Here is the good news: God is moving in people’s hearts. I have personally witnessed and heard of many people who’ve repented of their involvement in our national sin of racism. These weren’t folks who climbed on a stage to make some big public pronouncement, just everyday Christians who humbled their hearts and were moved by the Holy Spirit to confess their sins one to another.
I hope this is an encouragement to the African-American Christians who’ve cried out to the Lord for justice for many years and have seen so little fruit. I pray it is also a salve to my Black friends who are hanging on by a thread in diverse churches, discouraged by their leaders’ refusal to advance the cause of racial justice and racial unity in any way that costs them.
God is showing himself strong. He has heard the cries of African-American Christians. This is his season of justice. And he has begun in the hearts of his little ones — those ordinary believers who surrendered all to Jesus, allowed him to open their eyes, and were quick to repent.
I saw it with my own eyes this week at a Kairos seminar of Gateway Church, the hugely influential, neo-charismatic megachurch in Southlake, Texas, led by Pastor Robert Morris.
But, as you might have guessed, there is bad news to counter my good news. The bad news is the many evangelical leaders, including Morris, who won’t let go of the cult of Donald Trump. They drank the Kool-Aid, and now they’re choking on the dregs, grasping onto conspiracy theories and far-fetched schemes to manipulate the electoral process to get their guy in office, democracy be damned.
I forgive these men and women for sipping the Kool-Aid in the first place. I don’t fault them for being disgusted with the Democrats’ pro-choice agenda, along with other matters repugnant to evangelicals. Along comes a tough-talking candidate willing to wave their banner, and not only does he seek the counsel of evangelical leaders, but, for the first time, he opens the door wide to Pentecostal-charismatic folks — who’ve always been treated as second-class evangelicals.
So you’ve got a Paula White, a Robert Morris, and a Bishop Harry Jackson who are granted unprecedented access to power when Trump shocks the world and gets elected in 2016. Not only that, but some of their own charismatic brethren prophesied in advance that it would happen just like this. Now that’s heady stuff. I, too, would have thought I’d stepped right into the will of God.
Then that president begins to implement parts of the evangelical agenda with fearless zeal. He yanks that funding for Planned Parenthood! He stands up for religious freedom in Turkey, China, Iran! All good things, celebrated by evangelicals everywhere.
But somewhere along the way, you start hearing from your Black brothers and sisters that this president’s frequent statements about people of color, immigrants, and folks with disabilities are deeply offensive. These criticisms grow louder as the president establishes a track record in public, private, and on his infamous Twitter account for making these ugly, sometimes racist comments.
Yet here you are, inside the halls of power for the very first time. You see the president as a man, flawed like all of us, but possessing great strengths. Plus, he’s waving your flag as an evangelical!
You brush off the concerns of African-American Christians — it’s not as bad as you think. He’s really not racist. I know him personally. He loves America so much. And you have good company in brushing off their concerns, because that is what white evangelicals have done for decades. They have minimized the concerns of African-Americans, so you do too.
Then an atrocity takes place in broad daylight, on camera, in the eyes of many witnesses, and for a moment you acknowledge what your Black brothers and sisters have been trying to tell you for so long — that this beautiful nation still nurtures, enables, and perpetuates the hideous sin of racism.
You see George Floyd crying out for his mother, and you are moved. You even put on sackcloth for a day and lament that there are a still few bad apples out there, but you turn a blind eye when your president pours fuel on the flames of public protests, and more people die. And more hearts are crushed by his reckless words, which you are quick to excuse.
Then your prominent prophets, few of whom are Black, affirm your every hope and dream, ensuring you that this president will be re-elected in 2020 by the sovereign hand of God.
At this point, a few lonely voices are questioning whether this president has become an idol to white evangelicals. But you deflect them, because they are not the established voices. Plus, having access to power feels so right, so good — surely you must be walking in the favor of God!
Then an amazing thing happens, such as this nation has never seen before. Those same African-Americans you ignored rise up in the midst of a deadly pandemic and vote against Donald Trump. They can’t stand one more day under his oppressive leadership. From coast to coast, they cast millions of ballots, in many cases by mail, since they as a people are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis. It really is that bad, they say, with virtually one voice.
Then another incredible thing happens: Those mail-in ballots turn the tide of an extremely close election in places like Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta. Before your eyes, those ballots, counted last, change the entire presidential race. Let me interpret this for you prophetically: God hears the cries of his African-American children, as well as the sick, the oppressed, and the vulnerable. The first will be last, and the last will be first. It’s a divine principle woven through Scripture, and it happens right here!
Now God knows that you honored our president, even loved him. You were right to respect President Trump and pray for him, and it was wrong for some of my brothers and sisters to mock him. But God never asked you to make him your idol.
Your presence in the halls of power was for one purpose: to be a witness of Jesus Christ. That’s what the great court prophets of the Bible did, men and women like Nathan, Jeremiah, Micaiah, and Huldah. These prophets knew their real king, and their allegiance was solely to him. They never let themselves get impressed with political power, because they knew at any moment they could be called upon to speak God’s truth at the cost of their lives. They took great care to walk in humility of heart, knowing any word of prophecy to the kings of this world could be their last.
Let me walk this back to the present day. My fellow Spirit-filled believers, these blind white prophets have led us astray. Please forgive them. Their fathers were blind too. They were never willing to face the stain of racism right here in our precious churches, and in our wayward human hearts.
I have a word for evangelical leaders: It is time to exit the cult of Trump. Stop the Trump-signaling from the pulpit. You know what I mean: those little comments about election conspiracies, mask-wearing, and COVID-minimizing that you insert in your messages, even at sacred moments, letting your fellow cult members know you’re still keeping the faith. Those comments are offensive. They are from your flesh. And we see it.
Donald Trump lost the election fair and square. It won’t be overturned. Mark my words — this is God’s season of justice. We have just a few weeks of grace to pivot and embrace his agenda for the vulnerable, the hurting, the sick, the marginalized, and the dispossessed in this nation and the world. The people our Bible speaks of continually.
This isn’t the time to do one last dance around the idol.
Lives are at stake.
Our racially divided Church is at stake.
Repent and turn to your true King while there is still time.
Julie Lyons is a professional journalist with more than 30 years of experience. She has also served in Christian ministry and is passionate about racial unity in the Church. Read more of Julie Lyons’ writing at julielyons.com.