In October, I experienced “fifteen minutes of fame.”

I left a kind and generous congregation to use what little voice I had against American evangelicalism’s zealous obsession with Donald Trump and its willful abandonment of the agenda of Christ and his kingdom.

Shortly after I left my church, I spoke with our local newspaper, which did a story, and that story took wings. The piece was picked up by other news outlets, and then stories about my departure appeared in major American newspapers on both coasts. Suddenly, my wife Alicia and I were living in a whirlwind, and we were hearing the voices of many, many people.

Some of the voices called me a “baby killer” and a pedophile. One guy said, “Have fun working for the Devil.” Other people from my town and faith tradition felt the need to reprimand me. So there’s that.

What mattered most, though, was hearing a voice like Jim’s: “I haven’t attended church in eons,” he said, citing “an attitude” in his church, “now only to be made worse by our nation’s ‘leader.’”

Besides hundreds of responses sent to the newspapers and their sites, we personally received more than three hundred messages like his, delivered via email, text, Facebook, and old-fashioned postal mail. Messages even came to us from Canada, England, and Spain.

I don’t know how they found my wife’s number or mine, but they called. There were phone calls from pastors from around the country, including several African American pastors, who spoke with such love and passion they made us cry. People said, “Thanks for giving me courage and hope” and, “Thanks for helping me know that I can still think of myself as a Christian and not vote for Donald Trump.”

Messages came from young people, dear God, so many young people like Jim, lost and estranged from the church. We cried again and again as we listened to the spiritual pain revealed in the hearts of so many thoughtful Christian people.

We wept because their messages revealed how badly the church had failed them, specifically the shameful, abysmal TrumpChurch.

TrumpChurch shouted “Pro-Life” with regard to unborn babies, but was silent over separating children from their parents at the border. TrumpChurch refused to consider thoughtful engagement over how concepts like “Sanctity of Life” and “Image of God” might apply to compassionate and dignified immigration reform, and instead were quite pleased with cages and a border wall.

TrumpChurch saw vigilante mobs, stoked with belligerence by their leader, circling in their pick-up trucks adorned with his flags, and it saw angry white men with semi-automatic weapons standing on the steps of Michigan’s capital, and thought that was acceptable, even laudable. Yet when it saw disenfranchised crowds of people in the streets, peaceful crowds, then it suddenly freaked out and nodded in stern agreement with Trump’s call for “law and order.”

TrumpChurch was purposefully silent when it observed black men and women shot and choked to death by our own police. It attended Trump’s vicious rallies, and when it heard Trump’s dog whistles to racists, it raised its voice, usually reserved for hymns, and chanted and cheered. TrumpChurch saw this wicked, brutal bully stir up division and hate, and said, “Yeah, but he’s doing so much good.”

TrumpChurch followed the reckless and often crackpot advice of their leader regarding COVID, and thus churchgoers became the most careless, inconsiderate, and dangerous spreaders of the virus among us. It proclaimed, “Faith over Fear” regarding the virus, but clamored for, purchased, and hid behind its guns when facing other threats. It blithely swept aside major biblical and kingdom concerns and said that Trump was God’s man, as evidenced by the stock market.

TrumpChurch refused to use its voice beyond anything but abortion and . . . mammon. In the face of Trump’s increasingly deranged and unhinged behavior, it still willfully and blindly followed him. In all of this, it revealed itself to have utterly misunderstood Jesus and his kingdom. The light it claims to have within it is darkness. As a result it has left behind a myriad of bewildered, troubled, and yearning souls.

Yet, praise God there are many who have not bowed down. As God told Elijah to rise up and get back to work, so this suffering remnant of believers must come out from the shadows and confidently reject TrumpChurch and begin a new Reformation.

Sadly, whether Trump is president or not, a disturbingly large portion of the American Church continues to live and move and have its being in lockstep with Trumpish beliefs. Read carefully what Jim said: he left church because “the attitude” was made worse by Trump, meaning “the attitude” already existed.

From the “offended” camp of voices who contacted me, some insisted that their church is not as political as I am suggesting. No, your church is political. It is the air you breathe, but you don’t notice because you like it and it suits you. You never noticed how much people like Jim are suffering, never noticed when he left, nor wondered why. Nor did you ever wonder why non-Christians can utterly not relate to you or respect you.

