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Money Sex Power Election


Ever since Donald Trump entered the USA presidential race, I haven’t been able to look away. And I said from the beginning that I thought he had a chance of winning. I really don’t want to debate my own political tendencies here (the equivalent of Trump’s party in NZ would not get my vote), but I do think there is a lot to reflect on for us all in this election.

This election was about money, sex, and power. The Christian tradition of spirituality, with its large thread of poverty, chastity, and obedience, has a lot to inform that perspective. And, as we head towards the Feast of the Reign of Christ, the election, thread by thread, has a lot that stands in contrast to Christ’s Reign.

I was, and still am, surprised by people’s surprise at the result. The polarisation and siloing of perspectives is something that calls for careful reflection. And action. Each side of supporters so demonised the other side that there appeared little to no communication. Neither side seemed capable of getting into the skin of the opposite perspective, of walking a mile in their moccasins. Nor could either side acknowledge the deep flaws in their own candidate – seen from the other’s perspective.

This election highlights the shift from the modern to the post-modern, and from the fourth estate to the internet and web 2.0. The media bias and the inaccuracy of the polls are resulting in a rearguard response trying to explain why they got things so wrong. The dearth of content and policies fits in with the trend that people not only have a right to believe and express whatever they like, but every belief is equally valid. In NZ, for example, to have a canon of content in many/most subjects in our education system is highly frowned upon and absent from our curriculum.

Furthermore, the triumph of internet-culture was also evident in the election. Any glance down, say, the comments of an even-slightly-controversial YouTube clip shows people playing the person rather than the ball: variants of “You’re a #$%^&!” “No, you’re a *&^#@!” And a lot of the election mirrored that approach.

Both psychological and spirituality wisdom emphasise that our ‘enemy’, our ‘shadow’ may tell us more about ourselves than we realise. And may be more similar to ourselves than we acknowledge. The riots, anticipated if Trump’s supporters did not win, have begun to happen now that Clinton’s didn’t. The controversy that Trump might not concede on seeing the election results was mirrored in Clinton’s no-show and John Podesta sending her thousands of supporters home from Jacob K Javits Convention Center with Clinton making a private phone call to Trump some minutes later. Melania Trump’s plagiarising Michelle Obama’s speech should cause us all to pause and note the interchangeability of so much empty political rhetoric.

Yes, we may be in for a rough ride.

Those on the liberal, politically-correct, inclusive end of the spectrum (including in church) may not have been paying enough attention to what others are actually saying. In this internet age, those who are insiders in the political machinery, whatever the organisation (including in church), your time may have passed. The DNC chose not to go with the outsider. The GOP did.

I pray for more real listening between people who hold opposing positions. I pray for a swing back from every opinion is equal to some honest presentation of facts and content. I pray for humility when facts are disputed. And I pray for us all to grow in living simply, in relationship with one another, and in service – the very opposite of abusing money, sex, and power.

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Clinton and Trump cartoon illustration | Image by VectorOpenStock.com

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19 Responses to Money Sex Power Election

  1. Bosco, I personally avoid opining on another nation’s politics, but you seem to have a good read of things here in America. I would just like to underscore that there are clear and substantial economic incentives for the American media to encourage divisiveness. It is not just bias that is a danger but the media’s delight in sharing what is inflammatory and ‘eye-catching.’

    If I might, I encourage you to read more about President Hoover. Like President Carter, he gets too little attention and too little respect for his many accomplishments. You might enjoy, particularly, reading about how Hoover’s Quaker background influenced his personal and political life.

    • Thanks. You right, Kevin, if you sense a similar reticence on my part. But, in an important sense, this is not solely “another nation’s politics”. To take one example, the TPPA is significant in NZ political (and economic) life. The election of Donald Trump shifts that debate significantly in our country. We are much more a global village now. The vote for Trump has parallels to the Brexit decision. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands were here this week (and I was delighted to meet them) anticipating the world’s post-Brexit trade talks. Our own political and economic life will not be unaffected.

      I also want to underscore my point that this siloing, demonising, and other features of this election are present in church life as well. We Christians need to stop and pick up this mirror with some honesty and soul-searching.

      Your point about the media’s “delight in sharing what is inflammatory and ‘eye-catching.’” is also important. The USA elections have been much in our news (on TV and in newspaper). Life and Reality Television are now symbiotic – from the way news is presented all the way through to the White House.


  2. Very insightful, per usual, Bosco. Yes, we need a revolution, and it needs to start with Luke 6:31: “Treat others the same way you want to be treated.” If that’s the starting point and the foundation, our politics and economics would take on a completely different character than the muck and mire in which we are now sinking.

  3. I underline a point you make, Bosco, to Kevin: the impact of America on NZ is disproportionate to NZ’s impact on America!

    Something I am musing on, but without much success, is why exit poll indications suggest a significant Protestant and Catholic majority support for Trump.

