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Is the Church Strong Enough to Resist Trump?

Is the Church Strong Enough to Resist Trump?
After preaching my sermon this week at Washington City Church of the Brethren, I had a conversation with another attender about what it means to be followers of Jesus in the midst of an unjust system. We sadly reflected on the fact that, most of the time, most Christians have not been interested in disrupting the status quo. In most times and circumstances, the body of the Christian community has been a neutral, ineffective presence at best – and sometimes has even lent energy and enthusiasm to evil causes. 

With the rise of Trump and his proto-fascist movement, I and many other followers of Jesus are asking: What does it look like for the church to become mobilized in the struggle for justice – not just as individuals, but as whole communities? How do we muster the courage and energy to live in solidarity with the many people who may be marginalized, ostracized, and terrorized under this new administration?

Can we sustain the call to nonviolent non-cooperation with evil – not just as individual prophets and “voices in the wilderness,” but as whole communities gathered together in the power and presence of Jesus?

We have both positive and negative examples to draw on. There have been times when portions of the church – whole communities in the body of Christ – have taken effective stands for justice. During the civil rights movement, entire congregations were mobilized for direct action. The Quaker church was able to abolish slavery within their denomination 100 years before the rest of the country would fight a bloody civil war to settle the matter. There’s no doubt that the followers of Jesus are capable of mass mobilization for justice, even under great social and economic pressure.

But even when we have hungered and thirsted for righteousness, our Christian ideals have not always been enough. During the rise of the Nazis in 1930s Germany, only a tiny portion of the Protestant Church resisted the blasphemous, genocidal violence of Hitler. And of those few communities that resisted, most did not dare go beyond advocating for religious freedom within their own churches. It was only a precious few individual leaders – most famous among them, Dietrich Bonhoeffer – who were willing to actively resist the fascist regime, despite the very real threat of torture and death. The failure of the German church in the face of Nazism was so devastating that, following the second world war, some Christians in Germany felt compelled to formally apologize for their lack of faithfulness.

Faithfulness unto death is not something that comes naturally for any of us. It is a way we must be taught by the Holy Spirit and the gathered community. It is a path that requires a lifetime of prayerful preparation and real-world training. Are our churches today providing this kind of training? As the time of trial looms before us, are we being prepared to meet it?

What is it that allows whole communities to come together and be willing to face suffering in the face of injustice? What kind of leadership is required to train and prepare communities to stand as one body in times of deepest darkness? Is the path of discipleship and courageous witness one that is ultimately individual, or can whole communities walk together in the way of Jesus, even to the cross?

If you are reading this essay, you exercise an important role in the body of Christ. You have a part to play in how we train and prepare the friends of Jesus to be faithful, loving, and courageous in the face of hatred and violence. It remains to be seen whether the church in our generation will be equipped and prepared to bear witness to the truth in the midst of a “post-truth” culture. How will you and I help to provide that leadership, training, and support in the days ahead?

The alternative would be to go with the flow of the culture, lose our witness and – if we survive at all – find ourselves expressing our regret in coming generations. Explaining to our children and grandchildren why we were not willing to stand up for those who were crushed by the rise of white nationalist tyranny. Why we chose our comfort and privilege over fidelity to Jesus and his upside-down kingdom. Why the gospel wasn’t powerful enough to make us different from the world around us.

The good news is that this does not have to be our future. We still have time to invest in one another, build communities that can stand in the face of oppression, and lend our hands to help those most impacted by the rise of the Trump regime. 

Let’s work together while there is still light.

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We’re All in the Wilderness Now. What Comes Next?

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  • Paul J Ricketts

    I think before we engage in resistance which I totally support, I think the church and Quakerism in particular needs to ask itself some simple queries; Are we part of a Spirit-filled church movement; a church possessed by the Spirit? How do we know this? What sign, what proof is there that Jesus has descended upon us? Mahatma Gandhi shared these ageless words.”You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

  • Jeffrey Miles

    Micah, I have NO hope that the church (with very few exceptions) will resist Trump. I would hope that perhaps the church could stop aiding and abetting him.

