Why Wayne Grudem and Other Evangelical Leaders are Wrong about The Donald Trump Presidential Preference!

Evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem, whose theology books have substantially shaped my own theology and theological imagination, has penned a reasonable and  fair article (“Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice“) by comparing the ideologies and policies of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump. Using biblical lessons and theological exegesis, he infers that a Donald Trump presidency will be a morally good choice for the future of American democracy and freedom, the religious freedom and triumph of Christianity in America, the welfare of the state of Israel, and many other things. Unfortunately, like Grudem, other Evangelical leaders such as David Jeremiah,  James Dobson, Robert Jeffress, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell Jr, and many influential American Christian thinkers have given Mr. Trump their divine blessings. Interestingly,  as Michael Horton has remarked in his important article (“The Theology of Donald Trump:Four words that reveal what his followers really believe“), “Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. hailed him as “one of the greatest visionaries of our time” and a wonderful Christian brother “who reminds me of my dad.” The redoubtable Pat Robertson gushed in an interview with the empire-builder, “You inspire us all.” Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, who has introduced Trump at rallies, says, “We need a strong leader and a problem-solver, hence many Christians are open to a more secular candidate.”

In a recent article (“Pew: Most Evangelicals Will Vote Trump, But Not For Trump“) published in Christianity Today, the author has remarked that most White Evangelical Christians will vote for Trump and favor his presidency.  The opening words of the article is startling:

More than three-quarters of self-identified white evangelicals plan to vote for Donald Trump in the fall (78%). But they aren’t happy about it.

According to a Pew Research Center survey of 1,655 registered voters released today, more than half of white evangelicals said they weren’t satisfied with their ballot options (55%), reflecting the feeling of Americans at large (58%).

And 45 percent of white evangelicals said they meant their vote as opposition to Hillary Clinton, not as an endorsement of Trump.

Interestingly, the great divide among American Christians of different racial and color shades pertaining to their political voice, views, and preferences is very disturbing, and makes one question the future of American Evangelicalism and the meaning of the Christian faith in America. The competing voices in American evangelicalism have questionable implications for the relevance of Christianity in the public sphere and missional evangelism in the culture. Take a look at this statement from the same article:

Half of black Protestant voters said their vote was in support of Clinton (53%), while one-third said they were voting against Trump (34%). This preference lines up with African Americans at large, who favor Clinton.

Black Protestant voters diverge from the much larger group of white evangelicals, who make up one out of five registered voters and one out of three Republicans.

On the other hand, many Americans–both Christians and non-Christians, religious and secular–who  have favorably decided for a Clinton presidency have advanced the following (gender-based) argument. If Hillary Clinton gets to become the next President of the United States of America, she will be the first woman to occupy that post in American history. It will be a historic election and an aspiration to little girls (i.e. brown, black, white, yellow, mixed, etc.) and other women who have similar aspirations. Electing a woman as President of the most powerful country in the world will be a terrific step forward toward the promise of American democracy and the democratic ideals we stand for as a nation, and people. For them, a Clinton presidential choice will symbolize the triumph of gender equality in the history of American democracy and freedom and opportunity for all–regardless of race, gender, sexuality, disability, etc. “Change,” they confess, is the most accurate word!

Nonetheless, like Grudem and other evangelical thinkers, I believe a presidential preference for Hillary Clinton is potentially dangerous to the future of the American Nation.  She is not concerned about the welfare of the poor and the most vulnerable Americans.  I have serious problems with her political views on Gun laws and rights, abortion, war, terrorism, foreign policy, racial justice, immigration, etc. In her political career, she has not done  enough to ameliorate the plight of the American masses, the underclass, the immigrant, and the poor. In fact, her policies greatly favor the wealthy class and has consistently  supported big American corporations and businesses detrimental to the welfare of the common good and American entrepreneurship. On the other hand,  unlike Grudem, I’m appreciative of her great accomplishments such as her commitment to public service and relentless courage and efforts in defense of women and children’s rights. On this account, she is undoubtedly a champion. Yet, I do not trust Hillary as a political leader nor will I vote for her to become the first Woman President in the November  presidential election.

