Harming Immigrants: How Trump’s Christian Evangelical Followers Have Turned Against the Message of Jesus Christ
Every evangelical Protestant is aware of the Gospel of Matthew 7:12, where Jesus spoke of the Golden Rule:
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you: do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
These words are the cornerstone of the faith.
I grew up my first six years in an evangelical household devoted to the work of the Salvation Army. My paternal grandparents, who then lived in a rambling farmhouse just north of Boston, MA, were born in England only ten years after William Booth established the Salvation Army in London. My grandfather was six when he began his mission in Luton, Bedfordshire, my grandmother thirteen when she began hers on the Isle of Guernsey in the English Channel. In 1910 after they married they emigrated to America, their mission being to help those in need, which usually was anyone who crossed their path.
Their whole lives they subscribed in their own actions and words to the ideal manifested in the words and actions of Jesus Christ, his message of love, compassion, and the absolute need for all of us to care for one another — the Golden Rule.
That’s what I was born into. I saw their example all through my first six years, which is the time in our lives when we are like sponges, recording everything around us, and having what we see and hear and learn those first years the primary influences that shape the rest of our lives.
My grandparents lived their mission with all that they were. No one was left out, no matter the race or creed. There was no prejudice, no exclusion, no one less worthy. It was what someone once called a mission that served the practical ideal, its outlook shaped by the precepts of Jesus Christ, and its practice sustained in the works of everyday life. Not a word ever suggested we should separate and divide ourselves one from the other, no matter who we encountered.
I grew up in those years hearing and singing these songs and more: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, Amazing Grace, Holy-Holy-Holy, Shall We Gather at the River?, The Old Rugged Cross, Onward Christian Soldiers, How Great Thou Art, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring — all music and words that entered the deep core of my heart. My grandfather had spent many years playing these songs on the tuba in Salvation Army bands on the street corners in Boston, their music sounding out amidst the joy of all seasons, though especially Christmas and Easter.
I knew a joy then as a child that has never left me, a feeling of being in a state of grace even when I myself have gone astray and made poor choices in my life. For such faith is why we are here — to learn to trust the God-given holy force of life and learn to let go of what is petty, blinded, exclusive, and born out of a closed heart.
When the heart is closed, the only reason is fear. Yet if one truly lives with faith, there is no fear, no matter what happens. There is only awareness that we are meant to emulate God’s ways and are learning as best we can — and allowing ourselves to be open to truth, not darkness.
Never, not once, in my evangelical upbringing did I hear from my grandparents the words and thoughts I hear now from the evangelicals who not only follow Trump, but claim a sovereignty with him over other human beings, claim hierarchies of who is and who is not deserving. Those evangelicals thrusting themselves forward into the spotlight now have lost all contact with the Christ, whose manner was ever gentle, tolerant, forgiving, free of condemnation, and living only in charity and compassion. These evangelical followers of Trump believe in his blatant inhumanity toward those in need, and favor prosecution and expulsion of anyone who is not the same as they are. They display no universal love. That is not what they desire now, not what they act upon, and no longer what they believe, no matter how often they may open and read the words of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. They seek instead political and racial division.
And so they play into the strange world of Trump and all his restrictive and ignoble actions. Trump’s evangelicals have either lost their remembrance of the words of the Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, or do not choose to remember them, or have no idea anymore what the lessons of Jesus were. They have let self-interest and immense fear control their view of who should be given mercy among us, and who should be ignored.
“Nonchalantly jettisoning the ethic of Jesus in favor of a political leader who embraces the ethic of Thrasymachus and Nietzsche — might makes right, the strong should rule over the weak, justice has no intrinsic worth, moral values are socially constructed and subjective — is troubling enough.
But there is also the undeniable hypocrisy of people who once made moral character, and especially sexual fidelity, central to their political calculus and who are now embracing a man of boundless corruptions.”
In great contrast to the words of Trump’s evangelical followers, the following statement on the separation of families at the U.S. border was issued by The Salvation Army on June 20, 2018:
The Salvation Army has long held the belief that individuals and families in need should be met with love and compassion, and those who are in a position to help have a responsibility to do so in a way that preserves the dignity and humanity of others. Separating children from their parents at the United States border has no place, directly or indirectly, in American immigration policy or practice, and the truth that this has happened already for thousands of mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters, brings us to our knees in prayer for their wellbeing, a speedy return to one another, and an immediate stop of the practice. The Salvation Army sees firsthand, especially in children, the personal and societal impact of separated and broken families, and we call on federal public officials to find solutions that will quickly reunite these families and prevent this tragedy from happening in the future.
This is the true evangelical way. This is the way of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the path to God — mercy, tolerance, and the knowing we must care for each other and that is why we are here — the only reason we are here — for no other reason but to learn how to do that.
I’ll end with some lyrics from songs from The Salvation Army that have always inspired me long after my early childhood, songs that ever bring peace of mind, hope, and love whenever I hear them, both to mind and heart:
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory
In the beauty of the lilies
Christ was born across the sea,
with a glory in his bosom
that transfigures you and me;
as he died to make men holy,
let us die to make men free,
while God is marching on.
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Onward Christian Soldiers
Like a mighty army
Moves the Church of God:
Brothers, we are treading
Where the saints have trod;
We are not divided,
All one Body we —
One in faith and Spirit,
Where Do You Journey?
Oh, what is your mission, my brother?
What is your mission below?
What is your mission, my sister,
As journeying onward you go?
Sweet charity, patience, and love,
And following the footsteps of Jesus
That lead to the mansions above.
How Great Thou Art
The Bible tells the story of your blessing
So freely shed upon all human life;
Your constant mercy, every care addressing,
relieving burdened souls from sin and strife.
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder
Consider all The works Thy Hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy pow’r throughout
The universe displayed.