What if Trump is right about us?

Jill DuffieldThe Presbyterian Church is in the news. Not due to a close, controversial vote, not due to issues of marriage or divestment and not, sadly, due to a spotlight of Presbyterian mission (not that mission isn’t happening, it just apparently isn’t newsworthy). No, we Presbyterians are in the news thanks yet again to The Donald. At an October 24th campaign stop, Trump touted his Presbyterian faith. Like Dorothy clicking her heels and reciting thrice, “There is no place like home.” Donald Trump repeated, “I am a Presbyterian. I am a Presbyterian. I am a Presbyterian.” He went on to state that, “Boy, that’s middle of the road, folks.”

When asked about his comments in the days that followed, Trump stood by them. What really got to me was the possibility that he may be right about Presbyterians. Are we “middle of the road” as Trump claims? If so, what does that imply? Does “middle of the road” mean innocuous? Is it code for the reality that our faith often doesn’t influence how we live? Is it a way of saying, “Don’t worry, you won’t see Presbyterians rocking the boat”?

The message to the church of Laodicea comes to mind, “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” The angel goes on to say that the church of Laodicea has become self-assured in its own wealth, unaware of how truly needy it is. They look to material things for their security and status, failing to see that they are spiritually bankrupt. Does this in some ways describe us? Are we fixated on our financial reserves(or lack thereof) rather than on the call of the risen Christ? Clinging to what we have left rather than letting go of it all in order to freely follow? Consumed by maintaining our decency and order and moderation at the expense of participating in the radical new thing God is doing in the world?

I have received messages urging me to track down Donald Trump. (To date he hasn’t returned my emails.) I would be interested in asking what he means by “middle of the road.” I would like to know how his Presbyterian faith has shaped his views on all manner of topics.

I am more interested, however, in how being Presbyterian shapes us: you, me, leaders in all levels of the church. I don’t want to be middle of the road; I want to be on the Way. I don’t want Presbyterian to be synonymous with innocuous. I wish saying “I am Presbyterian” made people uneasy rather than comfortable. I wish it evoked questions and commentary like:

Whoa, Presbyterians, those folks are rabble-rousers. They believe in good education for all people. They’ve built schools and hospitals, started universities and advocated for just laws.

Did you know Presbyterians are right now working in the most violent places one earth and they won’t leave and they won’t let the rest of the world forget those places, either?

Do we really want a Presbyterian in the White House? I mean, don’t they believe that Jesus is Lord of all? Won’t that influence their decisions?

I am not sure about a Presbyterian in such a powerful, public position. Don’t they work with people of all faiths? Whose interests will they put first when push comes to shove?

Why don’t people respond this way?

Maybe it is time to repent of our lukewarmness, admit we’ve relied too much on outward things for security and status, recognize we are badly in need of God’s healing power and pray that the Spirit will make us hot or cold. Then when people hear we are “Presbyterian” they won’t put at ease, they will be put on alert knowing we follow Jesus Christ and that rarely puts us in the middle of the road.

Grace and peace,