Christians Leave Trump in Droves
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church condemned it. Trump “used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes. This was done in a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his action did nothing to help us or to heal us,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in a statement.
The Episcopal Bishop of Washington condemned it. “I am outraged,” the Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde, bishop of Washington, told The Washington Post. “Everything [Trump] has said and done is to inflame violence. We need moral leadership, and he’s done everything to divide us.”
The Catholic Archbishop of Washington condemned it. “I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people, even those with whom we might disagree,” Archbishop Wilton Gregory said about Trump’s visit to a Saint John Paul II National Shrine. Gregory said Pope John Paul would “not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”
The President of the Southern Baptist Convention, J. D. Greear, condemned it. “Our only agenda should be to advance God’s kingdom, proclaim his gospel, or find rest for our souls.” Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Religious Liberty and Ethics Convention, elaborated, “The murder of African-American citizens, who bear the image of God, is morally wrong. Violence against others and destruction of others’ property is morally wrong. Pelting people with rubber bullets and spraying them with tear gas for peacefully protesting is morally wrong.”
The Presiding Bishop for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America condemned it. Elizabeth Eaton decried Trump’s decision (“The president used federal troops to clear a path through peaceful protesters in order to stand before an Episcopal church, make a statement, and hold up a bible…Not only was this manipulative, it was desecration.” She said, “Denouncing this outrage cannot, however, distract us from the deep wounds of structural racism and white supremacy that have been reopened by the killing of George Floyd.”
My own Bishop The Rt. Rev. Phoebe A. Rolfe issued a lament to her flock: “The nation’s collective heart is full of disease. 400 years of terror inflicted upon persons of African descent have not evoked a sense of compassion among many well-meaning Americans. Others have also been denied the full stature of their humanity – Asians, Native Americans, Latinos, women, poor whites, members of the LGBTQ community. The protests we are witnessing aren’t just about the death of George Floyd – they are a collective cry of pain after generations of mistreatment.”
(Note: The Presiding Episcopal Bishop is African American. The Catholic Archbishop is African American. The Episcopal Washington Bishop is a white woman. My Bishop is an African American woman. The President of the SBC is 45 yrs old and was nominated to bring greater inclusivity and racial diversity to the denomination. The Evangelical Lutheran Presiding Bishop is a white woman. Who you have in leadership positions matters. If you want to know why, just ask me in the comments—this post is long enough already.)
Yet, the overarching story in the media is that Trump’s Evangelical base has stayed loyal to him. I think the media does this to pander to liberal outrage that leads to clicks on stories (“How can they? They are such hypocrites!”) The media needs to shift the story, but until they do, we have to.
Why does it matter? Four reasons:
- It’s true, and people need to know it. We don’t usually see shifts as they are happening unless someone points them out. The statements by these leaders are extraordinary. (We are so tired of unprecedented, but the Archbishop’s statement was called exactly that.) And once people see shifts, they think, oh, shit, I’m about to get left behind, and they shift too.
- If you live in a conservative area, it can be hard to speak up for your values. If you know your church supports you, you can say, “My church says it’s wrong.” It gives you a shield, an excuse. That might make you a weenie, but so be it. On the other hand, if you don’t know where your church stands, you can’t say it. People need to know.
- People who might be on the fence or uncertain of their position need this information. Not all Episcopalians are as liberal as Michael Curry; I’m sure that goes for the Baptists, Catholics, and Lutherans, too. They need to know that if they take a different stance, it is against the leadership of their church.
- We need to support these leaders. If you think their statements will be the end of it, you’re wrong. Even now a Trump-supporting opponent is challenging Greear for the SBC Presidency. The voices extolling these leaders need to be as loud as those deriding them.
So kudos to the Atlantic for this story issued yesterday. But the title is wrong. It implies Christians support Trump, but these sects don’t. (Odd stance to take when Rev. Dr. William J. Barber and his extraordinary coalition with millions of followers has denounced Trump from the get-go.) I like my title better: Christians Leave Trump in Droves
ps if you know of other religious leaders who have spoken out about this, please let me know.
Archbishop of Washington, Bishop Phoebe A. Rolfe, Christians leave Trump in droves, Episcopal Bishop of Washington, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Presiding Bishop for the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber