathan,

          No, you didn’t say those things. Although I don’t think my interpretation was entirely unreasonable based on what you had written. I’ll put a bit more down to Grumpy Middle Aged Man Syndrome, and apologize for not taking the most charitable assumption that I could have.

          I disagree with you on my versatility with political theology. This election has made me feel like Socrates at best – I now know that I don’t know what I should know, and feel like the first port of call is getting all of us to realize that we don’t what we thought we did. Do I have some knowledge that probably will be important in crafting a theology of politics? no doubt. Do I have an actual theology of politics? Really no – at best I’ve got some very basic building blocks. I feel like I need to go and meditate on City of God for quite a while. I’d put you somewhere similar to me on that curve. That’s not an insult given the overall stage of where we are.

          On abortion I agree with what you’re proposing as where the main game needs to be. I’m not sure that it is enough *if* the end goal is to eliminate the practice. In the end it is like slavery inasmuch as there is too much self-interest for it to be given up purely on a voluntary basis – I agree with James Smith that often these things are liturgies first and beliefs second. That means we might either have to live with the practice or have to outlaw it – persuasion can’t do the full work in a fallen world. I’d love to see a *theological* discussion of those two alternatives.

          I like your voting hypothetical. From a distance that sounds right to me. I’m just not sure if I would have done that if I’d lived in the U.S. and experienced the Democrats’ tender animus towards deplorables the last eight years. It could have pushed me towards Trump despite grave fears and concerns around him. So I don’t know how I would have voted. But I like your solution.

          Agree completely with your last paragraph.

          • http://st-eutychus.com Nathan

            “Do I have some knowledge that probably will be important in crafting a theology of politics? no doubt. Do I have an actual theology of politics? Really no – at best I’ve got some very basic building blocks.”

            See, the problem is, I reckon only Augustine has one worth playing with (well, Hauerwas does too, but his is basically just to do theology, and James Davison Hunter’s model is great but he provides terrific diagnosis of the current milieu, and relatively poor or vague solutions); and Augustine is pre-democracy (or post democracy if the Roman Republic counts)… and certainly pre-post-Christendom…

            And, on where you’re at… I wasn’t trying to suggest that you (or I) are close to having things together, just that you’re much more advanced than most… and that I’ve at least done some thinking.

            I’ve read enough of what passes as thinking about politics theologically in Australia to suggest that your outline of various possible approaches (presented recently) is more thoroughly thought through than most models in our context… there are some people doing good stuff like Jonathan Cole and Luke Glanville, and I’m sure others too (some in fields like law, rather than government, like Joel Harrison from Macquarie Uni), Scott Stephens has some interesting stuff to say too… but I’d say you’ll be an important voice to listen to (already even) even if you haven’t landed yet with a ‘system’, at least the possible and plausible ways forward are on the table; in the same way that in the US you’ve got guys like Rod Dreher banging on about ‘the Benedict Option’ (which it seems Alisdair MacIntyre whose last line in After Virtue inspired Dreher thinks is not a great idea; yet it is not an idea that is well defined).

            There are plenty of politicians who have wrestled with what their personal faith means for public office, and Christian lobby groups who’ve grappled with how to affect change, but I’m not sure there’s many people thinking about what it means for the ‘church’ to approach politics theologically (other than stuff like Kuyperism and two kingdoms theology which never seem to grapple all that well with how a secular state works; and worked in the first century; and what that might look like for us in a post-Christendom west).

            Apology accepted… I’ll happily admit the abortion part of my comment could have been clearer; I was simply arguing that I think there are legitimate moral, social, and political causes that might motivate people based on proximity to them (and to those marginalised by them) who might be motivated to vote differently; ala the Christian people of colour who voted for Hillary, not necessarily that this was where I landed… I think it’s ok for Christians to pursue (and vote accordingly) justice/goodness/whatever on different causes at the same time, even if it splits the vote a little on an ‘ideal’ non-ideal candidate.