So, Jim (and Mary, and Pastor Emmet, and Carissa, and so many others), have courage. Don’t hide or shrink back. Don’t doubt yourself. Your heart has been right to not feel at home in the church in its current lost-ness. Please: YOU be the followers of Christ. Leave TrumpChurch and form new churches, different churches. Not BidenChurches either – just Jesus churches. Know God purely, simply, and beautifully. Pour out the compassion of Christ liberally and abundantly. Use your voice for kingdom things. There is a cloud of witnesses whose hearts beat like yours.

My fifteen minutes of fame showed me that souls are calling out to us for un-shackled freedom from, and for healing from, Trumpism and from TrumpChurch. Go, then, and heal the world: Reclaim and reform the witness of Christ.

Keith Mannes

Keith Mannes is a minister in the Christian Reformed Church.

35 Comments

  • Pam Adams says:

    Keith, That is a passionate speech that I agree with with all my heart. We are so “me” oriented that we fail to see who we have damaged with our years of thinking only about the powerful and not the other people in our society, those who paid a high price for contributing to our nation. We have not thanked (with remorse) the Native Americans and African Americans who were cheated of their land and labor. Yes, it is high time to get de-Trumped.

  • Keith, I am so thankful for your courage and faithfulness to the Holy Spirit’s urging. One of the reasons I left pastoring a church in the US to return to Canada is this very reasons you cite. The American, Nationalist, Trumpish church I saw did not reflect the Jesus I so deeply cherish and love. Even though no church is perfect the idolatry was too blatant for me. And as you stated, it is unseen by those steeped in it. May God richly bless you for your obedience to the Spirit.

  • Tim says:

    Amen Keith. Thank you for your witness and your courage. I was up before dawn with anxiety-sourced insomnia over blatant Republican attempts to delegitimize an election where Trump lost the electoral college vote and is on track to lose the popular vote by more than 5M – what some are starting to call a coup attempt – all to rescue Trump from an overdue reckoning. As a professor at a large secular university I have opportunity to discuss faith (or lack of it) with students across the believer-atheist spectrum. For them, there is nothing more poisonous to the case for Christianity than the association with Trumpism. Every conversation requires me to add the caveat that “…I’m not THAT kind of a Christian.” Christianity becomes repellant in proportion to its identity with Trumpchurch.

  • mstair says:

    What if the “Trumpchurch” phenomena is not a free-will decision, but a judgement – a letting go – from God on our faithless nation …?

    That people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things (Isaiah 45: 6-7).

    Christ’s Church (His unassembled Assembly) is still proclaiming, calling for repentance & baptism, finding and helping The Least of The Sisters and Brothers …

    It’s the actual assembling to support other agendas that messes it up – like Jesus’ audit of finding just two of the seven in His Revelation – there just aren’t as many on the right track as we thought …

  • Bob VL says:

    Thank you for your courage and conviction. Trump grabbed an opportunity but the groundwork was laid decades before.

  • Rowland Van Es, Jr. says:

    Exit polls indicate that Trumps support among white evangelicals fell 6% from 81% in 2016 to 75% in 2020. There was also a jump of 6% of Catholics voting for Bidden (51% vs 45% who voted for Hillary last time). Both shifts were significant in the swing states of WI, MI and PA. The other trend is the 15% drop in the number of people registered who say they are Christians (64% in 2020 vs 79% in 2008). More of the younger voters are unaffiliated. I wish our churches could figure out a way to stay involved in the issues (and therefore “political”) but without having to be so partisan (GOP or DNC).

  • Randall says:

    Your prejudice, judgementalism, vitriol and narrow minded, biased assessment of a number of very complex situations is – quite frankly – breathtaking.

  • Rodger Rice says:

    Thanks, Keith, for demonstrating courage in Christ. I fear for the church, really the TrumpChurch, as you call it. I pray that it’s not too late to change it. I thank God for you. Keep on being faithful even when the going gets tough. Remember there are a lot of us that God is empowering to do what you’re doing. We’re with you. God be with us all.

  • Lynn Setsma says:

    And now I’m weeping. You touched me at the core of who I am – a follower of Jesus. Thank you for this and your courage to speak out.

  • Grace Shearer says:

    Thank you for taking this stand and sharing your experiences with us. Many of have been praying for you since your departure was announced. Blessings.

  • Jeanne Engelhard says:

    Thank you for your courage and fortitude! May we all be so brave in the face of such misguided “truths”.

