Monday, May 15, 2017


©Wendell Griffen, 2017
Justice Is A Verb!
May 15, 2017

            One of the Scripture passages I often heard my black elders utter while growing up in rural southwest Arkansas was Galatians 6:7.  The New Revised Standard rendering of that passage reads:  Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow

Another was Matthew 7:15-20, where the NRSV reads: 

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?  In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears good fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will know them by their fruits.

These passages from the New Testament shed light on the public policy situation facing the United States as a nation, and in many of its states, because of the politics of white Christian nationalism. 

White Christian nationalism is a term I used in my book, The Fierce Urgency of Prophetic Hope (Judson Press, 2017), to describe the ideology and social perspectives of two groups:  white evangelical Christians such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Robison (who mentored Mike Huckabee) and white supremacists such as David Duke, Thom Robb, and Stephen K. Bannon (President Donald Trump’s chief strategist).  Although white evangelical Christians may take offense about being identified as white nationalists, they do so pretending to not know that the voting history and social perspectives of white evangelicals is functionally the same as white supremacists. 

However, other people understand that white evangelicals and white supremacists traditionally vote the same way.  During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, self-proclaimed white evangelical Christians overwhelmingly voted to elect Donald Trump president knowing they were supporting the same candidate endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke.

“Good” white evangelicals like Pat Robertson and James Robison and white supremacists such as David Duke and Thom Robb all claim to be followers of Jesus.  Yet, they have supported the same race-baiting, patriarchal, militaristic, imperialistic, homophobic, sexist, materialistic, and xenophobic candidates for two generations – since President Lyndon Johnson pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Let me say it plainly.  President Trump’s personal and commercial racism, white male supremacy and patriarchy, racist and misogynist bigotry, xenophobia, and pathological penchant for violence, oppressiveness, and fear of others will shape US policy only because “good” white evangelical Christians and white supremacists – white Christian nationalists –embraced his candidacy, elected him, and continue to support him. White Christian nationalists are morally and ethically accountable for the injustices, injuries, and other wrongs that are occurring during Trump’s presidency.

Less than four months have gone by since President Trump took office.  In less than four months, the world has learned what has been obvious for years, long before 2016 when Trump was elected.  Donald Trump is morally, intellectually, socially, and emotionally unsuited for public service at any level of government.  He is unstable, brutish, and impulsive.  His driving values are not service to and for others, but personal adulation and profit.  Trump appears to be allergic to truth about anything, including his conduct, others, or the rest of the world.  To borrow from Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount, Donald Trump is a “bad tree.”  

We should not be surprised to harvest bad fruit from his presidency.  We should not be surprised when variations of Donald Trump’s value system produce harmful results across the United States and other places where US power is exercised according to his directions.  Remember Galatians 6:7.  God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.  The United States cannot avoid reaping a bitter harvest from white Christian nationalism.  Thorns never produce grapes.  Thistles never produce figs. 

We must also not allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking that the white Christian nationalism tree can somehow be reformed into something that produces worthwhile public and social policies.  Thorns have never been reformed into grape vines.  Thistles have never been rehabilitated into fig trees.  White Christian nationalism, like thorns and thistles, always and only produces “bad fruit.” 

The issue now is whether people in the United States will have the good sense to do what every farmer knows must be done about thorns and thistles.  Every farmer knows that thorns and thistles must be cut down and eradicated.  Every farmer knows that thorns and thistles never evolve into anything that is beneficial.  Every farmer knows that the sooner one eradicates thorns and thistles, the sooner one can use the ground to plant and produce something useful that will produce “good fruit.” 

Let’s see how long it takes voters to begin cutting down and up-rooting white Christian nationalism.  How long will it take before white Christian nationalist elected officials in Congress, the U.S. Senate, and in state and local offices of government are challenged for re-election and defeated?  How long will it take before voters in the United States reject the racist, sexist, materialist, imperialistic, patriarchal, homophobic, xenophobic, and techno-centric values of white Christian nationalism? 

Finally, when will religious observers declare white Christian nationalism a heresy to the gospel of Jesus?  People who supported, voted for, and now cheer President Trump – while professing to be followers of the One who represents divine love, justice, peace, and truth – must be challenged as committing heresy.  

White Christian nationalists demonstrate an irreconcilable contradiction.  At best, their claims of allegiance to Jesus are ill-conceived.  At worst, their claims of allegiance to Jesus are fraudulent.  Any claim that one has welcomed Jesus (an immigrant whose parents were refugees in Egypt with him during his early childhood) into one’s heart and professed that Jesus as the center of one’s faith and living while supporting hateful behavior and policies towards immigrants, persons who are poor, refugees, and other marginalized persons is beyond unpersuasive.  Such a claim amounts to moral and ethical nonsense bordering on insanity. 

The United States is reaping in Donald Trump’s political views and policies a harvest of moral and ethical nonsense from the bad tree that is white Christian nationalism.  Time will tell whether voters in the United States have the moral, ethical, political, social, and intellectual insight and courage required to cut down white Christian nationalism and discard Trump’s presidency and its policies.  Time will tell whether we have the will to uproot white Christian nationalism.  Time will tell whether we have sense enough to throw white Christian nationalism – fruit, limb, leaf, trunk, root, and all – into the fire.

That is what time teaches must be done with thorns and thistles.

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