Donald Trump lands in the UK tomorrow.
As in the US, the UK has both Trump supporters and opponents. Some of his more vociferous antagonists are planning to protest his presence. I have no doubt that their protest will be loud, noisy and relentless. And I confess, if I could be in London on that day, I would be tempted to join them. I am not one of his fans.
I share the same name as the US president. My maiden name was Trump and my dad told us that we are distant relations of Donald. This is not something that fills my heart with joy.
My sister – who lives in New York – and I have been very reluctant to trace our family tree. We are unwilling to have actual proof that we are indeed related to the current POTUS. My sister, despite being married, for professional reasons has kept the name Trump. She battles daily with all that her name now stands for because she too is fiercely anti-Trump and all he represents – so much so that she held a protest in New York during the presidential election under the banner, ‘Trumps Against Trump 2016’. The aim of the protest was to make the Trump name great again.
So, I have a dilemma. I could be related to Donald Trump, am vehemently opposed to everything he represents and I am a Christian woman who believes strongly in love, grace, forgiveness, inclusivity, tolerance and peace. Protesting could mean protesting against a member of my distant family and shouting angrily and heatedly at someone who goes against everything I stand for and want to model.
But: to do nothing is to allow evil to flourish. However, is protesting loudly, noisily and sometimes unkindly – the Trump baby balloon springs to mind – the right way to be heard?
Through the years I have been intrigued by those who protest silently. There have been protests like the Silent Protests along New York’s Fifth Avenue in 1917 which kick-started the Civil Rights Movement and black American footballers ‘taking a knee’ rather than joining in their national anthem. Their silent protest was dignified and powerful and made much more noise than if they had shouted aloud.
There is something potent in silent protest. Silence often speaks louder than words.
There was someone else who showed skill in turning oppression back onto the oppressors. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus deftly taught us the skill of silent protest. He told us what to do when we are oppressed: ‘If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles’ (Matthew 5: 39-41).
Each of these acts was a defiant act of protest. To turn the other cheek meant that the person doing the striking was unable to assert their dominance. Nudity was taboo in Judaism, so if you gave a creditor – who was entitled to take your coat – your shirt as well, you’d be standing before them stark naked and the shame would fall on the party causing the nakedness. In Roman times, the amount of forced labour a soldier could inflict on someone was controlled and the distance you could make someone travel was limited to a mile. Going a second mile would mean the offending soldier would be flogged or fined.
I don’t believe that Jesus was encouraging us to be mean or vindictive, or to call someone names or to blow up balloon baby blimps. After all, he was the one who told us to love our enemies. Jesus was telling us that you can still take a stand against injustice, evil and oppression but it can be tempered with love.
And there for me perhaps lies the answer to my problem. As much as I despise some of the things Donald Trump has done and continues to do, as a follower of Jesus, I know that Jesus loves Donald Trump. I know that Jesus died for Donald Trump. If Jesus is my role model, I need to do what Jesus would do. As much as it may make me choke on what I’m writing, I am called to love Donald Trump the man, the human being. I am also called to love those who support him, who are probably my polar opposites in their political leanings, because Jesus loves and died for them too. And I would hope that, if they too are Christ followers, they would love me.
So as the president of the United States visits these shores, I won’t stand against Trump the man but I will stand against Trump the president. I will protest, silently, alongside my antagonist brothers and sisters against evil, corruption, cruelty, and injustice. But I will also stand for whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, whatever is excellent and whatever is praiseworthy. Because that’s the kind of Trump I want to be known as.