Not Their Finest Hour
My seven-year-old granddaughter was staying with me on the night of the final debate. Playing at my side, she occasionally glanced at the television screen. At one point she said, “He is not being very nice.” About twenty minutes later I went into the kitchen to get some iced tea. My granddaughter asked, “Are you going to get your stress doll?” I turned off the debate.
I have not written about the election because, well, everyone else is. In this post I do not want to write about Donald or Hillary, but I do want to write about the Evangelical church and the 2016 election. That is the subject that sends me reachhing for my stress doll.
I have not been surprised that many Evangelical leaders have remained silent about Donald Trump. They just want to stay out of the line of fire, waiting for November 13, when they can preach without questioning themselves about their awkward silence while the nation plunged toward incivility. After the election they will move on to their Christmas series and hope everyone forgets their unwillingness to comment in the face of one of the most divisive elections in American history.
Fortunately, not everyone has remain eerily silent. I was fascinated when students at conservative Liberty University spoke against their president’s enthusiastic support for Trump’s candidacy. I was equally surprised when Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore, with whom I disagree on all things LGBTQ, chose to speak out against Trump.
Evangelical women of color, like Lisa Sharon Harper at Sojourners, and Nikki Toyama-Szeto at the International Justice Mission, have been speaking out against Trump since the beginning of his campaign, but the mainstream Evangelical world has not had ears to hear these intelligent and wise women of faith. They did pay attention, however, when popular women’s speaker Beth Moore finally spoke up after the Trump audiotapes were released. Beth’s words carry weight in their megachurches, so they had a hard time ignoring her. Still, most chose to remain silent.
I suppose the Evangelicals who have surprised me most are the members of the newly formed American Association of Evangelicals, who published a letter on September 27 that railed against the rights of transgender people, suggested recent racial unrest was sparked by paid instigators, (as though racial problems are not enough in and of themselves to cause vigorous protests), identified refugees as a danger to national sovereignty and suggested the IRS is out to “intimidate Christian groups that disagree with the current political establishment.” And oh yeah, they also strongly suggested their members should vote for Trump.
The letter was extreme. Therefore I was shocked when I saw that signers included Eric Metaxas, George Barna, Jim Garlow, Wayne Grudem and people I personally know. The letter ended with a plea for others to sign and add their voice to the movement. As of October 24, 1586 people had signed the divisive, inflammatory letter.
This is not a document that will be proudly displayed by the grandchildren of those who have signed. History tells us we do not remember the champions of the status quo or the privileged who tenaciously hang on to their entitlement. We remember those who are courageously on the side of the minorities, the oppressed and the misunderstood.
The letter published by the AAE feeds on fear. There is reason for Evangelical fear, but it has nothing to do with the next Supreme Court justice. It has nothing to do with marriage equality, transgender rights, immigration, refugees or racial unrest. It has everything to do with an Evangelical community that has lost its way. It is far too often a community in which xenophobia is preferable to love, protectionism more noble than generosity, and judgment more godly than compassion. This is not the evangelical world’s finest hour.
On the night of the final debate I was not, in fact, headed to the kitchen to get my stress doll. The doll, a welcome gift from a close friend, was actually back at my house in Boulder County. But when I headed up to the mountains for the weekend, I brought the stress doll back to Denver with me. I’m afraid it’s going to be a rough couple of weeks.
And so it goes.