So I guess I have to write something about what is quite possibly one of the most monumentally enormous political events that many of us have lived through.
When I arrived home on Wednesday afternoon I insisted that my older children stopped what they were doing and watched a bit of the TV coverage with me, telling them that it was important to stop and remember when these seismic events occur. It wasn’t quite on a scale with Kennedy being assassinated or the fall of the Berlin Wall, but in years to come people will ask “do you remember when Trump was elected?” and I wanted them to be able to say “yes” and to begin to comprehend why it was something worth understanding.
Which, of course, is what we’ve been doing non-stop since Wednesday as we’ve tried to come to terms with it.
Now why is that? Why is it that we actually need to stop and ask ourselves “how did this come to be?” That question arises whether you’re a die-hard Clinton supporter or a more passive “a pox on both your houses” kind of person (which far more accurately describes my position). There are even some who voted for Trump who got far more than they expected as they found what they thought would be a trickle of protest votes gathering up in a veritable tsunami. Even some die-hard Trump supporters appear to have been surprised and you can’t help but wonder if the astonishment swept as far as Trump Tower itself.
The answer is, of course, that the consensus view was wrong. Much of the criticism is thrown at the feet of the media who, let’s be fair, simply couldn’t conceive that people would vote for Trump. This article from CBSNews’ Will Rahn, makes the point as well as any…
Journalists increasingly don’t even believe in the possibility of reasoned disagreement, and as such ascribe cynical motives to those who think about things a different way. We see this in the ongoing veneration of “facts,” the ones peddled by explainer websites and data journalists who believe themselves to be curiously post-ideological.
That the explainers and data journalists so frequently get things hilariously wrong never invites the soul-searching you’d think it would. Instead, it all just somehow leads us to more smugness, more meanness, more certainty from the reporters and pundits. Faced with defeat, we retreat further into our bubble, assumptions left unchecked. No, it’s the voters who are wrong.
As a direct result, we get it wrong with greater frequency. Out on the road, we forget to ask the right questions. We can’t even imagine the right question. We go into assignments too certain that what we find will serve to justify our biases. The public’s estimation of the press declines even further — fewer than one-in-three Americans trust the press, per Gallup — which starts the cycle anew.
Now much could be made about the left-leaning “smugness” and sense of superiority that’s described here from someone inside the camp, but not much that hasn’t already been said. I want to concentrate on something slightly different; a concept at work here irrespective of what you think about the politics.
What can we say for sure about Trump’s election?
So many simply didn’t think it could happen.
It’s as uncomplicated as that. We just didn’t think it could happen and so we were surprised. We didn’t plan for it in our thinking because our thinking had already told us it was an impossibility. Think about your reaction and that of those around you when the swing to Trump became clear. It required a paradigm shift to comprehend a world where Trump was electable. Not a world where a small fringe of angry disenfranchised voters would turn up for his rallies but something far bigger – a wholesale shift towards a man that nobody was meant to support.
But there were some who did think it could happen. There were some true believers. We ridiculed them. We thought they were fantasists. Yet here is the truth we cannot deny:
They were right.
As wrong as we thought they were – they were right. They understood things better than the rest of us, despite what our right-thinking majority wisdom had taught us. And because they had called it right they worked hard and then celebrated the outcome.
So now my pithy and easily-misunderstood statement:
When it comes to evangelism, Christians should be like Trump supporters.
I know, I know, but stop and hear me out. So often in our evangelism we don’t believe. We don’t really believe that God can and will convert people by the simple proclamation of the gospel. We’re actually not convinced that
Rom. 10:17 …faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
Think I’m talking nonsense? Well then tell me the last time you simply explained the gospel to someone with the conviction that this simple mechanism is what God uses to bring people into the kingdom.
I’ve been struck this week that it often looks like the Trumpistas had far more confidence in the outcome when spruiking their candidate than I do in mine. They weren’t surprised when people flocked to him in their masses but I so often am when even one person turns to Christ.
I don’t think it will happen and so often I’m not looking for it in the first place. Like an uncritical consumer of the political media, I’ve allowed myself to be convinced that what God says in His word (that the Spirit blows where He will so that people are converted (John 3:8), that the gospel is the power for salvation (Rom 1:16) and so on) isn’t actually true. I’m guilty of not believing it and, as a result, not living it.
But they’re the facts. Even more sure than the fact there was a massive undercurrent of support for Trump (no matter what the reason) is the fact that God brings people into the kingdom of Jesus through the simple act of telling people the gospel. No tricks, no hoopla, no special methodology needed. Those are the facts and they can’t be trumped.
If Trump’s victory has taught me one thing, it’s that I need to start believing the facts again. And acting on them.