Friday, February 03, 2017

I believe that I am an enemy of the President

The thing that has honestly bound me to a disagreeable disposition is the blind follower-ship of conservative Christians to President Trump. And I mean that in the most critical way. As a pastor who is charged to enter into a community and see to its spiritual and moral development, I am struggling to find a way to justify the complete acceptance of the man who was elected President by a people defined by their self-identification of Christian.

I established in a previous post that I could not allow myself to be considered evangelical any longer because of the overwhelming number of self-identified evangelical Christians who accepted Donald Trump's candidacy. I have continued to struggle with the overwhelming fan-boy like acceptance of his speeches and comments, especially when he utters the word "God". I have fumed and raged at the reaction to people who are standing up for justice and rights of the forgotten, forsaken, and downtrodden. I am struggling to maintain composure when the subject of conversation turns to the President or his actions in the two weeks of his term. I have had to censure myself in my own home. I have had to put a "walk-away" rule on myself in any future situations when these subjects come up. And it is because I have righteous fury over how some of the American Church have turned a blind eye to what it means to be Christian.

I know that a lot of Bible-believing folk turned against Barack Obama before he was ever elected. I know that they never gave him a chance to prove what he was doing was possibly motivated from a good place. I know that his every action was scrutinized for possible hypocrisy and heresy. And now that he is gone, and he has been replaced by a "Christian conservative approved" President, there is a sigh of relief. There has been a wave of "he really is listening to us" attitude settling on the hearts and minds of self-identified evangelicals across the land. But I completely disagree.

I believe that history will show Barack Obama to be middling leader. He will eventually be seen as having been able to get some powerful legislation enacted and bring some progress to the nation during his terms. He was no means the worst, nor was he the best. But my evaluation of his presidency proved that he led from a Christian compatible worldview. He had to play the politics that were necessary. He broke his promises of transparency. He had individuals under his authority who were very poor leaders. But in his efforts to lead this nation he tried to do good.

For better or worse, the Affordable Care Act made it possible for the sick to receive care and help. His efforts to avoid war and armed conflict were noticeably successful. That isn't to say he didn't use armed forces in actions, just that he minimized their full scale engagement to produce certain ends. He made the effort to build connections with other nations in attempting to achieve ends that were positive for all sides. He approached problems with some degree of caution and attempting to see as many sides as possible before bringing any action. He appeared humble before the nation and the world. He appeared approachable to the culture. He tried to lead a nation that was tearing itself apart in fear and division by being a voice of peace and calm to all people who would hear him out.

That is why I believe he led from a Christian worldview.

Donald Trump is not.

He has been endorsed by some of the most conservative Christian groups in the nation. He has been welcomed by traditionally staunch evangelical churches and ministers. And none of them have every seriously questioned him about his faith, his lifestyle, his discipleship to Jesus Christ, his manner in dealing with people he does not approve of, or his relationship with God.

I heard no serious rebukes of Trump on the campaign trail as he spoke disparagingly about women, Hispanics, and those he considers his "enemies".  Yet the Bible, which evangelicals hold as the center of their faith as the Word of God, states that no unwholesome word should come from the mouth of a follower of Christ. Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Trump on the campaign trail said that he felt he had no need to repent because He and God were on good terms. Yet evangelicals hold very closely to the belief that all of us sin and all of us need to repent and all of us continue to mess up at times which requires us to "get right with God". As a Wesleyan Methodist, I believe in Sanctification - the state of grace whereby God makes us perfect in love - but I do not believe that we ever "get right with God" to a degree of state whereby we do not have to admit our failures and repent. And I am not nearly as strict about this as more evangelical believers.

