Like many of my clerical colleagues, I do not enjoy conflict. Whether it’s an argument over the color of the carpet in the church parlor or a parking-lot debate about same-sex marriage, my instinct is to remain “pastoral,” keeping myself above the fray.
That was the approach taken by white clergy in Birmingham when Martin Luther King, Jr. was leading the struggle for racial justice. They told Dr. King that, while they agreed with his noble aspirations, he should be patient so as not to provoke conflict. Dr. King’s reply: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
I am particularly wary of conflict with my fellow Christians. The way I see it, we Christians already convey a mixed message to folks outside our churches. We disagree about a number of important issues and airing our dirty laundry in public just adds to the perception that the Christian faith has nothing to offer but intolerance, judgment, and condemnation. We American Christians have an embarrassingly poor record of communicating God’s love for this hurting world – as our Lord would have us do.
So, as much as I hate to bring it up, I feel compelled to ask my brothers and sisters in Christ – and especially those who are proud to call themselves “evangelicals” — how, in God’s name, they can continue to sanction the words and actions of President Donald Trump.
In recent days the President has called for four congresswomen of color to “go back” to their countries. He has demeaned a black congressman from Baltimore and, with vitriol unbecoming an ordinary citizen, much less the President of the United States, has insulted the entire population of an American city. According to our President, anyone who chooses to live in Baltimore is less than human, for “no human being would want to live there.”
The President’s ad hominem attacks on those who disagree with him, laced with racist memes and demeaning nicknames, contradict a bedrock principle of Christianity – that all human beings are created in the image of God. The President’s insults go beyond political hyperbole. They are a stunning contradiction of the faith all Christians share.
There comes a point where silence becomes complicity. Christians of all stripes should condemn with vigor the President’s racist, dehumanizing rhetoric.
We should also remember our divine calling to be “leaven in the lump.” We can be agents of reconciliation, helping to pull the national conversation out of the cesspit and into a respectful public square.