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WASHINGTON — Maybe it takes a royal wedding to offer lessons in what a good sermon sounds like.

Maybe it takes one of the world’s most elitist institutions — a monarchy, for goodness’ sake — to provide a view of Christianity rooted not in conservative cultural warfare (or unrelenting support for Donald Trump) but in an egalitarian love that will “let justice roll down like a mighty stream.”

And the Most Rev. Michael Curry, who preached for a royal couple and the world last Saturday, isn’t finished with us yet. On Thursday, a group of Christians was scheduled to march to the White House for a candlelight vigil inspired by a declaration entitled “Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis.”

The presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, who will speak in La Crosse next month, Curry is a prime mover of a statement suffused with a sense of urgency about “a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government.”

While Trump lurks behind almost every paragraph of this passionate assertion of faith, he is never actually mentioned. This reflects the desire of the endorsers to focus on what it means to proclaim that “Jesus is Lord.” The opening paragraph makes this clear: “We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.”

At a time when social media and email inboxes bulge with manifestos about the dangers posed by Trump, “Reclaiming Jesus” is distinctive: Its vision contrasts sharply with the approach taken by Christians who are invoking religious arguments in apologetics for a president whose actions and policies seem antithetical to almost everything Jesus taught.

The Rev. Jim Wallis, a progressive evangelical leader and the declaration’s main drafter, credited Curry for encouraging his colleagues to speak out. “The two of us talked and prayed about this for months before inviting a group of elders to join us for a retreat on Ash Wednesday” to discuss “a theological and biblical statement.”

Even if its implications about you-know-who are unmistakable, the call — issued by 23 prominent Christians with long experience in social struggles — “wants to be about Jesus, not Trump,” Wallis said in an interview. The hope is to challenge Christians to reach their political conclusions only after pondering what Jesus and his disciples actually said.

“What we believe leads us to what we must reject,” the signers assert, laying out six core propositions and the conclusions that follow.

If “each human being is made in God’s image and likeness,” then Christians have a duty to repudiate “the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership.” A belief that “we are one body” requires opposition to “misogyny” and “the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment and assault of women.”

Since “how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick and the prisoner is how we treat Christ,” Christians must oppose “attacks on immigrants and refugees” and “cutting services and programs for the poor” accompanied by tax cuts “for the rich.”

The final three assertions were especially pointed about the unnamed president. Because “truth-telling is central to the prophetic biblical tradition,” Christians should stand against “the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life.” It notes that “Christ’s way of leadership is servanthood, not domination,” and this means resisting “any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule.”

The declaration’s most barbed conclusion comes from Christ’s injunction to “go into all nations making disciples.” This, the signatories say, demands a rebuke to “’America First’ as a theological heresy.”

“While we share a patriotic love for our country,” they add, “we reject xenophobic or ethnic nationalism that places one nation over others as a political goal.”

This is a testing time for the country as a whole, but the moment presents a particular challenge to the Christian churches.

Trump, after all, won a substantial majority of the vote among white Christians. The battle within Christianity (and not just in the United States) can be defined in many ways. It is at least in part between those who would use faith as a means of excluding others on the basis of nation, culture and, too often, race, and those who see it as an appeal to conscience, a prod to social decency — and, yes, as an invitation to love.

The question “Who is Jesus?” has been debated for two millennia. It is starkly relevant now.

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E.J. Dionne’s email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.

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(14) comments

johnnybragatti

The lowlife Evangelickals are Trump-Humpers for a reason.
They"d rather be lowlifes ,like Trump is, than Christians.
They may want to keep that in mind, as we march toward impeachment.
Ya"ll keep praying this will happen...
I know I will.

oldhomey

I am extremely worried about the direction our society is going in as fundamentalist evangelical Christian organizations circle their wagons around the most corrupt, inept, unethical, ill-prepared ignoramus ever to have been elected as our president. We have a huge swath of our population, perhaps 44 percent, who will accept the lies of falsified "news" sites on the Internet because those sites provide the only information -- so abjectly false from the outset -- that allows these misguided souls to rationalize their support for the president and their one-issue intent to overcome Roe Vs. Wade.

I was recently among people I like on a personal level, smart and professional, but who are determinedly evangelical right-wingers. One forgives Trump for his randy skirt chasing by announcing that ALL presidents had the same wandering eye and woman troubles, citing a story about a new book he had just read about on the Internet that enumerated all the presidential peccadilloes, retelling for my benefit in detail the book's allegation of JFK going to Paris for an important and complex international diplomatic negotiation. JFK, we are supposed to believe, completely ignored the negotiation and its details because he spent all his time at a very high end bordello. And this guy, religious and a model of rectitude in his own life, cited this to me as God's Own Truth, as evidence that we should accept Trump's womanizing and corrupting efforts to cover it up as something normal, that all politicians do this.

