I have learned many great things from pastor Bill Johnson, whom I deeply respect. One of these things is the power of our words. Your words become your reality, Johnson has argued in his sermons. We cannot separate who we are from what we say.
Still, when Johnson defended his political support for Donald Trump in the Christian Post, he wants us to forget the president’s “sound bites” and focus on his actions instead.
Of course, a politician’s policies are important. But so are their words. James, the brother of Jesus, warns us against the power of the tongue, likening it to a small spark that can set an entire forest on fire (James 3:5). “Sound bites” can have disastrous consequences.
Take Trump’s suggestion in April that COVID-19 could possibly be cured by injecting disinfectants in the body, “cleaning” the lungs. Health officials had to immediately warn the public that this would in fact kill you, as poison control centers all over the country reported a significant increase of household disinfectant ingestion.
Trump later claimed that his comment was sarcastic directed at reporters, even though he hadn’t been talking to them but to his medical advisors.
Giving clear and accurate information is one of the most important things politicians need to do during a pandemic. However, Trump has repeatedly made false and bizarre claims, including that we were “very close” to a vaccine in February, that COVID-19 is like the flu, that the number of cases would drop down to zero in March, that hundreds of thousands of those infected get better by going to work, that there shouldn’t had been lockdowns because we don’t have lockdowns for the flu.
Trump also claimed that the virus miraculously would disappear in April. Now, both Bill Johnson and I firmly believe in miracles, but this was a false prophecy. Statements like these lead to millions of Americans not taking the virus seriously, which leads to more deaths. Trump’s words have become America’s reality.
Johnson claims that Trump “seems to tell it how it is”. He literally does not. In fact, researchers find that he lies more frequently than most human beings. He has even denied saying things that we have recordings of him saying, including his infamous comments on committing adultery with married women and sexually assaulting them.
Johnson claims that no president has loved prayer as much as Trump. I disagree. I think that evangelicals like Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush found prayer more enjoyable than a man who hardly knows the Bible and who says that he has never asked God for forgiveness. According to Trump’s long-time lawyer Michael Cohen, Trump thinks that evangelicals believe in “bull***” but is willing to appear religious to gain their vote.
But let us now turn to Trump’s policies. There are 80 million refugees in the world right now. Half of them are children. The Bible is very clear: we are called to welcome the stranger and provide help to the one fleeing war (Lev. 19:33-34, Is. 21:14-15, Matt. 25:35).
Sadly, Trump has slashed refugee admissions to historically low levels while also trying to cut billions from foreign assistance. The United States is the richest country on earth but accepts only 0.02 percent of all refugees every year. Trump’s advisor Stephen Miller, who has frequently flirted with white nationalism, has said that Trump’s second term would include even bigger cuts to immigration.
Is this a good thing, according to Johnson? Or does he simply not care? It’s unclear, since the only comment Johnson makes concerning the issue of migration is that Trump is not a xenophobe. His actions, not simply his words, suggests otherwise.
Johnson says that Trump’s “historic actions for Israel should appeal to believers”. While the peace deals are worthy of celebration, many Israelis are increasingly worried about the devastating effects climate change will have on their nation. A fresh report shows that global warming will have devastating consequences for the whole Middle East, leading to natural disasters, famine, floods, water contamination, forced migration, pandemics and increased border tensions. Trump’s inaction on climate change will impact Israel to a far greater extent than his decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem.
I’m not sure if Johnson cares about this—he rarely talks about the environment. But we live in an age when even Trump isn’t denying climate change anymore. Sadly, his actions has proven that he is willing to let millions of people die from it during the coming decades – given that Jesus does not return sooner. That’s a legacy that will be even darker than the 200,000 Americans killed by COVID-19 under Trump’s watch.
And of course, how could we ignore Trump’s authoritarianism? Not only has he consistently been praising dictators during his presidency, he explicitly argued that courts should stop the count of legal votes already in October:
When it became clear that he had lost the election, he falsely claimed that he had won. There is still no credible evidence of widespread election fraud. And even if such evidence all of a sudden would appear later down the line, Trump had no basis for claiming just two days after the election that he wins if one only counts the legal votes.
We should have seen this coming. After all, Trump claimed that millions of votes were illegal both in 2016 and 2018, something his own investigation proved wrong. This isn’t innocent behavior. This is Trump undermining faith in democracy. Even if you love Trump’s policies: is democracy really worth it?
Bill Johnson mentions that if Billy Graham was on the ballot for the presidential race, he would prefer him instead. My hope and prayer is that Johnson carefully considers these words by Graham in 1981:
“I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form… it would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it. […] I’m for morality. But morality goes beyond sex to human freedom and social justice.”
Or as revivalist John Wimber, put it: “Justice always go hand in hand with true revival and renewal of the Spirit. Justice – setting things right for the poor and marginalized – is one of the primary purposes for God sending His Son into the world.”
Those are the words I want to become our reality.
Granted, justice does not equate to either left-wing or right-wing politics—as Johnson points out, there are many problems with both options in American politics.
But what if evangelicalism’s loyal allegiance to one of these options has led it to forget why justice even matters?
Micael Grenholm is a Swedish pastor, author, and editor 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!