  • Tom says:

    “There is not a great line running through the center of the cosmos with the deserving on one side and the undeserving on the other — but, if there were, why should any of us be terribly confident that we’d be on the sunny side of it?”
    – Kevin D. Williamson

    After a lot of introspection and consideration of the two options in light of my faith, I cast my vote for Trump, not because I love Trump or am “Trumpist” but because I felt that would likely result in the better outcome for our nation. Anyone reading this is free to disagree with me and most probably do. But, in light of this essay, is it then right that in my faith community (also CRC, by the way) I have been told that I, along with any Christian who voted Trump, need to get down on my knees and ask God’s forgiveness for that choice?

    A little humility would be a good thing for all sides.

    • Tom Ackerman says:

      Thank you for posting. I know that your position reflects that of many Christians. I hope that you will consider of couple of points in response.
      By voting for Trump, you are asserting that the personal character of the candidate for office is only a minor matter, if it matters at all. I wonder if you said the same during the Clinton sexual debacle. By its unwavering support of Trump, the evangelical (whatever that means) church has forfeited any further right to talk about personal character in political candidates, regardless of party affiliation.
      By voting for Trump, you are asserting that the political and societal norms that have helped guide this country do not matter. Trump lies so often and so egregiously that we no longer seem to understand that truth matters or that policy should be based on commonly accepted facts. Trump has spent 4 years representing only those who slavishly follow him and denigrating those who do not. He, and his administration, appear to have no concept of the common good or that those who think differently than he does might still have some worth in the eyes of God or the Republican party. And now, we see him seeking to destroy that very bedrock of American democracy – accepting election results and the peaceful transfer of power.
      Your final sentence is true, but embodies the beam in the eye of Trump supporters. I am very weary of listening to “both side-ism” comments by Republicans. Would someone show me where Trump, or any of his devout supporters, have advocated listening to the “other” side? Or recognized the “other” side as patriotic Americans? Etc., etc. I can show you dozens, probably hundreds, of articles written by the progressive side of American politics (and to be fair, some never-Trumpers) questioning their own positions and arguing for reaching out to the right, but none from the other side. Compromise is a two-way street, not a one-way road to my destination.

      • Tom says:

        I make no defense of Trump. He deserves most of the criticism he gets. The only times I have posted on this blog is in response to vilification of those who chose to vote for him. I don’t really feel like writing an entire essay in response to your comment, but it’s hard to respond briefly. I see over and over again that supposedly the evangelical church “unwaveringly supports Trump”; I don’t accept that idea because it doesn’t match the reality I see. I know many right-leaning Christians who have held their noses and voted for him, fully aware of his shortcomings and with nothing close to unwavering support. Bear in mind that in most contexts, the people speaking loudest speak for a small minority. I’m not saying that isn’t a significant slice of evangelicals, but I’d guess it’s a much smaller portion than you think.

        I don’t think a candidate’s character is a minor matter, but to say Joe Biden is paragon of virtue is a major stretch. He has been credibly accused of sexual assault by Tara Reade (more credibly that Brett Kavanaugh was accused, although you won’t find that story in the New York Times); his immediate family members have become wealthy by trading on his name, and you can’t credibly buy Joe’s story that he has no idea that was going on (it does not take much Imagination to envision what would be all over the news if Eric Trump were collecting $3 million from a Ukrainian company). He lies about his own accomplishments in school; he’s plagiarized speeches multiple times, even to the point of telling other people’s family stories as though they are his own; perhaps most reprehensibly, he found the need to embellish the already tragic story of the death of his wife and child by adding the false detail that the truck driver that struck her car was driving drunk – a story he continued to tell even after the man’s family pointed out the falsehood and implored him to stop denigrating their father.

        But worst of all is his stance on abortion. I realize that Trump’s pro-life position is purely transactional, but at least it’s transactional in the moral direction. Abortion is a fundamentally moral issue; one can be politically flexible on whether the top marginal tax rate should be 32.5% or 39%, but abortion is different. In a way, I can respect a strong pro-choice view that says “that’s just a clump of cells, not a person, and I can do what I want with it” – that, at least, is logically consistent. Biden is a committed Catholic by his own confession; and has taken a principled pro-life view for most of his political career; and even as his party moved further toward Planned Parenthood’s position, he at least maintained support for the Hyde Amendment. But, when presented a shot at the ultimate seat of power, he happily traded his moral convictions for the ‘ring of power’. That is a moral failure equal to any of Trump’s moral failures – Trump has really never claimed to believe in anything bigger than himself, so I don’t expect much out of him; Joe claims the same faith that I claim, am I wrong for expect some spine out of him?

