Sarah Sanders is not the first person to say God has chosen Trump. But as we look at the current leadership crises around the world: Zimbabwe, Venezuela, even here in the UK with Brexit, many are wondering - is it really true that God puts certain people in power?
It's an interesting question, but it often side-tracks us. I'm much more concerned about whether somebody is doing God's will than whether or not they're ‘God's man’. We get obsessed by that in our laziness as people; we want to know that somebody will give us a simple black and white answer. Then we don't have to critique or analyse how somebody acts. We want to just know who the goodies and who the baddies are! But life is much more complicated than that.
If you look through scripture, you'll see that God cares just as much about how things get done and how things happen as what is happening. He cares about the ethics of our leadership.
Say a Christian plumber comes round your house because you've got a leaky pipe, and they say they've fixed it and then leave. Then you find you've got your ceiling flooded over the course of the next few weeks, so you call him back and tell him he did a terrible job. Then he says: “But hey God has chosen me to be your plumber!” You wouldn't put up with that and so we shouldn't really put up with it in politics either.
That's why Christians In Politics are training believers who are getting involved in politics, because we do believe that God calls people into public service, and we're training the people that he does call to make sure that they understand the pipes and valves of politics, so to speak. If you resort to: “God put me here”, I think that's usually said by people who are starting to lose the argument.
But doesn't the Bible show us situations where God puts people into places of leadership?
Absolutely, and people are called into leadership. But it's about the integrity and the ethics of the person who is called into leadership. People continually give the example of Cyrus as somebody who was outside the faith who was called by God. But we can easily try to build a theology around just one example or one story or one person when we need to look at the breadth of scripture.
The whole canon of Scripture shows that, on the whole, God is the God of the underdog: he's the one who chose the weakest in Gideon, he chose the youngest in David, he chose Mary, he chose the insignificant nation of Israel. He’s about taking folks who are low and raising them high, to a calling. Mary's beautiful song about the mighty being brought down, that to me doesn't feel like the story of Donald Trump.
I think we need to be really careful about saying God is on our side. Abraham Lincoln's famous quote was: “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side, my greatest concern is to be on God's side for God is always right.”
So what would be your message to Sarah Sanders?
I would love to ask Sarah Sanders: “If God chose Trump then did he choose Obama too?” And I suspect she might say no. And if she did, I would ask her: “So was God having an off day at that point, was he just not powerful at that point?” We need to be really, really careful about how we blithely say that somebody on our side is chosen by God.
We're not lazy subjects of a king who has been appointed; we live in democracies. It's part of our calling as citizens in a democracy to be analysing, critiquing, constantly holding accountable those who lead us, not just to be lazily going: “Oh yes, he's the right one, so we’ll just let him do whatever he wants.”
Andy Flannagan is executive director of Christian in Politics. The Luton-based Irish singer-songwriter was previously Director of Christians on the Left and before that was a hospital doctor. He continues to juggle his work in politics with a music career.