So the question remains, when the parish lights are off, can Christians who voted for racism, bigotry, sexism and xenophobia, anti-Semitism genuinely love and be in unity (according to John 17:21) with their neighbours, fellow parishioners (who are targets of racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, sexism, and xenophobia)?
“That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me…” – John 17:21
Christians played a major role in the outcome of the recent American elections. For example, 26 percent of those who voted in the elections are Evangelical Christians. Out of this 26 percent, 88 percent voted for Donald Trump, of which 52 percent were Catholics. The voting data shows that the bulk of voting American Christians (there are other Christian groups, such as the Pentecostals, Mormons etc. whose exit poll results are not in yet) cast thier ballots in favour of Donald Trump, a politician who unapologetically and openly espouses racism, bigotry, sexism and xenophobia.
From these data, it follows that these American Christian Trump voters voted for racism, bigotry and sexism in the 2016 presidential elections. This is perfectly okay because in a democracy, one has the unrestricted right to vote anyway and anyhow. However, votes by Christians, which normalise racism, bigotry, xenophobia and sexism, raise grim implications for American Christianity. This is because racism and bigotry defy God. Holding these views call the existence of God to question. And this is why:
Regardless of one’s denomination in the Christian faith, John 17:21 is a living core of our faith. All the miracles performed by Jesus Christ and his ministry among the forsaken are derived from and they exemplify this inherent core of Christianity. This explains why divine love, which is the twin side of Unity, is the practicing core of Christianity. Because of their inherent reciprocity, the spirituality of Unity and Love are two core aspects of the Christian faith that explain, motivate and justify genuine and sincere Christian missionary work, locally and abroad. The emphasis here is on genuine and sincere Christian missionary work.
The spirituality of Unity and Love explains the meaning of God. This is why racists, bigots, xenophobes, and sexists, and those who vote for them, and describe themselves as Christians, are either in open defiance of God, cannot be said to be Christians (based on John 17:21), are Christians who need divine mercy – as we all do, or are “Christians” in name only, who take the Church as a mere social, ethnic and cultural club, a lobbying space, a gossiping and social networking space. This is because racism, bigotry, sexism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism fundamentally empty God of any sense and meaning as both cannot co-exist, and belief in them cannot be simultaneously held.
In other words, you cannot believe in God and be a racist, an anti-Semitic, a xenophobe, a sexist, a bigot at the same time, and make sense, and vice versa you cannot be a xenophobe, an anti-Semitic, a racist, a bigot, a sexist and believe in God at the same time, at least not the God in John 17:21. You have to abandon one of the set of beliefs for the other. To imagine it is possible for one person to hold the two beliefs at the same time is to empty Christianity of its spirituality and turn Churches into social and ethnic clubs. To be a bigot and a racist and at the same time profess the God in John 17:21 (as American Christianity now wants the world to believe) is not possible on faith grounds. It is not possible on rational grounds.
It is not possible practically because a racist, a sexist, a bigot, a xenophobe, cannot genuinely love his or her neighbors (who may be targets and victims of his or her bigotry and racism) as commanded by Jesus Christ. It is an un-repairable contradiction in faith, in practice and in thought, for a racist or someone who votes for a racist to claim he loves his neighbour who is a victim of racism and bigotry. Such “love” and “unity” will be hypocritical and self-serving, hence cannot be said to be love and unity in the spiritual and Christ sense. Christians must engage this.
American Christians who voted for racism and bigotry in their vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election have their democratic right and freedom to do so, but they must confront this (by relating their vote for racism and bigotry to John 17:21) if they are Christians who want to share their faith as Christ enjoins us to do. For the question will be – how does one share racism and bigotry or a vote for both?
The claim I defend here is why the result of the 2016 American election – where exit polls show that Christians massively voted for Donald Trump, a racist and bigot and therefore by deduction voted for racism and bigotry to thrive – is shocking to the faith and the faithful, for it is capable of calling to question Christianity and the existence of God if such voting pattern become universal, and extend beyond the shores of the United States of America.
A self-confessed practicing racist and bigot, in historical and contemporary senses; the grand son of a German migrant to the United States of America, Donald Trump, the electoral college winner of the presidential election, ran on an agenda of exclusion, based on racism and bigotry. Therefore, against John 17: 21, the fundamental question is: Can God still exist if Christians closed their eyes and voted for racism and bigotry in their vote for a self-confessed racist and bigot?
Of course I am a Christian, and a practicing catholic in the United States of America, and my belief in God is given, but the open question is whether someone – a Christian – who voted for racism and bigotry can truly believe in God, if the core of the Christian beliefs is the living Gospel, which has Unity and Love as the conclusive and definitive account of God?
These conundrum and paradox impel one to dig into historical memory. Years ago in one of his polemics and conversations with peoples of the world on social questions, the highly respected global figure, Professor Wole Soyinka said that Christianity is Nothing! It was a critique of formalism in religious thinking which is rooted in fundamentalism. But Soyinka’s conclusion jarred many nerves, including mine. But I am sure that what Professor Soyinka meant to say was that if you limit any belief – secular or religious – to an abstraction – as many Christians do, as shown in Christians voting for racism and bigotry, while still claiming to be Christians, then their practices show that Christianity is nothing. This is because they are only “Christian” in a formalist sense and not in a religiously and spiritually enriching and substantive sense!
