Archive for Trump and the Church

Dangerous Liaisons…

Posted in Guest Commentators, On Donald Trump with tags , on May 11, 2017 by playthell

Ministers of God Genuflect before Mammon

 Faith Sells Out

I’m an Anglican Priest in Canada, watching in disbelief as the Trump administration trashes every high principle which we know that most people of the U.S. hold dear. With my brother and his extended family living in Massachusetts, New York, Florida and California, what happens south of the border matters to me. Personal reasons aside, however, it’s also tragic to watch entire groups of people dismissed… poor people, sick people, people from foreign countries, people who are ‘different’, people from ‘other’ religions…you know – all those people Jesus welcomed in a heartbeat.

Which brings me to my incentive for writing; the Executive Order on Religious Liberty that Trump just signed. It’s no surprise to me that millions of people look at organized religion and find it wanting. What are we to make of this noise about a religious ‘liberty’ that in essence works to secure Trump’s hold on the Bible Belt and ensures that he may receive cash endorsements from religious organizations? Trump commented, “This financial threat against the faith community is over. No one should be censoring sermons or targeting pastors.”  The named financial threat is a reference to the ever-present question of the relationship between church and state, and whether churches should be taxed.

What many people don’t realize is that most government structures in both Canada and the United States are keenly aware that, should the churches be taxed, it could well compromise their ability to pick up the slack in caring for the hungry, the mentally ill and the homeless – the poor souls who fall through the cracks by the thousands in the governments’ inadequate systems of care. According to recent research, it’s estimated that for every single dollar a church spends in ministry programs, the city benefits to an amount of $4.77 in services provided to the marginalized. (See link below to The Halo Project, a Canadian research study based on a similar study in the U.S.)  Hence churches understand well that the government simply cannot afford to tax them.

The financial issue is more about Trump easing the way for religious organizations to back him with big bucks from the Bible Belt Bubble. As for “…censoring sermons or targeting pastors” as a priest, I can promise you that the church and clergy already have freedom of speech. We’ve all heard the gossip that in February a version of the Executive Order was drafted which contained provisions to protect religious leaders who speak out against same-sex marriage, transgender issues or pre-marital sex. So of course, this softened final version has disappointed religious conservatives. But trust me, they’ve been energetically preaching against these people from the pulpit for years, and they’ll continue to do so.

I was dismayed to learn from the Rev. William J. Barber II’s lucid response to Trump’s first National Day of Prayer, which Barber called a “public spectacle” (see link below)  that the Billy Graham Evangelical Association donated ten million dollars to the Trump campaign. For years, this organization has been a light in the darkness – a witness of compassion and integrity. Billy remained scandal-free, kept his hands off the money and told the world of God’s endless love for decades, without trashing or excluding anyone. But the witness of the Billy Graham Association has been compromised. We all loved Billy for his humility and grace, and we’re surprised that his compassion and wisdom seem to have eluded his son, William Franklin Graham III, the current CEO. His donation to, and affiliation with the Trump Administration are rich with irony.

If any of the Christians on the grass roots level of these organizations behaved even remotely like Trump has, they would be kicked out, “read out of the assembly,” so fast that their heads would be spinning. I was raised in conservative fundamentalism and I know from brutal experience how it works. They might be technically ‘forgiven’ but they’d be alienated from community from that moment on, and yet they embrace Trump’s lies, racism and misogyny with all their hearts. What’s going on, here? How do they justify this disconnect between what they preach and who they’re getting into bed with?

In my tender years in Fundamentalism, I was taught that politics had no place in the pulpit. Politics stayed out there in the secular world, and we stayed pious and sheltered, in the spiritual world. We didn’t have to worry about injustice or war or caring for the environment or racism, because the ‘good’ people would all escape to heaven and that would be our bliss. But it’s not only Evangelical Christians who struggle with the relationship between politics and faith. As an Anglican Priest (Episcopalian in the U.S.) I’ve been attacked for preaching about social issues and for reminding people of their Christian mandate to speak up for justice. I’ve been told, “I don’t come to church to hear about politics or the problems of the world. I come here to escape them.”

For years, this has been the position of the religious right generally, until the likes of Pat Robertson realized the clout the Bible Belt had in elections, and the power they could seek through close ties with conservative political allies. And now we have Franklin Graham climbing into bed with a President whose lies are documented on film, even as he lies about the lies we can all see so clearly.  There’s a huge problem in going to church to escape the problems of the world, but there’s also a huge problem in climbing into bed with politicians. If we truly want to follow Jesus, we’re going to have to follow him into passionate engagement with the problems of the world.

Televangelist Pat Robertson
He Married the Evangelical Movement to the Republican Right
Billy Graham Passing the Bible to Son Franklin

But in his political wheelings and dealings he dropped it!

If we truly want to follow Jesus, there’s no escaping the fact that we must follow him into being a voice for justice; crying out against the corruption and racism and imperialism and self-serving structures we find in both the church and the state. Belonging to the church or to a political party does not negate our responsibility to be a critical voice. But to align with the Trump administration, casually dismissing the horrifying decisions and behaviors that rob people of their dignity and their place in the world in exchange for support for the religious right’s desire to exclude and control is, quite simply, not Christ-like. Jesus didn’t seek to build a fortress of power that would keep others out. Jesus called a lie a lie. Jesus insisted that everyone belongs. Everyone. Jesus said that the bottom line in what God wants from us, is for us to love others as we love ourselves…not to decide who’s in and who’s out.

This Executive Order is not for the church. It serves only Trump. It gives the churches essentially nothing they didn’t already have, but it works as a giant flag-waving opportunity for Trump to ensure the continued donations and votes of the religious right, vaguely affirming their fierce intentions to control women’s rights and to exclude and vilify the LGBTQ community. This Executive Order doesn’t serve the church, and the religious leaders gathering around it should be ashamed of themselves.

If Christians really want to model ourselves after Jesus, we should be walking alongside the suffering, rather than deciding who we should exclude. We should be praising the government when it establishes policies that care for the marginalized and the vulnerable, and calling them out when they don’t.  But the fundamentalists, it seems, have missed that faithful stance, having gone from one extreme to the other…from non-involvement to completely selling out. The religious right has become an angry force for exclusion. Where’s that divine love? Where’s that marvelous grace about which they sing every Sunday?

They Claim to be Brides of Christ….

So why Are they cavorting with Lucifer?

It’s alarming to the point of shock that they choose to support a leader whose words, actions and policies fly in the face of the One they claim to follow. Perhaps it’s time for all people of faith to join the modern day prophets like Rev. William Barber, and put a little more effort into reclaiming the essence of faith and resisting this environment that would make God into a bully for the sake of its own agenda. Perhaps it’s time for faith leaders to remind the world that following Jesus is simply about embracing love.

Rev. Susanne

09 May 2017

                                                                                                                                                                                     Link to The Halo Project                                                                                                         https://www.haloproject.ca/phase-1-toronto

Link to The Rev. William J. Barber II on Trump’s First National Day of Prayer https://thinkprogress.org/rev-barber-religious-liberty-discrimination-27331473e4f4