So at last you think you’ve found a church where you can be safe from all the Christo-fascist noise, racism, and ignorance. But you can’t. It’s everywhere, at least here in the South. Last week we were just about to take the plunge and sign up for a membership class in our new church (our seventh since moving here), when our pastor got up and said that God had shown him that Donald Trump is a kind of “Nebuchad-nezzar,” an enlightened despot, who, though not perfect, will be used mightily by God. Yeah, we’ve heard that analogy before in the mouths of white Christians vying to come up with the most abominable biblical justification for voting for and supporting a racist for President of the United States.
We were shocked when our pastor said this but not altogether surprised. If you’ve visited as many churches as we have since moving here, you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Still, we felt hurt, since we thought we had finally found a church home that our daughter loved and where we felt the manifest presence of God.
Of course, most of the congregation, who are white, erupted into applause. But what saddened us no end is that this church has a growing degree of diversity. How did those few black, Latino, and immigrant families feel about this encomium to a man whose racist administration has brought nothing but fear, degradation, and misery to their communities. Basically, in spouting the same metaphor as those Trump apologists, our pastor was, inadvertently, saying, “I’m white and I want Trump to make America white again, to give the white church back its power and dominance, and to hell with the rest of you!”
Really? Nebuchadnezzar? He was the Babylonian king who in the Bible conquered Jerusalem, sacked its temple, and deported its inhabitants, but who, in the end, was taught to fear God and who eventually restored power and influence to God’s people. Sure there are similarities, especially in the awful deportation thing, the defilement of the temple (cf. Trump’s degrading of the church), and the overweening narcissism (according to the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar made a giant statue of himself and forced his subjects to bow down to it. Today, he would have simply called Fox News and had them ratchet up the fawning praise). Ironically, of course, the Babylonian king was initially seen by the Hebrew prophets as executing God’s judgment on God’s people. Okay, okay, so perhaps he might be a Nebuchadnezzar, but not in the positive sense they mean. If the American evangelical church is regaining political power and influence, it is at the expense of its soul, the suffering of its brothers and sisters of color, and its reputation in the eyes of the world.
A.R. Bernard, pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, NY, said it best. He was one of only a few clergymen of color to join Trump’s pastoral advisory panel, and he was the first to resign. He knew the man could not be reached after the first day. Pastor Bernard believes Trump is more like a King Saul. Israel begged God for a king and he sent them one–as a judgment and as a manifestation of something deeply corrupt in their hearts.
Our pastor is a kind and compassionate man, and I really don’t think he meant to offend anyone. That’s why I took the opportunity to offer some feedback. I very respectfully submitted my objections to what he said and explained why. I guess I was hoping for some kind of apology (naïve child that I am. I was always taught to apologize even if I did not think I had done anything wrong). What I got was a terse reply from an assistant who denied any wrong doing. I doubt the pastor even saw the note.
What’s it going to take for white Christians to stand up against racism and call it what it is? Just yesterday the President showed his true colors (again) in his comments about immigrants from “shit-hole countries.” As if we needed any more evidence. Didn’t we have plenty even before the election? No, there’s no excuse for it. No excuse for defending racism, which is by its very nature indefensible. It’s called sin.