Trump's race comments shock Christians
Evangelical leaders criticise ‘crass’ comments
He’s not the first president to use vulgar language in the oval office but President Trump has stirred up a storm when he reportedly said while discussing immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and Africa, “Why are we having all these people from —-hole countries come here?” According to the Washington Post, which broke the story, he then said the US should take more immigrants from Norway.
In other words, take people from a rich and white country rather than black and poor ones. The comments were verified by a Democrat Senator who was present at the meeting. Republicans have said they don’t recall the language. The White House has not denied the language.
Religious responses have been sharply split, especially from evangelicals, conservative Christians who form the most loyal part of Trump’s supporter base.
Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission tweeted,
The church of Jesus Christ is led by, among others, our brothers and sisters from Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. They are us.
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) January 12, 2018
As Patheos columnist Warren Throckmorton (whose collection of tweets we draw on here) put it “that can only be taken as opposition to the President’s comment.”
But author Eric Metaxas, well known for biographies of Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer defended Trump:
If @POTUS said that word, it's lamentable. But it's certainly not racist. Have we lost all perspective on what real racism is? And when Reagan called the U.S.S.R. an "evil empire" was he saying the PEOPLE were evil? Can't we please leaven our outrage w/some context & perspective?
— Eric Metaxas (@ericmetaxas) January 12, 2018
I cannot abide the comments our President makes regarding immigrant peoples and their countries of origin. I cannot leave them alone to hear racist barbs, evil speech, incendiary comment, and blasphemous slander against the image and likeness of God in which they are made. – Tahiti Anyabwile
One response to Metaxas recorded by Throckmorton:
Eric, it’s racism when he equates the people of a country with their systems of government. People from Haiti and Africa? Not welcome. Norway? They’re welcome! What’s the difference? Think ethnicity and skin color.
— Gregory Thornbury (@greg_thornbury) January 12, 2018
Christian reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey has a story in The Washington Post about some of the more rusted on Trump supporters. “A few members of President Trump’s evangelical advisory council — including its spokesman — on Friday defended the president after he made comments about immigrants from places including Africa and Central America.
“In a statement to The Washington Post, spokesman Johnnie Moore questioned whether Trump had actually made the comments and accused Congress of holding up immigration reform. If Trump did make the comments, Moore said, they ‘were crass.'” These leaders’ support for the President is being tested.
From the Gospel Coalition, led by a group of conservative preachers, Thabiti Anyabwile, has posted a description of a baptism service of a Rwandan genocide survivor, in a church gathering of people from a wide range of countries and draws this conclusion: “I’m a pastor, not a politician. But I am a pastor of particular people with diverse and rich backgrounds. They contribute to our church family in indescribable ways. They are our church family. My job is to shepherd them, which means I am to feed them, lead them, and protect them.
“As a shepherd, I cannot abide the comments our President makes regarding immigrant peoples and their countries of origin. I cannot leave them alone to hear racist barbs, evil speech, incendiary comment, and blasphemous slander against the image and likeness of God in which they are made.
“I am at a loss for how much I can tangibly do to change the situation. But at least I can speak up to say, ‘This is unacceptable. It is wrong. It is evil. It denigrates our citizens and our country. It does not make us great. It cannot be tolerated in our church and should not be tolerated in our society.’”
Yes, the polls still show that white evangelical Christians in the main support Trump. But it is also true that increasingly their leaders, with the exception of some rusted on supporters, are moving to distance themselves and Christianity from at least some of the President’s actions.