Since publishing this article I have adjusted some wording as it pinned my observations too squarely on a particular social class and demographic. For the record, I have friends on both the political left and right and with many different expressions of their faith. While I talk below about the external qualities I choose to live by, I realise these will look very different depending on your context and experience.
Donald Trump, my Christianity thanks you!
To understand why, you first need to know a little of my story.
At the age of 13 I was invited to a charismatic Christian conference at a camp ground an hour or two north of Wellington. An American evangelist with a southern drawl invited me to raise my hand and invite Jesus into my heart. I did, and it was amazing. A few years later at 19 I reached a crossroads in my faith. I’d heard about this ruddy, dusty, counter-cultural Jesus and his radical political agenda yet until then I’d largely only seem him rearrange furniture in auditoriums.
I remember wondering how the invitation of this middle-eastern refugee to overthrow the empire had resulted in Christians looking so similar to the rest of culture. I’m not talking about sex and drugs here, I’m talking about boring things like jobs, health insurance and mortgages. I couldn’t understand how Jesus had become the endorsement for the lives people always wanted to live anyway, rather than the one who upturned their lives entirely. It seemed to me that either Jesus had changed, or we'd started to mould him into our own image rather than being moulded into his.
Here's where I want to thank you Mr. Trump...
I love your brand of Christianity because for one of the first times in recent history the hypocrisy of white capitalist elitism guised as religion has been exposed for it’s hate, it’s brutality, it’s merciless violence, it’s complete opposition to the words of Jesus and the culture of the world he proposes his followers create.
I believe deeply that the lives of those who profess to follow Jesus should look profoundly different from the rest of the world in the same way that they did when this faith was a small religious sect opposing the violence of the Roman Empire and talking about a revolution of love. They were beaten, shamed and thrown in prison. They put all their resources into common purses and shared with each other. They showed unparalleled generosity to people of all faiths, ideologies and orientations. They lived economic and political principles that were absolute lunacy. More viral than any movement to this day, they grew by thousands daily who didn’t just stick a fish bumper sticker on their car but who, in many cases, sold what they had and gave up their jobs to follow the ridiculous promise that the most powerful tools we can wield against violence and hate are love, submission, sacrifice and humility.
For the last ten years I have more and more tried to embody these values. My wife Anna and I have set the trajectory of our lives towards that original vision of Christ as best we can. We don't always get it right, but we have made decisions each day to ignore the voices that lead us towards empire-building, security and careerism and to hear the call instead of the one who told his disciples to bring nothing but their sandals, their cloak and knapsack for begging.
This means two of us living on one income so we can have less time earning money and more time being like Jesus to our community. It means living with five other people so that we can truly learn to share life together to the level where we are we are becoming like a new family to one-another. It means we don’t have much, and what we do have we’re learning to let go of. It means that when we throw a party it’s not only full of people who look like us, but also the people who no one else wants to invite into their homes too - the socially excluded and isolated. It means that when people come to us in deep grief, we put our busy lives on hold to cry with them and pray with them until healing comes in one of it’s many different forms.
For me, these are the outward signs of the inward devotion I have to the person and way of Christ.
So it hurts when someone says I’m a Christian with a smirk because I know they’re not thinking of the life I live, they’re thinking of white middle-class elitism. They’re thinking of polite people living in nice neighbourhoods with flash cars. And if they’re not thinking of that they’re thinking of Brian Tamaki, Colin Craig and the many other conservatives who wear the label of Christian while spouting hate and vitriol.
So I thank you Mr. Trump.
I thank you because you have taken that so-called Christian white, middle-class elitism and satirised it to such a point that we have begun to finally have the conversation about the difference between what the west has called Christianity and the profoundly Eastern ideology Christ called his people to. You have brought such a deep darkness upon our media waves, our culture and our world that the little lights of hope may just be able to be seen for what they are supposed to be… extremely different from what many have called and known to be Christianity. You have become to our cause what the lone polar bear on a melting ice-berg is to global warming. You have become the embodiment of everything anti-Christ.
So thank you Mr. Trump that thanks to you I can now get to work in making sure that by the time I’m your age we look nothing alike. You may have just been the one to motivate another generation of followers of Christ to proliferate exactly the opposite narrative of the one you celebrate: To love peace, to value mercy, to welcome the stranger and the refugee, to share what we have, to make peace with our enemies, to forgive endlessly, to stand in the way of violence and to model a counter-culture that has the power to lead the world a profoundly different direction to the one you propose.
Thank you from our little community here in New Zealand (www.blueprintchurch.com). We will be praying for you and your family, and for the American people to decide later this year that the hate you speak will not be their voice in the world.