17th November 2016
Have you ever done StrengthsFinder? According to that model, one of my strengths is that I am analytical, a result that didn't surprise me much. I like to dissect everything, to try to understand why one event leads to another, before going on to suggest a solution. Therefore, as a part-time political analyst (that's a joke by the way, in case you were wondering), it has come as a shock to me that I misread both Brexit and now the American election. On both occasions I called the result wrong.
While sitting on the balcony of our hotel room in Cape Town this morning, and looking out across the bay to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, I find myself trying to understand why the political world appears to be lurching to the right in parts of the West. Clearly a whole group of people are very unhappy with the recent liberal political agenda and with the emphasis of globalisation over national identity. It is ironic that the feelings of the unheard white voice, which many analysts believe is behind the victories for both Brexit and Trump, echo the experience of all minority groups. They feel forgotten and overlooked.
Although I do believe that the voice of this predominantly white majority needs to be heard, whether that's from the northern cities of England, the towns of East Anglia or the rural states of America, I am deeply concerned by the dark side of this political swing. And whilst I would not say for one moment that everyone who voted for Brexit or Trump is either racist or sexist, it would seem that the agendas of both parties have given permission to those who do hold those views to voice and at times act upon them. As Christians it's important that we speak out and challenge this.
So how do we respond? I believe the following would be a good place to start:
1. Pray. When trying to make sense of what is going on in this world, we need to keep coming before God and asking the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us wisdom. Let us also remember the Bible's exhortation to pray and intercede 'for all those in authority' (1 Timothy 2).
2. Keep welcoming the stranger. Hebrews 13 reminds us to 'keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters' and to 'not forget to show hospitality to strangers'. For many in our community, the results of both Brexit and the American election mean that they feel less welcome where they live and more fearful of what the future holds.
3. Speak up on the issues. Every voice counts. Of course, there are times when it is wiser to stay quiet, but on the whole, when we stay silent in the face of injustice, we are in danger of communicating the wrong message.
4. Engage in the discussion. I endeavour to read widely in an attempt to understand and make sense of what is happening – the analyst in me! In our social media era we have quick and easy access to numerous blogs and newspaper articles. It is good to take advantage of this, whilst also being aware that our reading is inevitably filtered by our own choices. By keeping ourselves informed we are better placed to participate in the discussion.
5. Work for reconciliation. Let us do everything we can, through our words and actions, to promote peace and understanding between different groups.
Pray, welcome others, speak out, engage in the discussion and work for reconciliation. Whatever your political beliefs, whatever your feelings about recent global events, I believe this is a good place to start.
Posted by Steve Tibbert
Steve Tibbert leads King’s Church London, with sites in Catford, Downham and Lee. Over the past fifteen years the church has seen continued growth, both in size and diversity. Steve is also involved in Newfrontiers and regularly coaches other lead elders. His book, Good to Grow, was published in July 2011. He is married to Deb, and they have three sons.