June 20, 2018
Tom Barksdale, proprietor
1025 Rose Creek Dr. – Suite 620
Woodstock, GA 30189
Senior Pastor Bryant Wright
Johnson Ferry Baptist Church
955 Johnson Ferry Rd.
Marietta, GA 30068
Dear Chief Pastor Wright,
In December, I sent you and several other leading American religious leaders a letter pointing out the growing chorus of religious and conservative voices speaking out in alarm about the danger to Christianity posed by a passive attitude toward the immorality, corruption, and sordidness of the Trump Administration. I highlighted the words of leading conservative spokesman David Brooks: “You can’t save Christianity by betraying its message.”
I asked for comments. Your only response was an email with a link to one of your sermons about how the second coming of Christ was the only solution to all our problems.
Since December, Trump’s words and deeds, and even those of some Christian leaders, have exponentially magnified the threat to American Christianity posed by “Christians” who either actively support Trump or remain silent in the face of his assault on the basic values of Jesus Christ, of democracy, and of common human decency.
An even more appalling and direct attack on Christian principles has emerged in recent days by the Trump Administration’s separation of children from parents accused of illegally crossing the U.S. border and the inhumane mass incarceration of the children in detention camps.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions compounded the anti-Christian inhumanity by citing the same Bible passages once used to defend slavery to defend separating immigrant families. As a native Southerner, his words were like a blow to my solar plexus. I have been saying for some time that the Trumpists’ racism, sexism, and xenophobia made it seem as if the last 60 years had disappeared and we were back to the time when you could lynch a black person on Saturday and attend church on Sunday and be reassured that your soul was guaranteed eternal salvation.
Or murder civil rights workers, spit in the face of black school children desegregating a school, bomb a black church, or beat senseless peaceful demonstrators on a bridge in Selma—and still be a good Christian, according to your Baptist pastor.
Sessions’ words sparked a revolting feeling of déjà vu all over again, of a return to the worst days of the Civil Rights struggle.
I have been heartened, therefore, by the actions and resolutions taken at the recent annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas. In particular, I saw the resolution on immigration as denoting a decisive separation of the SBC from the policies of Trump and the Republicans. My positive view has been reinforced by the media’s conclusion that the SBC has taken a significantly new tack.
The most striking article appeared in The Atlantic: “Southern Baptists Call Off the Culture War: America’s largest Protestant group moves to cut ties with the Republican Party and re-engage with mainstream culture.”
Even more heartening, Rev. Wright, were your retweets of the positive coverage of the results of the SBC convention, and your tweet expressing thanks to Franklin Graham for criticizing the separation policy and urging people to “contact your members of Congress and call on them to stop this abuse against families.” I hope you continue to raise your voice against this despicable mistreatment and traumatizing of children.
One paragraph in the Atlantic article struck me in a very personal way: “(Southern Baptists) appear to recognize that tethering themselves to Donald Trump—a thrice-married man who has bragged about committing adultery, lies with impunity, allegedly paid hush money to a porn star with whom he had an affair, and says he has never asked God for forgiveness—places the moral credibility of the Southern Baptist Convention at risk.” My goodness. Almost as if the author is plagiarizing words from my letter to you!
But there is no room for complacency. Many evangelicals—probably including some of your flock—are willing to continue to support a policy explicitly contrary to the teachings of Jesus. Read: Why many white evangelicals are not protesting family separations on the U.S. border. I hope you are dedicated to setting such people straight, with as much fervor as they display in opposing abortion.
The Growing anti-Trump Chorus
You should be encouraged that other Christians have begun speaking out against the mistreatment of innocent children.
- On June 14, the Migrants and Refugees Section at the Vatican tweeted a verse of Deuteronomy: “The Bible teaches that God ‘loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt’ (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).” Pope Francis twitter.com/Yt8i7b39VN.
- “At a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on June 13, the nation’s Catholic leaders strongly condemned the administration’s immigration policies as immoral, with one bishop going so far as to suggest that Catholics who help carry out the Justice Department’s policies are violating their faith and perhaps should be denied Communion.”
- On June 20, Pope Francis announced his support for the Bishops’ statement, putting himself on the record as opposing the Trump administration’s policy.
- On June 19, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and 12 other Republican Senators sent a letter to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling for a halt to the practice of separating families at the border.
- Four-star general warns Trump’s family separation policy echoes Nazis
- And now, former First Lady Laura Bush has taken the unusual step of writing an op-ed column for the Washington Post, adding her voice to those denouncing this cruel and inhumane policy: “I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”
Trump’s Continuing Sins: His Contempt for the 10 Commandments
Trump continues to live in virtual daily defiance of God’s Commandment not to bear false witness. According to the Washington Post’s documented inventory, as of June 1 Trump made 3,251 false or misleading claims in 495 days. See also:
Trump, of course, has a history of not only engaging in adultery, but publicizing it and bragging about it.
