I think the time has come, friends. I think it’s time to stop pretending to be surprised, to stop pretending to be upset. I think it’s time to tell the truth and confess our sins.
We created Donald Trump. The South Carolina exit polls confirmed it but, honestly, we should have known a long time before then. We, white evangelicals over the past 400 years in this country, we created Donald Trump. We are Doctor Frankenstein and he is our monster. We have done it in ignorance at times and in defiant awareness at others, but we have created him nonetheless. Our forefathers laid the groundwork and we the millennial generation have flipped the switch.
When our parents and grandparents invented the suburbs to make sure their kids would never have to grow up next to people of color, thus perpetuating generational isolation and ignorance, we created Donald Trump.
When we asked questions about why our public schools were teaching evolution and contraception but never why they were so badly failing our most marginalized children, we created Donald Trump.
When we bankrupted our urban cores to line the pockets of CEOs by shipping manufacturing overseas to dramatically reduce labor costs, we created Donald Trump.
When we stockpiled our 401ks and IRAs but never asked questions about whether our hard-earned money was actually empowering the profit prison and child labor markets worldwide, we created Donald Trump.
When we preached sermons and led Bible studies geared toward the upwardly mobile but failed to equip them for meaningful engagement with those who are not, we created Donald Trump.
When we failed to speak up when our uncles and parents and grandparents made those same racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic jokes at every family gathering we can remember, we created Donald Trump.
When we were paranoid about seeing women in hijabs and reading signs in Spanish in our grocery stores instead of thrilled to welcome the very nations to our doorstep to which we spend millions of dollars every year shipping short-term missionaries, we created Donald Trump.
Every time we perpetuated a culture of fear and indifference when faced with someone who looked or lived differently than us, we created Donald Trump.
It’s time to stop pointing the finger somewhere else. It’s time to stop pretending to be shocked. It’s time to lament. It’s time to repent.
My pastor spoke on the words of Nehemiah 1 the past two Sundays and I think we would do well to lament with his ancient words, inserting ourselves, our families, our churches, and our people group in the place of the Israelites:
4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.” – Nehemiah 1:4-7
After we have spent real time reflecting upon and confessing our own personal and corporate role in creating this fear-driven culture, only then can we take steps of true repentance. In an era of progress worship (both liberal and conservative), it is prophetic to look back, to have a collective memory longer than an election cycle. As the saying goes, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. We must not repeat our fathers’ sins in this generation; we must chart a new way forward.
So, what if instead of making America great again, we just tried to make it great for the first time? Great for everyone, regardless of their gender, skin color, place of birth, zip code, sexual orientation, employment status, or criminal history – what if our motivation this election season, regardless of who we vote for, was to make it great for everyone, especially those for whom it has long been far from great. That would be worth showing up for come November.