    On the one hand almost everything revealed about Trump the person seems antithetical to the gospel. On the other hand some things he stood for during the campaign would resonate with Christians concerned about being marginalised by “political correctness.” Has the latter swayed rather than the former? Did HRC’s faults outweigh Trumps?

    But I am only interested in the answers to such questions to the extent that they tell us about the collective mind of Western Christians in a fast changing world. Has Trump offered some kind of salvation via nostalgia? Or, is his soteriological comfort that of the messianic figure, forging a new future at the end of the world?

    • Thanks, Peter. I have not picked up the information you are presenting on exit polls. Can you provide links, please? Again, I would not be surprised. Trump, presents, for example, a position on abortion more in line with Roman Catholic teaching. Blessings.

      • Hi Bosco (and Peter,

        There are several possible reasons why protestants and catholics would have favoured Trump.

        Firstly, look at the other demographics of the people we are mentioning here. Religion is, after all, only one aspect of a person. The predominantly Republican south is also the bible belt. Although people like Mike Pence say that they are “Christian, conservative and Republican. In that order.” the truth is that there is a lot of overlap for many southerners, and a lot of them conflate their religious views with their political ones. Party loyalty, especially in the midwest and south, means people will vote Republican purely because that is the label stuck on the candidate, regardless of the candidates actual beliefs (as we saw with Romney, who still did very well in the south despite being Mormon, and also that Obama was more ideologically similar to many of the Republicans faithwise).

        In the USA approximately 75% of the people have some form of faith, however, 45% of that 75% were Protestant (of one denomination or another) and 20% Catholic. There is a reason the USA has only had Christian presidents, who have confirmed their faith verbally and by attending church etc. In fact, the other Abrahamic faiths only make up 3% of the population, and non Abrahamic faiths (Satanism, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan etc) are around 2%. There is more unaffiliated or atheistic people raised in a society of Christian faith then there are believers of other religions. My rather long winded point is that Christian as a large, umbrella term, takes up a huge percentage of the country.
        So let us compare DT with HRC. HRC is a Methodist, DT a Presbyterian. However, HRC is very clear on her faith, with her involvement in the Methodist Church well documented over the entirety of her life. This appeals to the Methodists, but alienates those of other views. Furthermore, she is highly accepting of others with a myriad of different faiths, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist and so on. While this makes her appealing to those demographics, it further alienates her from the conservative christian faction, and seeing as those other demographics are about 6% compared to the 30% of Evangelicals, she loses more than she gains. DT on the other hand, is nice and vague, usually just going by “Christian’, which appeals to many. He also mentions Norman Vincent Peale as an influence on him, a name which will be recognised by many in the USA and Paula White who leads a megachurch. HRC mentions her local pastor, with whom she has a personal relationship but otherwise her pastor is known for little more than his connection to her.

        Finally, set aside their personal views (in which HRC seems a lot more Christian than DT IMO) and look at their policies, something which Bosco suggested earlier. HRC is pro choice and will fund Planned parenthood, pro LGBTQ rights, and open to many different people. DT is against abortion and family planning, and (assumedly) against LGBTQ rights. His views are more literally biblical than hers, so he picks up the bible vote. However it is interesting to note that DT did worse amongst his predecessors among those who attend church weekly, but better with those who are not regular attendees.

        The TLDR answer is because of labels, a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, but most Americans don’t sniff for themselves, they just go with ‘rose’ even when it clearly isn’t. This issue is more to do with what HRC is than what DT isn’t.

        • Thanks for this analysis, Bridie. [I’m not sure that being against family planning and LGBTQ rights is “more literally biblical” – but that is a discussion not for this thread – and we know what you mean]. Blessings.

  4. Peter, if I might add my two cents, polling in America is going through a crisis at the moment. The level of distrust is so high, along with the growing resistance to our opinions and behaviors being quantified and then monetized (the Facebook model), so that moderate opinion is driven underground, so to speak. I even know people who won’t put up political yard signs or use bumper stickers for fear of vandalism to their property. So-called robo-calling has led people to simply hang up on strangers or not take calls from unknown phone numbers. And many polls are performed by partisan groups. Opinion, then, as seen by pollsters makes America look more polarized than it really is and helps make nuanced opinions disappear into the void. I might add that nearly half of the American electorate did not vote. Making sense of us takes more experience and discernment than even most Americans possess.

  5. As a citizen of the United States, I agree that many voices in American politics spend far too much time demonizing their opponents. But I also think that Christians should be prepared to acknowledge that the Trump campaign did in fact raise more than its share of demons, figuratively speaking — racism, sexism, xenophobia, contempt for the Other, hatred and violence of all kinds. Hillary has many flaws, but I don’t think she deserves to be equated, morally speaking, with her opponent. More to the point, I don’t think we Christians should settle for the easy-but-false equivalencies that the journalists keep trying to sell us. The Trump campaign was different from anything I’ve seen in American politics — uglier, more brutal, and wholly bereft of the spirit of the gospels.

