Powell: What kind of savior?
In a past column I asked, “Are you looking for Jesus?” I wrote that some people are looking for Jesus to provide material possessions. Their actions are geared to assure that people who are unlike them will not have an option for coexistence and justice.
The presidential campaign reveals what Americans are looking for. It highlights the deep division among us. It has filled our communities with hate against the “other.”
The popularity of Donald Trump calls into question the core beliefs, commitments and faith of the American people.
As an African-American, I’m deeply troubled by Trump’s lack of understanding of the black community. He lectures us about broken homes, though he has five children from three wives. He says he loves “the blacks,” but his documented discriminatory practices and embrace of white nationalists show little regard for black people.
Trump’s initial outreach to the African-American community was in a white suburb with a white audience. His speech didn’t give black folks hope for a justice-focused existence.
Requesting the African-American vote, he asks, “What do you have to lose?” My answer: Everything we’ve gained!
So, are you still looking for Jesus? Has America found him? Many evangelicals and the religious right who have embraced Trump think they’ve found a savior. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the 12,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, advocates for Trump and would vote for him over Jesus. He acknowledges Trump is not like Jesus; Jesus is weak on terrorism. He says the Sermon on the Mount was never intended as a governing principle. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, writes that Trump is a baby Christian but open to learn.
In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, after painting a dark image of the nation, Trump offered a solution: “I am your voice. I alone can fix it.” He didn’t request help or acknowledge the need for God. He boasted that he was the one we’ve been waiting for.
This isn’t the way of Jesus. When one of Jesus’ disciples asked, “How can we know the way?” he replied, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:5).
Trump’s words and actions have many fawning over him as the self-proclaimed savior of a nation he miraculously can make “great again.” Jesus response is, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart”(Matt. 11:28-29).
Jesus warns us to beware of false prophets. We will know them by their words and actions. Trump has shown who he is with name-calling, mockery and boasting.
This election is personal to those who seek Jesus’ peace and reconciliation. Jesus calls us to be bold and uncompromising when seeking a just society.
Each of us has a decision to make. Every vote is important. What do you have to lose? Think carefully and act boldly.
John Powell, of Ypsilanti, Mich., is a regional pastor for Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference.
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