Michael Hidalgo

AN OPEN LETTER TO 81% OF WHITE EVANGELICALS1.26.2017

Brothers and Sisters,

When the news broke of Donald Trump’s victory in November, many were quick to point out 81% of White Evangelicals voted for him. Many have attempted to demonize you; painting with broad-brush strokes and making totalizing statements about you. I know from experience many of the assumptions made and accusations leveled at you are simply not true. I know many of you, and am blessed to call you my friends. This is why I write to you.

You are my tribe of origin.

You see, I grew up attending church services on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings and was a faithful participant in Awana on Wednesday evenings. I won Scripture memory trophies, attended private Christian schools, received a degree from a Baptist college and attended an Evangelical seminary. And now I am a pastor. I am familiar with the Evangelical culture, and not only that, I am thankful for it.

My experience gave me a love for the Bible, invited me to pursue Jesus and gave me a moral compass that steered me away from many bad choices (though I still managed to make many poor choices along the way – to be sure). You taught me the importance of prayer, and displayed what trusting God looks like – especially in difficult seasons. Many of you loved me, supported me and guided me as I navigated the trying path of life.

So when I see you being broadly demonized as though you are all the same; I know from experience what is being said is false. My experience taught me that you are kind, compassionate, loving, thoughtful, gracious and merciful. And I was a recipient of that more times than I can remember.

I know some treat you unfairly. I know some Evangelical Leaders who have a large platform make you cringe when they say awful and divisive things. I know your values and convictions are not opposed to seeking the common good.

I know you. I love you. I am thankful for you.

And this is precisely why I invite you to put on display the best of who you are and have always been. This is no easy task, especially in our current sociopolitical climate.

Since November I seen few who are willing sit and reason together. Dignified conversation that seeks to honor the other above ourselves is, unfortunately, hard to find. Much dialogue is little more than swift judgments, followed by counter-judgments. Anger, name-calling, accusations and defensiveness are the norm.

This is happening on all sides, and I confess, I have contributed to this. For that, I am sorry. I ask your forgiveness for not listening well and, at times, assuming the worst. It is not right or just, and does nothing to move us forward.

My hope is to be one who judges favorably. I still believe honor and dignity will once again enter our conversations, and believe we will “be brought to complete unity” just as Jesus prayed. For this to happen, we must be quick to listen, and slow to speak. We must enter conversation seeking understanding rather than wanting to be justified or right. I am thankful for those of you who have shown me how to do this well over the last few months. As conversations have unfolded I have heard many of you explain your reasons for voting for President Trump.

Many contend, “He’s better than Hilary.” Still, you’ve acknowledged our President’s moral fiber and character are less than exemplary. John Piper offers a thoughtful response about the character of our President (you can read more about that here).

Many of you stated your hope to have a conservative President appoint the next Supreme Court Justice. And now that Donald Trump is our President, I presume Congress will approve his Supreme Court nominee. Again, many of you shared honestly that a particular Justice is no guarantee of your preferred future.

The most common reason for voting for President Trump is your opposition to abortion. I understand this reasoning quite well. I believe your passion around this social reality reflects the goodness and love that I see in many of you.

But here’s the thing. As important as abortion is for you as a voter, when I grew up in your midst, I rarely heard anything from you about abortion outside of election season. Your passionate stance against abortion is rooted in your belief that all life is sacred, and I know your belief in the sacredness of life is not exclusively focused on the unborn. Which leads me to ask you to consider the words of the late Evangelical Leader Spencer Perkins who wrote:

“… to join demonstrations against abortion I would need to know that you understand God’s concern for justice everywhere … It is not a simple, glib response then when I must counsel an unwed teenager against an abortion, even though I believe with all my heart abortion is morally wrong. I feel that if the love of Christ compels me to save the lives of children, that same love should compel me to take more responsibility for them, once they are born … For me, the issue is not about abortion – whether it is wrong or right. The issue is much deeper – whether together we will embrace a Christianity committed to justice for all, or whether we will remain apart and fight our separate battles.” (Readings in Christian Ethics, page 268, 270)

I know many of you resonate with Perkins’ words and care about human life. It is on this basis, that I plead with you not to remain silent – as I regrettably did for too long – regarding many important social issues that are directly tied to the sacredness of life. I have seen your work toward a more just and equitable society, which is inspiring. But our world needs your voice as well; remembering silence is every bit as lethal as actively working against what is good, noble and pure.

I believe you want racial reconciliation. I trust you want the LGBTQ Community to know they are loved. I have faith you are willing to, in the words of Jesus, welcome the immigrant – regardless of status – and speak up for immigration reform. I have seen your desire for better education, to eradicate extreme poverty, and witnessed your longing for lasting peace.

Many of you are willing to invite the “other” into your churches, but, due to your silence, many of those you would invite are hesitant to attend a worship service with you. Perhaps the words of Dr. King may help you understand why. He said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

I implore you: stand up and speak up. Use your voice. Allow the love and goodness and grace that are the foundation of your faith and values to be heard. Do this in imitation of the One you introduced me to … Jesus.

Remember, he did not get killed for being a nice guy. Those in power did not hate him for healing people and raising the dead. The religious elite did not oppose him because he fed the hungry. Many reviled Jesus because he refused to be silent.

He spoke prophetic truth to those in power. He challenged those who marginalized others to reconsider God’s wild love for everyone. He upset the balance of power by standing with the poor, the marginalized, the forgotten, the last, the lost and the least. And he invites you and me – and all who are weary and burdened – to follow after him and do the same.

This includes speaking prophetic truth to our President. I understand you believe him to be a better candidate than Hilary. I get that you trust he will appoint a Supreme Court Justice that will align with your values. And he fulfills your desire to have a President who is Pro-Life. I do not wish to argue about any of those things.

Rather, I ask you to consider the policies of his administration that are unjust. Policies that possess the power to denigrate and vilify whole groups of people because of their race or religion. Policies that will harm women and children in the midst of a global refugee crisis. Policies that could enable discrimination based on one’s sexual identity. Policies that will pull families apart.

I ask you to consider our President’s rhetoric. His known proclivity for telling half-truths and outright lying. His insults and fierce responses to anyone who publicly offers a dissenting opinion. His poor moral character and his foul choices for which he has not apologized or shown regret. His lust for power and abuse of those he perceives as weak.

I know you. I know these are not things you want. I know you felt he was and is the “lesser of two evils.” But this is not an excuse to ignore the evil that is real and present and doing harm.

I know you would not point to your son and encourage him to grow up and become like President Trump. I know you would be outraged if your daughter was in a beauty pageant and our President purposely walked in on her in the midst of a wardrobe change. I know you would be filled with rage if he spoke of your wife the way he spoke of others wives – even if it happened 12 years ago – or attempted to do your wife what he has bragged about it doing to other women. I know you would be shocked and hurt if your husband spoke of and treated women the way our President has spoken of and treated women.

I know you. I know what is in your hearts. And I invite you to make that known.

To our President. To our country. To our world.

May you not remain silent, but may you use your voice to speak prophetically the good news of Jesus that is for all people. Perhaps then, what you want, what I want and what so many want will cease to be a starry eyed dream – it will actually become a reality. And then, together we will celebrate, thanking God that his Kingdom has come, just a little bit more, on this earth as it is in heaven. May we never tire in working toward that day alongside one another.

Much love, grace and peace to all of you,

Michael

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