This letter was written shortly after the incident at Lafayette Square where protesters were removed by force so that President Trump could take a photo in front of a partially burned church holding a Bible. This letter was originally published online on the Vermont Standard website.
Dear President Trump,
It has come to my attention that, as an evangelical, I am your target market. That much of what you do and say is to garner my favor and lock in my vote for the next election. I didn’t realize just how powerful my voice is in your ears until I watched you clear Lafayette Park of protesters so you could hold a Bible in front of a damaged church to show me that “we’re winning.” You’ve gone as far to say that you think Christians see that as a “beautiful picture.”
Let’s talk about how that really looks from an evangelical perspective.
The core belief at the heart of evangelicalism is the gospel. It’s a simple proposition: mankind has rejected God and has become His enemy, but out of love for his creation-turned-enemy God became a man to suffer and die to reconcile us to himself. After three days he was resurrected, and it’s our faith in that resurrection that gives us hope – not a cheap hope for finding riches or success, but a hope for eternity.
Your campaign is big on “winning.” As someone who strives to follow the example and teachings of Jesus, “winning” looks a little different to me than you seem to think:
Dominance is not victory – servant leadership is. Jesus is quoted as saying things like “he who wants to save his life must lose it,” and “he who would be first shall be last.” Servant leadership is a big deal in evangelical circles.
Supremacy is not victory – mercy is. Jesus, alluding to Hosea, reminded the religious people of his day that God desires mercy over sacrifice.
Crushing enemies is not victory – reconciliation is. Jesus literally died for the sake of reconciliation, and told his followers to take up their crosses and follow him.
I’ve read multiple accounts that say the same thing about what happened in Lafayette park, even some from sources that often disagree with each other. I’ve watched nearly 2 hours of footage, uncut when possible, from the park. There’s no question that protesters were removed by force.
I’ve heard many justifications, but they don’t seem to line up with the evidence. Let’s get right down to it – it’s very unlikely that the protesters became so aggressive that they had to be driven back conveniently just moments before you were scheduled to walk through the area. Nobody in their right mind would let the president of the United States walk through an unsecured crowd of angry protesters.
I can only conclude that instead of listening to and serving the people who are hurting right now, you wanted to show me that we’re winning. Instead of showing mercy to those cursing your name, you wanted to secure my vote. instead of working toward reconciling the division in our nation, you wanted to hear my applause.
To do that the park had to be cleared.Crushing enemies is not victory - reconciliation is. Jesus literally died for the sake of reconciliation, and told his followers to take up their crosses and follow him. Click To Tweet
I can’t expect presidents to live by biblical standards, but do you see how, as an evangelical, I cannot condone those actions for my sake? When it comes down to it, I have to stand up and say “no.” While there are certainly conservative stances you hold that I can get behind, making evangelicals and conservatives dominant is not the same as making America great. Heck, it’s not even evangelical to be dominant!
I get that riots and looting are bad and that people are getting hurt and property is being destroyed. I reject the delusion that as a white evangelical I’m not allowed to say those things are wrong. BUT I also fully accept that riots and looting are a symptom of a deeper problem, a deeper divide. If we want to stop this cycle we need to heal the divide.
During the campaign in 2016 I was happy to hear you say “when you’re president, you’re president of all the people,” during a phone interview. I’m begging you to be that president. If you want my vote, don’t be my president only – be the president of all the people. Be the president who brings reconciliation. As we like to quote in the evangelical world, be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.”
Now that, that would be a beautiful picture.