In December, I sent the letter below to several American religious leaders, quoting 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 and asking the recipients to offer their own comments. I gave them the chance to respond before the letter was published on this blog, so they would in no way feel blindsided.
So far, I have heard from only one addressee, Senior Pastor Bryant Wright of the Johnson Street Baptist Church in Marietta. His reply consisted of a link to one of his sermons, “Looking for a Savior in a President” (11.06.16), available at http://rightfromtheheart.org/sermon-series/hot-topics/?id=11073,
Technical problems with this blog forced a delay in posting the letter. I publish it in its original form, although the issues it raises have become even more acute as Trump’s Republican Administration has sunk further and further into the gutter—with no concerted response from our major religious denominations, as far as I have been able to discover.
Tom Barksdale, proprietor
(Street Address Redacted)
Woodstock, GA 30189
“You don’t save Christianity by betraying its message.”
-David Brooks, dean of conservative columnists, New York Times, 12/7/17
|Dr. Johnny Hunt
First Baptist Church of Woodstock
11905 Highway 92
Woodstock, GA 30188
|Dr. Michael Lewis
Roswell Street Baptist Church
774 Roswell St.
Marietta, GA 30060
|Dr. Russell Moore
President, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Southern Baptist Convention
901 Commerce Street
Nashville, TN 37203
|Senior Pastor Bryant Wright
Johnson Ferry Baptist Church
955 Johnson Ferry Rd.
Marietta, GA 30068
| Attn: J. Herbert Nelson, II
Office of the General Assembly:Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
100 Witherspoon Street
Louisville, KY 40202-1396
|Bishop Michael Curry
The Episcopal Church
815 Second Ave
New York, NY 10017
Dear (Pastor Johnny) (Dr. Lewis)(Dr. Moore)(Pastor Wright)(Reverend Nelson)(Bishop Curry):
I am writing to ask your opinion of recent acts that I consider a travesty against the Christian faith committed by President Donald Trump and some who defend him in the name of Christ. Recent Tweets and public statements by President Donald Trump have, by any rational, objective analysis, crossed the line into expressions of outright racism and bigotry. He is also reliably reported to have, in private, distanced himself from expressions of remorse and apologies he was forced to make in response to public outrage over some of his previously expressed lies and hateful words.
I am writing because I believe that the silence of our major Christian denominations and churches in the face of Trump’s travesties constitutes a betrayal of the Christian message.
Trump on November 29 retweeted a series of inflammatory Islamophobic videos originally posted by a British far-right activist known for his extreme anti-Islamic views. The videos purportedly showed violence being committed by Muslims. The commentary on one of the videos, claiming it sowed a Muslim attacking a Dutch citizen, was patently false. It had already been proven the attacker was a Dutch citizen. The accuracy and circumstances of the other two videos are unknown. In short, the videos’ flagrant Islamophobias is unquestioned.
On November 27, Trump during White House ceremony to honor Navajo veterans of World War II resurfaced his derogatory reference to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” without explicitly using her name. His words: “Although we have a representative in Congress who, they say, was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.” The use of the racial slur was widely condemned, including by Russell Begaye, the president of the Navajo Nation, who called the president’s mention of Pocahontas “derogatory” and “disrespectful to Indian nations.”
Trump’s previous nadir in his expressing an explicitly racist outlook occurred in August in his response to neo-fascist demonstrations held in Charlottesville, VA. Trump public played down the racist and anti-Semitic views of the white supremacists who held a proto-Nazi torch light parade that included chants of “Jews will not replace us.” He drew an apparent moral equivalency between neo-Nazi marchers and anti-racist protesters, declaring that there were “fine people” on both sides, and he blamed the news media instead for stoking racial divisions.
Trump’s remarks were roundly condemned, even by many Republican leaders and, reportedly, in private by members of his Administration. American Jews reacted strongly: “Four coalitions of rabbis, hailing from different strains of American Judaism, publicly spurned Mr. Trump, denouncing him in unusually pointed language, and pre-emptively announcing that they would not participate in any conference call before the Jewish holidays…” (See “Rabbis Protest Trump’s Comments by Boycotting Conference Call”)
It is the above explicitly racist comments by Trump which sparked this letter. But in the background are the plethora of words Trump has spoken in the two and one-half years since he has announced his candidacy for president that prove him to be, undeniably, a serial liar, racist, bigot, misogynist, nativist, demagogue, xenophobe, and bully. For almost a year, Trump and the Republican Party have waged a war against America’s basic moral and democratic values and against common human decency. The few Republican leaders who have dissented have paid by having their political careers ended.
The Republicans’ descent into a moral sewer has reached its current nadir (although most likely not its last) with their endorsement of sex predator Roy Moore for United States Senator. I cite below one of the Republicans for whom this goes too far. My own response is: if you support this despicable cretin, may God have mercy on your immortal soul.
Even more chilling is the defense offered by many average Americans for sticking with Trump despite his in-your-face trampling of the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. Yes, they say, I know all about what Trump is doing. “I just don’t care. He speaks for me.” According to a recent poll, 72 percent of evangelicals now say that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life,..”
