Joe and I stayed at the beach on election night until well after dark, candles lit, drinking hot coffee and listening to the roar of the waves. As I watched that golden orb sink down at the end of the vast sea, I couldn’t help but take comfort in the Psalmist’s words: From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised! (Psalm 113:3).
Over the past few days I have pressed hard into what I shared in my last blog; that in the face of unprecedented division and rancor, as slurs and bitterness and judgment, and even despair fills the air, I am to do one thing—love Jesus more. And loving Jesus more means loving the people who he created in his image more, no matter what their political persuasion or who they voted for.
It is my love for Jesus and for every individual in our divided country that makes me write this blog. While Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and the platforms they represented were as far apart on most issues as the east is from the west, there was one difference that has uniquely troubled me. It is this: For historical and socio-political reasons, Donald Trump has been the candidate that the country, and indeed the world, associates with evangelicals. Right or wrong, like it or not, that means that because I am an evangelical in the truest sense of the word, what Trump says and does reflects on me, but far more importantly, on Jesus, my Lord. To that end, I humbly submit the following:
Dear President-elect Trump:
Some pundits are saying you have won because evangelicals voted for you, and I don’t know if that is true or not. But what I do know is that no matter how important your platform might be, from my perspective as an evangelical, you have said and done many things over the past several months that violate truths we hold dear. I won’t repeat your faults and failings here, for we have heard them from the media ad nauseam.
But I also do not want to remain silent about them any longer. While I don’t presume to speak on behalf of every person who might identify as an evangelical, the truth is that almost every definition of the word, including that of the NAE (national association of evangelicals) affirms that Scripture is our highest authority. This means that when any candidate says or does something that violates deeply-held truths from God’s Word, that candidate is not representing evangelicals in that moment.
While Hillary Clinton is certainly not without her own faults and failures, because you, Mr. Trump, are not only my future president, but are inadvertently associated with my beliefs, I need to share these things with you. Perhaps more importantly, I need to share them with my fellow evangelicals. We bear the weight of responsibility here as well, given that in so many important ways, our lives are no different morally from those outside of our faith. Frankly, I know that you will never see this post, so I write more than anything to remind myself, and others who believe as I do, of some important principles from our holy Scriptures.
We believe that every human being has been created in the image of God, and that we are called to bless and not curse others because of this. (James 3:3-10)
We believe that our highest calling is to love God, and in conjunction with that to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:25-37)
We believe that to love our neighbors means to be the kind of people who go out of our way to show kindness to those Jesus called “the least of these,” the downtrodden and oppressed, including immigrants and refugees. (Malachi 3:5, Matthew 25:31-46)
We believe God highly esteems and respects women, and that they should always be treated honorably (Genesis 1:27, Isaiah 43:6-7, 1 Timothy 5:1-2).
We believe we will give an account for the things we say, and that language or conversations that include coarse joking or sexual innuendo should have no place in our vocabulary. (Ephesians 5:4)
We believe every hint of sexual immorality is incompatible with the tenets of holiness by which we are called to live. (Ephesians 5:3)
We believe every word we speak should be used to build others up and give grace in the moment. (Ephesians 4:29)
I do understand that living out these truths does not preclude strengthening our borders or refining our vetting process or making tough choices to balance the national budget. These are difficult tasks that lie ahead of you. But President-elect Trump, we are a divided country, in desperate need of healing, something you have said you hope to bring about. This, to me, is why how you do what you do, the words you use, and the attitudes you display will be as important as anything you might accomplish. This is why we, as evangelicals, must return to the centrality of God's Word and live as Jesus did, with an unshakable commitment to love above all else.
As January approaches, I want you to know that I am praying for you and our nation, and that I will support you in every way that I can. You have my word. As an evangelical, I can do nothing less.
A troubled American evangelical Jesus follower
Contact Tricia here.
Tricia McCary Rhodes
Author of 7 books and a professor for Fuller Theological Seminary, Tricia specializes in helping others experience God’s presence through practicing soul-care.