Vive la Résistance! Choosing Love Over Trumped-Up Fear
by Brian Pipkin
In an attempt to generate more evangelical votes for the upcoming election, last week Donald Trump introduced his new Evangelical Executive Advisory Board, which the campaign says will "provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues important to Evangelicals and other people of the faith in America." Members of this new advisory board can be found here.
At ESA we do our best not to assume, label, or paint people with a broad brush. But we have to admit Trump's list is not only painfully predictable but also wildly out of touch with the movement of the broader church. The majority of advisors on his list—mostly white men—epitomize white evangelical subculture, a subculture that is, evidently (and fortunately), in its final death throes. Though the list is not completely white, many of the names represent a made-in-the-USA evangelicalism—a white-centric, white-defined subculture armed with a God-and-country, gun-toting, and flag-waving nationalism that continues to justify American exceptionalism. And that's just not what the church looks like anymore, thank God.
Though this event can be discouraging to evangelicals denouncing the politics of hate and the political maneuvering to capture more evangelical votes for November, we would do well to remember that many evangelical leaders have publicly condemned Trump's rhetoric. More than 50 faith leaders signed a statement in April, "Called to Resist Bigotry—A Statement of Faithful Obedience," in which they spoke against Trump's campaign for galvanizing fear, hate, racism, and the demonization of Muslims and immigrants.
Our hearts lament as we watch followers of the Prince of Peace align themselves with a campaign based on hate. But the beautiful reality is that more evangelicals stand for the kind of justice and love found in the Gospels, people like Darren Calhoun, Jen Hatmaker, and Lisa Harper. We stand with other evangelicals who place following Jesus before earthly politics and civil religion.
For those against Trump and what he stands for, let us put our words in action. Remember God is love, and Jesus commands that we love our enemies. Love Trump as Jesus loves you. Pray for him. Let us remember that Trump, like all people, is God's child created in the divine image. This doesn't mean you support him, agree with him, or vote for him. It means you love him as God does, not as a political leader, but as person created in the image of God.
Fear so often wins during election seasons, which rely so much on scapegoating and fear-mongering. We are all susceptible to its pull. We instinctively create walls and hide in our binary worlds of good and evil. Instead of letting fear control us this political season, may we, with God's help, control fear—for "perfect love casts out fear."
During this election year, please don't sit by idly holding your breath and hoping for the best. Pray and hope—yes—but also do something. Use your voice, your influence, your money, your intellect to speak and act out against hate and for love, against complacency and for justice. At ESA we believe that you are God's radical love made visible. Join us in prayer and action as we love our enemies and prophetically confront the dehumanizing systems of our time.
Brian Pipkin is the Academic Affairs and Communications Administrator at Palmer Seminary of Eastern University, co-editor of Pentecostal and Holiness Statements on War and Peace (Pickwick) and Early Pentecostals on Nonviolence and Social Justice: A Reader (forthcoming, 2016).