By contrast, in the same line of reasoning, a presidential preference for Donald Trump is tentatively disastrous for America’s diplomatic relations with the global world. Trump wants to isolate America from the world.  His  messianic rhetoric is a gospel without hope and human relationality; his prosperity gospel is characterized by an apocalypse of vengeance, trauma, and despair. Trump’s rhetoric is very consistent. It is anti-immigrant, anti-American religious freedom, xenophobic, divisive, and God-human dishonoring language.  Trump rhetoric is not reconciliatory and will not foster national unity and improve race relations in America. I prefer justice over order, friendship over retaliation, Globalism over arrogant (Trump’s) American ethnocentrism and exceptionalism, and planetary love over transnational alienation. A possible Trump presidency is potentially a threat to the triumph of human rights, race relations, and religious freedom in America. Like Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump has always worked in the best interest of big corporations and institutions that consistently exploit the labor of their employees, the underclass, and workers in the Third World. Trump’s own companies have robbed their workers of their fair salary. Evidently, there’s something questionable about the character, integrity, and leadership of both presidential candidates. After all, Trump’s presidency is a serious menace to American democratic ideals, progress, and future advancement.

Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton do not value life  of the unborn, and have no interest to alter their conviction on this matter–an important point in Grudem’s article.The great Rabbi Abraham Herschel once observed:

Reverence for God is shown in our reverence for man. The fear you must feel of offending or hurting a human being must be as ultimate as your fear of God. An act of violence is an act of desecration. To be arrogant toward man is to be blasphemous toward God…The future of the human species depends upon our degree of reverence for the individual man. And the strength and validity of that reverence depend upon our faith in God’s concern for man.

While I have great respect for Wayne Grudem, I’m afraid that he has allowed patriotic zeal  to influence sound biblical and theological exegesis–as he has modeled for the Evangelical community in such his best selling textbook,  Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.  After his close examination of Clinton’s political ideologies  and past record as compared to Donald Trump who has no political experience, he concludes the article with this provocative statement: ” When I look at it this way, my conscience, and my considered moral judgment tell me that I must vote for Donald Trump as the candidate who is most likely to do the most good for the United States of America.”

Grudem’s essay  is a clear example of what’s wrong with us Evangelical Christians in America: the intentional (re-) appropriation of scriptural teachings and truths in the service of political agendas and cultural ideologies. Christian identity should not be equated or conflated with American cultural nationalism and identity. They are in conflict with each other. The kingdom of God is not the Kingdom of man. We can’t have two lords: Jesus and Caesar; it is either we serve Caesar or Jesus. Jesus cannot and should never be subservient to our unhealthy cultural and political habits masked in biblical theology. Jesus will always be supreme over the culture.

There’s nothing wrong for an “American Christian” to be proud of America and even celebrate the American freedom and democracy; however, it is definitely a theological crisis to assume that American freedom is parallel to Christian freedom, and that the future of American politics is equated with the future of Christianity in the world. The validity of the cross of Christ or the meaning of the Christian faith is not dependent upon the success of America nor is it vindicated by the triumph of America in the world. It is also noteworthy to highlight this national crisis: Given the current state of American Evangelicalism and its paradoxical attitude toward human life, America’s culture of violence and death, race relations, and the “Evangelical Preference” in the current presidential election, etc., Mark A. Noll’s 1995 provocative statement still rings true today about American Evangelicalism:

The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind….Notwithstanding all their other virtues, however, American evangelicals are not exemplary for their thinking, and they have not been so for several generations.(The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, p. 3)

The great divide between Biblical Evangelical Christianity and American Evangelicalism is quite wide. The Biblical Evangelical culture is the antithesis of the American Evangelical Christianity in terms of confession and practice. The pitfalls of American Evangelicalism is that it is trapped in the American culture of political correctness, and it promotes ideologies that do not honor the God of the Bible or glorify Jesus Christ. American Evangelicalism has for several generations abandoned the biblical worldview on matters of life and faith.  Michael Horton is probably correct in his concluding words in the same article we quoted above: “Trump reveals, in short, that for many evangelicals, the word evangelical means something that many increasingly do not recognize as properly Christian, much less evangelical. Then again, if the working theology of American spirituality is a combination of “moralistic, therapeutic deism” (Christian Smith) and pragmatism (William James), then perhaps Donald Trump is after all exactly the right candidate for the moment.”

