EDITOR’S NOTE: A word from RLC co-founder Shane Claiborne as the #DallasRevival kicks off (November 16-17, 2018).
Christianity in America is in a funk.
The latest evidence of that is the 81 percent of white evangelicals who voted for Trump.
It’s been said that Trump did not change America — he revealed America. It can also be said that he didn’t change evangelicalism, Trump revealed it. And what we see is very disturbing. Many Christians seem more dedicated to Trump than to Jesus, calling him the “dream president.”
It’s not that we are anti-Trump. We are pro-Jesus. But nearly everything Trump has come to stand for, personally and politically, is anti-Jesus. The tweets of Trump sound very unlike Jesus, and so do his policies.
We have come to Dallas to lift up Jesus because we know Jesus is the best corrective to the stuff that’s gone wrong in evangelical Christianity.
Robert Jeffress here in Dallas is one of the Christian leaders who continues to defend the indefensible, forfeiting his moral integrity for the sake of political expediency. He has said that Trump is “on the right side of God” and that he is “the most pro-life president in history.” He’s even argued that Romans 13 gives Trump the “authority to do whatever” he wants, even start a nuclear war. This pro-Trump, nationalistic, anti-Jesus theology is toxic and dangerous. The dream president of Jerry Falwell, Jr., Franklin Graham, and Robert Jeffress is the nightmare president for the poor and marginalized.
America First is not just bad politics — it is a theological heresy. Jesus never said, “America First.” He said, “The last shall be first.” The Bible does not say, “God bless America” but that “God so loved the world.” We are called to love like God loves. God’s love doesn’t stop at borders and can’t be contained by a wall. As a caravan of immigrants come to the border, we are reminded that Jesus said when we welcome the stranger we welcome Him. When we turn away the stranger, we turn away Christ.
“Make America Great Again” was never meant to be a gospel song, as it has become at First Baptist Church in Dallas. Christians worship Jesus, not America. Our ultimate allegiance is not to a flag or a country or to a political party, but to Christ the Savior of the world. And our commitment to Jesus means we have a particular concern for the most vulnerable people on the planet, whom Jesus called “the least of these.”
Our current crisis is not just a theological one. This is a love crisis. Our country is being held captive to fear, and fear is the enemy of love. Scripture promises, “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). And we can see from this current administration that fear also casts out love. When fear rather than love compels us, we do really terrible things to other people. This is a moment where we must decide which master we will serve – love or fear, and many have chosen fear.
We choose love. Jesus said that they will know we are Christians by our love.
Love compels us to care when black and brown and gay and transgender bodies are endangered. Love calls us to act when police shootings are a regular occasion like the murder of Botham Jean, a pastor here in Texas, killed in his own home by a Dallas police officer. Love keeps us up at night when 100 lives a day are lost to gun violence. Love doesn’t sit still when lives are at stake. And lives are at stake right now.
It’s clear that some of the loudest voices of Christianity have not been the most beautiful voices. And some of the most beautiful voices haven’t had the amplification they deserve.
Here’s the good news – it’s revival time! In contrast to the 81percent of white evangelicals who voted for Trump, 72 percent of evangelicals of color voted differently. And they are the fastest growing population of Christians, making up over a third of evangelical Christians in America. They love Jesus and they know that justice is a core part of the Christian faith. That’s who you will hear at this REVIVAL. We are intentionally de-centering white evangelicalism with a more beautiful, more Christ-like version of Christianity.
The church is meant to be the moral conscience of society, to preach repentance and grace — and sometimes it feels like we’ve forgotten both in America. Too often, we have been the chaplains of the empire and defenders of the status quo rather than the prophetic conscience of the nation. We’ve often blessed the rich rather than the poor and stood by the warmakers instead of the peacemakers. We’ve defended the powerful rather than the weak and exchanged the cross for a gun.
Our Christianity has often looked very unlike our Christ. And for that we repent. It’s time for a revival.
Rev. Dr. William Barber II has reminded us that the church is to be the moral defibrillators of America — to shock America’s cold heart back to life. We are to shock America with love and compassion and to make dead hearts begin to beat again. After all, we believe dead stuff can come back to life. But if we are going to wake up America, we have to be alive ourselves.
We have been fasting and praying for this revival. We know that God is going to revive people this weekend — breathe life into some dry bones. And we also know that when you leave this place you are going to help bring America back to life.
Many of you come here as activists, others as people of faith. Some of you are tired. Some of you are cynical. Some of you may not even know why you have come, but it feels like something has drawn you here.
You are going to hear about Jesus. And you are going to hear about justice.
For some of you, this will be an opportunity to dedicate your life to Jesus, perhaps for the first time. For others, it will be a chance to dedicate your life to justice — racial justice, economic justice, environmental justice — maybe also for the first time.
God, give us ears to hear and eyes to see. Revive us. Wake us up. Don’t let us sleep through the revolution. Make us people who do not accept the world as it is right now, but who insist on moving the world towards what it ought to be — people who want to see your Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.
Let your kingdom come – in Texas, as it is in heaven.