          • http://st-eutychus.com Nathan

            Two more things to throw in the mix.
            1. The alt-right will potentially be worse on abortion than the left; and Trump has been quick to give power to alt-right figures (if this alt-right think piece is representative of anything): http://www.radixjournal.com/journal/2016/4/8/the-pro-life-temptation

            2. Ross Douhat’s responses to the ‘crying wolf’ article on Twitter are worth a quick scroll through; at least inasmuch as they engage with the idea that racism might not be what a white opinion piece writer calls racism: https://mobile.twitter.com/DouthatNYT/status/799284468980842498

          • http://st-eutychus.com Nathan

            And one more, from the Reformed African American Network on the racism stuff and where next for the church: https://www.raanetwork.org/trumps-election-feeling-safe-white-evangelical-churches/

          • Mark

            This one I am very unsympathetic too, I have to say. It’s possibly because i’m reading it through the lens of all those little snowflakes in colleges in the U.S. needing safe spaces, and colleges over there all in mourning. All this concern about how people are feeling that wasn’t offered to the other side when Obama was elected, and wouldn’t be if Clinton had been. Right now, I think that post is more another sign of the problem, than a useful guide to helping us think through the racism problem.

            I don’t see any indication that the writer would be sympathetic with white people feeling unsafe in a black church if Clinton had been elected. Any notion that lockstep voting for Clinton after she had said that Trump’s supporters were deplorables, and when the signs were that she was going to allow more legal harrassment of white Christians on her watch, that that is exactly the same problem that he’s decrying on the other side. That Clinton supporters have also done bad stuff post the election. And that if we’re going to have a culture that says that people make better judges (or any other professional role) because they are a woman or are a racial minority, then you’ve opened it up for someone to claim the opposite in a specific situation – surely.

            I hate what Trump stands for. But seriously – we’re either going to try and be color blind or we’re not. And if we’re not, then Trump is probably the sign of how half of that conversation is going to develop.

            And if voting for Trump is all that he says. Then voting for Clinton was as well. I’m very happy to have that conversation. But it either goes both ways, or goes neither way. It can’t just go one way in this particular election.

          • http://st-eutychus.com Nathan

            Hey Mark,

            Thanks. Yep. I think lots of what you’re saying here is true and right (sorry, it’s occurred to me that this could look like I’m sniping rather than just expanding the conversation which I think is a good one to have, not because of what’s at stake in the US, but for the church in the whatever label you want to use for our time and place (I like Taylor’s Secular Age, so I’ll go with that)…

            Just a few bits of pushback.

            1. I think the nature of being creatures is that our knowledge, and our experience, is always incredibly limited and one of the ways we’re limited is in our capacity to truly feel/empathise with an other; and for good or for ill (I also don’t like identity politics) different identities form around shared experiences outside whatever the ‘norms’ are; and to some extent politics is actually about creating a common space for different identities (especially communal identities) in the public; I don’t think identity is as simple or arbitrary as the identity politics people want it to be, but I shared the RAAN piece because I think part of acknowledging our finitude has to look like hearing the voices of other people not simply when they talk about facts and reason, but when they talk about feelings and experiences. I think if the black community says ‘this guy is dangerously racist and making us feel unsafe’ those are voices we should probably factor in to whether or not Trump is objectively racist, because I suspect something like racism occurs in a more subjective realm.

            2. Oh. The safe space and playdough and stuff… that’s so bad. I don’t expect that people read things I write, so apologies if you’ve seen this… but I think one of the things that has been hard in the fallout of this election has been outrage culture smashing into genuine lament in such a way that it makes it hard to differentiate the two. There is much to lament about a political system that produced Trump V Clinton as a choice of who would be the American model of virtue; and about the sort of world that might be produced by a Trump Presidency (or had the reverse happened, about a Clinton presidency). I get that this is your point, broadly. But we can surely both lament the cards we’ve been dealt, and that the deck seemed broken (not just that the deck is broken). It seems odd to say “don’t lament unless you were equally prepared to lament if it went the other way” we can’t really know what the response might have been like; I think what we do know is that this election caused both real hurt, and will possibly cause real damage, and equally produced the sort of shrill outrage that is increasingly coming to define the sort of ‘tribal’ approach to politics where politics is more about victory than virtue and shared life where the government protects the commons.

