Four years ago, American Democrats were complaining that Russian influence had stolen the 2016 election from Hillary Clinton. Four years and a still more bruising election campaign later and we are faced by something horrible: a truly staggering 70% of Republicans continuing to believe that there was something fundamentally wrong with the process, despite the result being declared entirely fair and legitimate by all observers, as well as by the President’s own appointee, Attorney General William Barr.
How have people failed to notice that long before he entered the presidential race, Donald Trump had a long-standing history of disputing election results. And that he announced his intention to contest the result of the 2020 election well before the event itself? How can one untrustworthy man crying ‘foul play’ – but without the slightest shred of evidence – have succeeded in so deeply undermining the whole electoral process. It is a sad sad state of affairs, and it has defiled the soul of the nation.
By contrast, there is plenty of evidence, that he did his best to overturn the certified result of the state in Georgia. That is what an attempt to steal an election looks like. And if that isn’t a crime, then what is? Folks, this is not God’s way.
We can be so grateful that the organs of American democracy held firm in the face of Trump’s deliberate attempts to undermine and sway them – but it was far too close a run thing to be reassuring. And neither Trump nor Trumpism are spent forces.
The really sad thing is that so many believers have appeared content merely to shrug their shoulders over what amounts to open wickedness. The Apostle James tells us that harbouring bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in our hearts is earthly and unspiritual – demonic even – and that it leads to ‘disorder and every evil practice.’ (Jas. 3:14-17) How can believers even remotely pretend that such things do not matter? I am firmly persuaded that there are very strong spirits at work here, stirring up those forces that James speaks of: partisan spirits that all too often express themselves in extreme anger.
It was no surprise to discover that most Republican Senators are entirely unwilling to call Donald Trump to book for the Capitol invasion. Perhaps they voted en mass not to impeach him out of fear of reprisal – or in order to curry favour with him. (Although that begs the question as to why anyone would do that when those who support him so often end up being hung out to dry, as were Mike Pence, William Barr, and a host of others.) What can we call this bill except appeasement? As for the strenuous efforts Trump made on January 6th to oblige his utterly faithful lieutenant Mike Pence, to assume a legal power he did not have to make an unlawful attempt to circumvent the constitution and so reverse the election result . . . Words fail me.
We should be still more appalled by reports of the Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene supporting the shooting of Democrat politicians, as well as her persistent promotion of extreme conspiracy theories. To see America, supposedly the ‘Land of the Free’ giving a legitimate platform to these extremist viewpoints is beyond troubling. And think what this looks like to other nations. Are these events not offering significant encouragement to strong rulers around the world to expect to get away with suppressing democracy?
Consider what has happened in Uganda for example.
Bobi Wine and the Ugandan Election
You may well have been following Bobi Wine’s attempt to bring to an end the record-breaking 5 terms served by Yoweri Museveni as President of Uganda. He didn’t succeed and Museveni began his 6th term earlier this month, amidst election violence and allegations of voter fraud. During the campaign, Wine and his supporters were subject to considerable intimidation and assassination attempts. His Facebook account was disabled, which undermined his ability to connect with the young people who support him. Following the vote, Wine was placed under house arrest. This has now been lifted, and Wine is considering whether or not to contest the election results.
The parallels with the American election are striking; but whereas Trump’s Twitter account was taken down because of all the false and dangerous things he had said, so far as I know Wine did not promote such controversial material.
Father we pray Your blessing and protection on Bobi Wine, and ask You to watch over the beautiful but deeply troubled country of Uganda.
Joe Biden is declaring fearlessly that the soul of America will never be at peace or free of trouble so long as there are corrosive influences are at work in the heart of the nation. It was good to hear his speech on racial equity the other day. He has made it clear that he wants to address as a top priority the things that have promoted hate crimes against Asian Americans, Pacific islanders and native Americans, as well as against people of colour. Sadly, these attacks have accelerated greatly in recent years.
Other Foreign Policy Challenges
We shared in the last edition some of the huge foreign policy challenges that President Biden faces, and which the Trump Administration greatly exacerbated during its final days in office.
The greater challenge is expected to come in the short term over his intention to return to a deal with Iran. We can be sure that Iran, along with Russia and China, will be watching the direction of travel of the new administration closely. Iran is certainly likely to provide one of Biden’s biggest immediate challenges, together with the delicate balancing act he faces of building multilateral agreements that go some way to curbing China’s increasingly aggressive stance, without appearing deliberately provocative or combative.
At the ongoing virtual Davos conference, President Xi Jinping gave a speech calling for ‘an open world economy’ and spoke of the division and even conflict that awaits a world that imposes ‘sanctions at every turn.’ China is, of course, suffering from sanctions itself. Russia is perhaps also concerned about facing increased sanctions following its harsh treatment of Navalny and his supporters. Lord, have mercy, not least on the thousands who have been arrested.
Relationships between Joe Biden and Israel
One of the reasons why evangelicals voted in large numbers for Donald Trump is because of his strongly supportive attitude towards Israel. Many of us believe God has very clear purposes for the nation of Israel as the spiritual heirs of Abraham. It is remarkable that it returned to nationhood nearly 2000 years after the people were scattered in AD70.
There is no doubt that Trump was a friend to Israel, and that he advanced the cause of its recognition by other Arab nations. Whilst relations between Israel and the Obama regime were more than frosty, Joe Biden has repeatedly announced his support for the nation. See this article for example.
It makes sense to label this section ‘Joe Biden’ rather than just ‘America’ because he has been so very much at the heart of the new administration. He has hit the ground running so hard that he has passed far more executive orders in his first days in office and his three predecessors put together. Whilst this may serve a useful purpose in getting things underway, it also sets a potentially mischievous precedent for future presidents, as even many Democrats acknowledge.
Biden has already said that he does not intend to undo Trump’s relocation of the Embassy to Jerusalem.
Praying for Myanmar
There are so many countries in the world where corruption is a major issue. To take just one for now because of overnight developments, let’s bear Myanmar Burma in mind. Decades ago I remember sending out requests for prayer support for Aung Sang under house arrest. It has been a complicated journey since then, marked by some unexpected highs, and some disappointing lows, but the bottom line is that the election results in November, by which Aung Sang secured a large majority over the Army, have now been overthrown by the military, who have launched a coup overnight.
Aung Sang is back under detention along with many others – and calling for people not to accept this state of things but to protest.
Let’s pray both for what happens in Myanmar itself, and how the nations of the world respond this time round to this authoritarian clamp down. The army has been systematically persecuting and seeing to extinguish various tribes, including Christian ones.
For background information, and more pointers for prayer, see here. These were obviously produced before this very recent coup.