        The reality is that Joe Biden has always been a weather vane, a glad-handing, smiling politician with a pretty good schtick who will play whatever part he needs to keep himself in the spotlight and in power. In short, he ain’t much different than Trump, he just plays the part in a nicer way.

        So, yeah, I felt like I was standing in line at Taco Bell, trying to decide which of these menu items I will regret least. I’m a “small government conservative”, I’m pretty sure that’s the best way to run a country; I prayed about it; I don’t like Trump, but in the end I chose him because he’s more likely than Biden to take our nation’s governance in my preferred direction. If you prefer left-leaning policies, then by all means feel great about your vote for Biden and be glad he won, just don’t fool yourself into thinking that somehow your choice is more moral than mine.

        • Kenneth J Vanderploeg says:

          Thanks Tom for articulating something I’ve wanted to say: I’m a Canadian and have no vested interest in who to vote for because I can’t, but as I watch Christians accuse each other of “voting for the devil”, I ask myself, since when did Jesus become the Party Leader of either party? Truth is, in many ways both sides are right to accuse each other of voting for the devil. Both Candidates do a fair representation of “The Deceiver”, the “arrogant proud beast with horns” boasting of great things. Neither candidate would shine like stars of righteousness before Christ the king. So I am sorry for all of you who have to decide which way to vote: I have to agree: look at which political party will better represent your ideal of reclaiming every square inch for Christ and his glory, knowing that no one party will ever do it perfectly.
          Neither Biden nor Trump will eliminate Racism, Police Brutality, or every inhuman act of violence perpetrated on the vulnerable. Sin is in the heart of every man, woman, and child, and they can’t stop sin from happening. We all tend to put our own interests first, for the most part, and so it’s hard not to see everything with tinted glasses and filter out the things we don’t want to see. So we have a tendency to be blind to our own faults, and exaggerate the faults of others that we dislike. But please let’s not equate a political leader with being the savior or Jesus’ candidate for President!!! And maybe we shouldn’t over state their similarities to the father of lies either. Certainly we can all be tools in the hands of either. When we stand and belittle our brothers and sisters for voting one way or the other, who wins? Is Jesus or his body glorified in that? Then it should be clear whose service we are in when we do that.
          Ken

  • Jim Payton says:

    Your bold words here comfort and encourage me, and your readiness to act on them by stepping down from your congregation shows how much you were willing to live by them. As a dual citizen, I have been profoundly distressed by what white evangelicalism — including so much of the CRC in the USA — has become and has welcomed. Thank you for pointing to the elephant in the room.

  • jim Hibma says:

    mmmm. “better outcome for our nation….’ translated “better outcome for your white privilege.” One can not objectively look at the past four years and say that the nation is better off except if you make more than 200K or you are white and don’t really believe that Jesus was a brown man.

  • Ron Nydam says:

    Hello Keith, I very much appreciated everything you had to say. I don’t think your 15 minutes of Fame are over. You have spoken the truth for many of us who do not identify with the even Jellicle Christian these days. When I find haunting and difficult for me to understand is that we the people, we as a nation, we elected Trump in 2016. Somehow we saw an image of ourselves in our leader. What does it say about us and our own national personality disorder where we worship ourselves so narcissistically instead of worshiping our Lord? As if we have a right not to wear a mask? As if we have a right to forget about the needs of our neighbors and the poor and the sick and all those whom Jesus visited. Especially the 666 children who have forever lost their parents. Interesting number. Anyway, thank you Keith for stepping forward.

  • Ron Nydam says:

    Hello Keith, I very much appreciated everything you had to say. I don’t think your 15 minutes of Fame are over. You have spoken the truth for many of us who do not identify with the evangelical Christian these days. What I find haunting and difficult for me to understand is that we the people, we as a nation, we elected Trump in 2016. Somehow we saw an image of ourselves in our leader. What does it say about us and our own national personality disorder where we worship ourselves so narcissistically instead of worshiping our Lord? As if we have a right not to wear a mask? As if we have a right to forget about the needs of our neighbors and the poor and the sick and all those whom Jesus visited. Especially the 666 children who have forever lost their parents. Interesting number. Anyway, thank you Keith for stepping forward.