The woman in this scenario worried that Prince Charles would be named king to succeed his mother, Queen Elizabeth, upon her death. Duh! She thought this was extremely unfair and crooked because she had read somewhere on the Internet that Charles only wanted to be king because, by being king, it would be illegal to charge him with murdering Diana. And she worried about Prince Harry's recent marriage, that his new wife was only using him and will break his heart. She also wondered what will happen if the new royal couple has a child and it is born demonstrably black.

These are two good people, not dumb and hard-working, good family people. This is what worries me. Even 25 years ago, before the Internet came to dominate mass media, these people might not have been any better informed than they are now, but they operated in those days in their own little blissful spheres of self-imposed ignorance. Now, with the Internet, they link themselves in daily with millions of others who want to know only what they believe and can readily find support for their ignorance. If millions of others are reading and believing this stuff, this dangerous rationale goes, it must be God's Own Truth. Well, it is not. What so many thought would be a liberating new technology for the spread of truth and factual information has instead become a very dangerous cesspool of malignant disinformation spread by nefarious people. God help us. These people not have the right to vote and thus the legal means to impose their ignorance on the rest of us. They are doing it right now with Donald Trump occupying the White House.

oldhomey

Sorry, a few typos in my lengthy 2:51pm screed. I doubt anybody will wade through it, but if they do, I want to take the "not" out of the second to last sentence. The point I want to make is that these are dangerous people no matter how holy the see themselves to be, or even how well-meaning they may be in intent. They have the right to vote, and because the Internet effectively marshals them to the polls, they have the power to impose their ignorance on the rest of us.

kingman10

I too know many so called very "successful" people highly educated, like Dentists, business owners, health care workers who have this self imposed ignorance and disinformation from AM talk radio and internet sites. It is baffling how they or anyone can get sucked into the absolute craziness that is being broadcast by these outlets. Some outlets even admit they reported a falsehood, but it still makes no difference, they still continue to believe it. So this self imposed ignorance crosses all socio/economic boundaries and I do believe is a serious threat to our country. But I remain optimistic that the majority of Americans are still sensible, and are able to filter the news to see at least part of the real truth. To those who have lost that ability, I don't see any type of redemption for them, just more and a deeper ignorance of the world around them. Which doesn't bode well for society.

mocha1

It is always amusing when a liberal lectures Christians on Christian principles.

Jobaba

The days of assuming liberals are not Christian are over. It is much easier to see that conservatives can hardly bear that label while supporting trump.

Cassandra2

It's always amusing when a hypocrite feels superior when they are living in a world of fantasies and lies.

kingman10

Yes those crazy liberals, wanting to care for the poor, the refugee, the homeless the sick , the imprisoned. Jesus always talked about how great the rich are, and how easy it is for them to enter the kingdom. He and all his disciples were very rich, and advocated for bigger tax breaks for the rich. Jesus taught the accumulation of personal wealth is the purpose of living. And he never said turn the other cheek, instead war the answer. Don't believe me, just ask #45. And if you want proof in the bible, read Mathew chapter five, find out the real truth. That Jesus was one right wing tea party nut, right Mocha?

Tim Russell

Mulligans are Christian.

mocha1

So if every human is made in gods likeness why is it so easy to discard as garbage the most helpless and innocent among us? You cannot just pick and choose the points you like to support your partisan attack.

oldhomey

Why is it so easy for so many self-professed Christians to ignore the terrible poverty and inequity that a huge percentage of the world's children are born into and will be unable to overcome in a lifetime of struggle? Why do so many self-professed evangelical right-wing Christians fight so fiercely against seeing to it that every child in this country is protected with health care coverage? Answer these questions before trying to foist upon the entire community an argument against abortion that seems to have no Biblical support for such an argument.

Cassandra2

The short answer to your question, Homey, is that religion provides them with an in-group. They can feel smug and safe in their little group and use their power against others. It has nothing to do with actually following the dogma they profess. The dogma is simply a cudgel to wave at others with threats of pain and damnation.

kingman10

very true cassy. People have twisted religion to justify everything from slavery to genocide. Religion does provide the means to excuse many inhumane things, if your interpretation of it is perverted. All main stream religions have the same basic core principles, to do unto others as you would have them to do you. They just say it in different ways. As in politics, many will choose to ignore the parts they don't like, and stress only the parts they want to live by, which will enrich themselves at the expense of others. This has been going on for ages, since mankind has walked upright. You would think modern man would be a little above all that, but it seems we have regressed to the point of being nothing more than little pawns for those who want to control the masses. I don't blame religion for this so much, as I do our unwillingness to learn and evolve as long as our personal needs are met and we are comfortable. We seem to have lost the ability to empathize. We don't think we need each other any more. But the truth is, we do.

kingman10

without a doubt, the best column I've read this year. It smacks at the heart of Christianity and politics and how we are to reconcile the two together. Columns like this one which calls for self examination and reflection are always good and helpful. Especially when it confronts those who are Christians on how far they have strayed from the truth.

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