            3. I read a Facebook comment today that I reckon really nicely summed up why political discourse often involves talking past each other, and why it’s so hard to occupy a sort of thoughtful middle ground. This comment suggested that the left tends to think and speak systemically; when lefties call Trump racist they’re not just talking about his actions towards people of colour, but his benefiting from and propping up an unjust system (it’s the same with feminism etc, and is why you can be racist while still having non-white friends), while the righties think and act individually “this person is not racist because they themselves did not feel or say X”… the left condemns this because that person is benefiting from a broken system… the difficulty is acknowledging that both systemic and individual realities exist and are important to address. This isn’t particularly pertinent to any point above, but I think is interesting in terms of how the post election fallout conversation is happening and the labels flying backwards and forwards.

            4. “I hate what Trump stands for. But seriously – we’re either going to try and be color blind or we’re not. And if we’re not, then Trump is probably the sign of how half of that conversation is going to develop.”

            I don’t think we should be trying to be colour blind. I don’t think we’re called to deny the existence of racial or cultural identities but to make space for all of them. In part because colour blindness so often feels like white washing (which is exactly, ironically, what the left always seems to want to do when it gets in power… create equality by eradicating difference). I’ve found the argument that Trump has created a ‘white identity politics’ pretty fascinating… I think to the extent that I’ve worked out what a Christian political theology might look like that it’s about creating space (first within the church) for the acknowledgment and participation of different ‘identities’ (tribes, tongues, and nations) within the body of Christ (the church) that might then provide a model of a better way forward than colour blindness to the world. In my immediate context that means figuring out what it looks like to minister to a population of Iranian refugees without making their expressions of Christian community look entirely like participating in white Australian community whether that’s in our Sunday gatherings or in how church community plays out during the week; but nor do we want ‘ghettos’ within the church because that undermines our unity in the Gospel, around our king. Extrapolating that outwards to a model for what multi-cultural or multi-identity shared life together in a nation looks like is an interesting thought experiment; I’m fairly sure it’s not what Trump is after, because a wise doctrine lecturer of mine recently pointed out that we’ve seen a fundamental shift from individualism to tribalism in our political and social life, and I think that’s true and dangerous, I’m not sure the answer is ‘no tribes’ but a model build on empathy and a sense that the government should intervene only as much as it needs to so that we hold certain civic goods in common.

            This is getting blog post length now, I’m loathe to share links to my own blog in comments like this, especially when it’s linking to things that are so long, but in order to save more words here, I had a stab at articulating:

            a) What a ‘prophetic voice’ might look like post-Trump: http://st-eutychus.com/2016/its-time-for-the-church-to-rediscover-her-prophetic-voice-heres-what-that-might-look-like/

            b) Some stuff on identity politics and what Christians might do in an increasingly tribal world (and why I think being our own ‘buffered’ tribe is a bad idea): http://st-eutychus.com/2016/the-last-of-us-the-zombie-apocalypse-identity-politics-and-the-benedict-option-christian-presence-in-a-post-christian-world/

            c) Some stuff on lament and Trump: http://st-eutychus.com/2016/how-to-make-saying-jesus-is-still-king-actually-something-comforting-not-something-jerky-and-dismissive/

          • Mark

            1. I’m going to take a shower now. The only slightly good thing out of the rise of the alt-right, if it occurs, is that the Left will finally have the enemy they have always claimed that they actually had.

            2. I have a lot of time for Douthat, but I think I just disagree with his response to the post in those tweets there. He seems to be collapsing white identity politics into racism. That’s fine, if we’re going to be consistent and do it for everyone, and say racial minorities are racist for engaging in identity politics, women are sexist for engaging in identity politics etc. I don’t think that’s right – while I don’t like identity politics I don’t think identity politics = bigotry against those not in the group.

            Saying that Trump has played race and that what he’s done was dark, is definitely right in the first part – he acknowledged race and played it in a new way. Was it *dark*? I’m not so sure, I think I need time to watch it more and reflect more.

            Similarly, yes he did the birther thing. He also argued that Cruz wasn’t eligible to be President because he was born outside the U.S., and that Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. I think the birther is part of a malignancy, but not necessarily a racist one. If anything it was the opposite – he treated Obama with exactly the same crazy as he inflicted on a white guy. It’s like saying he’s sexist because he trashes women. He actually trashes everyone. The lack of courtesy to women is a problem but isn’t necessarily sexism – he just doesn’t respect anyone, and treats women no differently from men on that score. (The audio tape about grabbing women is different again).

