Trump and Hopkins – inspired examples?
It seems that many people in the US and the UK find the tell-it-as-it-is style of the Donald, or a Katie Hopkins here in the UK, highly refreshing. Maybe this speaks to how tiring it is to guard your tongue all the time to prevent yourself saying what your mind is thinking.
In Paul Griffiths’ book Lying: An Augustinian Theology of Duplicity he asserts that “to lie is a verbal act, something we do with words.” Using Augustine as a conversation partner, Griffiths defines the lie as “the mismatch between what’s in your heart (what you take to be true) and what’s on your tongue (what you say to be true).” We lie when we speak words that contradict our thoughts. Thus, Griffiths argues, the person who speaks objectively false words while believing them to be true is not a liar — though he is deceived.
To be shaped into people who can speak truth to power we need communities that affirm truth-telling and resist false witness. Jesus has a name for such communities: church.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:15-16).
What do truth-telling communities look like? The early Christians knew they were known by God and they had been forgiven everything, so what need had they to hide any skeletons? Mary Magdalene was identified as the Mary “from whom seven demons had come out” (Luke 8:2). How refreshingly honest! Do people have signifiers like that in your circle?
There is a truthfulness about Donald Trump and Katie Hopkins. Neither claims to be anything other than what you find them to be. By all appearances, what they think is what they say.
Most of us have a running commentary going on in our heads about the world around us. Maybe an unspoken curse on another driver. This inner commentary may be harmless when it’s about strangers we won’t meet again; however, close relationships will be strained when there’s a large difference between what you say and what you think about the person.
This truth-gap or truth-deficit exists because we have failed to voice our inner opinion of our friend, spouse, parent, colleague, over a long period. Resolution depends on how accurate our assessment of them is.
When this unspoken inner commentary is highly inaccurate - weighing us down with an inaccurately negative perception of the other person - recalibrating our unspoken negative opinion will allow us to perceive the other person accurately again. It takes some humility, in my experience, to make this journey from suspicion to appreciation.
If this inner commentary is, in truth, pretty accurate, resolution requires truthful confrontation. A sudden disclosure of all the opinions that have been kept hidden up to that point would worsen the relationship. Gossip will also be destructive. The better strategy will be to speak in a progressively more truthful way with the aim of developing a more honest, enriching and productive relationship. As we do this both our perceptions of the other, and their perception of themselves, will be modified. The stakes are high – but the potential gains are huge.
So, tentatively, I suggest this may be one area of behaviour in which Donald Trump is giving us all an example of sorts. The gospel adds a lot more to this however. It tells us how to be changed from the inside out; how to get a new heart; because, as Jesus said:
“You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Matthew 12:34
Maybe the liberals are on to something. God does care what we think. And he knows that what we really think will always, in the end, come out of our mouth.
Christians are people who are on a journey to the place where we believe that truth brings more hope than lies. That journey makes us more and more honest — more and more like God our Father who never speaks what he knows to be untrue, and whose heart is disclosed to us perfectly in the words of Scripture, and, above all, in the Word of God, Jesus his only-begotten Son.