I was reading a story from the BBC News, about the unholy alliance between the United States President and “Evangelicals.” You can read the story here. If I was not a member of a mainstream Protestant church, or if I had not ever been introduced to the concept of Evangelical, I might avoid anyone who links that word to their faith.
Evangelical comes from the Greek word meaning “Good News.” It was originally used to describe the act of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ in word and deed; in writing and in speaking; in working for justice, in serving one another in the way that Jesus modeled while walking the earth.
As a pastor in the ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church in America], one of the largest Christian denominations, with about 4 million members across the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, it is deeply disturbing to read and hear the word Evangelical being used to describe Christians who continue to blindly support our current president, despite the fact that his words and actions directly contradict the call of Jesus to those who would identify themselves as his followers. You can read more about the ELCA here.
Regarding the pursuit of peace:
Jesus: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” [Matthew 5:9]
Trump: [On North Korea}: “”They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
Jesus: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ [Matthew 25:40]
Trump: “I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country. And now I am agreeing to take 2,000 people, and I agree I can vet them, but that puts me in a bad position. It makes me look so bad and I have only been here a week.”
Jesus: “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” [John 8:32]
Trump: “I’m a person that wants to tell the truth. I’m an honest person, and what I’m saying, you know is exactly right.”
For me, and for thousands of my colleagues that represent both the ELCA and other Protestant denominations as well as the Roman Catholic Church, the word Evangelical refers to the action of proclaiming the Good News in the life and teachings of Jesus. Jesus himself, summarized it this way:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matthew 22:38-39]
My point is this: the Christians I know who describe themselves as Evangelical, either in the name of their denomination, or in the doctrine of their faith, vehemently disagree with those who follow Donald Trump and others who spoke at the recent Values Voter Summit, a conference that draws and gives a platform to hate groups as categorized by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
I do not personally know even one pastor in the Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Moravian, United Church of Christ or Episcopalian traditions who:
- is not in favor of welcoming refugees
- does not oppose violence
- is not concerned about Trump’s irresponsible talk of war
- does not weep that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being used as a weapon by many who call themselves Evangelicals, to justify their own hatred, violence, and oppression of other human beings
Evangelical is now one of many words that has been hijacked for use by people who live in ways that contradict its meaning. Another expression that has been similarly hijacked, is one for which I have yet to find an alternative. It is: trumped, a verb, which use to mean, winning.