          • Mark

            Yes, agree completely with last paragraph – I think was trying to saying something similar in the post.

            On the rest, I’ll take what you’re saying on board and chew it over.

  • Nicole

    As a conservative American evangelical Christian who has spent a few years in Australia before, I don’t understand why Australian Christians are unable to resonate with American Christians on the issue of abortion. (I voted third party because I couldn’t support Clinton’s moral policies nor Trump’s moral character.) I’m aware that abortion on demand in QLD is technically illegal but practically legal, whereas in the US it’s legal by law. Could you explain this difference in the attitudes towards abortion to me?

    • http://thinkingofgod.org/pearlofgreatprice/ Brett Lee-Price

      Hi Nicole,

      There’s are my thoughts as a conservative Australian reformed evangelical who has spent a few years in the United States:

      Effectively, I think a major point of delineation between evangelicals in the United States and Australia, is that those of the latter are more influenced (for good or for ill) by those on the ‘left’. What I mean by this is that issues which are shared as a common concern by Christians and the ‘left’, such as the environment, the treatment of refugees, racism, and so forth are elevated in prominence due to the fact that such issues, due to being also supported by the ‘left’, are permeated within mainstream and popular mediums. So there’s an heightened saturation, and subsequently an understanding, of such a position.

      Whereas, the Christian position of abortion is something where there is a huge disagreement between both camps, and as such — such a topic is not raised as frequently as the others. Now, this is not to say that conservative Australian evangelicals don’t desire an abolition of abortion but, rather, said topic does not come up even as frequently as those other concerns which are more ‘mainstream’.

      On the other hand, such a connection between American evangelicals and these other policies, often championed by the left, generally doesn’t exist to the same level as it does in Australia.

      So my thoughts in summary is that abortion is seen as a chief, and sometimes — sadly — only, issue within American evangelicals, whereas in Australia it is almost lost within a barrage of other concerns, which sometimes are treated as equal or greater importance. (Thankfully, though, I know many who do hold to abortion as being a greater evil.)

      I hope that helps!

    • Mark

      Hi Nicole,

      It’s a great question. Brett’s already given a good answer, but here’s my thoughts – I think they more complement Brett’s response than anything.

      The short answer is I don’t know, it puzzles me too. Aussie Christians are far more likely to equate ‘Christian values’ with either the platform of the Liberal party or that of Labour/Greens (depending on whether they tend right or left) than see abortion as a big moral issue. They’d be more likely to speak up about immigration, the welfare net (too much or too little – again depending), sexual immorality or gay marriage – which ones out of those depending on whether they usually vote Liberal or Labour. Almost anything other than abortion; if an Aussie Christian is prepared to make waves over abortion it is *usually* an indicator of ‘strong right’ tendencies.

