Christians, we must stop equivocating.

My social media, post Presidential debate, is just saturated with people wanting to point to Biden calling Trump a clown, and Trump shaming Biden’s son for addiction, and call it a draw. “Both sides” are disrespecting the other. “Both sides” are putting on a show. “Both sides” are avoiding substantive conversation. 

I’m sorry: what we saw on Tuesday night had no “both sides.” What we saw was outright abusive behavior — intimidation, bullying, antipathy. What we saw was a violence disguised as leadership. And when Christians equivocate about that, we don’t wash our hands of the problem. We help it grow.

When a parent, a spouse, a coworker acts the way President Trump acted Tuesday night, it is called abuse. We remove children from the household. We support the end of the marriage. We fire people. We do not claim to find fault on “both sides.” (And when we do, we call that complicity.)

In case you missed it, people today are deeply concerned about the U.S. President issuing directives to a White Supremacist group on national television, as though he is their de-facto ringleader. “Stand down,” he says, like he’s the lieutenant of their polo-shirted brigade. And people are wondering if Trump’s directive to the Proud Boys to also “stand by,” and then moments later request his supporters “to go into the polls and watch very carefully,” was a coupling tantamount to encouraging violent voter suppression and even inciting a coup. 

Whether you give credence to these interpretations of Tuesday’s rhetoric or not, it’s clear that people are feeling real fear today. I’ve never felt so powerless, or witnessed such real trauma from friends and acquaintances, in the wake of a political debate. And it’s not because of “both sides.” It is because of the President alone. 

I’ve noticed a tendency in our Reformed circles to search desperately for the comfortable middle. We feel so much better when we can say, “Well, there’s two sides to every story.” It’s time to name this for what it is: an act of selfishness, stemming from a desire to be shielded from the discomfort of taking a stand. We fear losing a friendship, or being shamed and feeling stupid, or causing conflict and drawing ire. It is, in effect, “passing by on the other side” and refusing to be the neighbor to the one who is vulnerable.  

There is no comfortable middle any more. Not now. If you are not standing against abuse, white supremacy, and lies, then you are absolutely choosing a side. 

Photo by Luke van Zyl on Unsplash

Kate Kooyman

Rev. Kate Kooyman is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

54 Comments

  • mstair says:

    “If you are not standing against … then you are absolutely choosing a side.” 

     “Whoever isn’t with me is against me, and whoever doesn’t gather with me scatters” (Jesus of Nazareth)

    Your thoughts took me back to 1 Samuel 8. God seems to have never been in favor of the idea of humans having kings, presidents , dictators. He is a very jealous Being re: His people. Jesus also said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar…”So, this year, He couldn’t make it any plainer. “Voting Day” must become “Praying Day” – that His Will Be Done – no matter how unattractive it might become.

  • Nancy Boote says:

    Thank you for calling this out, Kate. I totally agree with you. I have always appreciated your posts. Continue to use your prophetic voice the Lord has gifted you with to stand firm in the truth and to challenge us to do the same.

  • Pam Adams says:

    Kate, Your posting is how I feel witnessing the debate. It was so over the top. It was the worst debate I have ever seen. Trump was in his usual character for belittling others. He certainly tried to get under Biden’s skin but he got under my skin too and I am sure many Americans who think with Biblical values. Trump did not display them at all. I pray that his heart is changed and that our electorate votes wisely not just for a party.

    • Ann McGlothlin Weller says:

      I hold no hope for Trump’s heart being changed; he is who he is– that was apparent during the campaign four years ago and has continued; if he says or behaves in some different way in the next 33 days, it will be for expediency only (like saying yesterday that he doesn’t know who the Proud Boys are).

  • Jan Hoffman says:

    Thanks, Kate. You’re not alone.

  • Robert otte says:

    Amen!

  • Jan Koopman says:

    Thank you Kate….. we witness abuse and must call it what it is.

  • Lori Keen says:

    “It is, in effect, “passing by on the other side” and refusing to be the neighbor to the one who is vulnerable. ” AMEN.

  • Tom says:

    I will leave alone your mis-reading of DJT’s comments about the Proud Boys, your whatever-colored glasses are giving your world a particular hue that may not be accurate.

