I have struggled all day. I was concerned with not alienating people, not taking sides, being pastoral. And so I held my tongue. The reality is that I am an ordained minister in the Christian Presbyterate (priesthood). I am 96 hands away from Jesus. My ordination vows included this promise: “Will you, in the exercise of your ministry, lead the people of God to faith in Jesus Christ, to participate in the life and work of the community, and to seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people?” Today I failed in that mission. Someone recently told me that as a man of God I needed to support the president-elect. That is only partly true. My ordination was to stand “In Persona Christi”, in the person of Christ, and to share in the three-fold ministry of Christ as Priest, Prophet, and King. My vocation is not only sacramental and administrative, but prophetic. I am called to speak truth to power.
Donald Trump stands for everything this country has fought NOT to be. He has used fear and bigotry to further his own self-aggrandizing agenda. He has demeaned, degraded and dehumanized entire groups of people. His rhetoric has incited violence and set Americans against each other. None of this is consistent with who we are as a nation and who we are called to be as a people of integrity and honor. As a person of faith, I am called to honor the image of God in my neighbor, to love God and neighbor in ways that reflect the presence of God in the world around me. And sometimes, this means speaking the truth.
And so I will pray for the President-elect, but I will NOT bless everything he does in the spirit of tacit patriotism. He is divisive and hurtful. We who share the Judeo-Christian tradition share a faith that compels us to build bridges, not walls, to work for means of inclusion and grace, not judgment and exclusion. We are commanded to care for the foreigner in our midst, and in so doing we remember that we were once foreigners in the land. We are to honor the image of God in all persons, not to see women as objects of our personal gratification and manipulation.
In short, He should NOT be our president, but he will be. His is a message that brings our nation to a place we should never be. He has brought us to a place that does not honor the best in us, our nation or each other. There is NOTHING in his message that honors the image of God or the gift of the incarnation in us, in our neighbors or in our world.
I would like to apologize if this offends or if it seems unpatriotic, but that would be disingenuous. Our country deserves more. WE deserve more. My faith demands more.
And so I choose to stand up for what I believe, and I understand if you do not agree. And I understand it may cost me friends. This man is not fit to lead our nation. And so I will pray for him and for us all, that somehow we will withstand the evils of hatred and oppression in all its forms and that Mr. Trump would come to know the error of his ways and understand the divisive, hurtful power of his message.
Dr. Robert Apgar-Taylor is pastor of Grace United Church of Christ, Frederick¡ and Veritas United Church of Christ, Hagerstown.
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