“Your job is now much more difficult.”
I was at a national gathering of mission leaders from North America and the speaker was sharing what he was hearing from pastors and leaders across the Middle East after the US led invasion of Iraq. Because of our actions he said, Christians were in for an increase in persecution and the credibility of US missionaries was being called into question.
Because of the near total approval of the evangelical church for the actions of the Bush Administration in the aftermath of 9/11. The attacks on Afghanistan were understood by many in the world, but the escalation of violence in the Middle East to include Iraq was not. The speaker was not passing judgement on what we were doing. He was simply stating the facts as he understood them from his travels in the field.
Those were hard words for many in that audience to hear back then.
I’ve thought a lot about those words the last few days as I have reflected on the recent elections here in the US. I hope our job has become just more difficult. Because more difficult is way better than next to impossible.
The numbers are stunning. 81% of white evangelical voters chose Donald Trump. As that sinks in, take a moment to read how Yolanda Pierce put it in her recent article at Religion Dispatches…
Last week I watched as 81 percent of [voting] white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for someone who, on tape, mocked a journalist with disabilities, and who, also on tape, lied about mocking that journalist.
I watched as 81 percent of [voting] white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for someone who admitted to sexually assaulting women and gleefully affirming that he would face no consequences for doing so.
I watched as 81 percent of [voting] white evangelicals and born-again Christians dismissed his affairs, adultery, multiple marriages, participation in porn subculture, refusals to release his tax returns, failure to donate to charities to which he promised money, mockery of his own supporters (including their wives and parents), participation in racist lies about President Obama, stereotyping of African Americans, Mexican Americans and Muslims–and still voted for him.
I watched as 81 percent of [voting] white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for someone who lies about even the most trivial things.
I watched as 81 percent of [voting] white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for someone who in his acceptance speech did not mention “God.” Not one time. Not even to thank God for his victory or to suggest that “God bless America.”
People can disagree with who Pierce chose to support in our election, but about the above facts, there can be no disagreement.
Sadly, 81% is only part of the story. Younger voters, those under 45, broke overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. And there in lies my worry that in fact, our job, that of heralding the Good News of Jesus is going to be much more difficult.
By and large the Gen X'ers, Millennials, and the Nones are multicultural, multiracial, diverse groups of people who are not as troubled by gay friends and relationships as are their parents. The evangelical church is already struggling to bridge a growing culture gap with these generations. I fear our near monolithic support of Donald Trump in the election past will only exacerbate this trend.
Perhaps my biggest concern is in the area of character. For many, it was the one area evangelicals could point to that set us apart. Here’s what longtime evangelical heavyweight James Dobson, Founder of Focus on the Family wrote on the importance of character in the middle of the Monica Lewinsky scandal during the administration of Bill Clinton…
…character DOES matter. You can’t run a family, let alone a country, without it. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world!
At any given time, 40 percent of the nation’s children list the President of the United States as the person they most admire. What are they learning from Mr. Clinton [or in this case, Mr. Trump]? What have we taught our boys about respecting women? What have our little girls learned about men? How can we estimate the impact of this scandal [or this election] on future generations?
James Dobson was right then and his words are right now. And yet, 81% of white evangelical Christians decided to vote for a man who clearly lacks the values they and Dobson used to believe were central to morality, good character and a strong Christian faith.
I am a missiologist. Here’s what that means… “someone who studies religious (typically Christian) missions and their methods and purposes.” In a practical sense, it means I think a lot about how to reach people for Christ, both here in the US, and in my case, in Mexico.
Here is my conclusion and fear.
I believe the White Evangelical Christian Church in America has forever tarnished her reputation among the culturally, ethnically diverse people that soon will make up the majority of the American people.
Our excusal of how Donald Trump ran his campaign, his repeated mocking of people, dismissals of longtime Christian principles and repeated racially insensitive and misogynistic statements has, in the eyes of many, called into question our values and character. How, people have rightly asked, could we support someone so outwardly opposed to the values we expect from our children and believe are central to our faith?
Simply put, we look like the hypocrites we are, not because we did not support Hillary Clinton in this election, but because we supported Donald Trump.
And now because of that, I fear our job is now much more difficult.
A final note... The history of the US is filled with many who despite their personal flaws, have been great leaders. Regardless, historically Christians have understood that we have a responsibility to pray for our leaders, whether we like them or not.
Let's make sure as the Trump team comes into office, that we commit ourselves to pray for him, his administration and our country these next four years.