Church & State

Rattled Christians react in bizarre ways to US election

dr-clayton-peelDONALD Trump’s victory in the US Presidential Election has rattled Christians as much as it has politicians and pundits.  As Republicans and Democrats digested the implications, some faith leaders added to the bewilderment by infusing their own “revelations”, though not without ridicule.

In Africa, church “prophets” like the crowd-pulling TB Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Nigeria, are scrambling to piece back their credibility together after his prophecy that had foretold Hilary Clinton’s victory went unfulfilled. Joshua later claimed that ungodly people were misunderstanding and misinterpreting “the spirit of the prophet”.

“In this case, we need the spirit of a prophet to recognize or to know a prophet. Our levels are different. We are not on the same level,” he said. “I see many people trying to interpret prophets on the basis of their own minds and ideas. The prophecy seems to cause uproar, to many who gave it different meaning and interpretation.”

Joshua went on to suggest that he had got it right somehow: “We have seen the outcome of the election in America. Having read, you will notice that it is all about the popular vote, the vote of the majority of Americans,” Joshua was quoted in Newsweek.

That statement appeared to seek succor in Clinton’s lead in the popular vote—the individual votes collected by a candidate, rather than the number of states won under the U.S. electoral college system. Newsweek has forecast that Clinton could end up with around 2 million more votes than Trump once all provisional and absentee ballots are counted.

False prophecies were not the only discordant notes from Christian leaders. Franklin Graham, President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, enthused that “God showed up” by up-ending expectations of a Clinton victory, and putting Trump in line to become the 45th President of the United States.

“I could sense going across the country that God was going to do something this year,” Graham told The Washington Post. “And I believe that at this election, God showed up.”

The idea that God intervened in the US electoral process to give Trump, by no means a front pew worshipper, a lift at the expense of Clinton, has baffled some commentators.  The Rev. Jerry Austin tweeted: “All I can say that this is appalling and blasphemous — God did NOT, by any stretch of the imagination, orchestrate the election of an adulterous, racist, bigoted misogynist the likes of Donald Trump!!! Please people, know that Franklin Graham and those who share his sentiments on this do NOT represent the Lord Jesus Christ”.

Others warned that US faith leaders who had become Trump acolytes, and others seeking to capitalize on the election with headline-grabbing “prophecies” could ruin their reputations. “My mother quit her church precisely because she had politics-driven scare tactics crammed down her throat at every sermon during the election season. Now let us see if these religious leaders can control the “hate groups” and prejudices that attached themselves to their political agendas”, posted one reader in response to Graham’s Washington Post comments.

Meanwhile, the incredulity that greeted Trump’s victory has been overtaken by expectations and foreboding.  Every comment Trump makes, every appointment to his administration, every tweet – pugnacious or presidential – is being scrutinized around the clock by sleepless news channels and their analysts. It is the type of coverage which is so extensive with an in-built cycle of breaking news that not even a magnitude 7.8 earthquake that killed two people in Christchurch, New Zealand,  this week could knock off prime-time bulletins.

Whether at any point, faith-professing, “prophesying” Christians will have an influence on the direction President-elect Trump takes his nation and the world,  for now, their muddled messages and reputations must play second fiddle to the theatre of intrigue that continues to unfold in New York’s Trump Tower. Who Trump appoints to his Cabinet in the coming days will certainly overshadow any full-throated sermons attempting to exploit his presidency.

Dr Clayton Peel is Senior Lecturer and Resident Tutor at the School of Communication, Language and Performing Arts, Daystar University