I swore to myself that I would move on from politics and start posting about other pressing matters (like The Year of the Lined Pants) but after last week’s siege on the Capitol as the grand finale of the #StopTheSteal rally, I had one last thought (or maybe it’s two thoughts?) that I wanted to share.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m deeply disturbed by the number of so-called Christians that have been supporting 45, particularly those who support him even after last week’s insurrection. I understand that many of them claim their pro-life beliefs compel them to support the Republican party and that the end justifies the means. But unlike the boats that sank in this summer’s Trump parade, that argument doesn’t hold water. At this point, supporting Trump for his anti-abortion stance is akin to excusing those who kill abortion doctors because they’re sacrificing one life for many. The right-wing violence demonstrated over the last week shows that they are now aligning themselves with the very types of people they claim to oppose.
The end does not justify the means. Period.
The “Christian” segment of Trump supporters is led by the white, evangelical Christians. I’ve always been leery of evangelists, because in my experience many of them focus on the wrong things—turning evangelism into a contest for salvation points or, worse, using it as a get-rich-quick scheme. (Incidentally, for a really thorough and thoughtful discussion on evangelism, I recommend this article. For my agnostic friends who aren’t inclined to read that, I’ll put it more simply: I believe that the absolute, most-effective method of evangelism is not just to share Jesus’s words, but to model his behavior. It seems obvious, but it’s rarely done. Instead, many Evangelicals focus on more obscure parts of the Bible to try to browbeat the “unchurched” into submission. Case in point: Do you realize that Jesus never said one word related to LGBTQIA-related issues or abortion? Nope. He did, however, very clearly instruct us to love our neighbors as ourselves. I don’t believe Jesus wants abortions to happen, but I believe he wants us to solve that problem through compassion and by taking care of one another—not through fines and penalties. He gave us the tools we need to solve the problem using cooperation, kindness and generosity. All we have to do is get to work.
This browbeating—which is increasingly being reinforced with physical violence—is one of the many ways that Christians who support Trump are actually driving people AWAY from Christ. And they will need to answer to Jesus for that, because that’s the exact opposite of what he commanded.
Granted, aspiring to live like Christ may be difficult task, but it’s also the only sure-fire way to draw people to him. His example on this earth—and the fact that he’s still such a large part of our daily conversation two thousand years later—is a testament to his “irresistibility.” The truth is, it’s hard to resist the overwhelming pull of compassion in the way that Jesus demonstrated: feeling understood, being challenged to be the best version of yourself, yet knowing that you are forgiven for your short-comings and are still a beloved Child of God. Who wouldn’t be drawn to that kind of energy? The unfortunate reason more people haven’t experienced that is because most Christians (present company included) are really bad about actually living Christ’s example. (I include myself in that indictment, although I continue to try my best.)
In other words, I think Evangelicals should stop haranguing people to accept Christ as their personal savior and start showing them what Jesus stood for instead. I guarantee they will win more souls for Jesus with that approach…no conversion therapy necessary.
It’s like the ridiculous, so-called “War on Christmas.” There IS no war on Christmas. Like Jesus, Christmas is too darned irresistible. That’s why you occasionally see Hindus and Jews capitulating to their children’s request for a Christmas tree. They may not embrace the Christmas story about a virgin giving birth to the Son of God (which, spoiler alert, didn’t actually occur on December 25th), but they often can’t resist the trappings: the lights, the tinsel, the carols, the sentimental movies and peace-on-earth-good-will-toward-men. The only thing that some non-Christians request of their Christian neighbors is to acknowledge that not everyone celebrates Christmas and to not react to the phrase “Happy Holidays” as though it’s a curse. Which, if you think about it, is not an unreasonable request to make of someone whose faith compels them to “do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
“America First” is a race to the bottom.
And there’s another corollary to this that applies to a troubling policy that many conservatives are embracing: (White) Nationalism. Jesus made it very clear that salvation was for all nations, not a select few. The USA isn’t “special” in terms of being God’s favorite—as much as it may pain some Evangelicals to hear that. Moreover, this line of thinking is short-sighted and stupid. The pandemic has shown us that no country can afford to stand alone during a time of crisis. It took researchers sharing information globally to identify the virus and how it spreads. Likewise, multiple vaccines could not have been developed in record time without international collaboration. Climate change is another example: If climate change progresses beyond a certain point, we ALL will suffer—no matter how many walls we build or security checkpoints we put in place to secure our borders. Our economic stability is also dependent on global cooperation. In short, we need to be a nation focused on “win-win,” not “win-lose.”
“America First” is not only a misguided and dangerous philosophy, it’s also unnecessary. For those who insist it is needed to spread democracy throughout the world, I would respond that our Constitution is a beautiful, sexy thing… the envy of many. And the promise of what our democracy could be (but admittedly has not yet achieved) is nearly as irresistible—in terms of government—as Jesus is to religion. Therefore, if we can just model a democracy where all men and women are truly created equal, with equal protection under the law, and equal opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then we won’t NEED to sanction other governments in an attempt to move them toward democracy. It will happen organically. In the same interconnected world described earlier, other nations that are exposed to the freedom and justice of the United States will eventually demand the same. And the Vladimir Putins and Donald Trumps of this world will be limited in their influence and power.
We just need to focus on two tasks to bring about real change:
1. Love thy neighbor as thyself
2. Strive for equality and justice for all
The challenge before us is these are both “Easier said than done.” It may not happen overnight. However, if we rise to the challenge, I guarantee it will happen.