Friday, 15 April 2016
What's the Problem?
Over the last few weeks I've been doing something I normally avoid as much as possible.
I've been reading the news.
There's a reason I avoid it normally. Frankly it's because there's enough stress and depression in any given issue to make the vulnerable suicidal.
One of the things I've been reading about is Donald Trump. He seems to be ubiquitous at the moment. There is simply no escaping articles written about him by his supporters, his critics, his campaign staff, his opponents from the Republican party, his opponents from the Democratic party and the satirical caricatures by most of the cartoonists based anywhere in the world.
I'm going to say something now that will probably make about 50% of people reading this want to stop. Please don't.
Donald Trump is not the problem.
(There go the Democrats)
The problem is the system that allowed someone with such obvious character flaws to be in a position where he becomes a viable contender for the (arguably) most powerful job post in the world.
I've had a couple of online discussions - in the loosest possible sense of that word - about the process. They normally end up with me being told "You're not American, what does it have to do with you anyway?"
There have been articles praising him for being a straight talker published one day and quotes of his utter gibberish the next.
But somehow he's winning over much of the electorate in the USA.
He's declared the Bible to be his favourite book but shown remarkably little knowledge of it when pushed on the subject. He states he has great respect for people of faith, then proposes banning 1.6 billion people from entry to the US because they are Muslim.
Obviously as a Christian writer I'm not going to say I think Islam is right. But I'm also not going to say anyone should ban an entire third of the population of the planet based on their religion from doing or going about lawful business. Let's face it, the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls are no more impressive because you're a Western Christian than they would be if you are a middle-eastern Muslim. A canyon is still a canyon.
Imagine the outcry internationally if a potential leader of Egypt proposed monitoring the movements of Christians within their own borders and refusing to allow tourists in to see the pyramids because they were not Muslim.
The problem, like I said, is the system that created Donald Trump.
In Frankenstein, the monster becomes too strong and kills its creator. Dr Jekyll creates Edward Hyde and the persona destroys the good man.
Many works of fiction have similar themes. Even the Marvel movies of recent years show it.
It's fine in fiction, but art imitates life. It always has. Look at the Sistine Chapel and consider the artistry there. Michaelangelo includes a self-portrait in one section of his own flesh being held on the day of Judgement. He was a product of his time, what we now call the Renaissance. A time when science and religion were not seen as being enemies the way they are today, and people realised science is itself an art.
But today we have a reality that changes too fast for society to keep up. What was unthinkable a generation ago is commonplace today. It's only 112 years since the Wright brothers flew under power for the first time in December 1903. In that time there have been two World Wars, the rise and fall of Communism and the entry of the "digital" age.
Western society has changed as rapidly as technology. And like technological change, it's not always been for the better.
Which brings us back to the title of this entry: What's the Problem?
America was founded after the revolution rejected taxation without representation in the British Parliament which answered to the king. The wealthiest men and women for the most part were the ones who came in early enough to have vast swathes of land in the New World. Many of them became the leaders of the rebellion and the founders of what became the USA.
But I'm sure you know this.
In the 240(ish) years since the Declaration of Independence was recognised and the British surrendered the society that Washington first led and was fine tuned by Lincoln after the Civil War has changed dramatically.
The modern system reflects the values of the day. It's truly frightening when hate-speech and back-stabbing are what make an individual a viable candidate for the office. And no, this time I'm not just referring to Trump. Individuals who claim to represent the views of the party they are members of descend to the level of street fights and personal attacks rather than policies that they believe would better serve their electorate.
And that's the problem.
Over the last 40 years Western society has been led by the American way. The country that once was a moral compass for the world in many ways, trying to give freedom and security and prosperity to everyone became self-centred. It happened while Reagan was President and Thatcher was PM in England. Looking out for yourself first became the motto to live by. Greed is good was the understanding, and society began to decay.
Trump is the natural outcome of that thought process. So is Clinton.
The problem is actually very simple, and one we need to look at as Christians.
The problem is that today politicians are in it for themselves. They look to gain power for selfish ambition and greed rather than the greater good.
Jesus said to be the leader we needed to become servant to all. He demonstrated it by wrapping a towel round His waist and washing the feet of all 12 disciples - ever notice that Judas Iscariot was included? He went on to open His arms to embrace anyone who would come to Him, and (to paraphrase Max Lucado) to show He'd never close His arms He had them nailed open.
Leadership used to be a burden. Heavy is the head that wears the crown was accurate. Today we see increasingly "leaders" who are openly corrupt and care nothing about who they stand on to reach the top and what they do to stay there. The young idealist who led the resistance in Rhodesia has become the tyrant that bankrupted the country as Zimbabwe. The sacrifice and selflessness of Mandela has been overthrown by the corruption (allegedly) of Zuma in South Africa. The hopes of JFK in his speech asking citizens to ask what they can do for their country have been shattered in the years since 1963.
Persecution is on the rise in the West, and dismissed by the media because it takes a different form in America than it does in Iraq and Syria. It's ignored by the church as well, and many organisations founded during the evangelical rise of the 60s and 70s have been caught up in the wave of "prosperity gospel" teachings that focus on personal gain not Salvation.
I used to watch the TV show "Angel" regularly. In it, the antagonists say that the final apocalypse has already begun, not some huge battle fought openly but rather evil quietly chipping away at humanity and destroying it by undermining it. Maybe not the most theologically sound show, but the point stands nonetheless.
Satan wants us to forget he exists. When we do, there appears to be no need for Salvation. The most liberal say we must forgive every time, but make no call for actual repentance. Instead we get half-hearted (if that) pseudo-apologies from the "leaders" caught in borderline criminal activities and let them carry on to go straight back to what they were doing. If there's no devil then the argument must be made that everyone goes to heaven and there's no concept of Hell. Religion has replaced Faith and no longer needs the Holy Spirit. Our leaders do not feel accountable to a higher power.
And we bought into it because it's an easy way to live.
That's the Problem.