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Hijacking American Christianity | Chris King
Trump’s visit to a Miami church exploits faith voters and doesn’t reflect all evangelicals, the former Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor writes.
President Donald Trump waves during a rally for evangelical supporters at the King Jesus International Ministry church on Friday in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
President Donald Trump waves during a rally for evangelical supporters at the King Jesus International Ministry church on Friday in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP ]
Published Jan. 5, 2020

In the 2018 election, I was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor following my own campaign for governor. I had some challenges. I was an entrepreneur without political experience. I am a married, straight, white male in an increasingly diverse Democratic Party. And the big kicker: I am an evangelical Christian.

That moniker frightens many progressives and Democrats (including me) for just the reasons we saw Friday, as President Donald Trump came to Florida to launch his “Evangelicals for Trump” re-election effort at a Miami mega-church with yet another bellicose, braggadocious, war-mongering performance.

For 40 years, the Christian right has owned "evangelical’' without competition. Under its influence, the term has become synonymous with a mostly white movement that has pushed anti-public school, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant and anti-gun safety legislation while providing little to the national conversation around economic inequality, racial reconciliation, interfaith dialogue, immigration, environmentalism or access to housing, health care and education.

Chris King, a former Democratic candidate for governor and the 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor.
Chris King, a former Democratic candidate for governor and the 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor.

Trump is a manifestation of the worst impulses of the movement. Instead of fulfilling our obligation to care for the sick and needy, he has made it his mission to undo the hard-fought advances we have achieved in our efforts to secure health care for everyone. Instead of reminding us that the Bible calls us to welcome the stranger, Trump has done his best to shut our doors and punish those who risk everything to seek a better life on our shores.

The American experiment is under assault by a demagogue whose chief electoral strategy is to exploit faith voters. In the 2018 Florida gubernatorial election, I watched Trump deride my running mate and friend, Andrew Gillum, and me by fomenting racial, religious and economic division in order to eke out a slim victory. We can’t let it happen again.

The Gospel is not about power, but love. It is not about personal adulation, but caring for others. It is not about propping up bullies but tending to the wounds of those who are bullied. It is not about showing favoritism to the wealthy and well-connected, but to the poor and disadvantaged. The Gospel has given hope before in the fight for abolition, women’s suffrage, against child labor and for civil rights. It can give hope again in America.

I felt close to Jesus when I was leading a protest of Trump’s cruel anti-immigration policies at the detention center in Homestead. I felt close to Jesus on my repeated visits to Little Haiti where I embraced a community as Trump disparaged their home. I felt close to Jesus standing with courageous men and women of the Everglades who are fighting sugar cane burning and parents of gun violence victims in St. Pete and Jacksonville who are fighting back against racist policies like Stand Your Ground. And yes, I felt close to Jesus when I marched in Pride parades across Florida fighting for anti-discrimination policies to protect our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

Religious leaders who are supporting Trump are blinded by might. History will not look favorably upon them. It is time that faith voters, Republicans, Democrats and Independents, stand up and say enough is enough.

Chris King is the CEO of Elevation Financial Group in Orlando and was the 2018 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.