I am as Christian as I am British. I was born in London, I have British Citizenship but I don’t possess enough of the characteristics of “British-ness” to fool the natives. When people ask me “where you from?” and I say “London” they say, “No, where you really from?” Similarly people are little taken aback when I tell them I’m a Christian because my “Christian-ness” doesn’t meet their idea of what a Christian is supposed to be. That’s fine. See my name, Danielle, means “God is my judge” so He’s the only one who’s opinion of me I’m truly interested in. In the words of Real House Wife of Atlanta and the reigning Queen of the single greatest read in the history of Bravo- Ms. Phaedra Parks “Only God can judge me and He seems quite impressed.” LOL. Impressed is a strong word. I think God likes me.
My mum is agnostic and my dad’s a real Rasta Man (not a rent a dread, but a real, Fiyah Bun! Jah! Rastafari! Rasta Man), so I was left to my own devices where faith was concerned. At college the Afro-Caribbean student body only had two options when it came to religion; Christianity or Islam. These were two clearly divined groups and I needed to choose one, not by force, but because I needed God in my life. I’ve always needed God in my life. To the fashion victim I was as a 16 year old, a hijab was out of the question, so Christianity it was. Shallow? Yes, but I was 16. Bite me. My life now is so much easier when I spend time at the start of my day reading my Bible and listening to preachers like Joyce Meyers, John Francis, TD Jakes or Joel Osteen. There was a time where my young mind was incapable of understanding the importance of balance and I became a radical Christian. I was judgemental and closed off, fearful of the secular, carnal, sinful world outside my bubble. I did nothing that I wasn’t sure God would be pleased with. "Read the news? The news was in my bible. The Good News." And I used scripture to justify my reasoning too. Why did I have to watch the news? "The bible clearly states in the book of Ecclesiastes Chapter 1 Verse 9 that there is nothing new under the sun. What could be new in the news?" Honestly. I was so fervent. I was on fire for Christ. Then I burned out. A friend who had grown up in the church encouraged me to focus on God’s love rather than His wrath, His forgiveness rather than His punishments.
As I moved to university and made friends who were different to me, some Trans, some gay, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, I realised that I hadn’t been on fire for Christ, but I had been desperate to fit into this group at college who dictated who was worthy and who wasn’t not based on what Christianity demanded but on their own egos. I had to reimagine my faith and connect with who God wanted me to be; a good person who listened to other people, doing as my name expects of me; leaving the judgement up to God. In his sermon God is With You In The Battle, Bishop TD Jakes teaches that sometimes “…you assign God a post in your army, using God for your agenda.” Bishop Jakes has a way of holding a mirror up to your behaviour. It's what many religious people do, attempting to bend God Himself to fit their agenda. I'm definitely guilty of this.
Earlier this week on March 14th, Twitter was ablaze with condemnation as video surfaced of Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood the largest mega Church in North America praising Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump as a “gracious and giving person.” You have to be living under a rock to not know the vision of Trump that he has presented to America and to the world is of a President who would be anything but gracious and giving. While this was not an endorsement of Trump's Presidential bid, Osteen’s words triggered an anger in millennials online who couldn’t fathom a Christian pastor hold Trump in such high esteem, a man who’s rhetoric would see the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the black and brown get deader.
Evangelical Christianity and Republican values go hand in hand. That is not to say that all Christians are republicans and that all Republicans are Christian but they help one another. From Joel Osteen’s own admission Trump is a supporter who gives very generously to Lakewood. With 43,500 people visiting the church in person every week and their services reaching million mores on TV and the Internet every week, Lakewood and churches like it across the world are an important recruitment tool for Republicans and Conservatives around the world. But the problem is not Trump or even Joel Osteen, their mutual affection points to a deeper rot in the relationship between Christianity and Conservatism. To be a Christian is to claim to be “Christ-like” and the rhetoric I hear from Republican politicians and news stations is anything but Christ-like. Sometimes I wonder if they even knew who Jesus is/was. The earliest form of redistribution of wealth can be found as clear as the day is long in the book of Matthew Chapter 14 when Jesus feeds the five thousand. But to Republicans in America and Tories here, universal health care, the ACA and the NHS are somehow egregious notions that must be dismantled by any means necessary. How is this a thing when Jesus The Christ, my Lord and Saviour and yours clearly said “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise”? It beggars belief to claim with such open pride that you are a Christian yet create laws that Satan himself might have drafted.
Here in Britain while we are a country based on Christian beliefs there is a clear separation of Church and State. Your faith is seen as a private thing. In America, however, you are elected in part due to your faith, this is why Hillary Clinton’s supporters were able to use Birtherism and Islamophobia as a tactic against Obama in the 2008 Democrat nomination race. The idea that an undercover Muslim could become the Commander In Chief scared many people. In Donald Trump’s behaviour during this political cycle we are hard pressed to find any characteristics that would lead us to believe he was in any way Christ-like and would care not only about the needs of his Christian voters but about how he could help all the citizens. The role of the President should be to ensure every citizen is “able to live a life of decency and dignity.” Trump is ill-equipped for this position.
I am deeply invested in American politics because American Presidents have been long considered the leader of the free world. Presidents have the power and influence over Prime Ministers to effect what happens here in the UK, look at the relationship between George Bush and Tony Blair. More recently, look at how President Obama rebuked Prime Minister Cameron for his handling of Libya. Can you imagine Trump convincing Cameron to sign up for World War Three?
My heart hurts at the notion of a preacher as impactful on my life as Joel Osteen considers someone like Trump a friend. Trump is a hate monger and it does not sit well with me that Osteen accepts money from him. However, Lakewood and churches like it are businesses and to believe otherwise is ignorant; according to Forbes Lakewood operates on a $73million budget. They need money to survive and grow, like any business. And evidently they have no qualms who they accept money from. This is why it is important to not be fundamentalist and radical in any religious beliefs, it makes you susceptible to making selfish political decisions. To be as I was, only getting news from my bible and relying on my pastor at the time for all my guidance disallows you the autonomy to think for yourself and make informed decisions. Alas according to this Gallup poll the more religious you are the less likely you are to be well educated and vice versa. This is great news for the Republicans and Donald Trump, poor, uneducated, religious people are more willing to do your bidding. While I enjoy Joel Osteen's sermons I have to separate my enjoyment of his powerful messages from his political affiliations. I'm not putting my faith in man, they will let me down every time.
What do you think?
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