The following is an edited version of Pastor Ray’s sermon given Sunday, November 13, 2016—a faith response to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.
Like many of you, I’ve spent that past several days processing the outcome of Tuesday’s general election where Donald Trump unexpectedly shocked the nation with his victory. On Wednesday morning, I listened to the deep pain and profound grief of family and friends—women, LGBTQ folk, people with disabilities, Latinx and African American sisters and brothers, and I watched as tears streamed down their faces. Again and again, they asked with fear in their voices, “What will happen next?”, knowing full well that history has already shown us what regularly happens next to people who are perceived as the cause of the problem. I felt their fear. Again and again, I was asked, “How could this have happened?” I don’t believe anyone expected me to have the explanation, but it moved me to seek an answer. How did this happen? How did the least qualified candidate in United States history become President?
The answer was deeply painful for me. Donald Trump won due to the votes of white men (60%) and the votes of white evangelical Christians—both men and women (over 80%). Of course, others voted for him, but without the support of evangelical Christians, he would not have been elected. Which deeply grieves me since I was born and raised in the evangelical tradition and I am still deeply connected to it.
I am grieved because people that look just like me and use the language of my faith selected the candidate that Jim Wallis of Sojourners (also a white man of Christian faith) called “ a man who embodies the most sinful and shameful worship of money, sex, and power, and—perhaps more than any other public figure in America—represents the very worst values of what American culture has become….” As a result, white evangelical Christians are now inextricably linked to the bigotry, the misogyny, the hatred, the cruelty, and the rudeness and crudeness of Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric. White evangelical Christians are now bound to white supremacy, hate, rape culture, homophobia and religious intolerance and with all those who want America to be great (code for white, male, straight, Christian) again. And all Christians are now implicated by association.
White Christians have communicated to our neighbors—women, Black and Brown Americans, those with disabilities, immigrants, Muslims, and the LGBTQ community, “you are not and never will be fully accepted. You will never be equal. You are less important; less valued; LESS, PERIOD.” The white evangelical church demonstrated in the polling place that the they are more committed to making America great again than to following Jesus, who commanded us to “love the Lord our God…and love our neighbor as ourselves.”
The Shepherds—the theologians, the evangelists, the pastors, the revered representatives of the evangelical faith—have led the flock into the depths of hypocrisy, excusing behavior that the Word of God expressly condemns—adultery, sexual assault, abusive speech, false witness—and justifying a man who has arrogantly refused to confessed his sin. Christians have aligned themselves with darkness. Christians have chosen the road of Balaam. Christians have turned to Egypt and “drunk the waters of the Nile.” Christians have embraced the harlot.
Some may object and say, “We didn’t like the man. His words and his actions were disgusting and vile. But we had no alternative. We had a moral obligation. We were voting for the future and protecting the children living in the womb.” And in so doing, you have sacrificed the living children who now cling to their mothers in fear, anxiously wondering if they have a future.
Indeed, you have voted for a future, but it is not the new heavens and new earth where justice dwells that God announced through the prophets and that Jesus inaugurated. The future you elected is built on the sand of the past not the Rock. You supported the old racism. You supported the old misogyny. You supported the old bigotry. And you chose to rebuild the dividing walls of hostility that Christ destroyed at the cross.
Sadly, we have already begun to see your future, which looks disturbingly like the past. Hate crimes have spiked since Tuesday’s election with Muslims and blacks and gays the primary targets. A chapter of the Ku Klux Klan has announced a victory parade in North Carolina. Andrew Anglin declared of the election results on his Neo-Nazi website, “Daily Stormer,”: “Our Glorious Leader has ascended to God Emperor. Make no mistake about it: we did this.” 1
And you helped to do this. What you thought was buried has returned to life. The demons you thought had been cast out have returned seven fold. Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy.
God has a word of mercy for us. “REPENT!” There is a way forward. God’s prescription for a people infected with the disease of superiority and supremacy is this: “IF you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and IF you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, THEN [and only then] your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. (Isaiah 58:9b-10) (NIV)
And Jesus is standing at the door of the evangelical church—poverty stricken, naked and blind as the Church of Laodicea—and he is knocking, inviting us to “Come, follow me.”
So we all now have a decision. Will we take the medicine God offers? Will we answer the call? What will be your next step?
For me, I can no longer self-identify as ‘evangelical Christian’ or even ‘Christian.’ Those labels have lost all credibility as a result of this election. From now on, if I self-identify my faith at all, I will self-identify as ‘Follower of Jesus.’
My next steps will be in the footprints of Jesus. And his footprints lead me to the very people so belittled and abused in this election. Jesus said, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ (Matthew 25:35-36) (NIV)
Jesus is found in the marginalized, the oppressed, the vulnerable; in those who have been stripped of their dignity and human-ness; in those who have been mocked; in those who have been rejected; in those who have been poisoned by the water; in those whose land has been forcibly taken from them; in those who are considered ‘less than’.
I will follow Jesus in these people. In repentance, I will offer my hands and feet to their cause. With ears to hear, I will listen to their cries. And with renewed strength, I will bear their burdens. I will humbly remember my Lord’s words, “the last shall be first and first shall be last” and “whoever wants to be great…must become the servant.”
So, if you are looking for me, you will find me following behind the women, the people with disabilities, the LGBTQ folk, the communities of color, the indigenous peoples, the immigrants, the laborers, the Dreamers, the chronically unemployed, the incarcerated, the Muslims, the forgotten and the displaced. And whatever power and privilege I have because of my race and gender and faith, I will offer it to them. For it is in them that I will find Jesus and through them that I will enter into the fullness of God’s kingdom and God’s love.
I will follow the way of faith that joyfully welcomes the outsider, graciously includes the outcast and the sinner, boldly defends the vulnerable, and prophetically liberates the oppressed. I will model THIS faith for my children and grandchildren, for my congregation and for my community.
God has said, “Here is the way. Walk in it.” It is a narrow way. It is a way that leads to insults and persecution. It is a way that ultimately leads to the cross. But I will walk it, knowing that Jesus walked this way ahead of us and made it through; and knowing that there is a cloud of witnesses who have also walked it before us cheering us on.
“Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely. And let us run with perseverance the course that is marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning it’s shame.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (NRSV)
1 Southern Poverty Law Center