You’d think it was a Saturday Night Live skit or a fake headline from The Onion, but a black televangelist really did kick off a Trump rally in New York by saying that black people don’t exist.
This is exactly what pastor and televangelist Mark Burns said at the rally in Rochester last week:
“The fact of the matter is there are no black people. There are no white people. There are no Hispanic people. There are no Asian people. There’s only one color that matters – and that is the color of red, white, and blue.”
[Full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDPKzRLg4Ww]
There are no black people… only red, white and blue people.
He went on to denounce the current administration for being divisive and trying to convince people that the color of their skin is more important than being “red, white, and blue.”
And then the pastor led the crowd in chanting “USA”.
There are all sorts of problems with the sermon, and the theology behind it. Namely, I’m confident that God wants us to see each other in all our glorious colors, and cultures, and particularities. Colorblindness is a very harmful myth. We have a world of CEOs, police, judges, and juries that are anything but colorblind.
Monoculture is what we had when we built the Tower of Babel, impressed by ourselves in all our human-pride. But God toppled the idolatrous Tower and scattered humanity into all sorts of tribes and cultures and languages. God seems to be a big fan of diversity.
Monoculture is what empires do. Conformity. Uniformity. Sameness. Empires make coins and people all look alike. But diversity is what God does. God is an artist and painted the world in full color – each person with a unique DNA, fingerprint, and smile. God loves unity – but unity is different than uniformity. It exists in contrast. It is about harmony not homogeny. The whole Bible ends with every tribe and tongue and nation singing the praises of God… not the national anthem.
The Bible never says, “God so-loved America”. It says, “For God so loved the world” (the Gospel of John 3:16).
The temptation for Christians in an election year is to misplace our hope in a person or a party rather than the person of Christ.
As my friend Tony Campolo likes to say, “Mixing Christianity up with a political party is like trying to mix ice-cream with horse manure. It doesn’t do much damage to the manure, but it sure messes up the ice-cream.”
Christianity becomes toxic when we lose track of Jesus.
In his 12-minute sermon, Mr. Burns said “Trump” over 20 times… about 2 times a minute.
But here’s one word you will not hear the pastor say: JESUS.
In fact, he only refers to God once, and that is to sarcastically ask God to help the liberal media.
And that is a problem – when pastors become pundits.
It’s not just a Trump problem – it is an election-year problem.
We begin to see pastors talking more about their favorite candidate than their Savior. We begin to hear crowds chanting Trump or Hillary instead of Hosanna. We start to sing the praises of other names than the name above all names.
So I want to simply invite those of us who claim to be Christians to PAUSE. And to set our minds on Jesus.
When we lose our focus on Christ, we begin to talk a lot about stuff Jesus didn’t say much about, and we don’t talk much about the things Jesus had a whole lot to say about. Like how there are no black people, only red, white and blue people.
So let those of us who seek to follow Jesus breathe deep the breath of God. And let us remember that our deepest allegiance is not to a candidate or a party… but to Christ. Our politics are not primarily shaped by the donkey or the elephant, but by the Lamb of God. More important than Left or Right is staying centered on Christ.
I can only imagine what would happen if Christians in America took their allegiance to Christ more seriously than their commitment to any candidate or party.
We would bless the poor. We would welcome the stranger. We would cast the mighty from their thrones and lift up the lowly. We would love our enemies and have mercy on others. We would set the oppressed free and break every yoke. These are the things Jesus said, and did.
There’s a beautiful old hymn whose words go like this: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness… on Christ the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”
There’s a lot of sinking sand thesedays. So let us stand firm in our commitment to Christ and his Kingdom.
And while there are no red, white and blue people – let us thank God that there are black people. And brown people. Their survival and dignity matters to God. They bear the image of God… and every time a life is lost, squashed, or erased we lose part of God’s image in this world.