This weekend, activist theologian Shane Claiborne and his friends at Red Letter Christians will arrange a Red Letter Revival in Lynchburg, Virginia. That’s right, the town where Liberty University, the world’s biggest Christian university whose president Jerry Falwell Jr. is a passionate Trump supporter.
The Revival will be themed “Jesus and Justice” and include sermons, worship and workshops on how to fight Trumpism by going back to the Sermon on the Mount. I got the chance to speak with Shane Claiborne on this historic event.
– The reason we do the Lynchburg Revival is that Christianity and Republicanism have been fused together, Shane Claiborne says. They have become almost indistinguishable from each other. When you have the First Baptist Church in Dallas singing ”Make America Great Again” as if it was a hymn in worship, when the American flag is bigger than the cross, what happens is that you begin to see a discrepancy between the values of America and the values inherent to the Gospel.
– When you make idols out of fame and wealth and power, Donald Trump is the natural result.
Ten years ago, Shane Claiborne and his friend Chris Haw authored Jesus for President, a book challenging the evangelical mindset on politics. It emphasized nonviolence, economic redistribution and creation care. I ask him if he could have imagined 80 % of white evangelicals voting for Donald Trump eight years later?
– It’s important to remember that what we’re talking about is white evangelicals. As you include other evangelicals than white ones, that number drops significantly. Part of what happens is that folks don’t want to identify as evangelicals because of that.
– And there’s a generational gap, too. I do think this is an incredibly significant moment in the history of the United States. We’re going to see some major shift, people are rising up like we’ve never seen before. Even when you look at the civil rights movement, some of the numbers of folks that are rising up now are surpassing those numbers.
Jesus for President was quite sympathetic to the traditional Anabaptist stance of not voting, even though the book didn’t suggest that’s how all Christians should do. When the choice is between Barack Obama and John McCain, that might have been easier. But how about the age of Trump?
– I’ve been to schools where their political science majors and folks that might go into politics have absolutely dropped. I was talking to one of the teachers and asked why, and he said ”It’s because of books like Jesus for President.”
– When we wrote Jesus for President, one of the principles we suggested that I think is a good one for Christians is damage control when we vote. Voting for the political candidate that we think will do the least damage in the world. That’s kind of how I thought this last election. God changes hearts, but I think God also expects us to change laws.
I ask Shane if there is something we can learn from Donald Trump.
– Trump isn’t changing America, he’s revealing America. All of this dirty racism and white supremacy has been here the whole time. We need to heal the wounds from our history. You know, it’s kind of like we’ve swept it under a rug. Now the rug’s up, let’s do something about it.
– These are symptoms of a bigger disease. Trump will be here and gone, probably sooner than four years, but this residue of racism and slavery is still with us.
It’s no coincidence that Shane speaks of revival. The social transformation that America needs is a spiritual transformation, according to him, and the key is to take Jesus seriously again.
– The message of the Sermon on the Mount: ”Blessed are the poor, the merciful, the meek”, those are the antithesis to what’s being idolized in America. We don’t celebrate meakness, or the poor, or the peacemakers. I think that’s where we got to focus on Jesus again, and a lot of white evangelicals have lost their grounding in Jesus and in the Sermon on the Mount. What if Jesus meant what he said? We got to preach that and live that out.
– The gospel of Trump is very different from the Gospel of Jesus. And the lifestyle of Trump is very different from the lifestyle of the Gospel.
Coming up: Shane Claiborne on his charismatic faith and how he thinks miracles should be combined with peace and justice.
Micael Grenholm is editor-in-chief for PCPJ.
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!