A group of high-profile Christian leaders has published a lengthy statement passionately condemning Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, calling his campaign message “contrary to our Christian values” and condemning his bombastic rhetoric as “racist, bigoted, and hateful.”
The statement, which is housed on the website calledtoresist.org, dedicates more than 2,000 words to decrying Trump’s candidacy. Among other things, it heavily criticizes his proclivity for language and polices that demean immigrants, Muslims, women, people of color, and the disabled.
“The ascendancy of a demagogic candidate and his message, with the angry constituency he is fueling, is a threat to both the values of our faith and the health of our democracy,” the statement reads in part. “Donald Trump directly promotes racial and religious bigotry, disrespects the dignity of women, harms civil public discourse, offends moral decency, and seeks to manipulate religion. This is no longer politics as usual, but rather a moral and theological crisis, and thus we are compelled to speak out as faith leaders.”
The ascendancy of a demagogic candidate and his message, with the angry constituency he is fueling, is a threat to both the values of our faith and the health of our democracy.
The length and tone of the letter is unusual, as American faith leaders typically avoid publicly commenting on candidates for fear of violating the tax-exempt status of their churches, which are legally barred from endorsing those running for office. But signers took pains to insist that the letter was not a “tacit endorsement of other candidates,” but simply a reaction to Trump’s successful use of exclusionary rhetoric to win votes — a phenomenon religious leaders say presents them with “a moral and theological crisis.”
“Trump is shamelessly using racial resentment, fear, and hatred — always dangerously present in our society — to fuel a movement against ‘the other,’ targeting other races, women, cultures, ethnicities, nations, creeds, and a whole global religion,” it reads. “That stands in stark and chilling opposition to the reconciling love of God confessed by those who claim Jesus as Lord. So we, as faith leaders, hereby confess our resistance against the message and actions of Donald Trump.”
The letter concludes with a bulleted list of “offenses committed by Donald Trump,” such as his proposal to ban Muslim immigration into the country, threatening to “open up” libel laws to punish journalists who criticize him, and promoting violence at his own rallies.
“Instead of learning from his mistakes, the list of Donald Trump’s moral offenses keeps growing,” the letter reads. “It’s time to say enough.”
Signers of the statement include a diverse array of influential faith leaders, such as Rev. Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary of the National Council of Churches; Steve Schneck, Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at Catholic University of America; Rev. Joshua Dubois, former head of the White House office on Faith Based Initiatives; Rev. Dr. Peter Borgdorff, Executive Director Emeritus of the Christian Reformed Church in North America; Dr. Robert M. Franklin, President Emeritus of Morehouse College; Shane Claiborne, Director of Red Letter Christians; and author, speaker, and activist Rev. Brian McLaren.
Trump’s meteoric rise to GOP frontrunner has triggered a number of negative reactions among progressive and conservative faith leaders, many of whom dismiss his rhetoric and policy proposals as immoral or unbiblical.
The Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) — one of the key leaders of the denomination Trump claims — publicly chastised the businessman in October, deriding his anti-immigrant rhetoric and noting “Presbyterians through decades of policy have demanded humane treatment of people of all nationalities and faiths who find themselves within our borders.” Similarly, when he visited a Presbyterian church while on the campaign trail in Iowa, he unintentionally sat through a sermon that called for Christians to welcome Mexican immigrants and Syrian refugees — things Trump openly rejects. Some members of a Presbyterian in Trump’s home presbytery even called for the GOP frontrunner to have his membership in the church revoked, but were foiled when it was revealed that he is not, in fact, an active member of any Presbyterian church in the United States.
Trump has elicited an even stronger backlash from those outside his claimed tradition. Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s political arm, has written three different op-eds condemning Trump as unbiblical and admonishing evangelicals who support him as Christians who have “lost their values.” When it was announced that Trump was scheduled to speak at a conference hosted by major Israel lobbying group AIPAC, the Union for Reform Judaism — the largest Jewish group in the United States — issued a statement blasting his comments about Muslims and other groups, saying they are required by their faith to “speak up against such hate speech.” And when Pope Francis was asked how he felt about Trump’s proposal to erect a wall between the United States and Mexico, the deeply pro-immigrant pontiff responded by saying that any man who holds such beliefs “is not Christian.”