  • Mary VanderVennen says:

    Thank you for your courage. I pray that there will be many more prophetic voices exhorting us to examine our hearts and minds and voices in the light of Scripture rather than in the light of politics and privilege.

  • James C Dekker says:

    Thank you, Keith, for your words, especially the coinage of “TrumpChurch,” which is apt. Having said that, I also respond to Tom–who must be thoughtful and serious–that I don’t believe all who voted for Trump necessarily belong to TrumpChurch, though a large number evidently still do. I have heard (is this accurate?) that the %age dropped from 82% to 75% of white ev voters, which is not a small number and may have helped elect Biden. As a dual citizen, I voted for Biden w/ some enthusiasm, but also recognize his somewhat speckled past and inconsistency on race and the lasting uncritical Democratic support of virtually unlimited abortion, alas. But Biden will not, I believe, continue the profane, insulting, hateful, disrespectful tone of public (or private) discourse. Blessings to you as you continue your pilgrimage.

  • Gary VanHouten says:

    Thank you Keith! A large segment of the church has been heading in the direction of TrumpChurch for a long time, but the last four years made it abundantly clear what that segment would not only accept but also condone. Your courage and example are an inspiration to those of us who thought the situation was pretty much lost and hope was fading. Your witness has restored hope for many. And Trump whether he accepts it or not is on his way out. Would that he could take TrumpChurch with him.

  • Thank you to you and Alicia for putting your faith into words and action at a great cost. You have brought to greater awareness what so many are sensing, that there is an insidious evil afoot in the Christian church in America which Richard Mouw expresseed well in these words, “The Christian church in America is too much in love with culture to which it has been sent to transform (into the image of Jesus Christ), TrumpChurch has taken this to a deeper level which further removes the church from Bonhoeffer-kind discipleship. Your suffering is redemptive. Judy and I are praying that you and Alicia are safe and sound and secure and on a new path of joyful service.

  • Doug Vande Griend says:

    The self-righteous sanctimony in this article is breathtaking. Frankly, it is much the same as I’d expect from a guy named Donald Trump. He too thinks God is quite exclusively on his side, that he is simply right, and that he is desperate to lead all others away from that which is evil (or at least to condemn them).

    Too harsh about this article? Consider:
    ——————–
    “Sadly, whether Trump is president or not, a disturbingly large portion of the American Church continues to live and move and have its being in lockstep with Trumpish beliefs. Read carefully what Jim said: he left church because “the attitude” was made worse by Trump, meaning “the attitude” already existed.”
    ———————
    So, you know the hearts of this “disturbingly large portion of the American Church”? And their heart is to be just like Trump, not merely to vote for him, right? But that’s not you, right? You are other. And you are the righteous one who has the right to thank God in his pray that he is not like the publican, right?

    Or:
    ———————-
    From the “offended” camp of voices who contacted me, some insisted that their church is not as political as I am suggesting. No, your church is political. It is the air you breathe, but you don’t notice because you like it and it suits you. You never noticed how much people like Jim are suffering, never noticed when he left, nor wondered why. Nor did you ever wonder why non-Christians can utterly not relate to you or respect you.
    ———————-
    And you know all of these church and their members so well that you KNOW their hearts and their evil political inclinations, that such is the “air” they “breathe” but that they “don’t notice” because they “like it”? And you don’t breathe any bad air yourself, right? Your political inclinations are good, right? Because … well, because you say so, right (and you know)?

    I voted for Trump (2016 and 2020). Am I too merely a “obsessed zealot” of the “TrumpChurch”? Hey, I voted for him. Isn’t that enough for you to know in order for you to lump me in to the category of one who has “willful[ly] abandon[ed] … the agenda of Christ and his kingdom”?

    For the record, Pastor Mannes, my best guess — not knowingly you personally — is that you are a good man, a follower of Christ who is well intentioned, even when you so easily broadbrush condemnation upon other followers of Christ, that is, your brothers and sisters, even when you don’t know them personally AT ALL. For the record, I think you are naive, Pastor Mannes, about matters political, but that wouldn’t be surprising given that you are a pastor, not a politician, political theorist, or even a lawyer (one who has studied and practiced in the world of what political processing are and create). And understand thinking you naive, which I do, isn’t nearly as condemning (if at all) as being one who has “willful[ly] abandon[ed] … the agenda of Christ and his kingdom.”

