More Evangelical VIPs Censure Trump

January 18, 2018

Culture, Politics, Uncategorized

Image result for calvin collegeIt’s a new day. Shock at a Republican president is no longer the exclusive province of the Evangelical Left’s flagship, Sojourners Magazine.

Last week, several back-to-the-Bible leaders scolded Donald Trump over his foul dismissal of Latin American and African countries. The beat goes on, with rebukes emanating from American Reformed Christianity’s Vatican: Grand Rapids, Michigan, the home of a slew of publishing houses as well as Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary. The presidents of the two schools issued a joint letter to their students: “These comments sow fear and hatred in our country, and they are wrong.”

This doesn’t fit the portrait of evangelical zombies locked in a mindless Trumpian cabal. They’re not kowtowing to Jerry Falwell, Jr., James Dobson, and Franklin Graham.

Perhaps that’s because American Evangelical Christianity is not the simplistic monolith of popular myth. It’s diverse. We can even slice it into three overlapping camps for now, knowing it can be analyzed differently on other occasions: The Tribal Evangelicals hog the microphone, stake out the most ground, and grab the attention of a deadline-pressured press. They rarely read the Bible and preach a God-Guns’n Guts Gospel. The Court Evangelicals, the second camp, lobby God-Guns’n Guts in Washington and anoint the GOP as God’s Own Party. The quieter Traditional Evangelicals form the third camp. They continue to bolster an amorphous alliance of orthodox Calvinists, Anabaptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Arminian-Wesleyans. Once the overwhelming majority, they embrace Conversionism (they commit themselves to Jesus and intentionally follow him), Activism (they demonstrate the Gospel in missions and social reform), Biblicism (all the Bible is divinely-inspired and authoritative), and Crucientrism (the cross of Jesus is central). Or so says historian David Bebbington. Their center of gravity lies at civility’s fulcrum, The National Association of Evangelicals.

Image result for calvin theological seminaryThose rough categorizations help us appreciate white American evangelicalism’s chaos. Many Traditional Evangelicals are abandoning the “e” word while still subscribing to Christianity Today and maintaining the theology. They’re often politically ambivalent. More than a few voted for Trump, but they held their noses.

Other facts blow in even more fog: Evangelical Christianity is an international movement headquartered in the Global South, with many leaning to the political left – and about a third of all US evangelicals are not white and overwhelmingly voted for Hillary.  Trump’s ratings among them drop with every slur and immigrant expulsion.

The two schools in Grand Rapids are pillars in the traditional evangelical camp. Both serve the Christian Reformed Church, which is strongly influenced by the social conscience of Dutch theologian-politician Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920). The CRC even staffs an office of social justice and has adopted a pro-science statement on climate change.

So perhaps the joint letter comes as no surprise. Here it is:

Dear Calvin Students, Faculty, and Staff,

We wish you all a Happy New Year this January and pray daily for our students, faculty, and staff who are travelling and learning around the world and here in Grand Rapids. Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, higher education institutions founded by immigrants, are composed of students, faculty, and staff from more than 60 nations. While 600 of us may claim citizenship in another country, we are all prime citizens of the Kingdom of God and share in a brotherhood and sisterhood that transcends all borders. It is for this reason, this love for our brothers and sisters, that we are deeply troubled and offended by the disparaging comments attributed to the President of the United States in recent days about people who come from Africa, Haiti, and Latin America. These comments sow fear and hatred in our country, and they are wrong. More than 150 members of our community come from these countries, and they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

This response is in no way political. It is in every way biblical. As members of the Calvin community, it is our Christian duty and responsibility to separate ourselves from racist and hateful remarks and sentiments. The world cannot be confused about what we believe. As Christians, we are called to support and promote the well-being of every member of our community and our society regardless of race, ethnicity, or national origin. We protect and defend the inviolable dignity of all people. It is our joy to ensure that every person who lives, learns, or works at Calvin knows that they are full participants in our respective missions. When we live according to these responsibilities and duties with “gentleness born of wisdom from above,” (James 3:13) we bear witness to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

On Monday, we celebrate the life of a follower of Jesus who lived out this call to confront racism and injustice with the strength to love. The vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., articulated in James 3:18, was a “harvest of righteousness sown in peace for those who make peace.” As we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King, we remember the contributions of a citizen of the United States who understood his prime citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Dr. King stood against evil and racism because he was a follower of Jesus.

We have the privilege of doing the same.

Following Jesus together,

 

Michael Le Roy                                                  Jul Medenblik

President                                                            President

Calvin College                                                    Calvin Theological Seminary

 

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About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern

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