The 'Great Satan' Acting Like Satan. Is Portraying Trump As 'The Devil' Preventing Sane Debate?

A protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban at Columbia University in New York City.Reuters

Just when you thought the world couldn't get any more surreal, along comes Donald Trump and his executive order on immigrants and refugees - queue mass panic, hysteria and protests in the streets. Depending on whose fake news you read - fake news by now being the euphemism for that news which does not agree with my position - this is either a temporary measure saving the US from imminent terrorist attack, or the beginnings of fascism in the US and the end of the world as we know it. You can take your position and google your own confirmation bias.

Can I try to offer another perspective - one which is both more depressing and more hopeful?

What's wrong with it?

It's a betrayal of America's glorious tradition of being a land that welcomes immigrants and refugees.

One of my favourite places in the world is Ellis Island, the port of entry for so many immigrants who came to the US and made America great. In a world where there are more refugees than ever before it seems somewhat incongruous that the worlds richest economy should be planning to half the number of refugees it takes. According to Pew Research Centre, 40 per cent of refugees entering the US in 2016 were Muslim and 46 per cent Christian.  The two countries from which most refugees came were the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Iraq.

But this ridiculous blanket policy has resulted in Christian refugees being sent back too.

It won't achieve the purpose it is designed to do. At best it is virtue-signalling by the President, showing his supporters that he keeps his word. At worst it is a "strongman" doing something to show his power, just because he can. Its gesture politics. Theatre. Showmanship. The man from reality TV is bringing us the political version of that particular genre.

Although it is not a ban on Muslims, it sounds like one. And for that reason it will fuel the number one reason for terrorism - grievance. The "Great Satan" will have acted like Satan.

It has been badly enacted. It was ham-fisted and cruel. I am in two minds here. Either Trump and his advisors are incompetent and did not anticipate the reaction, or they are extremely clever and have set up this particular sideshow so that they can get on with other stuff.

President Trump has sought to justify it by stating that it is similar to the ban imposed by President Obama on Iraqi refugees in 2011. There is a big difference. As The Gospel Coalition article on this points out: "The Obama administration doesn't appear to have changed the visa policy, did not issue a direct halt on refugees from that country, and did not put a stoppage on non-refugee visas held by Iraqi nationals as President Trump has done." Overall the policy is ill-advised, ill-thought-out and to be frank, immoral.

Thankfully there have been many Christians in the US as well as here who have challenged this policy - but there are too many who seem prepared to excuse it. This is because identity politics has become the norm and we fall into the trap of "our man can do no wrong" or "their man can do no right". How else do you explain Franklin Graham's bizarre comment: "It's not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come, that's not a Bible issue." This is at best a disingenuous attempt to defend the policy. The argument is not that everyone should be let in who wants to come. Once you start arguing against what people are not saying, you have lost the right to be heard. But it is also wrong to say that this is not a biblical issue. Welcoming refugees, the poor and the displaced are a core part of biblical faith.

It is inconsistent and hypocritical to complain when the government does not uphold biblical values on the sanctity of life, and then keep silent when it does not uphold biblical values on helping the oppressed.

What's wrong with the Protests?

I appreciate very much that there are those who are genuinely concerned about what is happening and want to protest against Donald Trump. I appreciate even more those who don't just sign a petition but actually get out on the streets to express their opposition. However there are some really disturbing aspects from these protests.

The Hysteria - Trump as the devil, the incarnation of evil is preventing any sane rational discussion. Thats why you get the irrationality of uber left-wingers championing a petition which seeks to save the Queen embarrassment.

The Hubris - As if 1.5 million people in the UK signing an online petition means that the US will change. On the one hand we have politicians and media solemnly saying that we should effectively ignore the actual votes of 17 million people over Brexit, then on the other the argument that we change policy because 2.5 per cent of the population sign an online petition. Thinking that signing an online petition is an "I am Spartacus'" moment is a delusion that prevents real action. Apparently the "revolution" will only come when you get enough Facebook likes.

