From Katie Ernst.
This might seem like a silly question. It’s unlikely Donald Trump would want to worship with us. This is the man, after all, who said he’s never had reason to ask God for forgiveness, and I doubt he’d appreciate our inclusive and welcoming call to faith. Still, plastered throughout our church is the motto that all are welcome here. Does “all” extend even to Donald J. Trump?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg did something shocking and disappointing last week. She called out Donald Trump by name saying he was a “faker,” among other things. Members of the media quickly, and rightly, pounced. It is unprecedented in modern times for a Supreme Court Justice to inject herself in the political process this way. Do I agree with the substance of what she said? Yes. Do I agree with her saying so publicly? Emphatically no.
Justice is supposed to be applied equally to all. When you go before the Court, whether you are a poor immigrant or you’re the billionaire Donald Trump, your disputes are supposed to be adjudicated without bias. The Court may not always live up to this ideal, but when a Justice is calling out a presidential candidate by name, it starts to feel like the Court isn’t even trying to live up to its lofty mission, and that’s a serious problem.
But that brings me to Germantown Mennonite Church. There’s another thing that’s supposed to be universal. God’s love. And just like with the Notorious RBG, it stops feeling that way when the church calls out a political candidate by name. I’m not stupid. I get that my pastor pulls the lever in the voting booth and probably has strong feelings about many of the candidates, but that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for him or her to share them from the pulpit or through other church channels.
When my husband and I lived in Atlanta we went to a Unitarian Church. We’d been attending for a few months and it felt like a good fit. One week we were listening to the sermon and the woman delivering it—not the usual pastor—proceeded to rail against George W. Bush as a warmonger. In any other setting I would have been nodding vigorously along, but in that place it felt so petty. It felt so un-holy. Apparently Max and I weren’t the only people feeling this way because a number of congregants walked out. Was it acceptable for the speaker to denounce war? Guns? Violence? Of course. Those are precisely the moral issues a pastor should be talking about. But to focus on an individual man seems too small for church. Church should be expansive. It should be about promoting ideas, not villainizing individuals. When a pastor calls out a politician by name it suggests that God’s love isn’t limitless and, in fact, the limits of God’s love are found at that individual’s doorstep.
I don’t go to church to hear political news or discourse. Trust me, I consume plenty of that at home. I go to church to be uplifted. I go to church to be comforted. I go to church to be challenged. To be challenged with Jesus’s radical message of unlimited love. To be challenged to love Donald Trump even if I think his own message of hate and exclusion would destroy our country.
Jesus didn’t just break bread with prostitutes. He broke bread with corrupt tax collectors. The ones who were stealing from the poor. He didn’t find a tax collector convention and organize the apostles to hold up signs saying “Down with Tax Collectors!” He met with them. He talked with them. He proved that God’s love extends to everyone. Every single person. No exceptions. That means God loves men while they’re beating their wives. He loves terrorists even as they’re attacking civilians. He loved Hitler while he was ordering the extermination of my father’s people.
While this political season is heated and unlike any possibly, well, ever, I hope that if one day Donald Trump does come knocking on GMC’s door, we can live up to the lofty mission of loving and welcoming him. This doesn’t mean we have to stop fighting bigotry, misogyny or religious oppression. But demonizing groups or individuals should be left outside the church’s doors and, frankly, it should be left to the other guy, namely Donald J. Trump.