      The longer answer is here are my best guesses as to the factors in play, it’s anyone’s guess as to which ones are causing other ones:
      1. Aussie Christians have never had the cultural dominance that evangelicals enjoyed in the U.S. in the 19th Century. For whatever reason, the gospel has never had the impact here that it had in the U.S. and U.K. with the Great Awakening/s. Our country was in many states explicitly set up on very secular lines. We have always been a smaller fish in society, and then we had an enormous hemorrhage of all our nominals from the 60s similar to that which (maybe) is only now happening in the States. There are some fights that we just don’t even entertain as there is simply no point. More to the point, pretty all of us know people personally who have had abortions and we value those relationships. Speaking strongly about the issue will torch those relationships. It’s the air we breathe – any rhetoric that this is, or ever was, a Christian nation just comes across as hollow.
      2. Aussie Christians *really* think that the American culture wars are a disaster that has polarized your country and is making blue America the equivalent of burned over country for the gospel and blame American evangelicals for most of that culture war. Abortion is part of that culture war. I think that’s an inadequate assessment, but I think that to the degree most Aussie believers have thought about it, that would be their view.
      3. Put it another way – most Christians I am aware of, really draw away from the confrontational approach with society as a whole towards a get along, work on your own lives, and look for chances to evangelize approach. While many of us are appreciative of Francis Schaeffer, few of us subscribe to the Kuyper framework that supports the ‘culture wars’. We’re seeing a similar story with Creationism – it is getting less and less resonance here despite states like Queensland being among its heartlands as its direct confrontation with society over science approach increasingly feels out of place with our overall strategy. Seeing abortion as a hugely serious evil on par with child sacrifice or the like would make that strategy very, very hard. As most of us are aware, friendships and harmonious relationships across the abortion divide are very difficult.
      4. My own experience with my family suggests that life issues were surprisingly low on Christians’ horizon for a long time. I have relatives in the war generation who were strong church going Christians and would have been much happier (in my best assessment) with their disabled infant relative dying rather than living. I think they were probably representative of many of their generation.
      5. We never had a Roe vs Wade like decision of our High Court, as far as I am aware. My impression is that abortion here proceeded federally and democratically and in step with public opinion. That has helped reduce the temperature around the practice which is good. It has also helped reduce the temperature around the practice which is bad. We don’t have a single symbolic centralized, top down, poorly legally reasoned, judicial overreach act to galvanize us in the same way. We have an approach that is fitted to the level of political support that exists state by state. Federalism (unfortunately in this case) really is a great device to prevent precisely the way abortion functions in the U.S. as a symbol of a range of deeper issues.
      6. It’s not the only area where American evangelicals seem to marching to the beat of a different drummer. It seems to me that you also have a much stronger culture of generosity in giving than we do. It wouldn’t surprise me if your generosity with your money, and our relative selfishness with ours, is linked with your willingness to cause offense over fighting for the lives of the unborn. I have no idea what that link would be, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was one.
      7. The difference in American and Australian culture may factor in. Relative to each other, America strikes me as principled or ideologically driven – there is a lot of concern to do policy in a way that expresses an underlying philosophy of government etc. Australians in comparison are unprincipled and pragmatic. We have almost no interest in philosophy of any kind, we just look at outcomes. There’s a lot of benefits to that – I think our Medicare is far better than your Obamacare or what came before it, we have better infrastructure, and generally speaking I am amazed at America’s ability to Do Stupid Stuff (at the level of government, not your culture/s). We don’t sweat all that concern with philosophical purity, we just try and find something that works and that will have support from most people. But abortion is the Achilles heel for a pragmatic culture – to make a sustained stand on that means doing something simply because of principle. There’s something just a bit ‘dumb’ about fighting it given how utterly fundamental to our societies’ approach to sexuality, relationships, and employment is now predicated on the practice. It is a losing proposition for the foreseeable future. Americans, I think can do that just for principle’s stake. I think Aussies find that much harder.

    • Nicole

      Thanks for the thoughtful answers. I’m surprised about all the cultural differences and how the history makes such a big difference.

  • Chris Brittain

    Thankyou

  • Chookie Inthebackyard

    One matter that has been overlooked: Australian evangelicals come from a culture where the culture of church leaders publically supporting political candidates is completely foreign and (to me, at least) deeply troubling and potentially spiritually abusive.
    Secondly, I find the paragraph about the personal morality of the candidates to be oddly weighted. Is there really a moral equivalence between serial fornication and enabling one’s husband’s adultery? And what is enabling anyway — was she procuring girls for him, or does “enabling” mean what used to be called “forgiving”? And why is every moral point against Clinton something to do with *what people think* as opposed to public, documented matters? How is this not mere gossip?
    I found the comparison between slavery and abortion very striking as a friend had just posted this statement: “Not all Trump supporters are racist, but all of them decided that racism isn’t a deal-breaker.”

    • Mark

      Hi Chookieinthebackyard,

      Thanks for the thoughts. Here’s my reflections in turn.

      Agree about the Aussie culture on not publicly supporting political candidates. In a perfect world, I would okay with us doing that, and even in the world we have *sometimes* it would be necessary, but they are pretty extreme situations. In practice however, based on what I’ve seen, the wise course of action is to not do it – so little of our political views, seem to me, to be genuinely shaped by theology anyway. I bypassed that issue in the article – it’s about evangelicals voting, not about evangelical leaders giving public endorsements or anti-endorsements.

