Over 100 leaders from evangelical, mainline Protestant, and historically black congregations, among others, have signed a letter pledging to pray on Oct. 13 that the impeachment probe led by House Democrats shines “the light of truth” on the president.
“Jesus taught us that only the truth will set us free,” Rev. Adam Russell Taylor, executive director of the Christian organization Sojourners, told HuffPost. “The deflection, lies, and conspiracy theories promulgated by the Administration and the President’s most loyal Congressional allies represent an assault on truth.”
“This perilous moment calls for bold action from both religious and civic leaders who must put country and the common good over partisanship, the pursuit of truth over lies, and morality and accountability over fear and short-term political calculation,” Taylor said.
The impeachment inquiry is looking into allegations, backed up by Trump’s own words, that the president sought political favors from Ukraine to help his 2020 reelection campaign. Trump has called the congressional investigation a “witch hunt” and the White House announced Tuesday that it will not cooperate with the probe.
The president’s close evangelical advisers have issued dire warnings about the House’s efforts. Texas pastor Robert Jeffress suggested that America will face a “Civil War-like fracture” if Trump is ultimately removed from office, while evangelist Franklin Graham predicted that “our country could begin to unravel.”
But the Christians who signed up to support this Sunday’s day of prayer believe that an impeachment inquiry is a moral necessity, according to a letter released Tuesday by Red Letter Christians, a religious movement that is helping to organize the event.
The idea for a national day of prayer arose organically last week at a Red Letter Revival event in Goldsboro, North Carolina, according to Rev. Peter G. Heltzel, a professor at New York Theological Seminary who helped put together the letter. Heltzel said that attendees at the social justice-focused event, which was planned as a counter-rally to the Greenville stop on Graham’s “Decision America” tour, were appalled by the “hypocrisy of the religious right” on the impeachment issue.
Leaders like Graham are mistakenly leading American evangelicals to believe that their loyalty to the president comes before their loyalty to Christ, said Heltzel, who identifies as evangelical. But Christians are called to “seek first the kingdom of God and God’s justice,” he said.
“In this current moment, with the impeachment inquiry, Jesus’s claim that he is the way, the truth and the life is also a call to prophetic holiness, in the sense of both speaking truth to power and demanding that authorities are truthful in their words and actions as they govern,” Heltzel said.
On Sunday, organizers of the national day of prayer are asking Christian leaders to read the letter out loud to their congregations. Participants are also inviting their local congressional representatives to attend services so that the congregation can pray for them.
The letter insists that “this is not a matter of partisanship, but of deepest principle.” Nonetheless, many of the signatories are heavyweights in the progressive Christian community ― including Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Rev. Liz Theoharis, leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign; Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners; Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop; Rev. Traci Blackmon of the United Church of Christ; and Lisa Sharon Harper, writer and activist at FreedomRoad.us.
Sister Simone Campbell, a Catholic social justice activist known for her work with Nuns on the Bus, told HuffPost that she signed the letter because the Trump administration’s “undermining of truth and civility” shocks her conscience. She said that the president’s “obsession with winning” makes her doubt that he will ever focus on the needs of the American people.
“This behavior on the part of the administration with regards to Ukraine evidences their lack of concern for the people of this nation. They only care about winning an election,” Campbell said. “Winning is about power, not the common good.”
Since winning about 81% of the white evangelical vote in 2016, Trump has depended on white evangelical leaders to defend his more controversial policies and rhetoric. Roughly 7 in 10 white evangelicals told the Pew Research Center in March that they approve of the way Trump is handling his job.
Part of the impetus behind the letter was to counter the idea that all evangelicals are unquestionably loyal to the president. Rev. Laura Sumner Truax, senior pastor of Chicago’s LaSalle Street Church and a self-described “progressive evangelical,” said she’s weary of Trump’s “bragging” about evangelicals’ support and upset that people like Graham and Jeffress are seen as spokespeople for the group.
Truax said she signed the letter because she wanted to show that there’s a broad network of people of faith whose religious beliefs have led them to a very different opinion of the president.
“If we’re not willing to hold him accountable to the oath of office he swore in 2017, our silence comes at the expense of the most vulnerable, of those whose truth will no longer be honored,” she said.
The pastor said that her congregation plans to read the letter, pray for Trump and pray that their representatives will seek the truth “wherever it may lead.”