    I’m a lawyer, by the way, quite experienced in law/government and at age 66, in life in general as well. I can’t really “stand Trump” “as a person.” He is an ADHD narcissist who was apparently born with a hard-wired connection between his brain and his mouth (hey, those with touretts syndrome have the same even if different). When I vote these days for federal level political representatives (which includes president), I dominantly vote for party because doing so required by the facts if one is to vote for a certain “federal governmental perspective,” and that is all a voter can really intelligibly do. Yes, my sense of intelligible, but I quite believe anything else is naive. We once lived in a time where people legitimately claimed there was no difference in federal policy between the parties, and they were correct. How times have changed. Which is why I tend more these days to vote for a party, for a broad perspective about what the federal government should do and how it should do it.

    Responding to another comment to this article, I didn’t think Clinton should have been impeached, not then, not now. He was actually a very good President, one of the few who was willing to seriously cross party lines (unlike his wife) to “govern well” (thus, we balanced the budget, implemented good welfare reform, and more). But boy was Clinton a womanizer and then some. In today’s political world, voting only for “good people” for president (other offices too) mandates, frankly, not voting. Yes, NOT VOTING. Unlike the days of, say, Mark Hatfield, politicians generally won’t be elected (at the federal level) unless they are willing to selling a much-too-high-a-percentage of their soul to get elected — and then to stay elected. Like it or not, that is the state of American federal level politics.

    So, one is left with a choice: either (1) don’t vote (in a way that affects who gets elected at least) or (2) vote for a “political side” (not person) that one believes will result in the best governance for the country. Yes, sad, but that’s simply the choice we now have. It may have been different in the past. It might be different in the future. But that’s what we have now. And since I opt to vote, I vote for the “political side” that will, in my opinion, result in the best governance for out country. Trump was on that side of the list for me, both in 2016 and in 2020, even if I considered him the only person who should clearly have beeen rejected in the 2016 Republican primaries. The presidential race (the general election) is in fact a binary choice, even if you and others get sick and tired of hearing that.

    So I’m quite comfortable with my decision to vote for Trump. Now that Biden has been elected, I’ll regard him as President (which is better than Trump got from many), and evaluate him as president as I largely did Trump and Clinton, which is by largely evaluating his actions (not his rhetoric). Certainly, Biden’s rhetoric will be much nicer than Trump’s, but he’ll probably lie just as much (he has already). And Biden will be less an obvious narcissist than Trump, but his presidency will be for him too, too much about his legacy. And as in the case of Bill Clinton , I’ll judge Biden’s presidency by his decisions/actions, not be his personality or even his rhetoric, and not by being “obsessed” with his personality (nor, incidentally, the allegation of rape against him, nor the foreign money corruption allegations against him, nor the many videos of him stroking the hair and face of females).

    By the way, about 83% of Sioux County and Lyon County, Iowa voters just cast their ballots for Trump (in the 2016 general and just a couple of weeks ago). I’m wondering if you consider them to have also “willful[ly] abandon[ed] … the agenda of Christ and his kingdom”? My mother was one of them. Her analysis was more like mine, much, much less like yours. Do I and all these NW Iowans (largely reformed folks at that) deserve your casting out as well? Are we all publicans too that give you cause to thank God for not being like?

    In his comment, “Tom” (not Tom Ackerman) said: “A little humility would be a good thing for all sides.” I quite agree.

    • Ken Nydam says:

      Hi Doug,
      I agree with you that many vote for a political party because that party best represents their preference on how the government should govern and the personalities attached to the ideology become secondary to the ideology itself. If one thinks the best government is the least government, then vote Republican (and therefore vote for Trump). I have done that myself. So, what may be different in 2020? It may be that the view from the pew (so to speak) is a person, namely Trump, whose view of himself and his treatment of the other two branches of government appear (from the pew) to challenge the very core of democracy. (A Republic) Much of how Trump persuades smacks of fascist beginnings from a view of history. If that feels like an overreaction, we should consider adding the equation the new reality of a the post-Christian shift in American culture and what technology (and social media) has done to our culture in regard to creating a shallow and stereotypic worldview. We are living our lives vicariously as much as in reality. That shift in our culture has given rise to forces far more powerful than an ideology such as “the best government is the least government.” In such an environment of personalities such as Trump, who has been in the news almost every day of every year he has been running for office or in office, it is naive to believe that the USA is safe from the “narcissistic” threat of a leader who is addicted to self-adoration and has a media, hungry for a juicy story, around him 24/7 like flies on honey which propagates an persona -image which, it seems, many evangelical Christians have come to value more than their relationships with friends and relatives. His persona has also validated the underlying anger of millions of people frustrated by gridlocked government, mild depression, and having their rugged western individualism challenged. Unfortunately, Trump has given them permission to channel that anger toward violence and a bullying approach to opposition. This is undeniable. Can Christians really participate is such things or ignore them? Is this the America we want? “By their fruits you shall know them.”

