Greetings from Steve, a lifelong Christian, to my Bakersfield brothers and sisters in faith. I am writing in the style of Paul, who addressed his epistles to fellow Christians in the spirit of both love and concern. I know you are good people who love your families and neighbors, work hard in your community, and worship faithfully. But I cannot understand how so many of you have turned a blind eye to the behavior of our president.
I will not go through the litany of all the president’s offenses against God and man, but I ask how you can remain silent when you know our president has grabbed non-consenting women by the genitals; paid hush money to a porn star; continues to lie daily; mocks the weak and disabled, and bullies others in a way unbecoming of a schoolchild; protects racists; allows refugee children to die in detention; and requires mob-like loyalty from public servants working in the nation’s interest? Stories of the president’s personal failings have become commonplace; so has the sound of crickets coming from our Christian community.
I understand the president has supported some of your causes and created the chaos in Washington, D.C., that some of you wanted. We can respectfully disagree about who deserves credit for the improved, but unstable economy, and whether we are stronger or weaker as a world power because of the president’s go-it-alone approach. But to support a deeply immoral and narcissistic president because he gives you what you want is to accept the premise that ends justify means, choosing expediency over what is right. I cannot recall any scripture where Jesus embraces this approach. Can you imagine Jesus telling his disciples, “Do whatever it takes to recruit more followers?” On the contrary, many stories of the early church involved faithful people doing what was right despite painful, sometimes deadly, consequences. Their actions required lived faith and backbone.
But apologists for the president abound.
“God often uses flawed and imperfect people to do his work.” True, but flawed leaders like Moses, David and Paul grew into their jobs. I understand that some Christians hoped this president would demonstrate similar moral growth; three years later, there is little sign of that happening.
“I voted for a commander in chief, not a pastor in chief.” True, but is moral behavior only expected of pastors? Are there are no expectations for the rest of us? The president is the most visible role model in the world, with the potential to model great good or sow great harm. You were once concerned about your children’s role models. Are they now unaffected by the words and actions of powerful celebrities like their president?
“His behavior may appear crude, selfish, and immoral, but I don’t know what is in his heart. Who am I to judge?” None of us can judge another’s heart, but we judge behavior all the time. God may redeem and transform the heart of a murderer or a child molester, but we humans judge these acts immoral and work to protect potential victims. You may love the sinner, but why are you so silent about hating the sin?
“I do not agree with or like what our president does sometimes, but I forgive him.” Oddly, our president has shown no inclination to change his morally offensive behavior and certainly has no wish for forgiveness. It may feel magnanimous to forgive someone who doesn’t ask for forgiveness, but this twists the redemptive purpose of forgiveness.
In Matthew 25, Jesus suggests the nations will be judged by how they treat the least of these among us — those who are hungry, thirsty and needing clothes (i.e., the poor in our country and the more desperately poor from so-called “s-hole countries”), strangers needing hospitality (think “the Wall”), the sick (those affected by eliminating health care options), and prisoners. Jesus never said, “Come, you have my Father’s blessing. For I was wealthy, and you cut my taxes. I was bigoted, and you gave me cover.”
I therefore ask you, can your personal relationship with Jesus abide your very public support for this morally-challenged and unrepentant president? Who will you serve? Grace be with you.
Steve Bacon is a longtime resident of Bakersfield and university professor.