    • Thanks, Duane. I am not as convinced as you that Trump is more the cause than the symptom. Nor am I as convinced as you that Clinton doesn’t “deserve to be equated, morally speaking, with her opponent.” Peter Carrell (commenting on this thread) on his site Anglican Down Under pointed to an article that argues, amongst other things, “the Clintons have been willing to trade away legitimate environmental concerns and even our national security for the sake of filthy lucre.” Blessings.

      • “When you lie down with dogs, you get fleas!

        Dr Carrell has linked to a right wing author. I have never heard of either the author of the artcle to which Peter links, nor the publication which carried it. There isn’t anything intellectual about the article, just lots of innuendo and cutesy insults and attacks on the Clinton’s honor as human beings.

        But I do know that there is certainly another side to the story and from respected analysts of cheritable organizations in the US.

        In September 2016, the charity watchdog group Charity Navigator gave it its highest possible rating, four out of four stars, after its customary review of the Foundation’s financial records and tax statements.

        A different charity monitor, CharityWatch, says that 88% of the foundation’s money goes toward its charitable mission and gave the foundation an A rating for 2016. In 2015, based on revenue of $223 million and an expense ratio of 12% the foundation spent in excess of $26 million to complete its mission.

        Hilary Clinton is an active member of the United Methodist Church and strives to live out her baptismal covenant in most everything that I have seen her say and do. She hasn’t done anything to my knowledge that would make anyone think that she was a racist, a misogynist, a homophobe, a heterosexist or a sexual abuser. Neither were groups that promote such “values” attracted to nor did they support her campaign.

        Hillary is nothing like [Donald Trump] edited.

        • Thanks, David, for the balance. Let us hope & pray that as the reality of the unexpected vote settles in, there is some moderation brought to the actions of Trump rather than a direct implementation of the rhetoric. Blessings.

  6. exactly Bosco.

    And with her [edited] bid for power Clinton handed the presidency to Trump, Bernie Sanders was the popular choice for political change.

    Americans are sick of being lied to, though Trump will be unable to accomplish much of his election manifesto, and unless he does something about the corruption, illegal immigration and terrible expensive complex health care he’ll be a one term president.

    I don’t agree he is what America needs right now, but I do see why people have voted for him- in desperation hoping someone will help ordinary working Americans have a better quality of life.

    Many families earning @$50 000 a year ( $70000NZ ) are paying a quarter of their income in health insurance premiums and deductibles following the health care ‘reforms’. The money wasted could have provided free health care for everyone.

    There’s always a lot of rhetoric around discrimination but the most marginalized exploited group in America now are the sick.

    That’s where the USA Christianity does not represent Christ.

    • Thanks for this, Tracy. Trump’s promises have been likened to a businessperson’s opening bid. I think you are correct: Sanders was to the Democrats what Trump was to the Republicans – an outsider. I was right that Trump had a real chance. I was wrong – because initially I thought it might end up a Trump-Sanders vote. Blessings.

    • The thing that Tracy doesn’t cover regarding healthcare reform, was that the Affordable Care Act passed in President Obama’s first 4 year term was a compromise with Republicans who demanded that the insurance companies all be involved and offer their own policies as they saw fit. That wasn’t the original plan, the original idea was a one payer plan based around the all ready existing medicare network which has been in place for years in the US. Additionally, Republicans tied the Act’s hands by refusing to allow the government to negotiate the prices for medication. So folks in the US pay the highest prices in the world for drugs. Where the same drug companies sell medications for much less in Canada because the Canadian national plan negotiates drug prices with it volume puchasing power.

      But in spite of all that, millions of US citizens who didn’t have medical insurance now have it. And anyone who had a pre-existing medical condition that either prevented them from receiving insurance or made the insurance unreachable, are now covered. Some for the first time in their lives.

      I’m glad that when the Holy Family fled Judea for Egypt as refugees, that Pharoah Trump hadn’t build the wall of Gaza to keep out the rapist, thieving Jews. Or salvation history may have been very different.

      “But Lord, when did we see you hungry and not feed you, or naked and not clothe you, or in prison and not visit you,” or a refugee and refused you shelter, or of another religion and mocked & persecuted you, etc, etc, etc?

    • Thanks, Kevin. You are correct. As moderator, at a very full time of year, I have not been as creative as I might have been dealing with some phrases in a couple of comments. Apologies. You may notice, I have done my best retroactively. Blessings.

    • The Hot & Spicy, Flaming Cheeto of Hate was an internet meme. I used it for humorous purposes!

      Padre B knows that I don’t usualy devolve to name calling. Although I do remember him not publishing a few of my comments in the past and emailing me that he thought they would inflame the discussion! 😀

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