OP-ED: The Day the Church Closed

By Bishop J. Mark Freeman, Editorial Contributor

On Easter Sunday, the holiest of holy days, churches across the country were closed for the first time in our country’s history. Americans streamed worship services, virtually celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from smartphones, tablets and laptops. It’s a completely foreign concept: This has never happened before. Not after 9/11, or during the Ebola of H1N1 outbreaks. Even natural disasters don’t lead us to shut down our places of worship. In Nashville, churches without power still opened their doors as places of refuge for those impacted by the devastating storms.

But I believe that The Church closed long before local leaders ordered them to do so. It happened three-and-a-half years ago, when Conservative Christians and White Evangelicals secured Donald Trump’s reign in the White House through an overwhelming show of support at the polls in November, while overlooking real Christian values. To be more specific, 81% of White Evangelicals cast a vote for Trump in 2016– a greater share of the demographic than that of which voted for George W. Bush, John McCain, or Mitt Romney.

Even before he was elected, Trump kicked-off a comically un-presidential campaign, rooted in decidedly un-christian values. On the campaign trail, he bragged that he could shoot a man in the middle of the street without losing his voters. Trump’s growing list of horrifying behavior matched by unwavering support from some Conservative Christians and White Evangelicals shows he may be right. Prior to Election Day, an Access Hollywood tape published by The Washington Post exposed Trump for saying he could “do anything,” to women, including “grab ‘em by the p*ssy.” Long before they showed up at the polls, Americans knew that over a dozen women had accused the then-candidate of sexual incidents going back decades. Clearly, that didn’t bother Conservative Christians and White Evangelicals too much.

In the years since Trump took office, Americans have witnessed his blatant rejection of Christian values. In fact, Trump has exposed his uncompassionate soul so thoroughly, that we’ve grown weary of the media’s repetition of the long list of his clear infractions against the basic tenets of Christianity. We’ve watched Trump lock children in cages, encourage ICE to tear apart innocent, hard-working families, and pardon Joe Arpaio, one of the most prolific racial profilers this country’s ever seen. All the while, his incessant lying, and inability to restrain himself from engaging in the type of unprovoked name-calling akin to an elementary school play yard have solidified Trump as a jejune, pathological liar.

Who has remained incredibly loyal to the president despite his reckless, inappropriate, and down right evil behavior? Evangelical Republicans. A 2019 poll showed that his approval rating among voters of this demographic remained at 75%. Even after three years exposure to his immoral lifestyle, policies, and rhetoric, Conservative Evangelicals continue to support Donald Trump. This blatant hypocrisy is costing lives. It’s almost as if the same Conservatives who tout the importance of ‘family values’ are alright with keeping children in cages as there are rights for the unborn. Or maybe they believe it’s fine if millions of America die prematurely as a result of lack of access to healthcare, as long as Trump appoints conservative judges. And finally, their actions seem to suggest that it’s OK to stoke racism– as long as there are tax cuts for the rich.

This isn’t new. A subset of Evangelicals have been turning a blind eye to social injustices, overlooking real Christian values in exchange for perceived political and financial gain, for decades. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. criticized the same hypocrisy in his famous ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ more than 50 years ago.

Without Evangelical support, Trump would not have made it to the White House, and I’m convinced that with better leadership, this country would not be in complete disarray. Armed with the Obama-era Pandemic Taskforce that Trump destroyed, we might not lead the world in Covid-19 cases. God says to seek the kingdom first. Trump says “America first.” Conservative Christians and White Evangelicals listened to Trump, and in the midst of a pandemic, America is dead last. When a leader’s soul is corrupt, and Evangelicals turn a blind eye to that corruption, we are left with a leader without Godly values. In the age of coronavirus, the net result of this corruption has manifested in the form of 600,000 Covid cases, 25,000 deaths, and closed churches on Resurrection Sunday. In an anti-Christian bid to ‘Make America Great Again,’ White Evangelicals have instead, brought the nation to her knees.

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