      • Doug Vande Griend says:

        Ken: You begin, or almost, by talking about Trump and how he is truly different, that is, “how he persuades smacks of fascism.” I’m sorry but I had to laugh out loud at that. I suspect you recall that both the FBI and CIA were accommodating to the H Clinton campaign’s smearing of Trump via a conjured up dossier of made up smut (in part from Russians no less), then successfully conspired to remove Flynn from Trump’s administration by using deceit and, frankly, unlawful tactics that should have caused the ACLU to scream to high heaven, and then misrepresent facts to the FISA court, repeatedly, to smear, prosecute, threaten, attempt to “turn” (I.e., to lie) and to be granted warrants to surveil in ways that were clearly unlawful. In short, the actions of the FBI and CIA represented a coup attempt as the the head of the executive branch of the United States.
        And you say Trump smacked of fascism??? Wow, just wow. And I’m not being speculative. There is an abundance of publically available documents, many of which I read, including the Mueller report, which in itself represented a significant part of this coup attempt. Indeed, despite being lawyer for 41 years, I have never seen something like this, nor did I think I ever would, in the US and from the kind of people who did this.
        And I’ve not outlined all of the literally corruption efforts that were assembled against Trump, corruption of the kind and at a level that doesn’t smack of fascism but was was fascism was in real countries in not so long ago history (notice I haven’t mentioned Adam Scoff so far, or Brennan, or Clapper, or much about Hillary Clinton).
        I say none of this to justify Trump’s brash and irresponsible rhetoric (which probably more than anything else threw this election to Biden). But you are simply fooled if you think Trump was the greater of the smackers of fascist. That honor goes to Clinton, “never Trumpers” who held high level federal positions, and key people in the FBI and CIA. I suppose one could argue “Trump made them do it,” but that would even begin to fly. Trump spoke brashly, arrogantly, and irresponsibly in the primary and general election, but fascist actions AGAINST him, ACTIONS, began before his first day as President. Trump talked in a way that smacks you of fascism, those opposed to him (many in very high places) acted in ways that were fascist.
        And later you say Trump gave permission, to some, to bully. Maybe, but I’ll think you overstate that. What is more clear is that, for example, the Governor of Oregon, the mayor of Portland, and the DA of Multnomah County gave literal and physically actual permission to act like bullies and beyond that. While Antifa (a literally fascist organization) burned, assaulted, stole, destroyed property, and intimidated, the Mayor ordered the police to do nothing, the Governor bizarrely said Trump caused it (and did nothing to restrain it), and the DA publicly said he would not prosecute this fascists! And what did Biden and the Dems do? They made sure these fascists would vote Dem by standing silently by, saying they were peaceful protesters. It was not until one of these fascists literally stalked and murdered someone did you start to see anything of a second thought on the part of the Mayor, Governor and DA. But federal level Dems stilled stayed quiet. They didn’t want to offend those voters, or others that were fans of these fascists, at least not until the election.
        Again, I’m not seeking to justify in Trump that which I’ve already condemned. But the bigger fascists, actual fascists in repeated deed — and the bigger absolutely outrageous actors — are those who sought to carry out a coup to remove Trump.

  • John vanStaalduinen says:

    Thank you Doug, you have just earned my 15 minutes of fame, and I would like to double that to a whole half hour.

  • Jan Klooster says:

    Thank you, Pastor Mannes. I have been longing for voices to rise, like Bonhoffer’s so many years ago.

  • Pete Byma says:

    Keith, my friend, thanks for writing. Like my father always said, “it takes two to tangle”. No party is as good as it thinks it is and no party is as bad as other people say it is. Winning an election won’t bring perfection, losing one won’t bring disaster. It seems this talk is a lot about empire and not about Kingdom. My first and greatest loyalty is to God and His Kingdom—not to any nation or political movement.

