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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

An Election Year Plea to Preachers

According to the polls, Donald Trump is the leading candidate among Evangelicals. To me, this is clear sign that the American Dream has replaced the Christian Gospel. The American Dream that compels me to make a way for myself, to “get mine,” could not be more contrary to the Gospel of the Christ who came to give not to get, to empower the marginalized not to extol the powerful.

Donald Trump has made more than a few comments denigrating women, minorities, and the poor. Listen to any speech he gives and you will quickly note the arrogance and egotism that drives him. Narcissism hangs all over him like a bad $4000 suit. Yet, Trump is the leading candidate among Evangelicals. How can this be? I don’t hate Trump or want to demonize him. I pity him. My expectations for Trump are rather low. However, my expectations for the Church of Jesus Christ, the one who came to serve in selfless love, are really high. Frankly, I am disappointed not in Trump or the Republican Party. I’m heart-broken by the Church for even considering a candidate like Trump to be not only viable but desirable.

Perhaps Trump, if elected, will get us closer to the American Dream than many of us under 50 have ever been. Taxes will be cut. Illegals will be booted and kept out so we have more. If taxes are cut and illegals are gone, we might end up with enough discretionary income to buy a second or, better yet, a third car. A larger home in a better neighborhood is a likely result. But will we better off?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ in more than a few ways flies in the face of the American Dream. In fact, one cannot simultaneously chase the “stake my claim” dream of the West and the values of the Christ. That split allegiance leads inevitably to a double life that tares the soul in two. Professing Christianity while practicing Trumpianity will lead to disastrous disintegration.   

How do we fix this thing? Enter the Christian preacher. While preaching, in part, may have gotten us into this mess, I’m convinced preaching may be the way out. Maybe it’s time for preachers to change the title of our sermon series from How to Manage Your Money to Overcoming American Greed with Christian Generosity, from The Road to a Better You to Making the World a Better Place, from Your Best Life Now to The Christ-Life Now. To the point, preaching in America, perhaps now more than ever, must articulate the distinction between Americanology and Christology, calling the Church to forsake the former to embrace the latter.

I’m not suggesting that preachers ought to stand up this Sunday and rail against Trump with hair-fire, I mean hell-fire and brimstone. As tempting as this might be for some of you, it will merely apply a temporary band-aid to a surgical need. The better way is, as is often the case, the longer way. If we preach “Christ and him crucified,” as Paul did, over and over again, Sunday after Sunday after Sunday, in creatively insightful ways, the tide will turn. If we preach the will and the way of Christ in a winsome and faithful manner now, when another Trump-like figure arises in a decade promising to fulfill our self-centered dreams, we won’t budge from the anchor of the cross.         

Am I oversimplifying complex issues with a simplistically myopic response? Well, you make the call. Just don’t say I’m ugly or assume that I’m a criminal because of my ancestry or build a wall to keep me out of your sight. That wouldn’t be very Christian.