White Evangelicals

A Biblical Response to the Election

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Okay, "white evangelicals," you got what you wanted (or avoided what you were afraid of). What are you going to do with it?

Stats say that four out of five white evangelicals voted for Trump. If my circle of acquaintances is any indication, at least half of those did so with bile in their throats and only in response to their alternatives. Many who voted for Trump, in fact, were more inspired to do so by Hillary Clinton than the Republican candidate. Maybe they were afraid of the liberal agenda. Maybe they reviled her dishonesty. Maybe, long ago, they bought the Religious Right's promise that the Republican party will champion the Christian point of view. Or maybe they put all their eggs in the "ban partial-birth abortion" basket. I don't really care. What I do care about is what they're going to do now.

Because whether or not they approve, their candidate has emboldened the far-right, hyper-nationalistic portion of our society to an extreme I've not seen for a long time. If you care to look, you can find dozens of racist and homophobic events since the election. In middle schools, high schools, colleges, work place drinking fountains, high school drinking fountains, empty storefronts, Muslim Student Associations, random walls, and cars. Against long-time neighbors, gay families, classmates, adoptive families and 10-year-old girls.

Now, to be fair, some of the supposed hate incidents reported on the news have turned out to be exaggerated or false. And there have been ample instances of anti-Trump violence, not to mention riots and destruction of public property. What's happening can be fairly blamed on human nature more so than pervasive racism or hatred.

Those, however, are legitimate concerns for another time and place. Fact-checking sensationalistic claims is good and nobel; impulsively denying another's personal experiences because it makes you feel uncomfortable is not and should not the primary concern right now for Christians who voted for Trump. You cannot control the actions of others, but you can control how you respond to the fears of others (2 Timothy 1:7). And the fears which matter right now are those of the people we are supposed to love for the sake of Christ.

Over the last couple of days, I've learned that my liberal brother-in-law and my sister's lesbian friend are terrified. My bi-sexual friends were almost afraid to leave their house. I want to apologize for not taking their fear seriously. I didn't understand the extent of what they were seeing. Although I did not support Trump, I thought the anti-Trump protests were wild over-reactions. I still question their usefulness, but I understand a little better. Whether or not these acts imply some major cultural shift towards the alt-right (and there's no objective reason to think so), in the here-and-now there are people experiencing real fear and real angst, and fair or not, they see the faces of pro-Trump evangelicals in these dark moments.

So, to those evangelicals who supported Trump but don't support racism and homophobia, what are you going to do now? Because I really haven't seen any response. I haven't seen any public condemnation of these racist and homophobic acts from those who voted for Trump. You pro-lifers — where is your support of the lives around you? Are you contacting your minority friends and letting them know you're for them? Are you shutting down the conservative radicals around you?* Are you only mocking the protestors (which, I know, is so easy to do), or reassuring them that you're going to do your part to keep everyone safe?

You may feel it's obvious that you aren't racist and of course you don't wish homosexuals to burn in hell, but who is going to know if everything you say starts with "yeah, but..." (Zechariah 8:16; Colossians 4:5-6)?

This election saw the country split into five different groups: pro-Trump, anti-Clinton, third-party, anti-Trump, and pro-Clinton. The church in the center three categories has an important responsibility and a powerful opportunity to join together and not let the radicals define either our culture or how the body of Christ is seen (Ephesians 4:4-6). If we resolve to follow Jesus and not a party line, we can temper the hate on one side and the fear on the other (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

We can't do a whole lot when it comes to trade agreements and international treaties, but we can protect our neighbors' hearts. We can start with minority Christians, move on to refugees, liberals who think "white evangelicalism" is monolithic, the scared LGBT+ community, and even the millennials who have so little long-term perspective they have no context for what's happening.

What to know where to start? Maybe with the Christian leaders who warned us in the first place:

Russell Moore: "President Trump: Now What for the Church?"

Ed Stetzer and Laurie Nichols: "What Do White Evangelicals Owe People of Color in Trump's America They Helped Create?"

Carmen LaBerge: "Trumped. What now for Christians in America?"

Jeff Laird: "Pulling the Lever", and "Reasons for Trump, Trumped by Reason".

God did not call His followers to have a victim mentality, even when we're being fed to the lions (2 Timothy 1:7). And 4/5ths of white evangelicals have even less call to be defensive now. Trump supporters are now perceived to be in a position of power. The question is, will you use it in a Christ-like manner? Because Jesus' assertion is that the first should be last and the leaders should serve (Matthew 20:16). Not serve their own interests, but others' (Romans 15:1-3). Not be so defensive about their choice that they ignore the nastier elements or give political permission to act in ungodly ways, but to personally see to the needs of others' hearts, whether they be a gay 20-something, a woman who's had an abortion, an illegal immigrant, or a scared, dumb college kid.

You thought Trump would make America "great again"**? You were wrong. That has never been something one man could do. It's not up to him, it's up to you. If you voted for Trump, then this is part of the burden you took on: do the right thing, and stand up for the values you want others to see in you. Prove the haters wrong by denouncing the hate.

But if you claim to value the gospel of Christ more than your country, your civil rights, and which political party is in charge, consider this: People can't hear you preach the gospel when they think you hate them and you've said nothing to disavow them of that belief (1 Corinthians 9:15-23).

* On my personal Facebook page, I challenged my pro-Trump friends to condemn racist and homophobic attacks and my pro-Clinton friends to publicly affirm that riots are not useful. Three Clinton-voters full-heartedly agreed. The lone responding Trump-voter became defensive and started arguing the definitions of "racist" and "homophobic."

** Yeah, I don't even know what that means. America has never been "great" for everyone.

Thanks to Jeff Laird for helping my words say what I meant.

Image Credit: angelie07mejia; untitled; Creative Commons

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Published 11-14-16