    I see so much spiritual warfare in our discussions and attitudes these days. The “diabolos” (the devil) always sows division, doubt, discouragement, and distraction. He is scattering us. Thank the Lord, God is the one who gathers. But as Reformed Christians we live with the theological concept of total depravity. This concept does not mean that everyone is as bad as they can possibly be, thank God. It does mean that every one and every human endeavor is tainted by sin. We are never free from pride, greed, selfishness, jealousy, and failure to love God and fellow humans wholeheartedly. He permits humans to have free will but He has ultimate control.

    Keith, please don’t go off and pump gas someplace. Stay with us and help me as a collogue think biblically, pastorally, wisely, and Christlike.

  • Moser says:

    Thank you for this thought-provoking and reasoned response to the toxic atmosphere created by President Trump and his rabid followers. I was raised in the Christian Reformed Church but have grown increasingly disillusioned and estranged over the last 4 years as I heard so many self-professed Christians abandon the core values of our faith in favor of a misogynistic and racist megalomaniac who panders to his base while spewing hateful and divisive messages calculated to endorse and encourage chaos. I have heard over and over again from the “faithful” that they support Trump because the Bible teaches us to “hate the sin but love the sinner.” Nonsense. I was not excited to vote for Biden but believe he will do his level best to restore some sense of decency and stability to our country that has been sorely missing over the last 4 years. I hope and pray that President Trump will at long last accept the will of the American people and allow our country to heal without continuing to sow and encourage the discord and rancor that serves only to stroke his ego and personal gain.

  • Rose says:

    Thank you Pastor Mannes for making a stand and writing on it. It’s so important that it be said how deeply Trumps actions have deeply wounded so many.
    All I know is, no matter how right I feel I am, underneath it all-this hurts. With some time and space from this, I pray we are lead to the understanding and reconciliation most are longing for. I keep hearing we have more in common than what we disagree on.
    I wish there was a huge public platform with ideas on how we can bridge the gap to be unified, when the issues are so intense. I don’t know what Jesus would do but if I took a guess, He would want us to find a path to unity.

  • Rose says:

    I wanted to add- I imagine most people of faith are praying for unity too.

  • Randy Zylstra says:

    Dear Keith,
    Thank you for your obedience to the voice you so obviously hear. Thanks also to others who likewise respond from their various perspectives, according to their own life experiences.
    I will try to be brief in saying this election is VERY different, so my usual peace-making, mediating stance must change, even though it does stir some resentment. My perspective is not about good or bad parties or platforms or loyalists. But it is no coincidence that we are so antagonistically divided on the validity of news reports, medical expertise, election protocols or balance-of-power norms.
    Pardon the primitive analogy, but it is one we can all embrace: If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck and looks like a duck, it IS A DUCK! If it walks, talks, and looks like a bully, a chronic liar, and an exploiter of all check-and-balance systems within government and society, then it IS A NARCISSIST! And just because he is a Republican (or Democrat) Narcissist makes no difference. He is simply unfit for leadership of any kind!

    What has happened over the last four years is no surprise to any mental health clinician I know. It was apparent during the Republican Primary and has increased exponentially.
    Contrary to what a host of evangelical leaders suggest most incorrectly, this is not a personality vs platform issue. This is not just an arrogant and obnoxious person, this is Personality DISORDER! But don’t just take my word for it. If you do not have a psychiatric diagnostic manual, simply Google Narcissistic Personality Disorder. What you find should alarm you but will also confirm what you intuitively know. There are nine criteria used to identify NPD, only 5 of which are necessary for the diagnosis. Donald Trump manifests ALL NINE.
    Briefly, there are two most important things to note about NPD:
    1. It is a progressive illness that only gets worse, particularly when fueled by power, illegal and vindictive exploits, and social/moral violations. There is an added thrill that comes with exploiting others and breaking rules.
    2. It never ends well. Conclusions are generally vengeful, destructive, delusional and irrational, even violent. Admitting defeat, sharing, or cooperating for the greater good are nowhere found in the playbook.
    Enough. Jesus would certainly say forgive him for he knows not what he does. Consequently, so must I. But I also feel a call to expose, from a psychological standpoint, the danger he continues to pose. Leadership is where he does NOT belong. A leader’s primary purpose is to provide and model a principled template, a culture, which a nation adopts as its framework for interaction. This winner/loser, winner-take-all, never compromise template is nowhere found in the gospel. We must pray that a host of loyalists can do what the president cannot do, namely reboot themselves and re-engage.
    Randy

Leave a Reply