Thursday, January 26, 2017

An Open Letter to Donald Trump Supporters

I get it.  You have been lied to so long, ignored so long, and watched too many people who said they were in your corner fail to come to your defense.  You look around your towns and see people who don't look like you doing jobs your neighbors used to do; you see those same neighbors addicted to drugs, living in despair, and devoid of hope.  You see an array of cultural and economic forces you don't understand driving changes you can't control toward a future you fear.  And you see pointy headed "elites" like me whom you believe have never lived your life telling you what to believe, even when their "facts" fly in the face of your "common sense."

And so you threw both the biggest Hail Mary pass and upraised middle finger you could at the political system.  Enough of you voted in enough of the right places for Donald Trump that he now sits in the White House.  Some of you feel vindicated because he made it.  Many of you want him to succeed even if you took him "seriously but not literally," and a few of you are now asking if the campaign promises he seems to want to fulfill are really going to come back to hurt you.

I know you won't let me debate this with you on "facts." Both because you don't trust me to tell you the truth because of my politics and my employment as a public servant, and because your support of him wasn't really about facts anyway. As one West Virginia coal miner recently put it - its about the look of the man and what he might make people think.

So since we don't yet trust each other on facts, lets take a leap of faith.  Many (though certainly not all) of you identify as Christians - I do too.  And as such we have accepted a call to follow Christ's teachings.  All of them - no matter how hard, how unorthodox, or how much they fly in the face of our common sense.  And Scripture has two powerful teachings that should be our guides right now.  First, there is the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37:

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Now it should not require repeating, but Christ was telling us that the Samaritan - the non believer - acted with the most mercy and compassion, and that we who follow Jesus should "go and do likewise."  Its probably no coincidence that the Samaria of ancient times is in the West Bank, an area now controlled (at least in name) by the Palestinian Authority.  But more to the point, if Christ is telling us a non-believer can be more compassionate then we are - if indeed that non believer's example is for us to follow - then what does it say that today we wish to keep out, kick out, denigrate and discriminate against the "non-believers" of the Islamic faith?  How can we as Christians possibly square support for President Trump with  Christ's teaching that others besides ourselves can show us greater compassion and love then we ourselves show?  And why in the world would we seek to keep out such people, and thus break from what Our Lord has shown us so clearly?

But, you will counter, Islamic terrorists have attacked the US.  They have fought us on the battle fields.  We will not be "safe" if we let them in.  My blunt reply is this - did not Christ also command us in Matthew 5:39 "But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."  Here's where those pesky facts have to be considered as well - you are as likely to die crushed under your own TV or dresser as you are to be killed by a terrorist.

More to the point however, when we give in to our fears of those who do not look like us, or sound like us or act like us, we are breaking Christ's second greatest commandment found in Matthew 22:36-40:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
We cannot demonstrate love for our neighbors if we throw them out of our bakeries for the simple act of wanting to marry their partners.  We can not love our neighbors if the color of their skin makes them "inferior" to us. We can not love our neighbors if we allow our "leaders" to persist in lying to use about everything in the world around us just because their egos are fragile and they fear the people they have been elected to lead. 

You want hope.  You want respect.  You deserve dignity.  I get it.  And my Christian pledge to you is that you and I can and will seek those things for you together.  But not with this man. His rise will not lift you, and if you push me away, then I can not carry you when you stumble, as the Samaritan did for the man accosted by robbers.