On a first read, a little of everything: bold, self -assured, visionary, hypocritical, strong and forward- looking.
History cannot lie.
It’s almost like we are living a re-run. Christianity’s fingerprints in aiding slavery, poverty, inequity, and anti- immigrant positions are now well-known but little discussed. I was reminded of that tainted past by two movies. Minister Nat Turner’s story, as powerfully depicted in Birth of a Nation, and the Loving’s story as emotionally rendered in Loving, demonstrated the loss of Christian witness. Biblical sound doctrine was sacrificed on the altars of fear, discrimination, and white supremacy. The subtext of the lived experiences of Turner and the Lovings — of love, disappointment, injustice, and racism — is that Christianity in the West went on trial and was found wanting.
For Nat Turner, abolitionist and former slave, teacher, preacher, one could see how White slave owners used the very values in the Bible to oppress and dominate. There’s no getting around it. At that time, White Christians believed they were of a finer breed than Blacks, that the latter were not created equal to them, and the Bible, the very inerrant Word of God, was exploited to commit evil. No less with the Lovings, until the Supreme Court brought the discrimination to a halt, ruling that love should know no boundaries of color and race. Again, with the eyes of history, we wonder how Christians then did not live out practically Christ’s witness to truly love. The Supreme Court righted a wrong that Christians then did not care nor were willing to correct. [I will admit I am not of the opinion that the Supreme Court always represents God’s justice, but it has in many cases been used to establish righteousness that governments or man have reneged on. Ultimately, the Supreme Court does not and should not be expected to always rule according to the Bible for the very reason that the founding fathers did not envision this country as a theocracy. I digress.]
A wake-up call for the Church
Nat Turner and the Lovings: That was then; this is now. The Church is continuing to be tested and refined. What are the personal truths but also societal and kingdom truths that we espouse and live by as witnesses to ourselves and to others? I believe that the values we choose to elevate and the reasons for those choices are worth deep conversations. For instance, why do Evangelicals stand only for the unborn and not for every other life post birth? The fact is that there was no guarantee then and even now that Pres. Trump has everything in place to roll back Roe v. Wade, that that would actually happen. The greater point to be made is that Evangelical Christians have erected an ungodly altar of Pro-Life/Anti-abortion. The worship at this altar is turning the Christian witness into a lie. The Machiavellian reasoning of Evangelicals at this altar and other so-called moral Right values calls for a soul searching. How is our total witness being compromised by this one position? Have Evangelical Christians turned into Esaus who have sold their birthright for a piece of pudding? As Christians, we certainly agree on the sanctity of life and science continues to buttress our belief that life at any stage is worth preserving. But have we created a false god, above all else, with its politicization?
In the end, this is not a story about Pres. Trump or Pres. Obama. This is a search for the heart of Christianity. In the West, the sad reality is that the anti-abortion/pro-life stance has turned into a litmus test for Christianity in America. The stance on abortion has become the one and only factor upon which every other faith issue is measured. It has become the one unforgivable sin. Against abortion, no other moral expectation of faith matters. Can one kill, lie, hate, cheat, steal, insult, debase, assault, bully, divorce, or fornicate and Christians look the other away as long the rhetoric on abortion is espoused?
Not out of the woods yet.
The dilemma is that going forward, Christians cannot afford to stand against a whole slate of God’s children — Other Christians, the poor, immigrants, Muslims, LGBT, and non-White minorities. I am not in any sense proposing agreement with non-Biblical beliefs. However, for every group that was marginalized and dis-empowered in 2016, that received little compassion or empathy from Evangelicals, Christ’s witness through His children is called to task. What gospel are we preaching and living?
The world is still watching. Nigeria looks on. As ethnic and religious divisions appear to escalate, Nigerian Christians cannot count on Evangelical neighbors from the West who have failed their own test to model the way. The voices of division and hatred threaten to overshadow those of peace. Universally, the Church of Christ is made to look weak and lacking in truth. But that is not to be.
What are Christians going to stand up for or fall for? In the U.S., in Nigeria, and elsewhere? Are our values going to be all of God’s values or just a select few mounted up on altars that defy the very compassionate heart of Jesus for all people? Do we allow love to speak? Can the elect be deceived? The possibility is hinted at. Will they be deceived? It’s never safe to compromise our core beliefs as Christians or condone hateful rhetoric, even in the name of God. All Christian values matter. In the U.S., will Evangelicals look the other way again and return to the Nat Turner-like years of misapplication of Scripture? Will Nigerian Christians yield to the bloodthirsty ethnic hatred under the guise of defending the Christian faith against Islam?
We have a world that is reeling with pain, with wars and displaced refugees, and our compassion as Christians, much like our Master’s, should not fail. We have a world in which deceit, lies, and underhandedness are being normalized and the alliances being formed could be the deadliest yet to be seen. On a spiritual level, that is the unnerving truth. Will Christians be silent again as they were in the past?
My interest and fascination with the Evangelical response to the two U.S. presidents particularly, and the social issues that abound, led me on this inquiry. From the perspective of faith, the Evangelical response to both presidents has been glaringly and uniquely different and one must wonder no more. How longstanding divisions separating Christian Right and Christian Left played out differently with these two presidents reveals much about the state of the Church. Many Evangelical faith positions are hardly recognizable from Biblical values. When Pastor John Piper, one among the very few that chose not to be silent, spoke up, he was attacked mercilessly. Part of his message, supported here is this: “Not speaking out against the moral ineptitude of Trump and blindly affirming him amount to a tacit approval to his behaviors –behaviors that have in the past been unequivocally categorized as totally unchristian.”
