This week Pastor Bill Johnson, leader of the influential Bethel Church in California, published this post, in which he explained his justifications for voting for Donald Trump. Martin Holst, a member of the Christians on the Left executive, gives his thoughts in response.
If Pastor Bill’s article makes us want to ‘reach for our guns’ perhaps we should think of a loving response to a fellow Christian with whom we profoundly disagree, and seek to make constructive points. We need to acknowledge that although we feel his approach is mistaken, to appreciate that there are Christians this side of ‘the Pond’ who look to the ‘success’ Churches with that sort of culture.
Pastor Bill’s large audience may well expect him to ‘do their thinking for them’. I would suggest that the most distinctive feature of Jesus is His method of teaching which included the use of parables/stories which were backed by actions. i.e. Jesus encouraged His audiences to think for themselves. Jesus made people consider the principles behind the Law: ‘a Law made for people, not people for the Law’.
What might be helpful, is to distinguish between what we do as Christians and what we feel that the law of the land should impose on others. Christians certainly need to consider what they, and their families, do when issues such as abortion and same sex marriage impinge on their lives. It is certainly important to insist that medical staff and clergy should be free to act according to consciences. However most would interpret the Garden of Eden story as God giving humankind freedom to know right and wrong: and then choose. How far law of the land should seek to regulate human behaviour in personal matters needs sensitive treatment.
Such sensitivity seems absent from Trump’s attitude to women, and for that matter, Pastor Bill’s comments on his attitude. True, God can forgive those who are penitent, but rather than apologise to the women who complained about the sort of behaviour he admits to - Trump threatens to sue. His presidency could be blighted if some of those women have the determination of Monica Lewinsky to expose the truth. Perhaps there should be stronger laws to protect women against people like him?
If Pastor Bill had looked at the statements of Trump, and said despite these he still voted for him, it would be easier to respect him. He fails to mention that whilst the Presidents are very restricted by Congress and Senate on domestic policy, they have greater freedom on foreign policy. Trump has stated he wants to abolish the Environmental Control agency and tear up international agreements in this field, calling talk of human induced climate change as a hoax. Trump also talks of tearing up international trade agreements and going for protectionism (failing to mention there could be retaliation). Trump’s much publicised wall on the Mexican border paid for by the Mexican Government surely deserves a little analysis by Pastor Bill?
Trump’s statements about possibly pulling out of NATO have serious consequences. Such action would certainly save huge sums on defence and enable tax reductions. Trump talks of ‘making America great again’: withdrawal from NATO would change the delicate balance of power. How does Pastor Bill feel about what seems an isolationist policy on defence? In ‘Great Britain’ we also need to ponder what being ‘great again’ means in the context of Brexit? Those in favour of Brexit argued strongly that NATO was much preferred to an EU military force.
It is even more unfortunate that Pastor Bill does not comment on Trump’s attitude to Muslims where he appears to count all Muslims entering the USA as terrorists - unless they can prove otherwise. The likelihood of the damage that this does to Muslim Christian relations around the world needs more than a little consideration.
When Pastor Bill implies that Jesus somehow endorses the rich and powerful, his assertion are not backed up by scripture. He fails to acknowledge that Jesus, like the prophets of old had deep concerns for justice and the treatment of the poor and needy. Jesus also supported paying of taxes including those to the hated Romans. The question ought to be asked of Trump, that if he being rich himself, found ways of paying no tax, how can he expect any American citizens to pay their taxes? Also, whilst it is true the unborn have no voice; neither do the poor of USA have much voice: what will happen about their medical treatment if Trump’s pledge to abolish Obamacare is implemented?
Pastor Bill might consider how suited in personality Trump is for office. Trump has a track record of sacking advisers whose advice he does not like. He became a bankrupt and although he was able to profit from it, what of the losers whose bills were unpaid? Further, could his wild economic statement become the policies which would ruin not just America but the world system of trade and banking?
The most important question I would like to put to both Pastor Bill and President-Elect Trump is who do they listen to? If you claim to listen to God that claim is only credible if you listen to people – Jesus did. Pastor Bill appears to speak ‘six feet above contradiction’. Perhaps in his ministry he listens to both sides of arguments, but sadly it does not come out in this article.
Martin Holst is the South West regional representative on the Christians on the Left executive.