Things That Matter: 6 Proposals for a Dissident Church

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A large portion of the church has been complicit in the election of Donald Trump, and now a man who was endorsed by the KKK will be our president. This is a perversion of the gospel. What the church needs now is courage and wisdom to be what we must be in a new era in American history.

It may be that Donald Trump will be a just and good leader. We should keep our minds open to that. But if his presidency is anything like his candidacy, it is not likely he will be just or good.

So I am putting forward six proposals for the church, for all the churches in America, so that she may be a dissident church in Donald Trump’s America. All of them should be followed with love and all possible gentleness.

1. The church must advocate for the dignity of every human person.

She must continually affirm that every unborn child is a gift of God, but she must also affirm this of those who are already born. The immigrant is also a gift of God, a stranger who must be welcomed and loved. The most vulnerable must be those who are most cherished by the church: true religion is, as James says, care for the widows and orphans (James 1:27).

In Trump’s America, it is unlikely that there will be anyone else to do this work. The Republicans who control congress have done nothing over the last few months but excuse his bad behavior.

The church, on the other hand, must stand up at every turn and say, “This person is a human being! A child of God! And you will not treat her this way.”

It does not matter who: the poor, minorities, those in the LGBTQ community, women, the young, Muslims and peoples of other faiths, those who are intellectually or physically disabled, the mentally ill, the lonely, the unwanted, and the unloved. All belong to God.

We must affirm the unfathomable value of all these people, and never make excuses for those who will not.

2. The church must dissent.

She must not be co-opted again by Donald Trump. She must be obedient to her Lord, who was not afraid to speak the truth even when it cost him his life.

When Trump refuses to respect the value of every human being, when he speaks maliciously about an entire race or religion, we must protest. When he attempts to break up and destroy families through deportations, we must demonstrate.

This dissent must be peaceful, however. But it must be strong, clear, and decisive. The church must not tolerate white supremacy. She must not tolerate sexism. She must not tolerate hatred for outsiders. She must not allow her most vulnerable children to be laughed at and scorned because of their disabilities.

She must dissent, and she must dissent loudly.

3. The church must protect.

When things go wrong for the Trump presidency, and I believe they will soon after he takes office, he will begin to scapegoat. Donald Trump has proven himself to be very adept at blaming his mistakes on others, and aiming the hatred of his followers toward innocent people.

When this happens, the church must take those who are hated under our wings. We must say, “Don’t blame them. Blame me! I am to blame. Don’t beat them, beat me. Don’t hate them, hate me!”

We must cast away our social privileges, we must take their blows, we must be vilified as a group, and we must be scorned.

If necessary, we must break unjust laws and resist political authorities if in doing so we can protect the well-being of others.

4. The church must defend the truth.

There is such a thing as objective truth. This is essential for Christians, because we believe that it is objectively the case that Jesus was raised from the dead. It is not for feelings to decide that. It is either the case, or it isn’t. And the church must defend that truth.

But she must also defend other truths. It is objectively true that all humans are cherished by God. It is objectively true that it is wrong to vilify people based on their race or religion. It is objectively true that Donald Trump has bragged about sexual assault. It doesn’t matter how you feel about it.

This election has shown that relativism about truth only helps the rich and powerful pursue their sinful agendas. The church must defend the truth in all of its objectivity, in every area of life, because there is no justice without truth and there is no healing without truth.

Donald Trump and Breitbart can say that 2+2=5 as much as they like, but the church must never tire of saying, “Wrong!”

5. Donald Trump is the result of backlash to all the changes in American society, racially and otherwise.

He is an extreme figure, and because of that he will also inspire a backlash, perhaps one that is also extreme. Although the church must stand decisively against what Donald Trump has stood for as a candidate, she must not align herself with any political movement. The church has her own ends and her own means.

It may be that the backlash against Trump will say many of the things we ought to be saying, and do many of the things we ought to be doing. But we must be careful not to get co-opted again, or swept up in any kind of revolutionary fervor.

The resistance to Trump will also offer easy answers and utopian promises. But we must not be taken in. We must not trade one form of authoritarianism for another.

6. Most importantly, we must be committed to prayer.

We need to pray for Donald Trump and we need to pray for justice in our nation. We also need to pray for courage and wisdom as we face our new role as a dissident church. These will be difficult times for us, for the nation, for the whole world, and without God’s strength we will not make it. In all moments, we must seek to be present to God, to seek God in everything, and to find our stability and identity in God.

It is imperative that the church quickly come to grips with its situation. She has faced off with authoritarian leaders before. They eventually die and she lives on.

Christ’s church will win in the end. But we must be strong and courageous and fearless. We must not lose our integrity or pair our message with any form, no matter how subtle, of white supremacy or racial resentment.

There is only one way that the church can be defeated: if she joins with Trump. But if she does, the weak and the poor will be crushed, and many millions will suffer. The church must not be defeated. For the sake of the gospel, and for the sake of the vulnerable, the church must not be defeated. She must dissent.