President Trump has made it his agenda to roll back as many of Barack Obama's changes to the nation, as quickly as possible. His first significant act in office was using his authority to declare that he was dismantling the Affordable Care Act. And by doing so, he sent thousands of people who were receiving essential health care for the first time into panic. He did not try to assure them that they would be taken care of. He didn't offer them the comfort of knowing that their sickness or disease mattered. He only had one goal in mind in this declaration: to undo what had been done, no matter who it would hurt. As I have pondered this act and what it means, this is as far from the Kingdom of God mandate of Jesus Christ as you can get. Jesus was a healer. IS a healer! Maybe President Trump is going to pour out his spirit on a new group of faith healers to bridge the gap in dismantling the ONLY SOURCE of help these people had under that legislation. Christians should be praising God for leadership that helps people get healthcare. Christians should be opening up their churches and computer networks to get sick people signed up for the ACA. Christians should be committed wholeheartedly to any effort to see that the sick and the diseased, the ill and the infirmed have access to healing. They should be helping in this cause because their Lord was and is a healer.
President Trump's most obvious action in his first two weeks was to enact a ban on immigrants and refugees. Specifically, he targeted a region of the world that is in chaos and struggle. There is no doubt that caution should be taken in accepting people into the nation from war-torn areas. The tactic of sneaking an enemy into the ranks of the innocent is not new. But the motives of this action and the implementation of this action have been questioned and criticized as racist and inept. I would go one step further and condemn these acts as non-Christian. I would criticize it from a biblical position, but not in the way that has been common. The stated reason for this ban has been national safety. It is a "temporary" measure to secure the borders to ensure people do:
not bear hostile attitudes toward [the United States] and its founding principles.  The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law.  In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including "honor" killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.
 I would stop and point you to my comments on this paragraph from a few days ago: My Isolated Opinion. In it I speak about the hypocrisy of allowing those same kinds of people who are UNITED STATES CITIZENS are allowed to carry on those same dangerous acts within the United States. But honestly, President Trump is guilty of plucking the speck out of his Muslim brother's eye while ignoring the obvious log in his own. He has used fear of the unknown that he has judged to be dangerous while turning his back on the known element within his own boundaries of authority. He has violated the Constitution that he claims to be protecting by systematically dismantling the free expression of thought and word through intimidation (relieving people of their posts, telling them to "get with the program or they can go", putting a gag order on agencies whose very job is to oversee the public welfare); he admitted to a past belief that he had the implicit right to commit acts of violence against women (referring to his belief that he could fondle women because he was a star); he encouraged acts of violence against protesters at rallies during his election; and he seeks to oppress Americans of Muslim background (some of those who were caught outside the country were American, he has admitted to wanting to create a registry of Muslim Americans). The Bible speaks very harshly about those who are two-faced in their walk of faith (hypocrisy):
  • 1 John 4:20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen 
  • James 1:26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. 
  • Matthew 7:1-5 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. 
  • Matthew 15:7-9 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” 
  • Titus 1:16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. 

Trump has convinced a large number of Christian Americans to believe that he leads from a place of faith and godliness. But he is a hypocrite. He claims good things but his actions do not support the faith he claims. And that is the source of one of my greatest struggles right now.

Donald Trumps makes a great show of parading people of Christian faith in front of him. He uses God peppered into his speeches and comments when he is in the right circles. He has made the signature evangelical political battlegrounds his banner (anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality, pro-”religious” liberty). But when you turn the sound off and you read his life, what profit of a spiritual nature do we really see?

Is he humble? Read the transcripts of his public speaking opportunities and you hear repeatedly “I” and “me” and what I consider the royal “we”. He has trumpeted his own accomplishments, his own wisdom, his own intelligence, his own goodness. Not once has he acknowledged God as a source for any of this. Not once has he said, “Oh no, I don’t want the credit for that.” When he gets the chance to be in front of people, he reminds them that he is the center of the universe that is the United States.

Is he forgiving? His New Year’s Day tweet had this to say: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don't know what to do,". He fired the acting Attorney General because she could not in good conscience follow through with his order to ban refugees because of the potential motives being based on religion. He constantly condemns the press for attacking him (and some of that is justified). He is publicly critical of people who have let him down.

Is he loving? I don’t mean does he love his family. I mean does he act in ways that are in keeping with Jesus Christ getting down to wash the disciples’ feet. I mean does he lay down his own life, or his own pride, to see that others are duly lifted up. The opportunities President Trump has had to honor people in their own right are often shaded by the things he has done to empower or endorse those he is attempting to recognize. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. For each one of those bold statements, there is evidence to show President Trump fails to meet the mark.

Why would I go to all of this effort to write this down? Because if I were a shepherd in a New Testament era church, I would be responsible for taking this “brother” aside and pointing out his errors. If I were his pastor, responsible for his spiritual nurture and care, I would be failing in my duties if I didn’t hold him accountable to the faith he claims. If I, as a Christian, were to continue to allow a fellow “brother in Christ” behave this way, I would be failing to rebuke, reprove, and correct another follower of Christ.

But I am not a New Testament shepherd. I am not his pastor. I am a Christian, but I am not in community with Donald Trump.

I am, however, a Christian living in the United States of America with a President who many claim to be a professing Christian. So it is my duty as a Christian American to call him on his behavior and say, “You, President Donald Trump, are not behaving as a follower of Jesus Christ. You are in danger of causing a shipwreck of your soul. As a brother in Christ, I ask you to confess your sin before those you have wronged, make amends for the failures of Christian trust and love that have caused harm, repent of your behavior that would further wreck your spiritual course, and set your heart and mind to fulfilling the command to live in love toward your closest ties, those whom you associate yourself with, those who are greatly different from you, and those you call your enemies. God the source of all life, Jesus Christ, the son of God and means of redemption, and the Holy Spirit who gives us life and grace to live will hear and bring you forgiveness. If you will only humble yourself and call on the name of the Lord.”

So, until this happens, I believe that I am an enemy of Donald Trump.

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