What’s the story?
New US President Donald Trump won’t stop tweeting in the trademark maverick style that got him elected. While his account is often a source of light-hearted amusement for many, there are real concerns that he’s turning his office – and his nation – into a laughing stock.
He’s taking up arguably the most important and influential leadership role on the planet; for many people, that’s ridiculous enough in itself. Yet while it’s possible to understand how the politically-disenfranchised masses in America chose to make him their President, it’s his insistence on continuing to run his own social media account that’s making Donald Trump a daily source of incredulity, even among his own party and supporters.
Having refused to allow communications specialists to interfere with or run his account – as would be common in a role such as his – Trump has so far used Twitter to announce members of his team, wade into issues of international diplomacy, and attack his critics and rivals. He’s attracted twenty million followers worldwide, but that doesn’t translate to support; most of us simply don’t want to miss what he says next.
Although his content is somewhat unpredictable, there’s a familiar pattern to a lot of Trump’s tweets. He uses the constrained word count of the medium to belittle and downplay his opponents, often adding a negative adjective to their names, just as he did with such success in renaming his Presidential rival ‘crooked Hillary’. And in a consistent move which probably has less impact, he’ll often suggest that his critics are experiencing personal failure – constructing a narrative in which they’re trying to pull him down with them.
An example just before he took office came at the Golden Globes, the prestigious Hollywood film and TV awards. Actress Meryl Streep used her victory speech to criticise the President-elect for mocking a disabled reporter, and Trump replied with metronomic predictability. His response – much mocked and maligned around the world – read: “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big.”
This kind of outburst is likely to be common over the next four years, unless Trump’s team are somehow able to tame his online tongue. And while his frequent and childish rants undermine the high office that he has taken, the real concern is that criticism of international leaders and regimes could potentially start a diplomatic incident with real consequences.
What have others been saying?
Alicia Rollins wrote a fascinating article for US magazine Christianity Today, suggesting that despite Trump’s maverick use of the medium, “we need more politics on social media, not less.”
After the incident with Meryl Streep, long-term Trump supporter Franklin Graham issued a statement in support of the President-elect.
The BBC have created a guide to Donald Trump’s long love affair with Twitter, entitled ‘A History of the man and his medium.’
#1 – TAMING THE TONGUE
The New Testament is packed with references to self-control around our mouths and what comes out of them. Paul writes “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” (Ephesians 4 v 29), while Jesus himself warns that “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” And perhaps most famously, James 3 talks about the tongue as “a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body... it corrupts the whole body.” James urges believers to seek God’s help in taming their tongues, and explains that it’s impossible for us to do it on our own. “Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing,” he says, “my brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
#2 – RESPONSIBILITY
James 3 also suggests that those who take up positions of influence should be cautious about doing so, because “those who teach will be judged more strictly.” While this doesn’t directly apply to politics, it is consistent with other passages which suggest that the weight of authority and responsibility also comes with spiritual consequences. For example, Proverbs 16 v 12 says that “it is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness”; while Jesus warns that it would be better for leaders who cause others to sin to drown with a millstone around their neck (Matthew 18 v 6). John the Baptist offers a great insight into what it means to be an earthly leader when he says that “he [Jesus] must become greater, I must become less (John 3 v 30)”; it seems unlikely that despite his own professions of faith, President Trump will put aside his own ego in order to point to a power higher than his own.
Points for prayer
Pray for Donald Trump, that he’ll rise to the responsibility of his office, and lead his country well.
Pray particularly that he’ll exercise wisdom and restraint when using Twitter, and be aware of the potential consequences of his statements.
Pray for America, that it would not be a divided country, and that it would take a positive leading role in the International community.
Pray for all in the country who feel afraid, prejudiced against or let down by Trump’s election, that they would be comforted and have reason for hope.
Pray for the American church, that it would be prophetic, compassionate and united.
Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy Chief Executive. A former editor of Youthwork magazine and the founding Editor of sister-title Childrenswork, Martin is a popular speaker and the author of various books including ‘Youth Work From Scratch’. He lives in Reigate, Surrey with his wife Jo and their four children.