The Hypocrisy - the former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright said she would register as a Muslim in protest. This is the woman who when asked whether the death of 500,000 Iraqi children because of the sanctions intended to bring down the Saddam regime was worth it, replied: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price... we think the price is worth it." Or Ed Miliband, former Labour leader, leading protests in Westminster. This one really sticks in my throat, because I remember the same Ed Miliband almost pleading with the British government to bomb Libya - a policy which has resulted in the destruction of that State, a massive increase in refugees into Europe and the deaths of thousands. In other words his policies helped create the refugee crisis that he is now pontificating about. The list could go on

To those who are marching just now to voice their angery and getting all wound up on social media, I have questions. Where were you? Where were you when President Xi of China and Saudi King Abdullah came on State visits to the Queen? Didn't you know or care about the harm their policies do? Where were you when Hilary and Obama dropped numerous bombs on Yemen, resulting in the death of many women and children (from my perspective bombing women and children is a whole lot worse than banning visas for the few who can afford to travel)? Where were you when the Obama administration at the end of last year started forcibly deporting thousands of Haitian Refugees ?

I'm also curious. You rightly regard citizens from seven countries being banned for 90 days from travelling to the US as being wrong, what would you say if it was 16 countries and they were permanently banned? Would that not deserve your anger, tears, petitions and marches? So why have you kept silent that citizens of Israel have been permanently banned from travelling to 16 countries?

Where were you when Christians in Syria and Iraq were being destroyed? Why are you not on the streets about the murder of five Coptic Christians in Egypt having their throats slit?

What about the stuff you can actually do something about? Are you campaigning for more refugees in your own city? In your own community? Will you be willing to help them? Or is this just about a land far far away and a fantasy President doing Reality TV politics?

The US takes less than 0.5 per cent of the refugees in the world. In the grand scheme of things this ban is not going to make a big difference to most. Where is the concern and compassion for the millions in Syria, Turkey and Libya? And what about the refugees in this country? What are we doing to help them? And why don't we take more?

The people who upset me the most are the virtue-signalling politicians who are tweeting selfies all over the place, letting everyone know how anti-fascist they are and how they are right on the pulse of the revolution. I'm sorry but you can do very little about Donald Trump, except feed his ego whilst at the same time feeding your own self- righteousness. But there are plenty of things you can do more generally. I know that there are many MP's who work quietly away helping and representing their constituents and offering their vote on more national and international issues. It seems to me that there are also too many politicians trying to put right the wrongs of the world rather than dealing with the problems within their own communities.

The Horror - Politicians and media are playing with fire. They are stirring up an irrational, emotive mob through social media, fake news, fear and virtue signalling. They need to beware that the beast they create could just as easily turn on them. The mob is fickle - left-wing mobs can quickly become right-wing mobs and vice versa.

The Hummus Revolution? - I find it interesting that the top twenty areas for signing this petition are almost all in London, apart from Bristol, Edinburgh, Brighton, Oxford and Cambridge. All of them are anti-Brexit and all of them are middle class university areas. It seems a very middle class way to have a protest. In my view it won't make one iota of difference to Donald Trump and perhaps may even encourage and enhance him.

So, I'm not a Trump fan and I won't be signing the petition to bring him here. Nor will I be signing the petition to ban him. I won't be joining the hummus revolution. Where can I turn?

The Hope - I can't just leave it there. Maybe Trump will be impeached? Maybe he will go mad? Maybe things will work out and all the doom mongers will be proved wrong? I haven't a clue. But I know this. I don't trust Trump, or May, or Sturgeon or any of our political leaders. I respect them and pray for them, but I don't place my hope upon them. I think it is a fundamental mistake for the church to hitch itself to a pro-Trump bandwagon, or an anti-Trump bandwagon. My hope is only in Christ and his sovereign and gracious care of us. So we pray, work for justice and live our lives in as much godliness and love as He enables. Christ is the light of the world. Maybe the best thing we can do is proclaim His reality in the midst of this surreal, confused and angry world. Lets join the Christian Revolution of Love, not the Trump or Hummus ones.

Rev David Robertson is minister of St Peters, Dundee and director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity. He is on Twitter @TheWeeFlea.