Things That Matter: Mixed Messages

Trump supporters should show those with disabilities, minorities they will be cared for

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Matt Holloway and Matt Hale hang out at a social camping retreat while students at Lubbock Christian University. (Photo courtesy Matt Holloway/Facebook)

This election has been hard on all of us, but it’s had a harder impact on some than on others. Here are some thoughts from Matt Holloway, a college friend who was born with left-side hemiplegia.

“It started raining as I jumped in the car after buying a Diet Mountain Dew and settled in my seat to start the next leg of my vacation. I decided to check the news. The first link was ‘Trump Mocks Disabled Reporter’. I clicked on the video. Donald Trump was mocking someone who looked like me. I thought my Christian friends would denounce this incident but they remained silent. They condoned it. It makes me think Christians like to see my disability but only on a screen in an auditorium during service for an uplifting video. To many voters his election means freedom and I agree. People are now free to stare at me as they wish. They are free to mock me to my face. They are free to not hire me because I look ‘unqualified’. Christians are free from ‘political correctness’ — it’s just all at the cost of my freedom.”

Matt has received a mixed message from the church in the course of this election: “We care about you, but not so much that we will side with you or defend. You have an immeasurable, God-given dignity, but sometimes politics outweighs that.”

He’s not the only one who has heard this message. Racial minorities, Muslims, survivors of sexual assault and women have heard the church recently say the same thing.

It doesn’t necessarily matter that you were personally appalled by these incidents. If you voted for Donald Trump, you were part of a coalition with some people who actually celebrated these kinds of incidents, people who really are racist, sexist and bullies to those with disabilities.

You can see the problem. To many on the outside, and many even on the inside, the gospel of Jesus Christ is at risk of being confused with ideologies and attitudes that have nothing to do with it. Talk about a mixed message.

We’ve got to make things right. You may have voted for Trump for many different reasons, but now you have to make it clear that whatever those reasons were, you won’t defend those who don’t give sufficient respect to people like my friend Matt. There are a lot of people who are hurt and frightened because of this election. They have to know that we are on their side and will stand with them in the future, and that we are truly sorry that we did not do this in the past.

This needs to be done for those outside the church. We preach the gospel through what we say and what we do, and also through what we do not say and do not do.

What were we saying with our votes? If the non-Christians I have spoken with are any indicator, the church’s widespread support for Trump is now another reason they don’t want to be Christians. They didn’t hear God’s life-giving good news from Christians during this election, but something else entirely.

That doesn’t sit well with me. Jesus said that for those who placed a stumbling block before any of “these little ones,” it would be better for them to have a millstone (a very heavy rock) tied to their neck and thrown into the ocean (Matthew 9:42).

In other words, doing something that prevents another person, not just children, from hearing or believing the gospel is an extremely serious sin. That’s not something we can afford to ignore. We need to clear things up. We have to loudly, clearly, and forcefully denounce hate or disrespect. No more equivocations, no more excuses. Whoever we may have voted for, the gospel comes first. This needs to be done for those inside the church. We can’t alienate good and faithful people like Matt.

I was speaking with another person this week who told me this: “I’ve struggled with finding a place within the walls of the faith we both grew up in and had hopes for many years of even going into the ministry. At a certain point my feelings of disenfranchisement and isolation led me to walk away. I was saddened to do so.” I worry that this may become a more common story for people we did not stand with during this time. I don’t ever want to be a reason why anyone walks away from the church or from their faith. I hope you don’t either.

Now, if you were a Trump voter, I know that you had your reasons. I probably don’t agree with them, but I still love you and I want to work with you. If you care about Matt and people like him, let them know. Show them with your words, but more importantly, show them with your actions.

If Trump or his surrogates or anyone else disrespect people we love — people God loves, we’ve got a new chance to show them that we are on their side, that we really do care, and that we won’t put up with that nonsense.

Please, for the sake of the gospel, for those inside and outside the church, let’s not send anymore mixed messages. Let’s send this clear and unified message to everyone who is afraid and hurt right now: “We love you. God loves you. We will be on your side from now on, no matter what.” And let our words be matched by our actions.