Playing into the devil's hands?

U.S. President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House upon his return to Washington, U.S., after spending the weekend in Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, March 25, 2018.REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

I am writing this on Thanksgiving Day, the day when I thank God for the many American believers, particularly Southern Baptists believers, who have supported my ministry over the years. Their generosity, their faithfulness and their friendship have enriched my life more than they, or even I, can ever fully appreciate.

And so like the apostle Paul I have no hesitation in saying, "Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns."

But thanking is not the same as understanding or agreeing, and I have come to the conclusion that the "Trump phenomenon" highlights this better than anything else at the moment. I have American friends who find they are deeply troubled and unhappy by his behaviour of course, but I know that there are very many who are convinced that he is God's man and consequently are deeply committed to his presidency. They seem to see him as a modern day "Cyrus" with a God-given mission.

Little did I expect, however, that anyone would suggest, or even seem to suggest, that opposition to the Trump Presidency is "demonic". Now let me be clear. I am totally convinced that we ignore this spiritual dimension at our peril. I totally agree with those who want to demythologise the New Testament living, as we do, in the 21st century. I think the reverse is true. Like the great Dr Martin Lloyd Jones, I believe there is "no theme more urgently important" than this one if we want to understand our confused and deeply divided world.

But I have revisited Michael Green's masterly tome "I Believe in Satan's Downfall' and, as I expected, I failed to find any hint there that would suggest that criticism of a political leader is a clear sign that the forces of darkness are at work. I see references to pride, and disunity and persecution of course. And I note that the devil loves to divide and is "the father of lies", which is an interesting observation given the well documented accusations of President Trump's fragile relationship with the truth.

Furthermore it could be argued that if we work on the assumption that opposition to President Trump is demonic we ought to ask if Nathan the prophet was serving the powers of darkness when he was sent to reprimand the Lord's anointed (King David) for committing adultery and arranging for Bathsheba's husband to meet a convenient death. And John the Baptist's reprimand of Herod Antipas could be questionable too.

It is obvious that President Trump is a flawed man. But we all are. In fact God can only use flawed people because there is no one else available. We should pray for him of course. And we are to submit to the authorities because they have been ordained of God. But that does not mean he is beyond reproach either for his behaviour or his political decisions.

We cannot be the salt and light Jesus tells us to be, and we will fail to live up to our prophetic calling, if we do not speak truth to power. We must never succumb to the temptation to be silent. That really would be to play into the enemy's hands.

Rob James is a Baptist minister, writer and church and media consultant to the Evangelical Alliance Wales. He is the author of Little Thoughts About a Big God.