Conservative and Christian Voices Condemn Trump & Trumpists
(All words in red or bold face are “emphasis added”)
Lest I somehow be accused of bias, let me quote from some of Trump’s conservative and evangelical critics, who have already made the case against him much more eloquently and forcefully than anything I could add.
David Brooks, dean of America’s traditional conservative columnists, recently delivered a forceful indictment that is riveting in its recognition that Trump’s assault on America’s basic moral and democratic values is an assault on Christianity itself:
“…First, (Trump) asked the Republican Party to swallow the idea of a narcissistic sexual harasser and a routine liar as its party leader. Then he asked the party to accept his comprehensive ignorance and his politics of racial division. Now he asks the party to give up its reputation for fiscal conservatism. At the same time he asks the party to become the party of Roy Moore, the party of bigotry, alleged sexual harassment and child assault.”
“…Trump…is defined by shamelessness, and so there is no bottom. And apparently there is no end to what regular Republicans are willing to give him.”
“You don’t help your cause by wrapping your arms around an alleged sexual predator and a patriarchic bigot. You don’t help your cause by putting the pursuit of power above character, by worshiping at the feet of some loutish man or another, by claiming the ends justify any means. You don’t successfully rationalize your own tawdriness by claiming your opponents are satanic.”
“You don’t save Christianity by betraying its message.”
“ ‘What shall it profit a man,” Jesus asked, “ ‘if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?’ The current Republican Party seems to not understand that question…The rot afflicting the G.O.P. is comprehensive — moral, intellectual, political and reputational.”
Michael Gerson, former GW Bush speechwriter & a Washington Post columnist, after his exhaustive review of Russiagate:
“In all of this, there is a spectacular accumulation of lies. Lies on disclosure forms. Lies at confirmation hearings. Lies on Twitter. Lies in the White House briefing room. Lies to the FBI. Self-protective lies by the attorney general. Blocking and tackling lies by Vice President Pence.”
“This is, with a few exceptions, a group of people for whom truth, political honor, ethics and integrity mean nothing.”
“We are witnessing what happens when right-wing politics becomes untethered from morality and religion.”
“What does public life look like without the constraining internal force of character — without the firm ethical commitments often (though not exclusively) rooted in faith?
It looks like a presidential campaign unable to determine right from wrong and loyalty from disloyalty.
It looks like an administration engaged in a daily assault on truth and convinced that might makes right.
It looks like the residual scum left from retreating political principle — the worship of money, power and self-promoted fame. The Trumpian trinity.”
Gerson returned to the fray after Trump’s vociferous denunciation of NFL players who kneeled during opening ceremonies of football games to protest the mistreatment of African-Americans, under the headline America has a racial demagogue for a president:
“(Trump’s) ignorance is matched by malice. Trump must know that rallying his white base against young African American protesters is feeding racial tension and providing permission for bigotry. He is essentially accusing these athletes of disloyalty, just as he accused Mexicans of being rapists and Muslims of being threats. This is a pattern and habit of division by race, ethnicity and religion.”
Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners, wrote on November 17:
“President Trump is an ultimate and consummate worshiper of money, sex and power. American Christians have not really reckoned with the climate he has created in our country and the spiritual obligation we have to repair it. As a result, the soul of our nation and the integrity of the Christian faith are at risk.
“…Trump’s boastful treatment of women — including bragging in a video about grabbing their genitals — and his serial infidelity and adultery are clear evidence of his idolatrous worship of sex.
Alabama evangelicals expressing support for Senate candidate Roy Moore “may be the most damning testimony as to the politicized moral hypocrisy of white evangelicals…”
“Week after week, Trump reveals that his leadership is always and only about himself; not the people, the country or even his party — and certainly not about godliness.”
Kurt Bardella, a Republican and former spokesperson for Breitbart, the white supremacist group once led by Steve Bannon, announced on December 8, 2017 that he was quitting the Republican Party and joining the Democratic Party, after Trump traveled to Pensacola, FL., to deliver a rousing speech endorsing sex predator Roy Moore for U.S. Senator from Alabama. In a scathing op-ed in USA Today, Bardella said:
“This is not a party I want to be associated with anymore”
He accused Trump and Bannon of “ignoring legitimate issues about race relations in America, environmental policy, gun reform and equality to instead pander to a lunatic fringe that subscribes to an ideology of hate and fear.”
“This is a party that constantly buries its head in the sand on climate change, racial profiling, guns, LGBTQ equality, income inequality, food insecurity, paid family leave and the treatment of women.”
“The embrace of Moore by the Republican Party’s top ‘leadership’ is all the proof you need to know that this is a party that no longer stands for anything.”
Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who served in the previous three Republican administrations, wrote in the New York Times on December 9, 2017: Why I Can No Longer Call Myself an Evangelical Republican.
“I’ve been a part of both (the Republican Party and evangelicalism) for my entire adult life. These days, though, in many important ways they are having harmful effects on our society.”
“Yet the support being given by many Republicans and white evangelicals to President Trump and now to Mr. Moore have caused me to rethink my identification with both groups.”