 Allow me to close this short essay  with these words:

 Given the nature of human relations and interactions and the destructive political climate in the American culture, we who are Americans of different shades and cultural traditions and practices need to cultivate the spirit of Ubuntu and integrate its inherent values and moral vision in our society. If we try it in the present, we will see tremendous results in the future. While the worth of the political nation-state in the modern world is measured by its historic accomplishments and unrelenting strive to promote the democratic life, justice, and peace for all its citizens, as well as political stability and the protection of human life against both internal and external forces, the worth of a racial group, ethnic group , or an individual should never be assessed by his or her achievements in society or life. The dignity and worth of a person lies in the mere fact that both man and woman, male and female are created in the Image of God to the glorious praise of the Triune and Eternal God.

 The cultural trap of American Evangelicalism is that culturally-sensitive-biblical exegesis and  politically-masked- theological interpretation still enslaves the Evangelical soul, and comparatively, modern Evangelical theology crafted in the discourse of triumphal American exceptionalism and the rhetoric of exulting American ethnocentrism still wages war against the cross of Christ and the Gospel of grace in both American civil and political societies. For me, my faith is in nothing or no one else but in Jesus Christ died, buried, crucified, and resurrected.

Advertisements

How Now Shall We Live Together and Gently? A Biblical Perspective

How Now Shall We  Live Together and Gently? A Biblical Perspective

The American Political Constitution is a masterpiece and should be praised for its democratic and cosmopolitan language. It is one of a kind. However, the relationship between Americans of different racial and ethnic background and the attitude they express toward one another and the foreigner among them is disheartening and betrays the American democratic ideals.

How shall we then proceed to heal our national wound?

How shall we then move forward to learn to live together, accept one another, and love another as Americans?

These are the questions we should be asking ourselves and each other in this moment of pain, trial, and seemingly great despair.

If I may appeal to Paul’s letter to the Galatians, in the sixth chapter,  please allow me to share a few ideas with you.  Although I make a sharp distinction between Christianity and American Nationalism, I would like to offer a Christian perspective on these national issues I noted above. The Christian identity counters the American identity. Nonetheless, I do believe  and maintain that Christians are called by God to actively engage their culture with the message of Christ and be active citizens who must use the Wisdom of God and biblical principles to transform their neighborhood, community, city, and their country–toward peace, love, justice, truth, equality, etc. for the common good–to the glorious praise of the Triune God . Consequently, toward these goals, in this brief post, I would like to bring your attention to three underlying propositions: listening with care and love, doing good to all, and live gently, which may strengthen human relationship, bring collective peace, national healing, and foster racial reconciliation and ethnic harmony. Ultimately, I’m interested in highlighting some basic biblical principles on how to do life together and live gently in these tragic times in the modern world.

 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?“–Micah 6:8

  1. Listening with care and love

In such a national predicament and collective crisis we’re presently undergoing as a people, it is critical for each one of us to listen to each other and try to understand the other individual’s perspective. You will not understand somebody’s hurt and moments of troubles-both in the past and the present–  until you learn to cultivate an attitude to listen and sympathize with that person. You will ruin the possibility to move  forward toward collective progress, goal, and unity should you undermine one’s suffering and point of view.  Do not interrupt! Listen!!!

Listen with care! Listen with patience! Listen responsibly! Listen with understanding! Listen with love! Moments of forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation come at the time when we offer ourselves up to each other for the sake of love and unity. As Paul encourages the Christians at Galatians, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (6:2). The imperative for social transformation, communal shalom, national healing,  social justice, and radical spiritual renewal is to be relational to all people and to bear one another’s burden.

2. Doing good to all

Secondly, to work toward the common good and human flourishing in our society, it is crucial that we do good to all–with no exception. Doing good to everyone one meets means to be inclusive in one’s generous outreach efforts and activism; it also means that to deliberately extend acts of kindness, compassion, and love to those who cannot give back or do not have the means to return your favor. The ethical aspect of this biblical command and notion of goodness compels us all to forgive and love even those who refuse to love and forgive in return. Doing good to all is an act of justice and a form of loving activism and participation in the life of people or individuals in crisis. It provides a terrific opportunity to the Christian community to condemn social sins and human oppression–the antithesis of good–and to stand in solidarity with those to whom we have called to perform acts of goodness. According to James, the failure to do good and condemn what is unjust (or “not good”) contradicts the Christian ethic and the Jesus Creed: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).  The Christian community is also called to be exemplary models of goodness: “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works” (Titus 2:7-9). For  Prophet Micah, goodness includes both social responsibility and spiritual development. The prophet associates good with justice, kindness, and humility.  Doing good is also interpreted as a divine imperative, that is what God requires of his people and the community of faith. Social justice is integral to the spiritual life of God’s people and the Church in the modern age.  When we dissociate Christian discipleship and (or from) the call to justice, it will ultimately lead to a life of obedience and a life that dishonors God.

