I would bomb the s*** out of ’em. I would just bomb those suckers. That’s right. I’d blow up the pipes. … I’d blow up every single inch. There would be nothing left.
— Donald Trump, in a CNN interview
Donald trump’s divisive statements have become a hot topic in recent months. At the moment, this man is the presidential frontrunner for the Republican Nomination. But what is it about him that has attracted so many? Is it really that the majority of Americans are bloodthirsty, vengeance-driven warmongers, salivating at the thought of killing nameless, faceless Arabs?
I would pose a more human explanation for his popularity: his confidence. We are attracted to leaders who are sure of their opinions and desires. Could it be that many who hear Trump’s tirades are failing to envision the reality of his politics, and instead finding security in his brash certainty? To simplify, it’s not always what he says, but how he says it that appeals. His confidence convinces his supporters; they believe he is well-informed because he speaks with authority. If Trump is certain of the facts, they don’t have to be.
The blinkered effect this has on Conservative Americans is not unique to them. Certainty is a psychological need for all humans. We find comfort in security and assurance. This is a good thing, but it’s also a risk. If we believe information purely based on the force of its delivery, we risk believing a lie. And a lie that makes us feel safe is only more dangerous.
If we are interested in the truth, especially where we already have strong opinions, we have to be more skeptical than our feelings prompt us to be. But the fact is that it’s very difficult to question the things we take for granted. We’ve all made assumptions that are so ingrained we often don’t even know what they are. It’s here that we are in danger of becoming another Donald Trump, pandering to our own bias. The solution? Question every assumption.
How often do we contently look on without acknowledging, to our own detriment, that we might be wrong? We need to be willing to be uncomfortable and even to be convinced. To read a book by someone we know we disagree with. To intentionally seek out the most reasonable opposing view rather than accepting a misquoted sound-bite or straw man. If we are not talking how can we expect to be corrected in the areas we don’t know need correcting?
This is especially true when it comes to religion. How many people fail to give Jesus a second thought because of blind assumptions and prejudice? Dr. Tim Keller, best-selling author and church minister in Manhattan, lays down the challenge brilliantly:
There are a lot of people we could say are the most influential people in the world, and you could put Jesus in the top ten, possibly the top three, and even the number one position. He’s in that fraternity.
There’s also a number of people who have claimed to be divine, claimed to be god.
But, there is no overlap between them except one guy.
The people who have claimed divinity have never been able to convince anyone except ragtag, marginalised, disenfranchised people. There have been dozens who have made the claim, ‘I’m God! Worship me!’ But they’ve only been able to convince a very small group of unbalanced people.
On the other hand, you have the group of the most influential people in the world, and in almost all cases there is a humility about them. They always say, ‘Don’t worship me!’ That is what made them great.
There is one exception — one man in both categories who made incredible claims, and managed to get people to believe.
So, if there’s one man in the ‘most influential category’ who also claimed to be God, there is no thoughtful person who can possibly walk away from that without studying it.
You can’t just doubt that he’s not God, you have to know that he’s not God.
Now, of course, this cuts both ways. I was brought up in a Christian household. Because of this, as a child I had a predisposition towards a belief in God that couldn’t stand honest questioning. Like many, I went through a period in my teens where I questioned what I’d been taught. Looking back, I can only see how this was good for me, but it shouldn’t stop there. Though I found my way back to my Christian roots, with a deep confidence in a God who proved his love for me, questioning is still important. If something is true, there is no line of honest questioning that could threaten it, and I firmly believe that if you spend any time questioning the truthfulness of Christianity (for example, whether the resurrection of Christ took place) you’ll be amazed at what you find.
So let’s engage. Let’s doubt and question and seek. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose but our ego, and we could do without that anyway.