The road from Being President to Being That Slightly Stupid Aunt on Facebook Who Posts Obvious Nonsense As if It Fell From the Lips of David Attenborough Himself was never going to be a long one for Donald Trump. And yesterday he slouched down it, rough beast that he is.
The Leader of the Free World retweeted several tweets featuring the kind of bogus videos that your most racist or gullible friends might post unthinkingly on social media, in what one newspaper called an “early morning Twitter frenzy”. The news mostly focused on the fact that the original tweets were posted by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First, which was, it must be said, appalling. But it shouldn’t have been surprising.
Donald Trump has long pandered to right-wingers of worryingly extreme shades. And he’s also no stranger to dishonesty. So the fact that he posted from a racist source is no surprise. The fact he posted obviously dubious claims is no surprise. At this point it’s not even depressing.
But what is depressing is the response of Christians. Not just to Trump (though their support for a morally and ideologically corrupt money-worshipper astounds me). It’s Christians’ own response to videos and other clickbait aimed at stoking islamophobia that should be more depressing. Because Christians gobble this stuff up and spew it out in disgusting quantities on social media.
What’s worrying is not that they’re like everyone’s slightly stupid aunt and believe ridiculous stories. It’s that they want to. It’s that they think they’re doing God a favour, doing their duty to defend a beleaguered faith against a tide of the unsaved.
I hate to get all brimstone-preachy, but perhaps that’s all some Christians understand. So let me say to those who’ve shared nonsense similar to that which Trump just spewed, thinking that you were taking a stand for Jesus, fighting back against persecution: You are Deceived. With a Capital D. Your motives may once have been pure, but your sin of racism or hate has mixed like leaven with the Gospel, and you need to repent.
Christians who want to defend our faith are being duped by the Father of Lies into falling for a story that says Islam is the enemy
Christians who want to defend our faith are being duped by the Father of Lies into falling for a story that says Islam is the enemy and therefore anything we do to fight Islam (including posting obvious lies, including inciting hatred for men and women made in God’s image) is justified. It is not. The enemy is not Islam. Islam is our mission field. The enemy-narrative is a heresy, it always has been, and Christian supporters of islamophobic hate are perpetuating it.
And you don’t have to be a liberal ‘all faiths lead to heaven’ sort of theological milksop to understand this. You just have to believe that to use the Lord’s name for evil is itself evil. You just have to believe that adding the worship of another god (even if you call that god ‘Britain’) is idolatry. You just have to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and he commands us go out and make disciples, love enemies and pray for those who curse you.
There should be no place in the Church for people who wish to adulterate the gospel with false teaching. Any ideology that preaches racism and hate and tries to sanctify its bile with Christian rhetoric is not just wrong, it is antichrist.
We cannot tolerate it any longer in our churches as “another point of view” that goes unchallenged. The world sees. It sees the very same people who scream about our Christian voice being drowned out, and how Muslims should denounce terrorists, staying silent about those who hate Jews – and doing so in Christ’s name.
It sees those who foster xenophobia and racism and call it ‘Christian culture’. Those who antagonise, vilify and insult Muslims and mock the very Spirit of God by calling it ‘evangelism’. The world sees these people in our churches and it wonders what we will say to them. And when we say nothing the world nods, sadly, and walks away from us, muttering, “Yes… I thought so…”
There was a time, not long ago, when people would say things like “You wouldn’t judge Christians based on the KKK…” But if the KKK is calling itself Christian and the rest of us do nothing about it, then people will stop saying that. Christianity has long had a far-right problem, but until recently most people believed it had been cleansed from the mainstream of our faith. Thanks to Donald Trump’s influence and our relative silence, the world is starting to doubt that. And it’s making it harder for them to trust Jesus.