I am sick. Not because Donald Trump is leading the pack of GOP candidates, but because he has such a large following, presumably including a large swath of “white evangelicals.”
I am sick because white religion has always seemed estranged from the Gospel that I read, and I am sick because it is those religious people who are crying out for the America that “used to be.”
Why do I say they have seemed estranged? Because it has been white evangelicals who, historically, have supported white supremacy. They have not fought for justice for black people; they have, instead, supported policies that kept black people marginalized. They have fought to keep black people confined to the lowest economic rungs of this economy. They fought to keep segregated schools; they fought to suppress the right to vote from blacks, and in fact, worked hard to keep them from voting. They required that black people defer to them; they would not support laws that prevented lynching (an anti-lynching bill has never been passed in this nation.) They have supported mass incarceration. And yet, they worship the God who had a son named Jesus, who required believers to do good “to the least of these.”
Ironically, many white evangelicals have pooh-poohed the idea that they have treated black people poorly. They point to the fact that there is welfare to help the poor (though they want to eliminate welfare and say that black people are lazy, completely ignoring that it has been white people who created policies and practices that kept black people from securing gainful employment.) As a sort of the sick reasoning that had white slaveholders saying that slavery was “good” for black people, the economic policies of today, which keep black and poor people in debt represent a sort of extension of that mindset, and are looked upon as “gifts” to a people who many religious white people think are dumber and less capable than white people.
They are opposed to diversity; I read a story that said that many white people believe diversity is genocide directed against white people. https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/01/12/racists-struggling-raise-money-white-genocide-billboard) They seem not to care about the abject condition of urban schools; they seem not to care much about the fact that so many black, brown and poor people cannot make a living wage.
And they, they go to church and say they believe in Jesus.
They are supporting Donald Trump because they want the country to be like it was: openly racist, a place where whites could stomp on the lives, the rights, and the dignity of black people with little pushback. They want the country back that relegated black people to the lowest rungs of life, even as they squeezed labor out of them for the most paltry of wages. Many of them believe that God intended for this country to be “the white man’s country,” and they worked to support and spread segregation. (See Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975, by Carolyn Renee Dupont, p. 92)
There are too many people of color in this country now, they believe; there are too many changes going on, and white evangelicals are afraid and resentful. White evangelicals resent the granting of rights to members of the LGBTQ community, and they are outraged that same-sex marriage is now the law of the land. They likewise revolted when the United States Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional, and ordered that public schools be integrated. Many municipalities closed their public schools rather than integrated. But the changes …they are troubling to white evangelicals who believed they knew and know what God wants. That’s why they don’t care that Donald Trump really isn’t “religious.” They don’t care that he knows so little about the Bible that he can say “two Corinthians,” belying his ignorance of the Bible. They don’t care that he said he has never asked God for forgiveness, when forgiveness is a central tenet of Christian belief. (http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/18/politics/trump-has-never-sought-forgiveness/)
In the 60s, white evangelicals in the South fought those who worked for civil rights, be they white or black. In Mississippi, white evangelical Christians “arrested local activists, stalled voter registration, intimidated black citizens by bombing their homes and churches.” (Mississippi Praying, p. 183) White ministers who tried to support the efforts of blacks to gain basic human rights were called out …by the evangelicals …who said those ministers were not ministers but were outside agitators…”
The history of white evangelicals when it comes to granting dignity and equity to black people simply has not been good.
And now, many of them are Islamophobic; they support the building of a wall to keep Mexican immigrants out; they believe in the rightness of mass incarceration and are dismayed that their “values” are being trounced over.
Who needs values like that, values that demean and diminish the right of all of God’s people to live with dignity? And whose God do they worship? Whose God allows such hatred and such a capacity to marginalize fellow human beings? The Rev. CT Vivian, of whom I am writing an authorized biography, posed that question in a sermon he preached. “Whose God is God?” he asks. I now understand why he asked it..
It doesn’t matter much that Donald Trump is as he is; it is troubling that people who purport to read the same Bible as do I, who talk about the “love of the Lord Jesus” are so capable of doling out that love as they wish, leaving the apparent will of God behind.
Or so it seems.
A candid observation…