Summary of the discussion:
The election campaigning of US President Donald Trump appears to promote division, rather than healing. Law and Order is his message, rather than any attempt to deal with the issues that have caused anger and the protests. In some ways, this is similar to Richard Nixon’s campaign in 1968, which stressed Law and Order, after the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War disturbances of the mid-1960s.
There are two main reasons why many people in the US support Trump: There is resentment at the job losses that have been caused by international free markets set up, for example, by the North America Free Trade Agreement (signed in 1994 between the US, Canada and Mexico). The Republicans have traditionally been the party arguing for free trade, but in recent decades the Democrat Party (under Clinton and Obama) adopted the same policies, allowing Trump the chance to pose as an “outsider” promising protection for United States jobs. Democrats have also tended to abandon “class” politics (arguing for those who are poorer, of whatever “race”) in favour of “identity” issues (African-American, Hispanic etc), so alienating many white working-class voters, precisely the people who are angry about NAFTA.
The second reason is that social issues, such as opposition to abortion, equal marriage, “political correctness” etc, are paramount for some, particularly rural people, who find such changes unwelcome, or positively un-Christian. The US “gun culture” was originally based on the conviction that citizens need the means to resist tyrannical and oppressive governments (such as those left behind in “Old” Europe), but has now led to extremes of violence. African-Americans are twice as likely as whites to be killed by police (and the proportion is even higher for native Americans), though in total more whites are killed- mainly from “lower class” and poorer sections of US society. Those (of any racial group) who have more difficulty in securing reasonably well-paid jobs are more likely to become involved in the “shadow” economy, and in illegality.
For many of us, this may be a “quarrel in a far-away country, between people of whom we know nothing”. But now that the UK has left the European Union, our future is much more likely to be tied to the US than in the recent past (in some ways a repeat of our dependence in the 1940s). Perhaps, therefore, we need to take notice.
Our reading was from Matthew 18 “If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me….” (verse 6)- obstacles that destroy people and their faith and hopes (as against natural difficulties that can encourage growth). Can it also apply to political rhetoric and government policies that can destroy society and drive people to despair? Jesus also refers in Matthew 21, verses 42 to 44 to the way the Gospel can cause the downfall of many institutions and people whose actions bring harm and injustice to others.
Summary of the discussion: