taking the words of Jesus seriously

Donald Trump has revealed something about we the American people. It is not just Republicans who are marching to his drumbeat. If he becomes the Republican nominee for the presidency we will learn very quickly that he has very strong support among Democrats as well. Mr. Trump is a populist candidate who understands the intensity of the discontent and fears of a host of Americans. In the face of his challenges we must ask if we have become a people who have forgotten what we once claimed to be. At the base of the statue of liberty we read these words,


“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! “


Do we still believe those words or do we resonate with Mr. Trumps desire to build a wall across the Mexican border? Are we ready to join him in stereotyping those undocumented immigrants who he described as rapists, murderers, drug pushers and thieves – while going on to say, in a condescending fashion that “some of them might be decent people”. His willingness to discriminate against groups of people because of their religious beliefs – as he indicated he wants to do temporarily towards Muslims who want to enter America – is not only unconstitutional, but to many of us, it is immoral. He has suggested that thousands of these Muslim people danced in Jersey City on 9-11 without giving one iota of evidence. This ended up only feeding the anger and animosity towards Muslim people.


Mr. Trump’s sexist attitudes towards woman are well known and need no elaboration here. The more outrageous his declarations the higher his polling numbers go up. If you do not believe that Mr. Trump can win the presidency, than you underestimate his appeal to a huge sector of people in both parties.


There are some liberal clergy who have spoken out but the vast majority of the Evangelical clergy are remained silent on these matters. That Mr. Trump is opposed to gay marriage and abortion is enough for many to define him as an Evangelical and far too many of the rest of us think that that makes him okay for the presidency.


Evangelicals readily ignore our Lord who called upon us to welcome aliens and told us in Matthew 25 that if we fail to make room for the “stranger” we are rejecting Him.


The respect that Jesus showed towards women flies in the face of those Evangelicals who ignore the degrading comments that Mr. Trump has made about women, in opposition to the kind of respect that Jesus showed towards them.


Trump’s shocking statements about prisoners of war and especially about the heroic John McCain who could’ve been set free from his Viet Cong captors, but refused to leave behind his fellow prisoners, deserved some rebukes from Evangelical televangelists, but none have been forthcoming.


Some fellow Republican candidates (bless their hearts) have spoken boldly against Mr. Trump’s values and have tried to distance themselves from him. But I am still looking for notable Evangelical spokespersons or publications, like Christianity Today, to do the same.


The question I am raising is not about the character of Donald Trump, it’s about who we are as Americans, and more specifically, who Evangelicals are who follow after him. If he wins the Republican nomination, and the pundits increasingly believe that he will, I fear that my fellow Evangelical brothers and sisters for the most part will vote for him. This is why so many of us are calling ourselves Red Letter Christians instead of Evangelicals. Unless Evangelical leaders who sense that there is something radically wrong with Mr. Trump’s social values and speak against them, there may be a new generation that may choose to call themselves Red Letter Christians because the word “Evangelical” will be carrying the baggage that the Trump campaign is presently carrying.


About The Author


Tony Campolo is Professor of Sociology at Eastern University, and was formerly on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he founded and led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that created and supported programs serving needy communities in the Third World as well as in “at risk” neighborhoods across North America. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the Red Letter Christians movement. He blogs regularly at his own website. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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