How do you explain the Donald Trump phenomenon? He says what he wants to say without consideration of how it might be received. He tweaks everyone on the right as well as the left. His ideas about immigration are controversial. His boasts about staring down any enemy and fixing any problem are boisterous. He preens like a peacock, pokes his chin out like a bulldog. Whatever filters he possesses seem to drop off almost daily. At the Mobile rally Friday night, he declared that he knew how Billy Graham must feel, standing in front of a big crowd. Yeah, when I think of Billy Graham, I immediately think of Donald Trump.
You can ask about his foreign policy or his economic plan or his opinion on illegal immigrants, but the burning question is: “What’s up with his hair?” Is it a wig, a toupee, hair plugs, bad comb over, or what? Speculation abounds. “Experts” have studied pictures and videos to solve the mystery. It may take a leaf blower and a rake, but he claims he is follicle-ly sound.
I am not a political analyst and I don’t play one on TV and I haven’t stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, but it seems obvious to me that there have to be reasons for his game-show emergence. His surge in popularity is driving the national conversation. His opponents are left to be reactive, not proactive. He rambles in interviews and speeches. He takes on hecklers. He panders to some while skewering others. He is rewriting the script for national politics.
Will he flame out? Will he go too far? Will people get tired of his act? Stay tuned.
But we have to ask how he has established this unlikely beach head. Is it because of his money? He claims he won’t owe any special interests or contributors any favors because he doesn’t need them. Is it because he is a successful businessman, not a politician? Is it because he dares to say what a lot of people think? We might think his candidacy is a carnival act, but he is striking a nerve that cannot be ignored.
People are angry. People are fed up. It is no longer just the fringes that are railing. The vast silent majority seems to be waking up. The world we live in has become increasingly volatile. The clash of ideologies is not just a subject for philosophical debate in academic settings. Rage inflames violence in our families, our communities, our world. Dire predictions about economic disaster, expanding conflicts, and environmental catastrophes are no longer just the purview of the extreme.
In Matthew 24, Jesus warned of a world torn and wounded. We are seeing such things in our day, but we must always remember Who has the final word … and it isn’t Donald Trump. In the next chapter, Jesus spoke of the path of the faithful. We are called to minister to those He referred to as “the least of these.” Our greatest witness is not to shout down those with whom we may disagree; our story needs to be told in the lives that we touch with love, truth, and grace. The burning question is really: Will we live our lives for Him?