“The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.” —Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination
I was in a car traveling to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon when the presidential victory of Donald Trump was announced on November 9, 2016.
My colleagues and I were on our way to visit a local church partnering with our NGO to provide humanitarian assistance and non-formal education to hundreds of Syrian refugee families. It had been five long years of watching refugees flood into Lebanon from war-torn Syria. The years were full of urgent pleas for assistance in the form of countless grant proposals and impassioned speeches that we had made to potential donors. Late nights with my husband visiting Syrian families in their tents and tenements, dropping off food vouchers, hygiene kits, and winter supplies were the norm. Years of hoping and praying that more help was on the way; that the world would take notice; that the pledges made would be fulfilled.
When Donald Trump was elected in November, it felt instead like a slammed door in the face; not for us as humanitarian workers, but for “the homeless, tempest-tost [sic]” fleeing from devastation and war. It was as if a bad dream had turned into a nightmare. The grim reality of our cold, hardened world began to sink in. This was the “new normal”- an epoch bereft of compassion.
Most gut-wrenching of all was that 81% of white evangelical Christians had voted for Donald Trump. From that point on, an inner scream began to rise in my soul. My anger was directed not so much toward the voters themselves, but toward the leaders who had led them astray; the narratives that ensnared them; the lies and idolatry that poisoned the holy water.
As our car ascended and descended the familiar roads on our way to what was once known as “the breadbasket of the Middle East,” now marked by a patchwork of informal tented settlements, I railed and lamented to my brother over the phone. I was overcome by shock and disbelief.
I have heard many say, even in recent weeks, that Donald Trump is not perfect, but he is doing the Lord’s work. “Is God not able to use even sinful leaders for his purposes?” they say. “Look at King David.”
To them I reply, yes, but where is the broken and contrite spirit? When I look at Donald Trump, I do not see a man after God’s own heart. Where is the seeking after the Kingdom of God and His righteousness? Where is the call to justice, mercy, compassion, and care for the poor and the oppressed? Where is the good news for the hungry on food stamps, the sick who are uninsured, the incarcerated with little hope of release from the chains of a bigoted system, and the sojourner and foreigner among us?
It is the prophetic job of the church to call out unjust leaders. As theologian Walter Brueggemann has taught us, it is the work of the prophet to challenge the unrighteousness of the status quo and to reimagine and galvanize the community of faith toward an alternative reality more in line with the character, rule, and reign of God.
Will we, as the people of God, embrace this call?
Many are faithfully doing so in opposition to the dominant narrative of the Trump administration, and those are the voices that we need to heed. They are the voices rising from the margins. As Trump once promised his Christian supporters, Christianity will have power, but it is not a power that is tied to political expediency or the machinations of Capitol Hill. It is a subversive power that is bold in its truth-telling and radical in its love.
Keeping the Faith: Reflections on Politics and Christianity in the Era of Trump and Beyond, the recently released book that I co-edited along with Jonathan P. Walton and Sy Hoekstra, is one attempt to animate the church to reclaim that power. It is an anthology of dissent consisting of essays and articles by Christians who are calling out the false piousness of the Trump administration. It is a collective work, comprised of voices both Democrat and Republican, conservative and progressive, and from ethnically and demographically diverse backgrounds. The two unifying attributes are a firm commitment to faith in Jesus Christ and a rejection of Donald Trump as the de facto Christian choice in this election.
Joined by my co-editors and over thirty Christian leaders like Alexia Salvatierra, Andy Crouch, Randy Woodley, Brandi Miller, David French, Robert Chao Romero, and Miluska Aquije; we seek to topple the idols of Christian nationalism and white supremacy. We are critiquing the political dispensations of the religious right and the theological fallacies of white American folk religion. We talk about abortion. We talk about foreign policy. We talk about race and cultural conflict. We talk about the decolonization of our hearts and minds. We seek to challenge, to disorient, to be “lovingly disruptive” in our journey toward justice and Kingdom wholeness.
Time and time again, Donald Trump panders to his Christian constituencies. He claims to be for them, of them; ordained by God and anointed with God’s favor. He dangles the Supreme Court over their heads; and they buy it hook, line, and sinker.
We are here to proclaim, as Christians, that the Trump administration does not represent us or our values.
As my sister, Brandi Miller, declares in Keeping the Faith:
“…we are given a test of how to find God in politics and what the way of Jesus might look like, even in a political system that is corrupt throughout. We use this test to lean as close as we can to Jesus’ way, knowing that no nation will fully politicize the way of God – that was never the point. Our test is two-fold. One, how are the most vulnerable voting and engaging? How are BIPOC and LGBTQ+ seeing themselves in this political moment? How are the poor treated? What is happening to the elderly, to children, and to immigrants? And two, as we look to the cross, do we see hints or calls to the radical forgiveness, enemy love, and inclusivity of the cross and the shalom way that invites all people, regardless of identity to life abundantly in our political options?
With this as a test and principle used in the scriptures, I hold it up to viable options at hand in our two-party system. I hold it up to Donald Trump and see his hatred of enemy, his abuse and demonizing of immigrants, his disregard for the vulnerable, and his radicalizing of violence against the marginalized among us. I see the Christians who support and quote him more than the God that they say upholds him. I see in him echoes of the leaders of Rome, Egypt, Babylon, and Judea in the Scriptures, echoes of violence as a means to peace, rhetoric and fear as a means to social control, and politics as a means to personal deification.”
Echoing Miller’s words, to my white co-religionists I say, will you hold up the truth of the Gospel to the lies of Donald Trump? Or will you continue to sacrifice your marginalized siblings on the altar of Self? Are you willing to listen long enough to their pain and suffering to allow your heart to be touched and your mind to be transformed? Are you willing to repent and take up the call of lament at the ballot box; a call to contrition and to love your neighbor?
This book issues a call to collective realignment with the true message of the Gospel for the whole church; a call to unity rooted not in supremacy of race but in the beautiful plurality modeled for us in the Trinitarian nature of God. It is our cry for prophetic resistance. Will you join us?