October 1, 2020

Goliath versus Goliath

The debate proved without a shadow of a doubt that Trump versus Biden was Goliath versus Goliath.

Not that both men proved to be a giant for their side, or indeed a champion of anything. The debate was abysmal.

It was Goliath versus Goliath because both men employ the tactics of the Philistines at war.

Each stood as representatives of their tribe facing off against their opponent across a no-man’s land. And both did so with the same weapons. They are cut from the same cloth, despite the protestations of either side to the contrary.

Lined up by the Left and the Right both beat their chests to prove their own mettle and worth. And no doubt the true believers on both sides believed that their man won.

So this was a face-off between identical twins. Giant identical twins.

As Goliath and Goliath they were mirror images of each other. And even if Biden is a more noble human being than Trump (of which I have no doubt), it’s the army standing behind him that is simply the polar opposite of Trump’s. This is a wrestle for worldly power, with a deep desire to shape a vision of human flourishing that is playing a zero sum game.

Of course this Goliath versus Goliath rubric is a warning to Christians of all stripes, especially those who would align with one or the other sides of politics. There is far too much “saviour” language around politics at the moment. Everyone sees their man as David. Everyone sees the other side’s man as Goliath. It’s good versus evil. It’s right versus wrong. It’s God versus the Devil.

Neither man is the saviour the US needs – and by extension neither man is the saviour that the increasingly polarised tribes of our late modern West needs. And that’s the interesting part about it. We’re all watching with great interest because we sense that that battle is going to be played out in smaller skirmishes in our own local settings at some stage.

As the story went, Trump was the David figure back in the previous election because he had come to drain the Philistine swamp.

But given all that has gone on the last four years, the story is now that Biden is David because he is standing up against the sheet grotesque that is the scale-ridden evil one – aka Trump.

Neither of these things is true. Both are Goliath. Both wear the same armour, carry the same sword and are protected by the same armour bearers who ensure their man has the advantage.

The point, of course, in the story of David and Goliath is that David is a representative of God’s salvation, and a picture of the true Saviour who rescues his people by his own actions.

None of us is David in the biblical story. It’s not about God helping us slay our giants, it’s about God slaying the enslaver of his people, and rescuing them as he always had and will continue to do.

But in the face of a hard secular age, in which the idea of transcendence has been mythologised and pushed to the margins and realm of opinion, we still need a public square god. And that god is politics.

Neither man is coming to us in the name of the LORD, though both are certain to use His name and his people to advance their cause. They both have already.

Biden is a great Catholic, according to his side. By that they mean he is not a Catholic in the mould of their current mortal enemy, Supreme Court nominee Amy Cody Barrett. He’s a Goldilocks Catholic – not too hot, not to cold, just right, or as another Person might term it, “lukewarm”.

And Trump? If not a friend of Jesus, then certainly a friend of a certain stripe of evangelical.

Trump is increasingly an advocate for those on the Right who would settle for Christendom without Christ – a return to conservative values as an end in themselves (even though he seems far from conservative). He’ll certain staunch the zealous over-reach of the hard secular Left, of that there is no doubt, so I get why many evangelicals will vote for him holding their nose to keep the stench at bay.

Biden, to use the terminology of Marks Sayers, represents those on the progressive side who wish to have the kingdom without the King, human rights but without the Human who gave up his rights to win them for us.

Which means that in order to at least look sincere about a commitment to human rights, certain humans will have to be deemed “not human”, or “not yet human” in order to alleviate the obvious tension this creates.

Biden’s certainly a more compassionate man, a compassion forged in no small part by his own life’s tragedies. That alone gives him a dignity Trump does not possess.

Yet there’s no good news to be had from either man because both men are Goliath. And sadly, their tribes wish them to be so, because the only template available to them was the Goliath template.

So whichever Goliath prevails it seems clear that the aim will be to ensure their vanquished opponents become their cultural slaves.

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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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