When I moved to Philadelphia about 13 years ago, it was right after George W. Bush started his War in Iraq. The Evangelical
president had no issue assigning religious language to his war and I was having no part in it. In Central PA supporting the Republican president was just what Christians did (at least the ones I knew). For a variety of reasons, some holy and others not, I was not having any of it. I couldn’t imagine Jesus bombing anyone and I still can’t. But the support for the war from Christians that I knew was so strong, that it seems like I couldn’t follow God and call myself a Christian without pledging allegiance to the war. It got so bad, that I thought I might need to stop following Jesus or at least calling myself a Jesus-follower because the landscape was so devoid of people opposed to the war, or so I thought.
Then I went to a Sunday meeting at Circle of Hope. Plastered on the side of a monitor was a bumper sticker that declared “NO!” to the War in Iraq. It was amazing to see what seemed like heresy. These days, I know that opposition to war is common among Christians and has been since the beginning of the church. Tertullian, for example, rebuked Christians who participated in the military. The empired church that followed undid some of the peace of the early church, but even throughout history, nonviolence has been a part of tradition.
Despite this tradition, it seems to me like the Christians who oppose the current administration are often few and far between. At least they are not that well known in the public eye. Eighty percent of white Evangelicals voted for Trump, and 74 percent of them support his travel ban. The CPAC Agenda has this alarming, for me, item in it:
As it turns out, the courts have so far not approved of the ban and called it unconstitutional, but that isn’t stopping the administration from coming up with a new ban that apparently has the same policy effect.
And that’s not all. Here’s Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, defending the travel ban. This is very personal to me, as you might know. My family escaped Egypt (which thanks to Trump’s hotel is not on his proposed travel ban) and found some refuge in the United States (though maybe not for long). They escaped what they would characterize as simple persecution. To put it mildly, it’s decidedly inhospitable for Christians to live in many Middle Eastern countries. I am grateful that they found refuge here, and I’m grateful that I am free to practice my faith without the same kind of persecution that drove them to the United States. To block that possibility from other Christians (and Muslims who simply want to live peacefully) is immoral to me, not very biblical. We could debate about this all day, but I just want to say that my opposition to the ban is personal, but I also think other Christians should join me in my protest.
The point of my writing this isn’t necessarily to change the mind of those who support the ban. The politics of it is a little exhausting to me, at this point. But beyond the geopolitical consequences of supporting the ban, I think there may be cosmic consequences to it. For this post, I just want to tell people who might be turned off by faith in Jesus altogether, or even any sort of Christian exploration, that there is another way. Circle of Hope is one expression of it.
I do not know what will happen to the church at large. I think Christians supporting Trump will turn people off from Jesus.
But that may be what God has in store for us. God punished his people when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the nation went under Babylonian captivity. It was part of the destruction that God said Jeremiah would bring about. Maybe Trump is the angry king that will destroy the hypocritical parts of our church.
But if that happens, I hope that you might rejoin me in planting it again and rebuilding it. We have an opportunity and I am excited for it. I hope that you know that you don’t have to think one way or another about our political system in order to find a place in the Body of Christ. I’m afraid that in this current landscape, that might be hard to see, but take me up on my offer and let me know.