I have sought for Evangelicals, all Christians to conduct some introspection. More uncovering will continue under a Trump presidency. What will be maintained, what values will be jettisoned, abandoned, ignored, or affirmed and why? Refugees are being summarily denied compassionate responses from this administration and will Christian leaders (political and religious) continue to look the other way? What will Christians stand up for, to, and against?
Of course, no one could ever always and completely understand God’s ways. That God can allow and use anyone is indisputable but that is not the same as claiming (as has been repeatedly uttered) that our Almighty God gives approval to what is unlike Him. Our silence and inaction in the face of wrong does not get the cover of God’s sovereignty. Yes, He is sovereign. He also expects us to be faithful to the entirety of holy Scriptures in building His Church. To select, rationalize, or compromise our Christian values to the extent that they become merely politically expedient tools makes them unchristian.
“So God, I ask that the church would not rely on government and would not rely on a Trump presidency. I pray for evangelical leaders not to celebrate Donald Trump’s presidency with no apparent qualification, no tears, no brokenness, no sadness that he set such an awful example for this land.”
Pastor John Piper—Prayer for Pres. Trump, 2016
Understandably, the responses to the Trump administration’s recent action on immigration is mixed. In brief, action is stayed on DACA, which at least means the so-called dreamers cannot and will not be deported. Of course, the young recipients are skeptical. Will this step lead to better stabilization or turn out to be a mirage?
Depending on whom you ask, Trump is reneging on his campaign promises, is becoming soft on immigration, is flip flopping as with other campaign promises or he has grown some heart with the realities of immigration and reform. None of these opinions moves the ball forward and the President should be applauded for maintaining this one Obama-era policy on protecting dreamers, who are adding substantially to the economic growth of the country.
A bi-partisan effort towards long-term solutions for dreamers continues with a new legislation for a path to legalization. The newly-introduced RAC (Recognizing America’s Children) Act has set out to do just that. As we celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month this June, the action of the Trump administration to protect young immigrants is a welcome one.
Springfield Pastor, Dr. Ruby led the effort. As he rightly stated, nobody is suggesting that lenders should not make profits. At a certain point, it becomes immoral.
You can watch and pray along with us here,
In closing, we prayed the Scriptures from Mark 14 and Micah 6.
Mark 14: 7 For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.
Micah 6: 5-8 For if you offered him thousands of rams and ten thousands of rivers of olive oil—would that please him? Would he be satisfied? If you sacrificed your oldest child, would that make him glad? Then would he forgive your sins? Of course not! . . . 8 No, he has told you what he wants, and this is all it is: to be fair, just, merciful, and to walk humbly with your God. (TLB)
3 years after the brazen kidnapping of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls, 82 are home.
Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, one of the more reasonable, common sense leaders in the Republican Party, is now considered (per Dana Bash) as presenting utopian ideas. So what did he say to warrant such acclaim, or conversely, disdain? He called for common sense reform, something to the effect of fixing current Health Care law by both sides of the aisle! [Nooo!That’s utopian!]
And so I salute Gov. Kasich for his faith in democracy and the tenacity to speak common sense.
People’s lives are not mere pawns to be bartered or trophies to be claimed by ideologues. Leadership is not just about winning; it’s about working for the people. If indeed the ACA were to explode/implode, would the party in power sit by and let that happen? Is this what caring for people sounds like to the GOP anymore? Ripping health care from millions is not leadership; it’s plain old mean, partly paraphrasing Gov. Kasich. Who are these people in the majority party, a party that is in control of the White House, the House, and the Senate and still can’t deliver?
Paul Ryan appears to be on his way to understanding that most working class Americans don’t care much about ideologies. His version of “what freedom looks like” was the probable loss of healthcare for 24 million Americans in their failed plan. That is rather inane to say the least. The American people want quality access and health, not political wizardry. At least, the hope is that the GOP will not backtrack on Ryan’s promise to govern instead of just being obstructionist. Talk is cheap. For the almost 8 years the GOP talked and voted for repeal and replace, that would have been time well spent crafting new fixes. Instead, when it came time to deliver, all they had was a dangerous pill for the people to swallow. Advancing policies that are heartless and cold to lower and middle class folks but benefit the people that don’t need more help is what this party stands for? The answer to big insurance companies leaving the market is not to appease them not to leave. It is to add fair competition by adding more choice including a public one. The goal should be to cater to all Americans, and not just the richest among us, unless of course the GOP’s only clientele is the latter. The Freedom Caucus is equally not on the side of the people. What is health care coverage without maternity care, mental health or emergency services? No wonder one of them finally had had enough of the posturing on their ideological freedoms too.
Let’s not lose sight of what this health care fight is all about. Former Vice President Biden recently reminded us– a big important legislation that affects the economy as much as health care does cannot be perfect from the start. The ruling party should swallow their pride and go to work with Dems at the table to FIX, not KILL the Affordable Care Act. Pres. Trump has clearly admitted he didnt know how tough health care is. Lessons learned. Now fix the people’s healthcare! That’s exactly Gov. Kasich’s point. It’s a common sense argument, not an idealistic or utopian one.
Footnote: Not a shining moment in my opinion for Dana Bash to press the Governor with that term. As a nation, we’re setting low bars for our leaders and the media is implicated in this sad state of affairs.