An Open Letter to My Fellow American Evangelicals about Trump
I have been an evangelical Christian my whole life. My father was an evangelical pastor for over fifty years; my uncle served on the national board of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). I have taught Christian theology at three evangelical institutions of higher education for thirty-six years. I served as a contributing editor of Christianity Today magazine—evangelicalism’s leading publication. I have written several books about evangelical Christianity. My evangelical credentials are impeccable.
Now, however, I am constantly assailed with questions such as “How can you call yourself ‘evangelical’ now that ‘evangelical’ means being a supporter of Donald Trump and the far-right wing of the Republican Party?” I have not given up calling myself evangelical and will not, but I have to admit that holding onto the label and identity is becoming increasingly difficult.
*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
Recently Trump reportedly called many of the countries from which many American evangelical Christians have come “sh*thole countries” and held up as better countries ones that may be more economically affluent but are very secular. His language and attitude, are extremely offensive—not just to certain countries but to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who loves people of all nations.
(Note: My blog’s host has asked me not to print the vulgarity in its entirety here even though it has been publicly repeated on television news programs and in newspaper articles. I comply with their wish with some reluctance. Also, I believe Trump said this even though some who were present say they don’t remember saying it and Trump now denies saying it. Certain U.S senators were present when he said it and insist that he did say it. I believe them partly because this fits what I observe as Trump’s character and speech patterns.)
Jesus was a citizen of a “sh*thole country” if there ever was one. Of course, I don’t mean to call it that for myself; what I mean is that Trump’s category would include first century Palestine. In fact, however, we evangelicals believe the whole world is a “sh*thole country” compared with the glory from which Jesus came when he was born in Bethlehem.Trump’s language and the worldview it expresses are absolutely contrary to everything truly, authentically evangelical (or just Christian!).
Yes, truly, some countries in our world are suffering terribly from poverty and tyranny. But what are poverty and tyranny compared with godless secularism? My grandparents came from countries Trump admires and they are, in this century, affluent and democratic. (One cannot help but wonder, however, why Trump so admires them when they are socialist economically!) But aren’t they “sh*thole countries”—insofar as they have forgotten God and chosen to rely spiritually on their own resources rather than on God’s grace?
My fellow evangelicals who continue to support and even defend Trump in spite of everything he has said about the weak and vulnerable people of the world: It is time to admit you have been wrong and stop defending the indefensible. Trump’s labeling of certain countries as “sh*thole countries” because they are impoverished (often as a result of European and American colonialism and exploitation!) is blatantly racist—given their common racial identity. But, even worse, it is not only vulgar but also blasphemous—insofar as God loves the people of those countries, too. To label them “sh*thole countries” from the seat of power and privilege because they are poor and weak is to stand against Jesus who loved this world so much that he came into it to save it rather than just condemn it as it deserves (John 3:16-17).
Roger E. Olson
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