On Nov. 8, 2016, 81 percent of white evangelical voters in the United States supported Donald Trump despite evidence of his personal and commercial racism, misogyny, fear and hatred of immigrants, and deceitfulness. Their votes did not show that they see God in our neighbors who are immigrants, sick and otherwise vulnerable.
Since then, white clergy who say they are evangelical followers of Jesus have grinned, applauded and lavished praise on President Donald Trump despite daily proof of his dishonest, boorish, racist, sexist and xenophobic character and conduct. White clergy who claim to be followers of the Palestinian Jewish fellow named Jesus – whose parents were forced to seek asylum with him in Egypt during his early childhood – have been silent as Trump has ordered military forces to prevent unarmed immigrants from Central America from seeking asylum in the United States. White clergy were silent after the President referred to immigrants from Haiti and nations on the continent of Africa as being from “shithole” countries.
Most white clergy were silent when Trump urged Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act that guarantees access to affordable healthcare. If many white pastors reminded their congregants that Jesus spent most of his ministry healing people who were sick and poor and did so without charging anything – let alone requiring a co-pay – I suspect that would have been newsworthy. I don’t recall seeing news reports that white clergy suggested that efforts to dismantle a system of affordable health care don’t square with the gospel accounts of the healing ministry of Jesus.
“White religious nationalism is heresy to the gospel of Jesus, not faithfulness to it.”
After white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazi sympathizers attacked peaceful protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year, Trump said that there were “fine people on both sides.” What do you recall white evangelical clergy saying in response? If you attend a predominantly white evangelical church, what did you do about that response, or the failure to respond?
Evidence has been mounting over the past two years about efforts to intimidate, suppress, discourage and disenfranchise people of color from voting. Native American, Latino and black voters have been deliberately targeted for gerrymandering, closure of polling places and misinformation about voting requirements. How have white clergy and congregations responded?
I join those who are encouraging young voters, people from lower income households, women and people of color to vote. I hope young voters, people from lower income households, women, people of color, persons who are LGBTQ, senior citizens and other people who are marginalized turn out and vote in record numbers.
At the same time, I’m watching to see if white people who attend evangelical churches across the nation will vote the way they did in 2016. I’m watching for signs that white people who call themselves evangelical followers of Jesus will turn away from the hateful, fear-mongering, bellicose, power-driven dishonesty of President Trump and his political cronies. I’m watching for signs of repentance from white evangelical voters.
The proof of white evangelical repentance will not consist of people of color being invited to kumbaya gatherings with white evangelicals to hold hands, sing “We Shall Overcome” and exchange pleasantries during religious dinner parties. The proof of white evangelical repentance will not consist of black and Latino preachers and congregations being invited to sing, pray and preach with white evangelicals.
I join others who question whether white evangelicals are followers of Jesus at all. They often seem to confuse the gospel of Jesus with white supremacy and notions of a U.S. empire. White religious nationalism is heresy to the gospel of Jesus, not faithfulness to it.
“I hope for justice because I trust God, not white evangelicals.”
So Tuesday night, I’ll watch election returns to see whether white people who call themselves evangelical followers of Jesus will, again, prove that they prize white supremacy above the inclusive and liberating gospel of divine grace, truth, justice and peace. I’ll look for evidence that white people who claim to be followers of the Palestinian Jewish itinerant prophet and healer named Jesus are turning away from white religious nationalism. I’ll be watching and hoping for signs of white evangelical repentance. I don’t expect that election results tomorrow will support my hope.
Yet, I hope for justice no matter how white evangelicals vote on Tuesday. White evangelicals have a long history of misrepresenting God and supporting injustice. God has a longer history of proving them wrong.
I hope for justice because I trust God, not white evangelicals.