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!
8 thoughts on “Trump’s Words Have Become America’s Reality: A Response to Bill Johnson”
Thanks for this, Micael. I couldn’t agree more. I have been very disappointed by Johnson’s bizarre lack of discernment, given all that he is. He, along with others who I have respected, should lose many followers as a result of this oxymoronic stance that he has taken.
I am Rainer from middle Germany, and I agree to what Micael has written. I am against nationalistic christianity , and against multiculti-stubborness. If you discuss critically about some bad consequences of german immigrations politics, you risk to be called “right” or rasssitical. So I love Trump as president, , but not his failures in the corona-epidemy, an not his lies, not his nationalistic outing. he did great things for Israel, led no war, calmed North Korea and made a good tax reform, for the lower income classes too. He gave me a secure feeling of being more respected as a conservative man of over 60. with his electoral defeat I have lost a father. Trump didn’t allow God to change him. He had been warned by a Prophet! Now young people of the left, angry afros and other ethnics of mostly lower social status have caught enough voters to downfall Trump. He was on a relatively good conservative way, maybe somehow influenced by the christian vice president Pence. WHY DIDN’T TRUMP STAND AGAINST CORONA AND AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY AGAINST AFROAMERICANS? He has hurted me! Now cynical lefties and LSBGT, led by liberal Grandpa Biden (yawn!) will reign the USA. I don’t understand that so called competent christian northamerican prophets believed, that Trump would win his second election race for US-President. This is white middle class haugtyness. As a good old “wishi-washi” German I feel white US-Citizens as a bit nationally arrogant towards Europeans an Germans. I have worked in a HP-Enterprise in Middle West Germany. I think it not rassistical to build the wall against Mexico, because several bad guys come over. There were homicide and sexual rapes in american refugee towns to were male Mexicans same. I don’t discuss wether Biden ist anticristianally motivated or just a liberal humans’s friend. But he gonna be an instrument of antichristianal politics. And as a multilateral and not friend of Russia he will accelerate the was to worldwar III, to be carried out in Europa. Three supercountries compete about who shall be the most powerful an earth: USA, Russian, China. POOR STUPID TOLERANT OBEDIENT LITTLE GERMANY(and the other EU-Countries)! I tell you what: Germans are sooo stupid: 90 % of them believe and thinks the same, because they are TV-Zombies. I prefer to get my informations from the internet. Ans I#M glad that you give me the chance to leave a reply. I love USA, far more than Germany!! My greatest wishes now, after trumps defeat: That his wife stays by him and that their marriage don’t gets divorced. Second: That Trump must not go in Jail. The crows are eager to see him suffer. As a biblical cristian, I have pray for him and his wife.
Friendly greetings – stay sane!
The untold collateral damage Trump-abetting and complicit Christians and religious leaders have done to the gospel and cause of Christ is hard to fathom. Only eternity will tell the scale. I doubt that these leaders and their crowd know or even care, given the lack of sober reflection or repentance at what has become the lie of the ages widely and boldly promoted in print, voice and social media. As a Pentecostal and charismatic preacher myself, I deeply worry that for decades to come, Christians and Christianity will be inseparably synonymous with Trumpism, racism, bigotry, amorality, greed, and defiance in the eyes of the world. We fool ourselves in denying the impact and damage. The Lord Jesus warned us about being the cause of offences especially in the church (Matt. 18.6). May he help us see our sin and lead us to repentance.
Do you see the hypocrisy of what you said? Have just a shred of humility and re-assess your own self. Based on what you just typed above, I would fear that your congregation is being led by just another sheep when they need a shepherd.
Trump is not a racist, bigot, greedy or any other mainstream claim you throw. It is time for Christian leaders to think for themselves and try doing a little bit of research before shouting from an ivory tower. Get facts and make a statement that wasn’t first fed to you from the media…. “Pastor”.
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I agree 100%. And still there are those that disagree with this accurate assessment even after all of the evidence, yet they will believe a lie with no evidence.
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I think Tony is right on! Everyone knew who Trump was – Like the devil – he promised the church what she wanted – a fulfillment of conservative Christian values – a reversal of Roe v Wade, conservative judges, support of Israel – he ain’t stupid – in order to hijack the cause for himself. I am just surprised at how many of my brethren bought it. And how many of them turned to hate speech if I disagreed with them.
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God wants us to look to Him and has allowed us to see the clear evil on both the “right” and the “left.”
Professed Christians are so caught up in devotion to political platforms and political leaders, they seem to miss the point.
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