Since the election of Donald Trump as our 45th President, I've noticed an interesting shift among some of my friends and acquaintances from my "Church Days."
After Donald Trump spent his first week in office, signing Executive Orders/Memos/Actions, failing in what should have been some of the easier tests of his ability to be a diplomatic leader, embedding his Neo-Nazi strategist into the NSC, set up one of the most racist pieces of policy in our modern history, and basically just pissing everyone off (even those who voted for him), I was a bit shocked to hear some of my Evangelical friends say things that basically said "This is not who we are."
I have to admit that I was impressed that they so quickly realized that Trump, who secured the Evangelical vote in one of the most impressive cons in the history of our elections, was not the representative of their faith or values in the way that many of them enthusiastically insisted throughout the election. My friends from Bible college were very quick to dismiss Trump after he named Somalia in his immigration ban, as our college is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in one of the largest Somalian neighborhoods in the city. We all interacted with our Somali neighbors every day, participated in community projects with them, were customers in their stores, cafes, and restaurants, mentored their children, helped them learn to speak English, played soccer with their kids in Elliot Park. They were and continue to be our neighbors, our friends, and are an important part in the community. We know them, and they know us.
My friends seemed to be shocked that Trump was capable of placing Somalia on the list of countries that were a part of his immigration ban. After all, we know some of these people personally. They don't match the Trump/Bannon ideology of what makes a terrorist. And because of this personal connection, my friends suddenly found themselves capable of speaking up to say "This isn't right. This isn't who we are."
For a moment, I felt proud of them. For a moment. Then, I felt the all-too-common, gut-wrenching feeling I've had about the intersection of Evangelicalism and politics that seems to haunt so much of my experience in the church. The feeling that makes me respond "No, this is exactly who you are."
I was reminded of the time when I was working at the church I grew up in, during the 2008 election, when the youth pastor walked into the office and exclaimed "Anyone on this staff who votes for Obama should be fired!" Or the numerous times I heard another pastor refer to one of our young Hispanic volunteers as a "Wet Back."
Or the time I opened up my email from the office manager of the church to find a racist political cartoon, depicting Barack Obama as a slave.
Or when I walked in to the breakroom in the church office to find a picture of Sarah Palin taped to the refrigerator with a note that said "This is what a woman of God looks like."
Or at the first staff meeting after the 2008 election, when a staff member was genuinely concerned that Barack Obama was the Antichrist, and how she hoped for his failure, only to be outdone by the maintenance workers who volunteered to go to the inauguration with their hunting rifles and take him out.
And then, you know, there was that time when I was asked to resign from the church because the same youth pastor mentioned above had suspicion that I was gay, and their defense for asking me to leave was that I posed a threat to the children (because all gay people are pedophiles in their eyes).
This is who you are, Church.
So, in walks Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for President. A man who previously identified as pro-choice, has been seen as a philanderer, a failure as a businessman for his multiple bankruptcy filings, a Hollywood elitist, a reality television show host, and personal friend of the Clintons. But in history's greatest con, he managed to still be exactly that guy, and yet convince Evangelicals and other people of faith that he is a new man, a devout Christian with strong morals. He was now pro-life, wanted to punish women who had abortions, and suddenly stood for everything the Conservative Right has stood for. He even managed to get quite a few well-known pastors and faith leaders to vouch for him. Of course, these were the typical types you would expect to endorse a guy like Trump...the kind of pastors that believe in Prosperity Gospel, have multi-million dollar homes and book deals, are more media mogul than shepherd of a flock.
And they fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. And no matter how many times Trump showed his true self...by making fun of a disabled reporter, getting caught bragging about how and where he likes to grab women, the amount of women who came forward to talk about how he assaulted them, showed his lack of humility by saying he knew more than the generals, encouraged violence at his rallies, the list literally goes on and on...and yet, Evangelicals insisted this was the "Man of God" they needed in the White House. The litmus test was no longer "Does this man exemplify the Fruits of the Spirit," but became "Can this guy give us what we want, no matter the cost?"
This is who you are, Church. You either fell for the biggest con of all time, or sold your soul for a few silver pieces of legislative promises that violate the Constitution.
And none of that mattered, until it impacted you on a personal level. Until you knew someone being detained at an airport, or being sent back to the horrors of war and genocide.
It's a new form of selfishness, Church. And it's who you have been, since trading the command to follow Christ for the promise of notoriety and prosperity, for the promise of a creating a culture of false righteousness instead of a culture of love.
This is who you are, Church. You are no longer a reflection of Christ, but a reflection of Donald Trump.