Dear President Trump,
Can we talk?
As a Presbyterian Church USA [PC(USA)] minister, I’ve become increasingly concerned about you and your faith journey.
I understand that you grew up attending what you’ve called a “vibrant” PC(USA) church. And until recently, when you seem to have adopted a more conservative Evangelical outlook, you would readily claim to be a Presbyterian. While I have my opinions, I admittedly have no idea if your embracing of Evangelicals was a political move or an ideological one or even possibly both, but what I do know is that, thus far, your actions as President of the United States have strayed far from the teachings of the faith tradition you once so proudly claimed.
I guess you could consider this a pastoral note – written out of care for the spiritual path you seem to be following.
You should know, there are a lot of people, even many of my close friends, who are refusing to call you a Christian. Of course, knowing your reputation for spending time on Twitter, you are probably already aware of that. But I bring it to your attention because they really tend to make a great case for it.
Personally, I don’t want to get into the business of defining who is and who isn’t a Christian. That’s a job for someone with a much higher pay grade than me. For that matter, it’s for someone with much higher pay grade than you and I suspect yours is pretty considerable with your decision to not fully divest from your businesses and the way the government is now pumping money into some of your businesses like Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago.
I do, however, believe that it is both healthy and part of my responsibility as a minister to point out places where someone who publicly professes to be earnestly seeking to be a Christian (or Christ follower) might be missing the boat by a bit – or even by a gapping chasm.
Realizing that you have much to do, what with the Tweeting and keeping in check all the “fake” news that’s out there, I’ll keep this brief and to the point.
When it comes to immigrants and refugees, the Bible really doesn’t give much wiggle room. In Leviticus, among many other places, it insists on us being hospitable to travelers from other lands. We are told “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself…”.
For that matter, Jesus and his family were refugees as they fled a nation where his death was somewhat imminent. Can you imagine the Jesus clan trying to escape death today by coming to America? I know, it’s heartbreaking to consider that we might not accept Jesus – what with his brown skin, Middle Eastern ties, and inability to speak English.
Sad. Just sad.
If you actually want to put Christian values into action, you are going to need to massively rethink your immigration policy. For that matter, it’s also just the humane thing to do.
As I mentioned a moment ago, as you and I strive to be Christians, what that looks like is striving to follow Jesus, or more specifically, striving to follow his example and teachings. It’s sort of like playing Follow the Leader.
When people who were sick needed care, Jesus gave it to them – regardless of pre-existing conditions or lack of worldly goods. Your new Evangelical friends, talk a lot about the need to “save” people. Well, healthcare is the perfect opportunity to truly save people. We don’t need a repeal of Obamacare/ACA, which would actually lead to an increase and death and poverty, we need to improve on it and get to the business of saving lives. After all, that’s what Jesus would do. Follow the leader.
It would be easy to go on and on with examples like these, but I have to imagine, you are running out of patience with the length of my letter, so allow me to summarize the whole of the Bible with one easy to remember saying, “Love God which looks like loving your neighbor.” Ok, so you probably caught me on that. I didn’t say that, Jesus did. He also reminded us to love our enemies as well.
So, our key instruction from the teacher you and I seek to follow is to love our neighbor. Our Christian neighbor. Our Muslim neighbor. Our Atheist neighbor. Our female neighbor. Our Refugee neighbor. Our sick neighbor. Our gay and trans neighbors. Our hungry neighbor. Our homeless neighbor.
There’s really no wiggle room there either. Love them. Period.
Turning them away, insuring they can’t afford or get healthcare, not extending the same rights to them that you give to yourself and others, turning away when they are in need, those are not loving responses.
Our job is to love them. Period.
Jesus never said it’d be easy, he just said it’d be worth it.
So, thanks for taking the time for this little “Christianity 101” pep-talk. I hope it’ll jog some of those memories from your Sunday school days at First Presbyterian Church. We Presby’s pride ourselves in our education programs; I can only imagine the wonderful lessons you once learned.
And just think, if we can manage to get back to truly following the life and lessons of Jesus, we could “make America great again” – for our Muslim neighbors, our gay and trans neighbors, for our sick neighbors, for our refugee neighbors… well, I think you get the picture.
Rev. Mark Sandlin