 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”–Micah 6:8

Moreover, in Galatians 6, Paul implies that acts of goodness should not be premised on a spirit of  aggressiveness and comparison, but rather should be framed within a  spirit of humility and gratitude. Paul characterizes the Christian life not only as relational living but as a life that pursues the best interest and welfare of others, and the common good. Christian discipleship or the Christian life for Paul is not (and should not be) measured by an attitude of competition and comparison: “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor” (6:4); rather, it is/should be characterized by an attitude of selflessness, sacrificial doing, and  an attitude of  deliberate service and sustaining good : “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (6:9).  Even in the midst of unwarranted criticism, Christians in contemporary society should not be weary of doing and defending what is just, righteous, loving, and good.  Such attitude toward life and other individuals is a pivotal marker  of an exemplary and Christ-like discipleship.

“So then, we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (6:10).

3. Living Gently

Thirdly, the call to do life together and live  gently in this chaotic world and in this  life of uncertainty is not a free pass  nor is it the absence of weakness. This is a high calling for the Christian to engage the world and culture meaningfully, relationally,  and graciously.  In other for the Christian to foster such an attitude toward culture, life, and the world, his/her life must radically be refined by the Spirit of God and shaped by the wisdom of the community of faith  in Christ Jesus. Paul comforts us Christians that we should not be despair nor lose hope in these tragic times; for Apostle Paul, the Christian life that produces genuine spiritual transformation and growth is reciprocal, interconnected, and interdependent upon the community’s active collaboration and sustaining support: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (6:1). The christian life is lived in community and with the community of faith. This life of relations is in active solidarity with the community of Christ’s disciples–what we call ekklesia, “the church.” It is also a life in active solidarity with the oppressed, the disinherited, and underprivileged individuals and families. Genuine Christian discipleship means  the courage to follow Jesus Christ, the courage to love, the courage to forgive, and the courage to take upon oneself the suffering and trials of another individual. The cross of discipleship is not only a call to bear the cross of Christ continually; it is also an imperative to bear the cross of both the weak and the strong among us.

Paul’s articulation of these radical ethical principles of the new  community of grace in Christ and in the Spirit of love has tremendous implications for constructing a life characterized by the ethics and art of listening with care and love, doing good to all, and living gently. It is God’s desire for us to do life together, accept one another, and love another. It is only through the moral vision of the Kingdom of God that Christians and the Christian church in the American society and elsewhere could contribute meaningfully and constructively to a life of optimism, collective participation, a spirit of democratic communitarianism and humanitarianism, and a life of  collective solidarity and racial reconciliation and ethnic harmony.

To be generous and kind to everyone is a cosmopolitan attitude and human virtue to be praised and coveted; xenophobia or the fear of the “other” or even the immigrant is the antithesis of human kindness, generosity, and hospitality.

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (James 6:10).

 

May we become the Gospel we proclaim!

 

“In the Example of Bonhoeffer and ‘Costly Discipleship'”

“In the Example of Bonhoeffer and ‘Costly Discipleship'”

Oh how much American Evangelical Christians need to learn from the life and social and political activism of Pastor and Political Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who, in the first half of the twentieth-century, stood up against Hitler’s political correctness and Germany’s racial violence and ethnic cleansing against the Jews!

Bonhoeffer was not afraid to denounce the  social evils and the destructive racial ideologies of the Hitler regime and totalitarianism. He was not afraid to declare in public and through his political  sermons the dignity of all people, even the Jews!

Sadly, there were powerful and influential  German Christians and theologians who were Hitler’s allies and who helped him carry out his plan to annihilate the  Jews.

In the same line of thought, sadly, contemporary American evangelicalism has fostered  certain destructive ideologies that are detrimental to the promise of American democracy, equality,  freedom, and pluralism; they’re also detrimental to true Christianity  and  the imperative of Christian love, tolerance,  racial harmony, and “sacrificial discipleship.”

Who among today’s American Evangelicals will speak against Trump’s racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric?

