Sunday Sermonizing: My Open Letter To American Evangelicals
I know a few of my readers may not share the same faith I do. I am okay with that and glad you're here. After this past week's comments by the president and with so many churches beginning to at least recognize the Kingdom contributions of Martin Luther King Jr., I'm expressing my concern in the form of a letter. While I have a lot of criticism toward the church in America in these tumultuous days, I also want to be clear: I love the Church and believe, in spite of all the imperfections and blemishes, it is the God-ordained way for real change in the world.
Thus I write.
My Dear American Evangelical Friend,
You don't know me and you didn't ask for this. But on this 2018 MLK Day Eve - I'd love to chat.
Not about who you voted for in the last election. Or in any election.
Not about whether you are a Trump supporter or an Obama-backer or a long time fan of Ronald Reagan or long for JFK glory days.
This is not about whether an Evangelical can be a Republican or a Democrat or a Libertarian, or Tea Party or Green Party or any party. It doesn't matter. And I don't care. Not today.
Not about immigration reform - although that's a subject closer to the issue. You may be for more conservative immigration reform or for more liberal immigration reform (I think it's safe to say we should all be for immigration reform, since our current, antiquated immigration laws are woefully inadequate for the modern era.) In the end, we can have differing opinions there.
In fact, it's possible for you and I to have different views on these and a thousand other issues while still on the same page as far as the Gospel is concerned.
Sometimes I think we've sort of gotten used to being on different pages on a lot of issues. The socio-political times we live in have made our relationships complex. Then Facebook and Twitter algorithms further complicate things between us. Sometimes it's bad.
And let's deal with the metaphorical elephant. Donald Trump has complicated our evangelical inter-relationships. Some of us, frankly, find him repugnant - at nearly every level. I also know a lot of people who love Jesus and voted the #MAGA ticket. They considered it the best thing. Voted their conscience. I believe that's true for everyone who voted, no matter their candidate. Most people do think before casting a ballot.
And we live in a democratic society. Whoever is elected is elected. She or he should be both supported - and held accountable.
But in the end, what I have to say (or ask? Or plead with you about?) isn't really about politics or politicians. It's not even about character or voting records.
It's not about the president of the United States saying a dirty word. Lots of presidents have said dirty words - more publicly than what Trump said the other day.
Sister and brothers who take all sides when it comes to how a country should be run ... please, please, please let's unite on this:
Racism is evil, anti-gospel, and anti-everything you and I say we agree on and believe.
(I would add a secondary plea, that our hearts are deceptive when it comes to things like this, and we all need to check our own hearts and language when it comes to racism. Especially those of us who are white. But that's for another time and I digress...)
Our churches talk about (argue about?) "Mission". As we should. It's important.
Several years ago, I took a year to read my Bible from cover to cover. (I used to do this every year. I've taken a different Bible-reading approach in the past few years.) That particular year, I was looking for one thing. How does the Bible speak about "the nations"? What I found was mind-blowing. Every book in the Bible points at least once to the vision of God redeeming people from every nation. The beautiful Gospel-vision of "every tribe, tongue, people, and nation" is found throughout the whole book.
I want to point you to two of the hundreds of passages I could point out. Please read the following:
Ephesians 2:11-21 Pay special attention to verse 14
Revelation 21:9-27 Pay special attention to verse 24
Not going to exegete anything here. But here's the bottom line: Racism is an anti-gospel, anti-Jesus sin to be repented of.
What President Trump said this past week is sin from which he must repent. Although, he's publicly stated he doesn't need to ask God for forgiveness. This means he's actually not a Jesus-follower, anyway.
Here's my bigger concern. We, brothers and sister who call ourselves "Evangelicals," must not let this slide. We can't say nothing. We definitely can't defend this, whether any of us voted for him or not. Politics is not the issue.
The Gospel is the issue.
What the president said was racist. That can not and should not be whitewashed. And it's not the first time the man has made racist statements.
Racism flies in the face of everything we say we believe and the most important values we should have as Christians. Christians must never tolerate racism. Ever. Racism is a sin to be fought against and repented of every time it's resurrected.
Racism is always wrong. It hurts people. It perpetuates countless other bad behaviors. It opposes the heart of God. It denigrates and dehumanizes people created in God's image.
And now it's potentially becoming the foundation of our nation's immigration policy.
This can't be tolerated. Least of all by our nation's leaders.
Tomorrow is MLK day here in the US. May I suggest we start a new tradition? What if we began reading "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" every year? Sort of a new Evangelical MLK day tradition? Couple that with reading Ephesians 2 and Revelation 21. Take some time to reflect on how to extradite racism and bigotry in my life and the life of my church.
And ultimately in the life of our country.
One more thing before I close.
I have friends and colleagues who live and work in the countries to which Trump referred last week. I've been to many of said countries. They're actually beautiful places with beautiful people - and unique struggles. Like every country. Even our own. Most of those places have citizens who are brothers and sisters in Christ there. What our president said last week was an affront to all of them and I've never been more offended by a person sitting in an elected office.
But you know what? We should expect nothing less from him.
We should expect more from ourselves. We can do better than this.
Evangelicals should be leading the charge in compassion and servanthood and welcoming.
We should not be taking the lead to defend racism in any form, from any person. To do so is reprehensible - and sinful. And something from which we also must repent.
I appreciate the few Evangelical voices I have heard. I wish there were more.
Our voices - your voice and my voice, your pastor's voice - should be the first to protest when evil and racist remarks drip from the lips of our elected officials. Trump can't get a free pass on this one.
I pray that we will soon speak Gospel as a unified choir - perhaps singing different parts, from different perspectives, but declaring one, clear, beautiful message - lest the Church in America simply fade into the dusk of irrelevance.
That's my dream on MLK day eve.
Thanks for listening.