      The paragraph on personal morality wasn’t meant to be moral equivalences, but moral categories. I would rate habitual lying worse than having a speech beyond crass and crimes in high office as worse than shady business practices. The comparison between Hilary and Donald on fornication has to do with holding the marriage bed in honour. I find the idea that Hilary thinks Bill’s continual behaviour over the course of their marriage is covenant breaking but forgives it highly implausible. I think she presents more as one of those wives who isn’t happy with their husband’s infidelity but doesn’t see it as covenant breaking. That’s not as bad as breaking it yourself, definitely, but it is a moral issue in the same category. It’s also not holding the marriage bed in sufficient honour. If I thought Hilary was forgiving Bill of a serious breach of the marriage, then I could see myself encouraging a wife having to deal with an unfaithful husband to talk to Hilary if Hilary was attending my church. All my pastoral instincts say “No!” to that scenario – which suggests strongly that she presents (to me, and I think many if not most) as not presenting as having saint like levels of forgiveness, but of holding sexual fidelity in marriage at a lower level than is right. Doing that gives the husband implicit permission to act in his way (enabling), which Hilary has reinforced by going after the reputations of women who have gone public about Bill’s behaviour (stronger enabling). That for me is why it is ‘enabling’ and not ‘forgiving’ – forgiving would look *very* different from what we see.

      Part of the reason why I did that paragraph that way, was if I didn’t pick a couple of categories, but just listed out the moral problems, it would be weighted so very, very much against Clinton, and would take far too much space. It would make it look as though I was saying it wasn’t a hard decision – everyone should vote Trump (which is not at all what I think or impression I wanted to give off). While Trump was being self-justifying when he said that he has said some bad things, but the Clintons have done bad things, there was (as often is with him) enough truth to land. The Clintons (both of them) are one of the few pairs of people that can make Trump look like he has some moral high ground. So that paragraph is constructed to show serious problems with both parties.

      In terms of the mere gossip – every moral point against Clinton was something to do with *what people think* because I anticipated that virtually no-one would contest an argument that Trump has bad character. I could just state those critiques as fact and 98% of readers would go, “Well, obviously.” But there would be a significant minority of readers who would go, “I ain’t accepting that Clinton has any serious moral problems unless you can convince me against my will.” Clinton is one of those people where the cognitive bias that cognitive scientists talk about – if we want to believe something, we ask “Can I believe this?” and if we don’t want to believe it, we ask “Must I believe this?” – really kicks in. With Clinton there’d be readers who’d be asking “Must I believe that Clinton has moral problems?”

      Clinton has been in the public eye for decades. It’s on the public record, it’s not gossip. If nothing else, Wiki Leaks has shown that people were paying money to the Clinton Foundation and then getting access to the Secretary of State. When Comey gave his unprecedented absolution of Clinton for mishandling state secrets, he laid out the case against her comprehensively – (IIRC these are the details, but it’s been a while since I refreshed it, I may have a couple a bit wrong – the sense should be right though) she had deliberately set up the server to run government business from it, she lied about it systematically, she destroyed evidence after it was subpoenaed, she lied about that. That was the FBI’s conclusions to their investigation. That goes directly to character.

      He stated that there was no evidence that she *intended* to make the state secrets vulnerable and that was the reason not to recommend charges. But that has nothing to do with the law in question. And he himself in his statement said that no-one else should see that recommendation as a precedent for similar situations in the future i.e. this was a criteria that was going to apply in only Clinton’s case. I think with that information I would have been justified to just state it as fact – Clinton was corrupt and broke serious laws in a role that gave clear indication as to how she would likely act as President. No-one should have been in any doubt that she would almost certainly have been a bad President. A very bad one. At least Nixon level. On the public record.