    But, JUST ONE TIME I would like one of you bloggers who regularly not only blast Donald Trump (which is fine and justified) but also blast as unfaithful any Christian who can vote for him, to write a post here that thoroughly explains how Joe Biden is sufficiently morally principled that I should vote for him even though I strongly disagree with many of his policy objectives. Please include a careful and thorough discussion of how Biden’s moral principles, based on his Catholic faith, led him to at least a limited opposition to abortion through consistent support of the Hyde Amendment for all of his career right up until 2008. And how those principles were happily tossed aside when presented the chance at the power of being President. Please explain to me how it is not morally corrupt for Joe Biden to espouse his current position on abortion given the principled position he has expressed in the past. Or, if you choose not to make that case, then explain why you or I should vote for him anyway.

    I imagine you could write that piece well, and it would include a thoughtful discussion of how, in politics, you can’t always get what you want and you need to compromise some of what you hope for in a leader because some issues, on balance, outweigh others. Then imagine applying that from a right-leaning political perspective and maybe you’ll understand how someone like me might be able to vote for someone like Trump even though I don’t like the guy at all.

    • Marie says:

      Amen!!! Wise words.

    • Blake says:

      I’m going to ignore you missing the point of the article and respond directly to your comment.
      Biden’s support for the Hyde Amendment ended in 2019, when he began outlining how his plan would expand Medicare and Medicaid (https://www.vox.com/2019/6/22/18713603/joe-biden-hyde-amendment). In his view, the Hyde Amendment would cause a significant barrier to abortion under his plan. Barriers to abortion proposed by states were struck down in recent Supreme Court decisions, because they are illegal.
      But, if you assume it is appropriate to take one’s view of the abortion debate and use consistency as a measure of morality, Trump changed his publicly shared opinion as he delved into politics (https://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/video/trump-in-1999-i-am-very-pro-choice-480297539914 and https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-35912638). It’s as if his “principles were happily tossed aside when presented the chance at the power of being President.”

      • Tom says:

        You believe I missed the point of the essay, but I think not. You may have missed my point by a bit. I am all for going after Christians, particularly Christian leaders, who have enthusiastically jumped on the Trump train – go after them with hammer and tongs, I’m all for it. Personally, I am politically conservative, a staunchly limited government guy. I could not vote for Trump in 2016, so I left that part of the ballot blank; I expect I’ll do so again this year. My point, as always, is that essays like this one and like Jeff Munroe’s a while back, throw every Trump voter into one lake of fire as though it must be impossible to reconcile the Christian faith with a vote for Donald Trump. Well, I know many faithful Christians who held their noses and voted for Trump, people who live humble faithful lives, care for their neighbors, are active in neighborhood ministries, all that — they are not signing onto Satan’s team with their vote!

        My point is that when we have two options on the ballot, it’s pretty rare when we don’t all have to compromise some of our principles to vote for one of the candidates. I used abortion as an example here because it’s the most obvious instance, but there are many issues to which this applies. And we all tend to show a lot more grace in this regard to ourselves than we do to others because we understand the nuances of our own thought process; meanwhile we look at others and think they just snapped to particular judgement and just because they’re voting for Trump they must agree with everything he does. That’s simply not true.

        So, go ahead and make the argument for Joe or against DJT; just don’t condemn those who, after thinking it through, conclude differently than.

    • Norm Heersink says:

      Thank you Tom.

    • Gordon and Ruth Kamps says:

      Gordkamps Amen!

  • Grace Shearer says:

    Thanks, Kate. Well done.

  • Karen Schuitema says:

    Kate, I so appreciate your voice …thank you!

  • Helen P says:

    Amen and Amen Kate.

  • I have been saying to my Republican 96 year old father – and I think he is getting it – that at least with Joe Biden you get someone who knows he’s a mortal, that he’s willing to apologize, that he seeks the advice of others who may be wiser and smarter than he is about certain things. He’s a collaborator, someone who is not afraid to change his mind when the circumstances and evidence require it, and to lean into the faces and eyes and hearts of others who do not look like him.