“I consider Mr. Trump’s Republican Party to be a threat to conservatism, and I have concluded that the term evangelical…has been so distorted that it is now undermining the Christian witness.”
“Where exactly is the bottom? And at what point do you pull back from associating yourself with a political party and a religious term you once took pride in but that are now doing harm to the things you treasure?”
Mr. Wehner goes on to quote three of his evangelical colleagues who say they will no longer use the term because, in the words of one, “the term is now so stained as to ruin my ability to be what evangelicalism was supposed to be.” He also quotes Bill Boyce, the head of the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship, a campus ministry for more than 80 years, explaining why the group changed its name to the Princeton Christian Fellowship. “We’re interested in being people who are defined by our faith and by our faith commitments and not by any sort of political agenda.”
William S. Brewbaker wrote from Tuscaloosa, AL on November 15: “As an evangelical Christian, an Alabamian and a Republican, I’m ashamed of Roy Moore and upset that so many people are determined to defend him against sexual assault allegations, no matter what. I’m even more bothered, however, by what Mr. Moore’s popularity says about the sorry state of evangelical Christianity.”
It is wrong to attack one’s critics…as “the forces of evil” and attribute their questions about serious allegations to “a spiritual battle.”
It is wrong to excuse one’s own moral failings while rushing to judgment over the sins of others…We are to love and forgive our enemies, as God has loved and forgiven us.
Brewbaker took issue with some evangelicals for “arrogantly identifying the success of a given party or political movement with the advancement of the Kingdom of God.”
Numerous other conservative voices recognized long ago what a threat Trump is to traditional conservative and Christian principles: George Will, Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, Jennifer Rubin, to name a few.
More Trump Lies in Arrogant Violation of God’s Commandment
The Washington Post reported on November 14 that Trump had made 1,628 false or misleading claims in the 298 days of his presidency. The number included claims he had made numerous times. As of November 14, Trump in the previous 35 days had averaged an astonishing nine claims a day. (See also: When it comes to lying, Trump is in a class by himself; “Donald Trump is constantly lying”; “Trump’s lies: the definitive list”)
The Republicans’ Arrogant Trashing of Jesus’ Golden Rule
Please explain to me, (Reverend/Pastor/Bishop), where you find one iota of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” in a President who:
–Bragged about sexually assaulting women and called them bimbos
–Hired sex predator Roger Ailes as a chief adviser, after Ailes was forced out of Fox News
-Demeaned John McCain’s military service
–Mocked a physically handicapped person
–Impugned the integrity of a respected federal judge on the basis of his ethnic origin
–Belittled the mother of a martyred American-Muslim soldier
–Talks about Muslims the way Hitler talked about Jews
–Incited his followers to violence.
–Praises the thug Putin.
–Appointed an alt-right white nationalist extremist as his Presidential Counselor
–Advocated punitive measures against American citizens on the basis of their religion.
–Used profanity in public
–Accused Ted Cruz’s father of involvement in JFK’s assassination
–Refuses to pay the bills due small businesses who worked for him.
–Bilked innocent people of their money in a scam involving a phony university
Reverend Frank Graham on Trump
Despite all the above, Reverend Franklin Graham said in early December, 2017, that no president in his lifetime had taken such a “strong, outspoken stand for the Christian faith” than President Trump. After Trump’s election last year, Graham stated that Trump defeated Hillary by the “hand of God.”
My Questions to You, (Reverend)(Pastor)(Bishop)
When did you and the (First Baptist Church of Woodstock)(Southern Baptist Convention)(Roswell Street Baptist Church)(Presbyterian Church U.S.A.)(Johnson Street Baptist Church)(The Episcopal Church) decide to throw overboard God’s Ten Commandments and Jesus’ Golden Rule? (Which you have done by remaining silent in the face of Trump and the Republicans wholesale defiance of both.)
When did you decide that the Bible’s words about abortion and homosexuality had completely replaced the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule as edicts to live by?
When did putative Christians decide that “I don’t care” is an acceptable response to explain their continued support for Trump? Does God really accept this as a reason to live in defiance of His Commandments and the Golden Rule? Do you?
If you choose to defend your refusal to denounce Donald Trump and the Republican Party, please include specific words that refute or take issue with the specific words published by the Trump critics cited above, especially those printed in red. Please do the same for each of the bullet points in the sub-section, “The Republicans’ Arrogant Trashing of Jesus’ Golden Rule.”
Do you believe, (Pastor)(Reverend/Bishop), that the opinions of the religious voices (including yours, if it applies) that support Trump are worth more than the dissenting voices of Peter Wehner, William S. Brewbaker (and other evangelicals), Kurt Bardella, Michael Gerson, David Brooks, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, and Jennifer Rubin?
Here is my statement about Franklin Graham: “I believe that Reverend Frank Graham’s declaration that Trump has taken a stronger, more outspoken stand for the Christian faith than any other President in his lifetime is, itself, an act of blasphemy and a travesty of Jesus’ message.”
My question: Do you agree or disagree with my statement?