In other words, to be religiously and spiritually enriching, we must practice what we believe and preach, and if we do not practice what we believe and preach then our beliefs are nothing, empty and self serving. We must live the Gospel. Any body of belief that is not practiced or that is im-practicable is nothing. But as Jesus Christ, his disciples in the bible, contemporary disciples such as Pope Francis, have all shown, Christianity is not nothing; it is religiously and spiritually substantive because its core Divine Unity and Love is practiced by sincere Christians, and it is practicable by those who sincerely adhere to this beautiful faith.
American Christians (Evangelicals, Catholics, Pentecostal, Mormons etc.) who voted for Donald Trump must deal with this fundamental violation of the core of the Christian faith now and forever. Even when the living Gospel of Christ allows for forgiveness, healing and mercy, the truth must also be told without any moderation or qualification, otherwise we – Christians and non-Christians – are in mutual deception, and such deception is alien to truth, both secular and religious.
The consequences of the votes of American Christians and others which enable the normalisation of racism and bigotry in the 2016 election were instant. Immediately after the election, race and hate crimes skyrocketed in American schools and neighbourhoods. As at November 18, 2016 the Southern Poverty Law Center had documented 700 Hate incidents in American neighborhoods and schools following the election of Donald Trump. In other words, Trump, the candidate of American Christianity in the 2016 election has emboldened purveyors and merchants of hate, racism, sexism, anti-semitism and bigotry. So, it is surprising how Christians who voted for racism and bigotry by casting thier lot with Donald Trump will fail to see how they may be in alliance, either by an act of omission or commission, overtly or covertly, with Ku Klux Klan (a major purveyor and merchant of hate and racism), the alt-right movement, and their main media Breitbart News, through the election of Donald Trump.
The alt right movement – one of Donald Trump’s main backers – is an advocate of race categories and allocation of values to people based on race, which is a major threat to John 17: 21, hence a major questioning of the existence of God. But parents – African- Americans, Native Americans, European -Americans, Asian-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Latino-Americans and others who have their children in schools, and where these children relate on equal grounds, know that it is silly and unintelligent to associate intelligence and value with race. But the alt right movement believes this foolish and untenable claim.
Breitbart News is a major platform for racism and bigotry of the alt-right movement. Steve Bannon, the former Chairman of the organisation is an advocate of the alt right movement. Breitbart News has been a platform for the alt right movement under Bannon. It means Steve Bannon, who is said to be a catholic, is either a member of the alt right movement or a sympathizer who strategically hides his membership of the movement. Bannon, the alleged catholic was the Chief Executive officer of Donald Trump’s racist and bigoted campaign, who has now been appointed as a counselor to the incoming Trump administration in the White House.
So, the question for Christians who voted for Donald Trump is: What counsel will Steve Bannon, a white nationalist, a race supremacist give to Donald Trump, the candidate of American Christians in the 2016 election? How can American Christians who voted for Donald Trump fail to see this?
How can American Christians who voted for racism and bigotry look other American Christians in the face in their local parishes, in their neighbourhoods, in church meetings and talk “reconciliation”, “unity” and “love”? How can parish priests, deacons and church elders, who might have privately campaigned for Donald Trump, using church positions (we have reports that some parishes include Trump campaign materials in the parish’s Sunday bulletin) look straight into the eyes of the laity and minister to them and talk “reconciliation” “unity” and “love”?
When American Christians vote for racism and bigotry at home, how sincere and genuine is their claim to “Christian Missionary” work abroad? For a vote for racism and bigotry, as American Christians did in the 2016 election, is capable of undercutting a claim to a genuine and Christ centered missionary work abroad.
When American Christians vote for racism and bigotry at home, how sincere is their “evangelisation” abroad? This is why it is surprising that we Christians in the western world fail to see that the pews, the parishes, are virtually empty and are filled more by the elderly and the seniors precisely because of this kind of grand hypocrisy of epochal proportion – where Christians with eyes wide open cast their votes for racism and bigotry, and still claim to be disciples of Christ who made John 17:21 a core of his ministry .
Finally, of course there will be a period of normalising the election of a racist and bigot, a sexist, a xenophobe to the white house by all. In this regard, priests, religious leaders, bishops, cardinals, heads of seminaries, presidents of Christian colleges etc. will start calling for “dialogue”, “Love”, “Unity”, “reconciliation”, “healing”, etc. among Christians, after people opened their eyes and voted for racism and bigotry. They will do the same in schools and in the parishes! But the question remains that American Christians and some priests, bishops, pastors, deacons, church leaders, president of Christian colleges consciously and deliberately voted for racism and bigotry by voting for the Chief Divider of American society – Donald Trump.
So the question remains, when the parish lights are off, can Christians who voted for racism, bigotry, sexism and xenophobia, anti-Semitism genuinely love and be in unity (according to John 17:21) with their neighbours, fellow parishioners (who are targets of racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, sexism, and xenophobia)? This is a simple question, which the world must leave to the conscience of the American Church, American Christians and American Christianity. May the living God continue to shower his divine mercies and forgiveness on all of us.
Permit me to end this reflection on the 2016 American election with a stanza from the popular American song, “America The Beautiful”. It is a popular song in many Churches and other spaces in the United States of America. It is sung in some Churches on special national occasions in the country.
O beautiful For Pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
I end this by joining to sing, “America! America! May God mend thine ev’ry flaw”.
Adeolu Ademoyo, firstname.lastname@example.org, Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.