Who among today’s American Evangelicals will speak against Hilary Clinton’s crime against Blacks in America and her exploitation of the Haitian underclass and masses?

Who among today’s American Evangelicals will speak against Ted Cruz’s anti-poor, anti-immigrant, and anti-democracy discourse?

Who among today’s American Evangelicals will speak against Police brutality and racial profiling against Blacks and minority groups?

True Christianity rejects any type of human oppression, exploitation, and violence, and condemns human structures and actions that desecrate life and dehumanize individuals.  Genuine discipleship promotes a life of compassion, sacrificial love, justice, selflessness, human solidarity, and what Bonhoeffer famously called “costly discipleship.”

On April 9,1945, Pastor and Political Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer died at a concentration camp in Germany. Bonhoeffer was hung by the Nazi because he refused to yield to the political correctness of the day, and his conviction to remain faithful to the practice of sacrificial and costly discipleship and his commitment to human dignity and solidarity was more important than political correctness and affiliation, and the triumph of German nationalism and the doctrine of racial superiority.
Some Important Quotes by Bonhoeffer:
On Silence: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
On Injustice: “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”
On Peace: “There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.”
To learn more about  Bonhoeffer,  click on the link below

 

Holy Discontent: These Things Make Me Sad!

Earlier in a post today on Facebook, I wrote that “sometimes words fail to communicate what we want to articulate.” Although words still fail me, here are the things I have been contemplating about today (Language will always remain a fallible vehicle to clarify effectively the human mind, communicate adequately the human thought, and action):

Holy Discontent: These Things Make Me Sad!

There are many things in this world that are very depressing to me, but the following fifteen issues are notorious:
1. The depressing living condition of the Haitian people in Haiti.
2. Politics in Haiti.
3. Politics in the United States.
4. The Race Problem in America.
5. The failure of Evangelical Christianity in America to care for the poor, the needy, and underprivileged families.
6. The unholy alliance between Evangelical Christianity and the Bourgeoisie class in America.
7. The failure of Evangelical Christianity to practice justice and be in solidarity with the oppressed and disheartened.
8. The disastrous effects of globalization and free market capitalism.
9.  The end of (spiritual) piety and the triumph of secularism and atheism.
10. The end of compassion and love.
11. The end of human hospitality and community.
12. The triumph of (social) evil in our society and the world.
13. The fear of the stranger and difference.
14. The desecration of life and dehumanization of people.
15. The continuous battle of people of color–black people in particular-in this country to acknowledge their humanity and show that they too count in America.

In America, Some Lives Matter, and Some Do Not!

In America, Some Lives Matter, and Some Do Not!

 In the United States of America, not all lives equally matter to some people. There are individuals in this country who have the power and resources to ruin, destroy, and protect (some) lives. While some American citizens can boldly sing America, others struggle to even understand what it means to be an American citizen in “this land where life is cold and joy is wrong.”

The (intentional) poisoning of the public water supply or reservoir–not the preservation of life–in the city of Flint, Michigan, is the most transparent example of the American life characterized by social evil, social alienation, and (intentional) mass social death.  For some people, it would be an exaggeration to call this historic act in Flint  water supply terrorism?

Water in michigan.jpg

We are thirsty for true justice, equal citizenship, and genuine equality in “Our Land.” In the United States, some lives matter, and others do not. This is not a new issue. Since its foundation, the United States government, (in fact, every subsequent administration) has struggled to promote the dignity of all people and protect all lives. Every administration has failed on this account.  One of the pivotal issues in America in the twenty-first century is/remains the question and meaning of citizenship and equality for all.  It is in fact an old question. Please, allow me to close this brief reflection with a poem by Langston Hughes, in which the poet envisions a new American life characterized by compassionate love, kindness, brotherhood, happiness, and collective destiny.

“Our Land” by Langston Hughes

Poem for a Decorative Panel
We should have a land of sun,
Of gorgeous sun,
And a land of fragrant water
Where the twilight
Is a soft bandanna handkerchief
Of rose and gold,
And not this land where life is cold.

We should have a land of trees,
Of tall thick trees
Bowed down with chattering parrots
Brilliant as the day,
And not this land where birds are grey.

Ah, we should have a land of joy,
Of love and joy and wine and song,
And not this land where joy is wrong.

Oh, sweet away!
Ah, my beloved one, away!