Christian Clergy Call to Election Action
My Dear Fellow Pastor, Clergy, or Faith Leader,
This letter is intended for the thousands of white pastors—Evangelicals, Mainliners, Roman Catholics, and others—who have the privilege and challenge of leading churches in the United States during this election season. We urgently appeal to you to find the courage to tell your faith community, in a way that is legal and appropriate to your situation, that Donald Trump has morally disqualified himself and must not be reelected to another term as president.
If you feel otherwise, if, in fact, you believe—that Donald Trump is a good person pursuing morally sound policies that Jesus would be happy with—then we don’t want to waste your time. You can stop reading since this letter is not intended for you.
This letter is for the pastors who see clearly the need for trustworthy leadership in the White House.
You know that our president has little concern for what is in the Bible beyond his favorite verse, “An eye for an eye.” You know that he does not go to church, though he desecrates churches and Bibles for photo ops. You know that his personal and business morality were appalling long before he was elected president, and the pattern continues. You know that he has a consistent record of lying (more than twenty thousand fact-checked already.)
You know that he breaks his promises, all the time. You know that his language is filthy, his anger volcanic, his bullying legendary, his misogyny horrifying, his racism as dangerous as a viper bite, and his incitement to violence far more than occasional.
Because you have been paying attention over the last four years, you know that from children in cages, to obstructing judicial investigations, from lampooning fallen soldiers to pursuing policies for personal gain, this president has mocked the very fundamentals of mutual respect for all citizens and our national common good. You know that he dishonestly downplayed the COVID-19 pandemic, thinks he knows better than the medical experts, and bears a heavy responsibility for our disastrous national response to it.
You know, or at least strongly suspect, that the president’s “law and order” language is a thin veneer for the abject racism defining this administration. You worry that the President has now pivoted to an explicitly white nationalist race-baiting campaign to inflame the fears, especially of less-educated white Americans. You know that his ads and rallies target neo-Confederate sympathizers, defending Confederate monuments, statues, and base names even while states like Mississippi are removing the Confederate emblem from their flag.
Anyone who has been paying attention to Donald Trump’s amorality and narcissism must wonder what steps he might be willing to take to try to discredit the election results in any state in which he loses. He is preparing the ground for that now by claiming that he cannot lose a fair election and that massive voter fraud will certainly happen in November. He has already advocated for voters to vote twice (illegally). Donald Trump is dependable in only one way: he acts in ways that benefit Donald Trump.
You know all of these facts. You share all of these worries. What you don’t know is how you can confidently and fearlessly respond to them. You aren’t a political person, you don’t know how to talk about these worries, and you don’t want to alienate those in your congregation whom you believe think differently.
We hear you. We are not all policy experts or political junkies. We are pastors, Christian educators, leaders who in normal times do not make a habit of telling our congregations how to vote. But this President has gloried in denigrating the dignity of the poor, mocked the essential teaching of our Savior, and used the name of Jesus as nothing more than a dog whistle.
Perhaps you just hope that you can wake up on November 4 and this nightmare will all be over. But that is rarely how history works. And it is certainly not how Jesus calls his followers to behave.
You know this. Your calling—our calling as pastors—is to shepherd our flocks, keep them from error, and guide them in the way they should go. That includes offering appropriate moral guidance in the way they should go as they consider how they will vote.
We all know the legal boundaries of what we can and cannot do in our official roles. (If you don’t know, or are looking for a refresher, we have collected the resources you need here.) To be clear: We are not asking you to hold Biden rallies in the sanctuary, sing hymns that praise his slogans, or use church finances or services to tell people to vote against or for a candidate or party—(though some of Trump’s supporters have done all of these very things).
But we do challenge you to tell the truth from the pulpit in the remaining few weeks before November 3, with more courage and clarity than you ever have before.
Preach a sermon that reminds people that lies matter, character counts, and white supremacy is one of America’s most tragic and persistent besetting sins.
Preach Philippians 2, where Jesus models, not bullying and corruption, but self-sacrifice and service, and where Paul tells us not to seek our own interests alone, but also the interests of others.
Remind them that according to Jesus, God evaluates a nation based on how it treats the sick, the incarcerated, the alien or refugee, the poor, and destitute.
Remind them that competence and wisdom matter.
Remind them that in Scripture, leaders are not given a blank check: they are held accountable.
Remind them that what God requires of humanity is to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God, and that should make them highly suspicious of any candidate who subverts justice, lacks kindness, and walks arrogantly through life.
You don’t have many Sundays left, and these may be the most important sermons you have ever preached.
We also urge you to find somewhere in your personal life—through your personal social media, on your car bumper, in your front yard, somewhere—where you can speak as a theologically and ethically trained human being and citizen.
Make it clear that you do not support this odious person getting four more years to wreck our democracy and seduce our flocks. Offer your name as an endorser of candidates at all levels who oppose Trump and provide a better alternative to what he stands for. Forward links or articles that resonate with you.
Remember, when you became a pastor, you did not stop being a human being with a conscience and voice and a citizen with rights to free speech. It’s up to you to set an example and lead well both as a pastor and as a private citizen.
Maybe you need to add a disclaimer to your social-media “About” section. Something like, “The views I express here are my own and not as a representative of my church or denomination.”
Maybe you need to call an emergency meeting with your church leadership today to discuss this letter and to craft a policy statement on your responsibilities and rights. (You’ll find guidance here.)
The time is short; now is the time to take action.
We urge you to simply find the courage to speak up with sufficient clarity so people know where you stand.
Say what’s appropriate from the pulpit. And say what’s appropriate in your private life.
This is one of those times in history when silence equals consent to evil. The stakes are that high. The unconscionable support white Christians showed Trump in 2016 is beginning to erode. This is your moment.
You don’t stand alone. Your sisters and brothers in Christ stand with you too. As do the future generations who will look back at this moment asking “Where was the church when our country needed her?”
Be strong in the Lord. Take courage. Do what you know is right.
Your Sisters and Brothers in Christ
Sign-on to the letter:
Some of the signers:
Minister of Word and Sacrament
The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis
Senior Minister, Middle Church
President, Kenya Matters
Diana Butler Bass
Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church of Colorado Springs
Music & Arts Director
Minister of the Common Good
Lisa Sharon Harper
President & Founder of Freedom Road
Follower of Jesus
Director Catholic Outreach Vote Common Good
President of Faith-Values & Policy Group
Minister of the Common Good
Deborah W Baugh
Mary Beth Kennedy
Minister of the Common Good