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The people versus the elite

The electoral victory of Donald Trump, which many experts had not foreseen, testifies to a crisis in the democratic system of western countries. Trump won, although the leaders of the Republican Party did not want him as their candidate. Hillary Clinton was the favourite of the party leadership of the Democrats, but the people did not like her. A similar discrepancy occurred in the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom and in the referendum about the EU treaty with Ukraine in The Netherlands. In all these cases the preference of the majority of the people conflicted with the view advocated by most political leaders.

Apparently, many people do not feel represented by the elite of most of the political parties any more. In several countries all over the world such feelings may be due to corruption and abuse of power. It would be naïve to think that this does not apply to the old democracies in Western Europe and North America. However, another factor must also be taken into account. Most members of parliament in countries such as France, The Netherlands, the United Stated and the United Kingdom are highly educated people. Many of them have never shared the way of life of lower class people. They have no experiential knowledge of their problems; they do not speak their language. Populists like Trump likewise belong to the elite, but they succeed in voicing what the people think and therefore get their votes, even without proposing any realistic solution to the actual problems.

Perhaps Paul was the only highly educated man among the apostles. Today, most evangelical theologians and church leaders belong to the social elite. There are good reasons for that, but it may create problems similar to those in politics. Therefore, as evangelical theologians we should not neglect the occasions offered in local church life or the neighbourhood to contact the people, but take advantage of them as much as possible. Otherwise, our teaching and study, though highly relevant from an academic point of view, risks losing contact with the hearts of those less privileged people whom Jesus loved so much.


Gert Kwakkel
Professor of Old Testament, Faculté Jean Calvin, Theologische Universiteit Kampen
Member of the Executive Committee of the Fellowship of European Evangelical Theologians

  Gert Kwakkel   15-Nov-2016   0 Comments

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