It seems that in the current political climate, one of the most formidable things for a Christian to do is to publicly confess that he/she is a Democrat. The weight of Pharisaic intimidation from the Religious Right is very heavy, and as a pastor in a traditionally conservative area in Arizona, I must admit that there have been many times in the last two decades that I have shrunk back on my authentic beliefs in order to not “rock the boat.” When I responded in that way, I inevitably felt a keen sense of conviction in my heart and the realization that I was headed down a slippery slope of hypocrisy, just to avoid the persecution that I knew would come if my peers and people I dealt with regularly found out that I was a Democrat. Then, that “still, small voice” would remind me that I must not allow myself to be motivated by, or base my decisions, on fear.
At Christian Democrats of America, we are consistently faced with a barrage of verbal attacks which usually consist of rhetoric such as: “How can you call yourself ‘Christians’ and be for a ‘baby-killer’ like Hillary Clinton!!! You Hypocrites!!!” or, “Hillary Clinton is a liar, and a murderer, and wants to take away our Christian freedoms! You’re not Christians!!!” etc., etc. You get the general idea. A few years ago we had a couple who attended our church for the first time on Easter Sunday. After church, we had a meal and time of fellowship and the husband expressed to me how much they enjoyed the service. He then asked me, “Pastor, I was just wondering about something. I noticed a car parked by the parsonage with a ‘Barack Obama’ sticker on the bumper. I’m sure that’s not your car is it? I know, as a Christian, you’d never vote for Obama!” I answered his inquiry with the truth, that yes, that was my car, and yes, I supported and was voting for Barack Obama. I briefly shared my reasons why I was voting for him. He dropped his head, in obvious dismay. “I’m really sorry Pastor,” he began quietly, “but my wife and I could never go to a church where the pastor supported Obama.” I assured him that I had no hard feelings, they gathered their things and I never saw them again.
It has been a challenging journey, and I’m quite sure that I’ve been branded a “heretic,” among other things, by many of my conservative brothers and sisters. However, today, I am so glad that I have chosen to be genuine, to be my authentic self, and go back to the character and values of my Lord Jesus Christ, which do not remotely resemble most of those exhibited by the most extreme voices in the Religious Right. God has lead me, more than ever, to center my ministry on the character of Christ, and the message that He focused on. The great “Love Chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13, strategically sandwiched between chapters 12 and 14 (which talk about spiritual gifts in the Church), speaks volumes in just a few simple verses:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Then verses 4-7 list the qualities of divine love. Love is:
Patient, kind, doesn’t envy, doesn’t boast, isn’t proud, does not dishonor others. It isn’t self-seeking, it isn’t easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.
Now I know that I certainly fall short of perfecting the characteristic of divine love, as all Christians do, including my sister in Christ, Secretary Clinton. Hillary Clinton has made mistakes and has expressed her regret over those mistakes. This was exemplified in her August 25th interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, where she stated in reference to her emails: “… there are no excuses. I want people to know that the decision to have a single account was mine. I take responsibility for it. I apologize for it.”
Donald Trump has certainly made mistakes, however when confronted with the recording of him admitting these things he has done to women, he said he was sorry and then followed his apology with, “Bill Clinton has said much worse than that out on the golf course.” Every time Donald Trump acknowledges something he has done that is seriously inappropriate, he blends with that statement how it was really somebody else’s fault, or he knows people who have done much worse than him. I don’t remember Trump ever actually, humbly, without any excuse, offering an unconditional apology.
If you are looking for the “perfect Christian candidate,” they don’t exist. Hillary Clinton has been held under the public microscope of the press and the Religious Right for many years. The Right Wing always goes back to slinging mud and attack mode on Mrs. Clinton, because they don’t have a plan that is a better alternative than what she has to offer. The truth is that Hillary Clinton’s life manifests God’s love and call to service, something that cannot be said for her opponent. Unfortunately, she will continue to be the target of one wild conspiracy theory after another, because the Right Wing has been so indoctrinated that this is their duty, religiously and politically. I am truly thankful for the Republicans who have dared to cross party lines and do the unthinkable by supporting Hillary Clinton. Many of them may not like her, but at least they see that she is definitely the right choice in this year’s election.
We at Christian Democrats of America also hear from people often who are concerned about showing forgiveness toward Donald Trump. Of course, that is a valid point, theologically. Allow me, as a pastor and member of the Advisory Board at CDA, to say this: I do not hate Donald Trump, I wish him no harm, and I pray for him and his family. I do, however, hate the attitude of arrogance he carries, and the way he operates by intimidation. I do hate the disrespect he shows for women and for minorities. I do hate the way he panders to the conservative Christians, and the Religious Right. And I do hate the constant negative, distasteful rhetoric that he engages in on a regular basis. If Donald Trump came to me and asked me to pray for him, I would do it in a heartbeat. God certainly loves him as much as He does me or any other of His creation. So, to underline our belief: No, we do not harbor hatred and ill-will against Donald Trump. My desire is that he would somehow, someday, ask God to grant him a “humble heart” without which we cannot effectively approach Him.
As a pastor, active in ministry full time for the past 43 years, I unashamedly cast my vote with confidence for Hillary Clinton to be our next President. I truly hope that you’ll join me and let’s go forward with Christ’s commands to help the poor, and care for all those who cannot care for themselves; to watch for the little children and for the young mothers, and dads who do not have the means to feed or clothe their families. Let’s show the world that God loves people in every walk of life, not just a chosen few. Let’s give some real breaks to those who need them the most, and not just to the wealthiest in our society. In the words of Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, and many more, “Hillary Clinton is the most qualified person to ever run for President of the United States.” And quite honestly, Donald Trump is the least qualified. Trump comes at people with an attitude of superiority and intimidation. He deals that way in business and it is totally natural to him. I do not want a person like that to be elected to the world’s most powerful office and to represent me as an American, to the rest of the world.
Pastor Dave Forrester is Senior Pastor of Wings of Life Worship Center in Arizona and has been in full-time pastoral and evangelist ministry for 43 years. He is a CDA Advisory Board member and social justice advocate. Follow him on Twitter @PasForrester.