“You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? . . . Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come” (Luke 12:56, Dan. 10:14, cf 9:25).
True prophets are those who can discern the hand of God at work in the ebb and flow of trends and developments. They are able to take a longer and broader view than most of us, and have a strong sense that the history that is unfolding before their eyes is part of His story – though even the best of them are bound to misinterpret certain aspects of what is going on.
As someone who has spent much of the last thirty seven years writing about current affairs from a spiritual viewpoint, I sympathise with Sir Walter Raleigh who, when asked why he did not write about current affairs, famously replied in his Preface to his History of the World:
I know that it will be said by many, that I might have been more pleasing to the reader if I had written the story of my own times . . . To this I answer, that whosoever is writing a modern history, shall follow truth too near the heels, it may haply strike out his teeth!
Events have a habit of moving faster than our ability to interpret let alone predict them. Nevertheless, it is important that we do make serious efforts to understand our times both spiritually and at the human level. There is much the Lord would have us focus on so that we can pray with greater insight and fervency and vigour.
As ever, what is happening behind the scenes is usually even more important than the events we see and hear. Many things happen “in the wings” before they are seen on the stage.
What we are doing here is to share or point to various articles and insights in order to help us get a picture of the man now in charge of what has long been considered the most important and influential nation on earth. All of this will help us to discern how we may seek first the kingdom of God in the new political scenarios that are fast developing.
Donald Trump went to great lengths to cultivate the evangelical vote. (Time Magazine explored this in full last summer). He made a concerted effort to surround himself with evangelical supporters and advisers, which no doubt encouraged the great majority of white Christian evangelicals – all but 16% of them in fact – to vote for him. This had a significant impact on the outcome of the election.
Time magazine’s take on this is that Trump has made these inroads into the evangelical world by surrounding himself with charismatic televangelists who preach a version of the “prosperity gospel.”
As we look deeper into his track record, we will find things that make us question whether the hopes invested in Donald Trump by many have any solid foundations. And whilst that in no way means that the Lord cannot, or will not, use him in particular ways and so fulfil the various prophecies that have been directed his way, it is still appropriate to discern specific shortcomings. We have endeavoured to do the same in previous send outs in the case of President Putin, for the simple reason that the decisions of these men affect the lives of millions of others. I cannot think of a time in recent history when two such narcissistic and easily offended leaders have come to power opposite or alongside each other. The chances of volatile combustibility is huge! (See for example this insightful Panorama programme by John Sweeney.)
Whilst bearing in mind Bishop Lightfoot’s ever timely reminder that truth is like a sugar lump, (that is, at least six sided!) this article therefore represents our best attempt to provide a few background pointers towards what is going on in the speedy developments accompanying the early days of the Trump presidency. We are sharing these links and insights not to dampen or depress, but so that we can ponder different aspects of the ‘sugar lump’ and pray accordingly. Before we turn to these in more detail, however, we would like to share some background thoughts by Linda Entwistle concerning unexpected outcomes of democracy in America.
The Unforeseen outcome of Democracy
The following brief video concerns an important insight that Plato, the ancient Greek author of the first ‘political textbook’, made when he pointed out that dictatorships often emerge out of democracy.
Linda writes, “This video presents an interesting and frankly frightening perspective. I’ve been swotting up a bit on American history in order to pray better for President Trump, and this has led me to question whether the US is in fact a pure democracy . . . America is in fact first and foremost a Republic which uses laws to control the masses by giving them some measure of freedom which they call liberty. The laws made under the US Constitution are meant to derive from the Covenant made by the Founding Fathers and based on Christian and Biblical principles. Whether they do or not I don’t know.
Democracy is a process by which the masses can vote for the person who is most likely to give them what they want. The fear is that the democratic ‘element’ with all its liberal and individualistic values is now threatening the integrity of the so-called Constitution because the population has lost its connection to its core values.
The general consensus of giving people too much power (as Plato, Socrates and the American Founding Fathers all warned) is that men who are given too much freedom become complacent, materially comfortable, morally indifferent and individualistic – thinking they can do whatever they want – or ‘lovers of self’ as Paul calls them. This in turn leads to a fundamental naivety which leaves them prey to a potential dictator who promises great things and solutions that, if they weren’t so gullible, they would recognise full well could not possibly exist.
It is into this scenario, at a time of disillusionment and confusion, that Donald Trump has stepped. The question is: is he a potential tyrant who is seizing an opportunity to gain more power – or is he a ‘redeemer’ who will bring America back to its original principles? The latter is certainly what vast numbers of Christians in America dare to believe.
If people want to look in more detail at the articles I’ve been reading you can follow them up here:
- Although written in 2008 and from a Republican viewpoint, this article is very enlightening for understanding the kind of democratic principles on which the United States was founded, and the way this connects with modern day thinking. This article in the Economist also offers an interesting perspective on democracy, whilst this recently published one asks the all important question: is American democracy strong enough to cope with Trump?
It would be easy to regard these ‘cyclical’ tendencies in American politics as deeply pessimistic (and there are sure to be many who would disagree with this view), but it does seem to me to be borne out. God can break through all this, of course, though this will only fully happen when the Kingdom of God is completely fulfilled on Earth. The question is what we need to do to help that become a reality in a day when people have all but completely turned JF Kennedy’s plea on its head: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” May the Lord give the Church a new bold and positive as opposed to a narrowly partisan approach.
We warned in a previous version that the world situation is fast becoming far more volatile than it has been for years, and that leaders who can be effective diplomats are absolutely vital if things are not to degenerate swiftly beyond that stage.
An important part of our task is to pray for the Lord to inspire people to make wise decisions, think critically, and not to fall foul of the lure of propaganda or the deadweight of prejudice.
Up in windswept Shetland people do not leave things lying around – if they did, the winds would blow them to Orkney! Pray that we, and our leaders, do not leave trailing wires around that can be caught up in vortexes that would turn into sails and blow them away – along with many others.
That is certainly what Tony Schwartz fears most. Schwartz deeply regrets the compromises he made in his portrayal of the future president when he ghost wrote The Art of the Deal, which elevated Donald Trump from playboy developer to the status of a best-selling author and business guru. Schwartz describes Trump as a man sociopathically addicted to lying, who, in reality, cares for nothing expect himself.
It is almost impossible to understand the Trump phenomenon without an in depth awareness of where he is coming from. I found the documentary, Meet the Trumps, that was shown on Channel 4 extremely enlightening (and concerning) concerning the primary influences on his life. Do watch it whilst it is still available.