Let’s shake the table, shall we?
Probably to the surprise of many, I normally shy away from writing about the insertion of Christianity into politics. Many of my brothers and sisters in Christ feel personally attacked by today’s view on our faith in society when it pertains to politics. It’s seen on all forms of traditional and non-traditional media: society labels Christians as “Trump-loving”, racist bigots. We allegedly shove Jesus down people’s throats. We’re overly sensitive, we over censor. Our regressive beliefs stifle our country’s progression. In short, we’re at fault for everything happening in this country.
As a Christian, I admit to hating these generalizations.
When others speak about Christians in absolutes, I feel a tinge of offense. As a Black person, I know the plight of stereotypes and labeling. People make assumptions about me before I can even prove them otherwise. So when individuals come at my faith about who they believe us to be, I go on defense. Especially because I often defend myself to others within my own faith because of my own beliefs.
I am a registered Democrat. I believe in a woman’s right to reproductive choice. I firmly stand by the equal protection of all self-identified women under the law — including trans women. I believe that LGBTQ marriages and partnerships should receive the same benefits of so-called “traditional” unions. Black lives matter.
So as someone who already displays herself to be extremely left-leaning and the supposed scourge of evangelists everywhere, writing about my political stances felt too extreme for me. Nothing goes away on the internet. Folks may question my faith or disassociate themselves from me altogether. That’s the nature of the beast. So instead of shaking the internet table, I felt the need to hide under one in order to show my allegiance to the call of Jesus to love even over disagreement.
With full conviction, I can no longer do that. Not after what we saw from inside the White House last week.
Several Christian leaders — including a surprising face or two — sat down with President Trump to discuss his new plan to assist the post-incarcerated with programs concentrated on workforce training and rehabilitation.
President Trump Meets with Urban Pastors
President Trump meets with urban pastors at the White House.
Expectedly, all “hell” broke loose. Several Black faith leaders came forward to denounce the meeting, calling those in attendance “cheerleaders with a collar”. Multiple pastors present came out to defend themselves, including Pastor John Gray. Gray, on his Instagram and later to his congregation, stated that while he regrets the perception of his participation and understands the backlash received, he recognized God’s call for him to be there, stating that “I will honor what I believe was the mandate on my life to be there and available to God should He choose to give me voice.”
While I am not someone to question what God personally commanded for these pastors to do, I do feel that the message of Jesus was lost within that photo-op.
Found was the doubling-down on the stereotype that Christians only care about politics if it’s for their own benefit. And that we refuse to acknowledge a past that might corroborates that supposed truth.
On this Earth, throughout its history, in this country, through the framework of politics, power and privilege, Christians hurt people. I understand when someone who identifies as LGBTQ walks into a church and feels unsafe. I fully emphasize with a Black person who believes that Christianity is the religion of the “white man.” I feel for my Sisters who experience feelings of PTSD walking past clinics because of a decision regarding their reproductive health. I hear the perspectives of atheists and agnostics who question the existence of God when we are a nation under Him but always at war.
I hurt for my economically-disadvantaged folk who wanted a way out of their poverty only to find themselves out of a home because God — via an early morning infomercial — “promised” a “financial breakthrough” if they took out a second mortgage they couldn’t afford. I weep for mothers who find their children in cages because someone thought that Romans 13 justified the enslavement of that child.
In our history, Christians used the word of God and the promise of God’s providence to enslave, mutilate, discriminate, abuse, assault, swindle and imprison people. And these things happened all from a place of privilege and power. We must reckon with that history even if we were not the perpetrators of such behavior. It’s our stain that we wear whether we like it or not.
And as a faith, we fail to converse about the role that politicians — and others in the position of power and privilege — used Christianity to enact law and order over individuals that we deem not worthy of God’s love. Or in the case of last week, used our faith as a prop to display purported righteousness in direct contradiction to policies — and political figures — which fail to show God’s greatest commandment: love.
At this moment, we need to break that fear. I need to break my fear. Because we need to be better at being the light and salt of the Earth. And that starts at home. It starts with Jesus.
Earlier in the week, numerous individuals used Matthew 9 — Jesus eating at the table with tax collectors and sinners — to justify several faith leaders joining President Trump at his summit addressing the ills of “inner-city” America. While I understand how one can interpret that passage with such reasoning, I vehemently disagree with the application of those verses in this case. As one who views the life and work of Jesus through a lens of social justice, what we witnessed inside the White House was the antithesis of what that verse is all about.
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (NIV)
One could argue that a sick individual sat at the head of that table last week. And as disciples of Jesus, one of our marching orders remains to point sinners to God. From all appearances, no one at that meeting dared to call that man to know the love and redemptive power of God. They resided in their seats to appease a man that held so much power and influence.
Jesus sat at Matthew’s table to oppose the powerful and privileged of his day, the Pharisees. For we don’t know what “sins” sat at Matthew’s table, we do know that the Pharisees questioned why this man — supposedly God in a flesh — would sit with others who fail at following His law. The same laws that supported the separation of the “clean” and “unclean”. Laws that’s the Pharisees proclaimed to upheld but did not obey.
That’s the very basic different between Matthew 9 and what we witnessed inside the White House. The very act of sitting at that table was political. For Jesus, it showed mercy to the oppressed. Those faith leaders in Washington D.C. appeased the oppressor.
And supported the belief that oppression lives in our DNA. Even though our namesake was murdered for standing up against the subjection and denigration of God’s people.
Jesus leveled the playing field. All who went through him gained access to God. He directly challenged the powerful and privilege of his day by living a life which said that no matter your place of birth, lack of inheritance or past mistakes, you can know his Father.
That’s social justice. It’s about equal accessibility to resources and a path to sustainability. It’s about advocating for the voiceless and eradicating laws that penalize those for the facets of their life not under their control. It’s about sponsoring a seat at the table, being present at the table. Raising a voice at the table.
Shaking that table.
It is not for the self-congratulatory behavior for perceived victories against folks who challenge your power. It isn’t about lambasting the previous administration for your lack of voice — better yet lack of influence on all matters law and order. It isn’t about touting your church attendance. It certainly isn’t about celebrating your broken-clock-is-right-twice-a-day prediction that President Trump would be victorious two years ago.
You sat a table with a man who supported policymakers who believed in the incarceration of children caught crossing the border. You sat at the table with a man who calls immigrants “criminals”. You sat a table with a man who called for the Central Park Five to be executed — teenagers. You sat at a table with a man who committed sexual violence against women. You sat at the table with a man who employed white supremacists to work in the White House.
You sat at a table with a man who fooled all of you into thinking that he carries a caring heart for the formerly incarcerated but really used you for political props and photo-op.
And double-downed on the belief that Christians no longer care about the oppressed. That we don’t care if we hurt or harm. That we only care bout abortion; not about before and after school care, early childhood education, food and nutrition assistance for low-income families and Black and Brown children dying in the streets at the hands of law enforcement. That we only care about who you go to bed with not if you wake up in the morning.
President Trump made incendiary proclamations related to these things since he’s been elected. And that table is right side up.
We’re the supposed Pharisees that Jesus warned us not to be.
Jesus didn’t just sit at the table with sinners. He flipped them over for those facing injustice.
That table inside of White House stood. For injustice.