  • Nate Johnson says:

    Thank you Kate for your witness.

  • Daniel Miller says:

    You are absolute correct. Donald Trump’s shout out to right wing extremists, it can no longer be called a “dog whistle,” raises the specter of violence at the polls and puts our democracy in jeopardy. See Tom Friedman’s column in Wednesday’s New York Times for a sobering analysis of what’s at stake. However one feels about Joe Biden and the Democrats, Christians should have nothing to do with Donald Trump or the national Republican Party that he has fashioned in his image. It has become a fascist movement.

    • Dan says:

      As you may know, dog whistles are only audible to dogs, not humans. Ironically, the only people hearing these supposed dog whistles are lefties. Isn’t that curious?

  • Susan DeYoung says:

    You’re right, Kate. By not choosing a side, one is choosing a side. OK, let’s do this. No more “passing by on the other side.” Time to toss our selfish need for comfort aside and look straight into the mess. Really look. See the hurting and dying. Call out the abuse and name the abuser. Do what needs to be done. Whatever the personal cost. The cost of choosing to look away is unthinkable. May God have mercy on us.

  • Scott Hoezee says:

    Five years ago some wise columnists warned of engaging in a “false equivalency” where Trump is concerned. That means, treating Trump as though he is a normal person not much different from anyone else who has ever run for the White House and equal in standing to someone like Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. But that’s untrue. Trump cannot be compared to anyone else who is a “normal” candidate of either party because he’s too twisted, too sadly broken, too damaged. Four years ago Hillary was the devil in the blue dress and we were told repeatedly that if they had to choose the lesser of two “evils,” they would choose Trump. Joe Biden is not perfect but he is a very different person than Hillary and yet I am reading it again (just did not on Facebook): we have two “evils” to choose between so why not go with Trump? Christians who talk this way bear false witness. And hiding behind this false equivalency to give white supremacy and rank threats to our Constitution a pass is morally repugnant. And you are right, Kate: It is the making of a solemn choice.

  • James Schaap says:

    During that madness, the abuser who is our President abused Joe Biden and Chris Wallace and the whole idea of a debate. The President of the United States abused the very country whose flag he claims to adore, abused democracy in fact, abused every one of us, including his disciples. Thank you, Kate.

  • Cal Verduin says:

    I too am anti Trump, but doesn’t the author see that she advocates taking sides so long as it is the “right” side?

  • Harris says:

    The one thing missing here is love: we cannot choose a side without also loving those on the other side. The way of righteousness is also the way of the cross.

    • Kathy DeMey says:

      I don’t think love is missing. Love for the most vulnerable in our society is at the heart of why I’m not voting for Donald Trump.

  • George Vink says:

    Thanks, Kate.
    I’m so, so tired of the rationalizing my colleagues and others are doing to justify their voting for the evil displayed so blatantly again on debate night. Thanks Scott H. for a precise analysis of its history and Jim S. for your observations. I’m sorry, Tom, but I believe it takes an ethical distortion to support a tyrant in disguise.

  • Sheryl Beerens says:

    Thank you so much for this post, Kate! You named it for what it is and may we all have the courage to speak up.

  • John Kleinheksel says:

    If you are willing to “speak up,” I invite you to be a signatory of an Anti-Trump Op-Ed I will be sending in to the Holland Sentinel this weekend.
    So far I have 24 signees. Email me at: for a copy of the “Letter to All Undecided Voters.”. You have 24 hours to say “yes” or “no”.

  • Jeanne Engelhard says:

    Beautifully said! AMEN!

  • Judie Zoerhof says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I don’t see our current situation as Republican versus Democrate. There are too many issues. Dividing our nation and coming to the very edge of calling for civil war is appalling. We need decency, unity, and understanding of the Constitution.

  • Fran Siems says:

    I’ve just re-read this post and all the comments. Only one mentioned prayer. Is our unlikable President so detested that he doesn’t deserve prayer? God works miracles at times. Harris has it right – “One thing missing here is love.” Just a simplistic request: please join me in praying for our President and our country, as some of us have been doing for four years.