      But I knew that wouldn’t be enough, that “Must I believe it?” hurdle is a big one to jump. So, I was implicitly playing the ‘reasonable person’ card – given the public facts known, an overwhelming majority of Americans, who are on the ground and not getting their info through two sets of biased media screens, have concluded that Clinton is deeply morally flawed. If you are trying to weigh things properly, that isn’t decisive, but is important data when trying to determine someone’s character – how everyone else is reading the same data. When you factor in just how in the can for Clinton the media has always been – how many journalists gave to her campaign, that one was sacked for leaking a question, that they tried to co-ordinate and time the Trump groping statement for maximum political benefit for Clinton, that they ran their stories past Clinton’s campaign – if that many Americans conclude that about her, with journalists acting as part of her election campaign, it becomes an even bigger data point. That’s not gossip or mere what people think – it’s about trying to compensate for personal bias by looking at how the broader set of eyes is looking at the same data, the eyes actually there in the U.S., who are having to vote on these two people and have to live with the choice. That’s another source of information.

      As to Trump supporters and racism – this is going to be a thorny one for a while until we see just how that lands through his presidency. I’ll say two things for now.

      First, you can take the race out of the analogy and the rough moral analogy still works fine at a logical level. It’s just that I think Aussies need the race in there to be able to appreciate the emotional dimension for American evangelicals. But you can make it for any reason – slavery based on age, or hair colour, or handedness, or height (handwave to the Goodies episode on apartheight). The person is completely dehumanized for some trait that has nothing to do with their humanity.

      Second, if you read my interaction with some other comments on here, I’m not convinced that racism is quite what’s going on with Trump and his supporters. I don’t think people voted for Obama, then became racist (or okay with racism) while still being very positive about Obama. Trump’s doing white identity politics, and he’s playing identity politics in reverse – a judge can’t decide this fairly because of their heritage – but that’s only racism if all identity politics is a form of bigotry. Now, he’s doing some moves with the alt-right and Breitbart that may have to change that verdict, but for the moment, I’m not sure that racism is helpful to help us understand what’s going on. I still think, despite Ross Douthat’s Twitter response to it, that this post deals with that issue well: http://slatestarcodex.com/2016… . And it’s by a Democrat who is very anti-Trump.

  • Paul Looyen

    Great article Mark. Having lived in the States, I couldnt agree more.
    By the way, blast from the past. we were in an Action Group together in uni days

  • Jack Brooks

    Good article, well thought-out. I am an American Christian who grew up near NYC, and currently pastor a Free church in Kentucky — a state which went for Trump overwhelmingly. Also, I voted third party.

    Trust me, -we- barely understand each other. This is an enormous country, with distinct regional culture-histories and political inclinations, Don’t underestimate how physically big the U.S. is, and how this affects our cultural flavors. One size almost never fits all.

    If Australians draw their view of the U.S. from the news media, then you are right to assume you don’t know the U.S. Our media has always been partisan (while hypocritically posing as honest and neutral) and has become demonstrably much more overtly dishonest and partisan in the last 20 years, in my opinion. They also mislead (or lie to) the international community, as part of manipulating American politicians.

    Bill and Hillary Clinton have long been tapeworms in the political intestines of America. Hillary in particular combines a pathological inability to tell the truth, a record of disastrous incompetence, and supporting a poisonous array of appallingly anti-Christian policies.

    This election was a game of Russian roulette. Hillary was a gun where every chamber was loaded; Trump was a gun in which half of the chambers were loaded. Christians were willing to take a chance on Trump because Hillary was certain death.

    The election was like a horrible tribal council on the TV show Survivor. Do we vote based on objective qualifications? Then neither of them deserved to be President. Or do we vote based on a lesser-evil strategy? We knew that one of them was going to be President (modern third parties are irrelevant here). I voted on the first approach, though I do not disdain the second.

    Last, there are three kinds of U.S. evangelicals who voted for Trump. There were the Hillary-is-Satan-in-a-pantsuit voters. It wouldn’t have mattered who the Republican candidate was, they would have voted for a warthog rather than for Hillary. There are the hold-my-nose-and-vote-for-Trump-because-Hillary-is-awful-and-some-of-Trump’s-policy-proposals-are-better. Then there are the “Trump is God’s Anointed Man” types (like Jerry Falwell Jr), and it’s that latter group (almost all Pentecostals and Arminian Baptists) who worry me. That third group is evidence of disease in the U.S. Body of Christ.

    http://www.ironworkspikechurch.org