President Trump wants American churches to believe they are making Christianity great again. He has vowed to “destroy” a law banning tax-exempt churches from political speech and activity. His executive order on a ban on immigration from seven Muslim countries and refugees essentially prioritized Christian over Muslim refugees.
One commentator positively proclaimed Trump to be a “powerful” if “unlikely” champion in the White House for Christianity.
Should the church see this as a welcome opportunity, with an “unlikely” champion?
If American churches want to maintain any sense of credibility, we must definitely and loudly say no.
Let’s be clear: This is a devil’s bargain. Not that President Trump is the devil, but he is presenting churches a potential “good” in exchange for what seems like an unbiblical power grab and worldly protection.
Thankfully, the choice for our churches is much plainer than other “devil’s bargains” – this isn’t a nuanced theological quandary like many would experience concerning Just War Theory, for example.
What the American church is being offered is not something intrinsically good through questionable means; it is naked power and dominance, using force to get it.
Laws and political rhetoric that favor Christian dominance over other religions are not “religious protection” or “religious liberty.” They are an un-Christian, morally bankrupt way of asserting power over fellow citizens of our pluralistic country, not to mention human beings made in the image of God.
This does nothing to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, the God of mercy for all. This behavior presents Christians as a pathetic, desperate, privileged people applauding authoritarianism at the slightest hint of the loss of our power. Is this what a community reliant on grace, centered in Jesus Christ and moved by the Spirit should look like? Are we really willing to distort our witness for such fleeting short-term gain, latching our credibility to reckless and reactionary leadership?
Let me be even clearer: When the church uses the government to force its cultural dominance, it is not Christian. It is white nationalist Christendom.
One of the strongest and most enduring churches in America is the historic black church, from turning the slave master’s religion into a Spirit-filled freedom movement through leading our country in fighting for civil rights. One of the fastest and most vibrant Christian movements in America is found in immigrant and minority-majority churches, many who originate from the Global South and Asia.
And yet these are the communities most targeted, most marginalized and most fearful of the president’s policies.
Any self-proclaimed moderate Christian who is on the fence as to whether to continue to support the Trump administration – or sit silently and “not take sides” – should consider the cry of the marginalized.
CHRISTOPHER DE LA CRUZ is the associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, located in Queens, New York. Follow him on Twitter @cdlc.