Each week, I drive past Donald Trump’s golf course just north of Aberdeen. I haven’t yet turned off the road to explore what lies beyond the glamorous sign at the junction of Trump’s International Golf Links and the main road to Peterhead. The construction of the golf course remains highly controversial. The Balmedie dunes and coastline is a major beauty spot of significant natural wonder and value. Local argument for and against Trump’s investment centred on whether or not the human impact on the natural splendour and grandeur of this part of the Aberdeenshire coastline would be more than offset by the economic and employment boon that would follow. Most now think the economic boost, promise by Trump, has been negligible. Any dream of an injection of life and capital into the local economy has long since died.
That has not been the only element to the controversy. There was an intensely and vitriolic, personal dimension to it. The Guardian reported that Donald Trump had referred to a local opponent of his golfing development as a ‘disgrace’ and to his home as a ‘pigsty’. Feelings ran high. Local resistance has been a constant thorn in the flesh and an irritation to Trump, and his language has been both dismissive and insulting, to say the very least.
Trump later embarked upon a public feud with Alex Salmond, formerly the Scottish First Minister and now the MP for the Gordon constituency, over the Salmond-backed proposal to build a wind farm two miles off the Aberdeenshire coast, ‘spoiling the view’ of those driving off from the first tee on the Balmedie golf course and drinking tea in the clubhouse. Trump objected unsuccessfully at every level possible, even as far as the supreme court. Locally, it galls considerably that Donald Trump has a foothold in the NE of Scotland, owning prized land and property just north of Aberdeen, and with every bitter twist and disgusting development in Donald Trump’s current presidential campaign, local dismay grows at the behaviour of the neighbour.
And now, Donald Trump is ‘sorry’ because of misogynistic comments recorded from ten years ago and dominating the headlines today. He is reported as saying “these words don’t reflect who I am… I apologise”. In a video, he is heard to say “you can do anything” to women “when you’re a star” and we hear him boasting about ‘hitting’ on married women. Donald Trump says: “I’ve said and done things I regret. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologise. I’ve never said I’m a perfect person nor pretended to be someone I’m not. I pledge to be a better man tomorrow.”
In response, Mitt Romney posted this withering tweet, getting right to the very heart of things. Nothing appears to be sacred to the present Republican candidate for the Presidency of the world’s greatest power.
Mr Trump’s comments about women are nauseous to all right-thinking people. He says he made them ten years ago and that they do not represent who he is today. We must ask, however, has he had a conversion? Has he experienced some great and as yet unknown epiphany? Has he had a Damascus Road vision of light and truth as a consequence of which he is no longer the man that he was in 2005 when the comments were made?
And would anyone truly believe that?
The answer is that no one believes Donald Trump whatsoever, except for those who inexplicably hate Democrats even more than they ought to hate, properly and rightly, the unparalleled odiousness of Trump’s views about women and other minorities.
And whilst we have heard from Romney and Clinton, here is the elephant in the room. Where is the voice of the Church? Why have we not heard a clear clarion call from the Christian leadership of the USA about Trump’s comments and opinions? Are they silent, maintaining a posture of nonpartisan neutrality for the sake of Church unity and peace? Is that ethical and biblical? What would a genuine prophet say and do? Whilst it is perfectly understandable that the Church and its leaders should be wary of taking up official political positions in completely fair and open electoral processes, with rational candidates and carefully thought out manifestos – believers are normally free to vote one way or another – there must surely come a time when the choices are so stark and obvious, the candidate(s) so manifestly flawed, irrational and unsuited for office, even perilously risky, that the Church must publicly give a spiritual pronouncement on the state of affairs.
This, the American Church seems unwilling to do. But is this not what all sensible people think, that a political candidate for the very highest office of the land, who displays consistent disregard and hatred for women, cannot be President of the world’s greatest power? Would the American Church not be right to say that a candidate who shows blatant contempt for the divinely-ordained institution and gift of marriage and who is prepared to act so predatorially on the personal relationships of others cannot be President of the world’s greatest power? A candidate who showed such disrespect for the dignity, value and worth of women who, when he attempted adultery with a married woman, ‘moved on her like a bitch’, cannot be President of the world’s greatest power. Isn’t that what all right-thinking Americans believe, today, following the revelation of Trump’s comments?
And the American Church should now say so. The time for ecclesiastical neutrality is over. The Church must give Christian direction to the American people. Will the American Church now do what is right, and speak out in support of righteousness and the essential dignity of women and men? It is not a case of ecclesiastical tampering in the political process. It is a matter of telling the American people that one of the political options they believed was theirs, is no longer a righteous option at all, and it should call upon the Republican Party to do the honourable thing and to seek an alternative.
This moment is not just about political leadership. It is critically about spiritual leadership, too.