Christianity in America is in a funk.
The same people who led many of us to Christ have also led us to Trump.
In 2016, 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump. And many like Franklin Graham in North Carolina continue to defend Trump and his policies, despite how unlike Christ they are.
It’s been said that Trump did not change America — he revealed America. It can also be said that he didn’t change white evangelicalism; he revealed it. What we are seeing is very disturbing. Many Christians seem more dedicated to Trump than to Jesus, calling him their “dream president.”
In fact, Franklin Graham has claimed that God intervened in the last election to help Trump get into office saying, “I think God was behind the last election.” And Graham has said, “Never in my lifetime have we had a president willing to take such a strong outspoken stand for the Christian faith like Donald Trump.” What’s at stake is not simply the reputation of these Trump-evangelicals, but the reputation of all of us who call ourselves Christians.
When Christian leaders say things like God has put Trump in power, it does tremendous damage to the cause of Christ. As leaders forfeit their moral authority to defend the indefensible, it is our duty to challenge the distorted moral narrative.
Many people — especially young folks — are leaving the church. But it is not Jesus they have rejected… it is a twisted version of American nationalism that is camouflaging itself as Christianity. It is a Christ-less Christianity.
We’ve often blessed the rich rather than the poor and stood by the war makers 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.
It is actually our love for Jesus that puts us at odds with what evangelicalism has become known for.
It’s not that we are not anti-Trump. We are pro-Jesus. And 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. The gospel of Jesus sounds very different from the “gospel” of Trump.
Our first Red Letter Revival was last year in Lynchburg, Va. Our second was in Dallas, Texas. Now we are coming to Goldsboro, North Carolina, on October 1 & 2, 2019. And we have come to lift up Jesus, because we know Jesus is the best corrective to the stuff that’s gone wrong in evangelical Christianity.
The dream president of Jerry Falwell, Robert Jeffress, and Franklin Graham is the nightmare president for the poor and marginalized. That’s why we need a revival.
Our country is in crisis. With hate crimes on the rise, white supremacists with assault rifles continue to be the greatest threat to public safety — even as we are told to fear families seeking asylum or our neighbors in the Bahamas seeking refuge after the hurricane.
We who love Jesus want to say that when evangelical Christians are endorsing the same candidates and policies as the KKK and the NRA, our country and our church are in need of a revival.
Families are being separated at the border. Kids are being held in cages. The number of refugees welcomed into our country is the lowest it has been in decades. Those of us who follow the refugee from Nazareth are concerned. We know that one day we will be judged by how we treat the least of these. Christ will ask us, “When I was a stranger, did you welcome me?”
Our crisis is not just a political crisis; it is also a moral and spiritual crisis. That’s why we need revival.
America First is not just bad politics; it is theological heresy. Jesus never said, “America First.” He said, “The last shall be first.” The Bible does not say, “God bless America” but “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 how Jesus said that when we welcome the stranger we welcome Him. When we turn away the stranger, we turn away Christ.
As we embark on this North Carolina revival, Franklin Graham will also be launching his “Decision America Tour” in North Carolina. Our concern is that he is not simply inviting people to the altar to dedicate their lives to Jesus. He is also inviting them to dedicate their lives to the Republican Party, for he has said that: “Progressive is just another word for ‘godless.’”
We, Red Letter Christians, are not partisan. God is not a Democrat or a Republican. Our allegiance is not to the donkey or to the elephant, but to the Lamb. But much of what we are seeing today is not about the right and left… it is about right and wrong.
Just because we are not partisan does not mean we are not political. As our brother Dr. Cornell West says, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” It is impossible to love our neighbors as ourselves and ignore the policies that affect their lives. We care about policies, because we care about people. We are pro-poor. We are pro-peace. We are pro-earth. And we are committed to standing in the way of everything that diminishes anyone’s life and dignity.
At this revival, we will be inviting you to make a decision, but our invitation will be different from Franklin’s “Decision America Tour.”
We invite you to choose Jesus over Trump-evangelicalism and choose justice rather than accommodation.
We will invite you to choose between love and fear, because we cannot have both. 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.
Let us choose love. Jesus said that they will know we are Christians by our love. Let us choose Jesus.
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 and 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 81 percent 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. 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 prophets of resistance and the conscience of our nation.
Rev. William Barber II has reminded us that the church is to be the moral defibrillator 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.
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 toward what it ought to be — people who want to see your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. May your kingdom come — in North Carolina, as it is in heaven.