    • I can’t share your pessimism. We have a choice to make, and I hope we’ll choose to be faithful.

  • Paul J Ricketts

    Micah, I totally agree with you I have NO hope that the church (with very few exceptions) will resist T̶r̶u̶m̶p̶ the empire. The Christian Church still has not recovered from its unholy marriage with Constantine’s adoption of Christianity as a state religion. Constantine’s influence turned Christianity in to the kind of religion that was increasingly comfortable with wealth,warfare and violence. Yes,there were divorce papers given at the time of the reformation. But as you know old lovers kiss and make up all the time.

    My forefathers and mothers devotion to Jesus, the suffering servant as expressed in the old spirituals conclude that Jesus did not turn a blind eye to their sufferings. While forced to worship in the church of the empire. These enslaved folks created and worshiped in what we would call today the missional church. Or what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the in the midst of the Third Reich the Confessing Church.

    What I have learned the spiritual “Steal Away” signaled the calling of a worship service to be held outside of the scrutiny of the master or his overseers. Many times these gathering places in the seclusion of the woods. In these woods my forefathers and mothers experienced a Jesus who gave them hope, courage, strength and comfort. People wonder how did Black folks survived 400 years of enslavement, Jim crow and state sanctioned racial violence.

    While I am deeply concerned about the direction our country will take during the next four years, For many of us who are Brown and Black we’ve seen the face of Trump for 400 years. He is just eerily reminiscent of how America has treated women and people of color.

    So today I was reminded words from, Margaret Mead ”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” So maybe we all have to “Steal Away” organize for justice outside the scrutiny of the masters and overseers of the empire. And know the Spirit is with us. Back to Lunch https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/11c1b18f5e5cb78d04f53e8c4ca35f7462d056fd27be45891fc6f66c11ffd377.jpg

  • charlesburchfield

    Don’t Be Afraid of Anything! Here’s a scripture that came up for me in my spirit as I read your blog;

    Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
    Philippians 1:6

    And this!!
    Philippians Philippians 1.9 through 11
    9And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
    Here is one of my favorite quotes from Corrie Ten Boom:

    Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength

  • Susan Chast

    Group action may grow out of faith based discussion in the safety of the building it meets in–answering your questions for instance when an opening for action is clear. More likely, though, a person or two may have to start something, follow a leading that makes the community bristle before parts of it follow. Action truly speaks louder than words. At least that is what I have seen outside of movements with strong leaders. But even Gandhi started small.

    • I agree, Susan. This essay is a call for individual leadership that develops the capacity for communal faithfulness.

      • Susan Chast

        I am envisioning Circles of Care in a new–actually old to Quakers–way. 24-7 circle around the institutions that need our support because of getting threats, needing witness, feeling a presence may deter harm OR because they need prayer to raise consciousness–eg the White House and Senate. It would be like a Picket line but not be stopping traffic. I envision it silent or with calm speech and I think Quakers did that before–WWII? It would take a tremendous commitment to keep something like that going in a neighborhood or in a government center.

  • Ray Burk

    What disturbes me the most is how my fellow Quakers don’t realize or admit to themselves that Obama and Clinton are no better than Trump. It’s like Obamas drone wars never happened and Hilary Clinton didn’t plan to drag us into war with Russia. Trump is more of the same. If you don’t understand that please leave politics to more sophisticated thinkers and concentrate on your personal spiritual development.

  • Susan Chast

    I am envisioning Circles of Care in a new–actually old to Quakers–way. 24-7 circle around the institutions that need our support because of getting threats, needing witness, feeling a presence may deter harm OR because they need prayer to raise consciousness–eg the White House and Senate. It would be like a Picket line but not be stopping traffic. I envision it silent or with calm speech and I think Quakers did that before–WWII? It would take a tremendous commitment to keep something like that going in a neighborhood or in a government center.