The Stormy Daniels affair has highlighted Trump’s sins. He lied to the American people, claiming the affair never happened, and reversed himself only when the evidence became overwhelming. He also lied publicly about not knowing about his lawyer’s payoff to Daniels to keep her quiet, and then had his new spokesman announce the truth that he had recompensed his lawyer for making the payment.
What a mind-numbing display of hypocrisy so-called Christians display when they turn a blind eye to Trump’s ever-present contempt for God’s laws while waving in our faces those words in the Bible that supposedly ban abortion and gay rights.
The Mormon Church took Christian hypocrisy to new heights recently by severing its ties to the Boy Scouts in an apparent response to the Scouts’ decision to include openly gay troop leaders—while remaining mute on the gross immorality and God-defying antics of Donald Trump. See my blog Break with Boy Scouts Takes Mormons to New Heights of Hypocrisy
The criminality, corruption, and malfeasance of the Trump Administration has expanded since my December letter.
- Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was charged and pleaded guiltyin December 2017 to making false statements to the FBI.
- Special Prosecutor Mueller has charged three other former Trump campaign officials with criminal conduct. This month, June 2018, additional charges were brought against one of them as well as one of his associates
- An attorney associated with Trump pleaded guilty to lying to FBI investigators and was sentenced to 30 days in prison.
- Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt has been revealed as a one-man band of pure, in-your-face corruption. See “A Running List of Scott Pruitt’s Corrupt Acts.” As of early June, there were at least a dozen ongoing investigations related to Pruitt by EPA’s Office of Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office, and congressional oversight committees. Read more.
The State of New York this week opened a new front in dealing with Trump’s corruption: N.Y. files suit against Trump, alleging his charity engaged in ‘illegal conduct’.
Trump’s Wanton Defiance of Jesus’ Golden Rule
You will recall, Pastor Wright, that these latest examples of moral decadence are a continuation of the acts Trump committed in the past, for which he has never apologized and for which you and other Christian leaders have never held him accountable. Trump’s more telling words and deeds are listed in the section of my original latter titled “The Republicans’ arrogant trashing of Jesus’ Golden Rule.”
TAKING INVENTORY OF “CHRISTIAN VALUES”: Back child molesters for the US Senate. Strip health coverage from sick children to enrich billionaires. Shrug at the slaughter of schoolchildren to appease the gun lobby. Steal immigrant babies and hold them hostage for political gain.
147 replies 2,521 retweets 4,029 likes
Trump’s daily tweets continue to remind us that “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a concept totally remote to Donald Trump.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Crisis of Morality
Let’s hope the new leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention can overcome the considerable shortcomings of its own. The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on May 30 fired its long-time President, Paige Patterson, for allegedly lying about and mishandling complaints of student rape. Here is my write-up: Leader’s Disgrace Deals Heavy Blow to Southern Baptists.
Three men have accused Paul Pressler, Patterson’s closest ally in bringing about the “conservative revolution” in the SBC, of years of sexual molestation. Also, according to the Baptist Press, Frank S. Page, the former president and chief executive of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, resigned in March from the top role in the SBC because of a “morally inappropriate” relationship.
- Besides Trump, Evangelical Leaders Face Sex Scandals of Their Own
- “Trump Exposes the Hypocrisy of Christian Republicans”
- Southern Baptists Discover–Gasp!–Misogyny in Their Ranks
- Republican Family Values in Full Flower
- This isn’t religion. It’s perversion.
- How can anyone who calls themselves a Christian support a President who exhibits utter contempt for God’s Commandment and Jesus’ Golden Rule?
- What Bible passages establish that the 10 Commandments can be abandoned in order to support a President who appoints Supreme Court justices who will rule against abortion?
- What practical steps do you and other Baptist pastors intend to take to implement the spirit of the resolutions adopted at the SBC meeting? What will you ask your congregation to do?
- Have you preached a sermon denouncing the horrendous Republican policy of separating immigrant children from their parents? If not, why not?
- (Original version) Have you thought of asking your congregation to sign a petition demanding that President Trump abandon the family separation policy? Laura Bush’s op-ed in the Washington Post on June 17, it seems to me, would be an excellent reference to start a draft.
- (Revised version) Have you thought of asking your congregation to sign a petition demanding that President Trump immediately mobilize the resources to return all the kidnapped children to their parents?
- Why can’t America’s religious denominations denounce Trump’s lies and adultery as strongly as they denounce abortion and/or gay rights?
- Why do so many Christians focus so relentlessly—in some cases, almost exclusively—on things Jesus Christ never said anything about—like abortion and gay rights—while virtually ignoring Jesus’ core message, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?
- Why do we almost never hear Christian clergy citing Jesus’ strong denunciation of the rich? Much less preaching a sermon based on those words?
I look forward to your answers.