    • Kathy DeMey says:

      Oh, yes. Good reminder. Prayer that the election process goes smoothly with no violence or intimidation at the polls, no sore losers, no feat-mongering, and a peaceful transition. The American people deserve that. And not only prayer. Fasting along with it. That’s what I’m challenging myself to do.

    • Mark Zietse says:

      From reading that article it looks like people continue to buy into the fear mongering and other lies necessary to get votes.
      Our democracy is in trouble right now and has been damaged severely the last 4 years. If you can’t see that….

      Somebody much wiser and eloquent than I am wrote:
      Just a note for my right leaning family and friends from my left leaning self as we near voting day: Republicans lie and try to convince good people to live in fear. Here is the truth:
      They say we want to disband police departments (and that we hate the police)” we don’t, that’s a lie.
      We want to weed out racism and unnecessary police brutality and for those who abuse their power to be held accountable.
      They say we want to release all prisoners: we don’t, that’s a lie. We want to weed out racisms and ensure the punishments match the crimes and to de-privatize prisons.
      The say we want open borders: We don’t, that’s a lie. We want asylum seekers to be given their chance to seek asylum. We want to help people who are coming from unimaginable terror and poverty help to give them the chances we have. We want to ensure children aren’t separate from their parents and that nobody is kept in cages. But we do want proper vetting.
      They say we want to take away your guns, we don’t , that’s a lie. We want logical gun control to help prevent mass shootings.
      They say we want to wage a war on Christianity and Christian values: we don’t, that’s a lie. We want people of all religions to be able to practice and worship freely.
      They say we want to get everything for free: We don’t, that’s a lie. We want to work hard and make sure that healthcare and education are affordable for all.
      They say we want a war against traditional marriage: we don’t, that’s a lie. We want people of all sexual orientations to be able to love freely, no matter who you love.
      They say we want to destroy or rewrite history: we don’t, that’s a lie. We want to recognize the ugly parts of our past and do everything we can to say “that’s not okay, let’s not honor those aggressors, let’s not let those things happen again”.
      They say we want to take away your constitutional rights: we don’t, that’s a lie. We choose to believe science and war masks and try to prevent the spread of this disease.
      They say we hate America: we don’t, that’s a lie. We just recognize our faults and want us to do better, be better.
      Stop with the us vs them. Stop with the straw man arguments. Stop with the fake news. Our position is one of empathy, compassion and logic. Stop believing the hype. Stop with the division. Just because we want equality for all doesn’t mean we want to take anything away from you.

    • Dana says:

      Wow. James Dobson. I didn’t know it got this bad. Voting for freedom in the suburbs? That’s quite the letter. This will be a stage we look back on and marvel at the gaslighting done by so many white evangelical leaders. Just astounding.

  • Sheri says:

    Thanks Dan for posting this. Enjoyed the read

  • Tom Eggebeen says:

    Kate, well said … I appreciated your comment about folks looking for the middle … advice frequently given to Jeremiah and to the other prophets … and when the Jerusalem elite told Jesus to hush-up his disciples. Those on the side of power always suggest that prophets, et al, should settle down and “see the other side,” take a more “reasonable” look at things. Almost always, this kind of advice, this notion of “well, everyone is a jerk” comes from those who, in fact, favor a more anti-democratic side of the issue – being anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-equality, etc, but prefer to politely not say so, but rather erase the distinctions among the opinions. “Oh well, aren’t we all sinners?”

  • Ken Baker says:

    Whew! And Amen!

  • While Kate and I have disagreed on many POLICY ideas and the ROLE OF THE CHURCH in partisan politics, I completely AGREE that Christians ought to be open and honest about what “side” they are on. One of the worst things that a Christian can do, particularly one who is in a position of power, is to wear a false mantle of objectivity and neutrality. Much damage has been done by people wielding power for biased reasons, while pretending to be unbiased.

  • Michael Bentley says:

    I can agree with a lot of this post. I didn’t vote for Donald Trump in 2016, and I won’t be doing it in 2020 – the recent debate illustrates several reasons why. However, the moral disqualification of Donald Trump does not necessitate the moral superiority of Joe Biden. The Christian “side” this election season does not align with either Democrats or Republicans.

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