Pastors tow the line too much.
I mean this. There is more concern with keeping a small group of people comfortable than speaking plainly about the world around them.
I also know that pastors will disagree with me here, and I can understand why. What I am about to implor is dangerous to them and the church’s pocketbook. Also know that this is coming from me, someone whose career took a left turn after taking a risk and a stand with the marginalized.
I am calling for pastors and priests to speak against the person of Donald Trump, and do so while keeping him close in our prayers.
This is not political.
Donald Trump is not a political figure who represents the philosophy of conservatism. Donald Trump is a selfish demagogue who acts and speaks only to benefit himself. He is dangerous. His words beget violence and his clan has shown they are willing to do what it takes to keep him in power.
Pastors should have the courage to speak against Caesar when their words do harm to the most vulnerable. Here are practical ways you can start the conversation:
1. Taking the Lord’s name in vain: My heart sank when I saw multiple banners and flags with the name of Jesus on them propped, waved, and carried on the Capitol Steps. One banner read: “Jesus, Trump 2020” others read “Jesus Saves.” These were all being carried while men and women breached the capital with weapons, flex cuffs, while a noose was placed across the street. If there was ever a misrepresentation and taking of the Lord’s name in a way to promote someone else’s message of hatred, this was it.
Using Jesus’ to promote a message of hate is the definition of taking the Lord’s name in vain. To bring in Jesus’ name to justify a movement based on lies, hatred, and selfishness is the opposite of the message of truth, love, and inclusion that Jesus represented. Calling out this simple irony may help make a simple point that what happened on the steps and inside the Capitol would never be sanctioned by Jesus.
2. Trump’s Evangelical Pharisees: We know about the group of people in the New Testament called the pharisees. They were men without theological training who attempted to impose rules on others while rejecting the very teachings they claimed to uphold.
Jesus took a great deal of time condemning their practices, often rooted in wanting attention by wearing flashy clothes, praying loudly in public, and making known how generous they really were. All of this was done while they neglected the most vulnerable and practice the basics of loving their neighbor (see Matthew 23).
The faith of the pharisees was for show, much like we see in the person of Donald Trump. Such an example has made know the bloated number of people who live in such a way. Many presented themselves on the Capitol steps with their “Jesus, Trump 2020 “ flags.
Many believe they are being a Christian because they believe the right things, many of which are rooted in a political philosophy bastardized by Donald Trump. A philosophy that focuses more on self-interest than the needs of the most vulnerable.
Many of us have men and women like this in our churches. We love them, we’ve enjoyed dinner with them, worshiped with them, prayed with them. However, a time comes when we need to let them know where Jesus would stand. And it would not be at the feet of Donald Trump.
3. Being a disciple of Christ is about what a person does:
Many have left the church because believing the correct things has been its focus. “If a person says ‘Jesus is Lord’ they are in!” kind of a thing.
But this goes woefully against the message of scripture. In the books of James there is a classic verse that say, “Faith without works is dead.”
It is important for people to come to realize that Jesus plainly taught that being his disciple is about living a life of love rooted in caring for others. If we were to be teaching this, our congregation would know that Donald Trump does not in anyway match up to this. If we are too afraid to call out the President for his behavior as an example of what it means to be “anti-Christ,” then we are more concerned with tithes than truth.
4. Finally, Welcome the Push-Back: Why should you care if someone leaves because you made mention that Donald Trump is an idol being worshiped on the alter of nationalism? The truth is they might not leave your church and are more likely to approach you with statements or questions, and you should welcome it. Rejoice in the questions and be not afraid of being faithful.
Your job as a pastor is to be faithful to the Gospel of Truth, Mercy, and Love. You should not be afraid of someone leaving because you were honest. If you have a truth to tell, then preach it. I know it is a fire weld up in your bones and you want your congregation to know it.
You have been afraid to preach this truth for almost five years Now is the time.