Tomorrow, in the United States, millions of people will attend church. Their service this week will be a thanksgiving service, with worship, voices lifted in joyous prayer, tears, shaking, tongues, hugs and sharp sermons filled with triumphant words. They will be thanking the judeo-christian God for the election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the United States.
Millions of Americans, under instruction of their spiritual leaders, prayed every day for months for Trump’s victory and Hillary Clinton’s defeat. They fasted, did overnight prayer vigils, prayed together in public places, went to the high places in their cities and rural areas, blew shofars. In sermon after sermon, almost pornographic in detail, they heard how Clinton wanted to abort babies at nine months, how she enabled her husband’s affairs and alleged sexual offending, how she was allied with the lascivious lifestyles of the LGBT communities. End times, the plans of the Enemy. They heard convoluted arguments defending the three-time married, narcissistic sexual offender as a sinner with a growing faith, God’s chosen candidate.
So on Sunday, they will celebrate. Prayers answered! God’s miraculous intervention against the plans of humanity, despite the polls, despite the rigged voting, despite the money. These Christians sought His face and beseeched Him for mercy. And God answered, as He has of old. God is faithful to His people.
If you have no connection with Christianity, if you have rejected it as a foolish crutch for ignorant people, this will merely affirm what you already think about people who voted for Trump. I can’t take that path so easily. I am a Christian. I came to faith in the Assemblies of God, I was confirmed in the Catholic Church, I am a member of the Anglican Church with my family, I am intending to study Pai Mārire (a Māori Christian movement in the nineteenth century), our marae includes Catholicism in its practices. I comfortably stand at church and recite the Creed. Prayer, fasting and giving for the poor is a part of my character, my values, my belief and my hope.
Christians worldwide need to admit this then: many of our brothers and sisters in Christ prayed for Trump. A man who is likely to set back the global response to climate change, a man who is a poster boy for rape culture, a man who has abused and bullied others, a man who wants to commit war crimes and expand the military interventions of the USA. I and many others like me, including Pope Francis, prayed for essentially the opposite of what Trump supporters prayed for. We prayed, wrote and spoke for peace, for non-violence, for communities, for re-distribution of wealth, for unity. But about 120 million of the 210 million professing US Christians were in prayerful opposition to us. Not to speak of evangelical protestants throughout the world; here in Aotearoa New Zealand there were evangelical churches firmly behind Trump.
This has some parallels with other challenges that Protestant and Catholic churches have faced in the past thirty-five years: women’s leadership; the place of LGBT communities; same sex relationships; LGBT leadership; dictatorships in the Majority World; sexual abuse; income inequality and poverty. In each and every one of these issues, the church worldwide has been immobilised by socially conservative Christians and their leadership. Every single time. And every time the moderate and liberal Christians have bowed their heads and talked about unity together, which in reality means doing very little except setting up committees to discuss the issues. Other than Pope Francis’ blunt statement that capitalism is a sin, I cannot think of an instance where moderate and liberal Christians have said bluntly to conservative Christians: your view bears no relationship to the words and actions of our Christ, and is at odds with the sharing of the hope of salvation to all peoples that is our central mission. Never a correction, never a challenge, always a surrender. The highest value in church leadership seems to be to not offend anyone, hold it together, retain power.
Trump represents another crisis for Christianity. Christians strong and active support for him is evidence that no matter how objectionable, offensive, dangerous and even criminal a position is held by some members of the church, no one in church leadership will correct them. Church leadership may preach ‘peace,’ but they are saying ‘surrender.’ Unity does not exist through excluding all conflict and avoiding correction; unity includes saying at times to our brothers and sisters, “you are wrong and have stepped away from Christ’s example.” A church that allows the idolisation of hate, exclusion and oppression so as not to offend anyone is no bride of Christ. Indeed, I suspect we may find our silence that condones means we may find ourselves among those excluded from the Kingdom, as “not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
[The image is from Pinterest, under ‘right wing Jesus.’ I couldn’t find out who did it originally, but if you know, let me know.]