I'm not sure Donald Trump has the personal conviction to be a racist. He just sells racism -- and that's worse.
Sixty religious leaders, myself included, made a statement of faithful obedience three weeks ago. We named it Called to Resist Bigotry, and aimed it at the messages sold by Trump -- messages that deliberately promote and fuel bias, fear, and even hate against Mexicans, immigrants in general, Muslims, Syrians in particular, women, African Americans (including our first black president), a disabled reporter, and all political opponents, whom Trump consistently attacks in the most demeaning, degrading, and disgusting language.
Trump's racial, religious, and gender bigotry will lose him many religious Americans, including those whom the media has often called "values voters." Donald Trump offends our values.
One of the most recognized religious leaders for "values voters" is Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religions Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Moore is a conservative white evangelical, who normally votes Republican. But last week, Moore wrote a column for The New York Times called "A White Church No More." An important article about the increasingly multi-racial and cultural global church, Moore also made comments about this election year. An extensive quote is worth noting:
"This election has cast light on the darkness of pent-up nativism and bigotry all over the country. There are not-so-coded messages denouncing African-Americans and immigrants; concern about racial justice and national unity is ridiculed as 'political correctness.' Religious minorities are scapegoated for the sins of others, with basic religious freedoms for them called into question. Many of those who have criticized Mr. Trump's vision for America have faced threats and intimidation from the 'alt-right' of white supremacists and nativists who hide behind avatars on social media.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech did not envision that more than 50 years later 'Go back to Africa' would be screamed at black protesters or that a major presidential candidate would tweet racially charged comments. Some American Christians may be tempted to ignore these issues, hoping they are just a wave of 'political incorrectness' that will ebb in due time. That sort of moral silence shortchanges both our gospel and our future."
There will not be "moral silence" from faith leaders and values voters when it comes to racism and the selling of it in this election year. Using the understandable anger of economically marginalized people whose lives and families are falling apart to hatefully blame "others" who are not the ones responsible for their problems -- in order to take political power for oneself -- has been one of the most despicable and dangerous patterns in American politics and world history.
As you likely know, faith-based organizations don't endorse candidates. So you won't be surprised that I am not going to endorse Donald Trump -- neither will I endorse his Democratic opponents, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. But we faith leaders will comment on the morality of this presidential campaign, the issues raised or not raised, and the morality of candidates based on our moral values. That's what we "values voters" do. And we will again this election year.
Of course, Trump took notice and attacked, in one of his regularly ugly tweets, calling Dr. Russell Moore a "truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!"
Well, Donald, many of us are right with Russell on this, and you will face strong opposition to your political use of racial bigotry from Christians across the political spectrum. If you had the courage to join a public forum with us faith leaders on the terrible dangers of racial bigotry in a time of such division and fear, it could be very good for the country. But I don't believe you have such courage or honesty.
Real values voters are morally called to vote against racial bigotry and the use of such bigotry for political gain. We don't consider that "politically correct" or "partisan" behavior. We call it being faithful to the gospel.
Or as Moore says, "The question is whether evangelicals will be on the right side of Jesus."
Our politics are not God's politics. And as Moore concluded in his column, "The man on the throne in heaven is a dark-skinned, Aramaic-speaking 'foreigner' who is probably not all that impressed by chants of 'Make America great again.'"