By Christina Forrester | 1/10/19
I hear it every day, from people who have lost relationships with loved ones over the past two years: “I never would have suspected she was capable of such a merciless attitude!” “I did not know my uncle/cousin/aunt/brother was a racist,” “I had no idea my pastor cared more about his politics than preaching the Gospel of Christ. I don’t even recognize my church friends anymore.” These are the stories being told from church-goers across the country; everyday Americans who no longer recognize those who were once close family and friends. The toxicity in the country — the hate, fear-mongering and propaganda — has revealed the character, underlying attitudes and prejudices of many. This is something that has split up families, churches, and broken long-term relationships. So my question is: Was this always in their hearts? Was it always there, beneath the surface, and it only took an opportune justification, which has come in the form of a red MAGA hat, for them to reveal it, without apology?
I continue to ask myself this question every time I hear another of these stories from people who reach out to me, or see it manifested in my own circle. It is shocking when a person who you always knew as a person of compassion and a good heart comments on a picture of a child who is crying and afraid, “They are illegal.” Or when someone who you know loves their family says to you, “Well, it is sad that children have died, but that is their parents’ fault and that’s why we need a wall.” And then it is heart-breaking when that person you have known so many years, who loves God and goes to church every Sunday, who you have shared potluck dinners and worshipped with, suddenly shares a meme comparing Mexicans to cockroaches who should be “exterminated” by their hero, Trump.
When Steve King came out Thursday morning with a statement questioning why “White Supremacy” was an offensive term, it was something that, prior to 2015, would have rocked the political and social media world. To accept the idea of even questioning White Supremacy would be taboo, would be political suicide and obviously not socially acceptable. But if you needed any evidence of the desensitization to hatred, bigotry and good ole’ fashion racism, just look to this example: no outcry from the good people who love God and country. No memes denouncing White Supremacy – just silence. Complicity. But it is not surprising that people who would sit in silence as children are held in cages, abused and die in the hands of our Border Patrol, would also sit in silence about a “little” thing called White Supremacy.
Many times, attitudes of the heart are revealed when there is an available justification – a mob mentality sits in that reaches across hearts and minds in an invisible thread. With every racist, homophobic, chauvinist or xenophobic remark, the eyes glance around the room, “Are you OK with this? Will you speak out now? OK, then I am OK too.” And the justification continues with each blow. And the desensitization grows…and grows.
In Luke 2:34-35 the prophet Simeon spoke over the child Jesus: “…This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Now is a time in the church in America where we see a fulfillment of this scripture as never before, when the thoughts and hearts of many are being revealed. When that child grew up, He said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean (Matthew 23:25-26).” This is part of the danger of talking the talk, being part of the church social club, doing all the right things on the outside, showcasing for all to see a squeaky clean life without the “unacceptable sins” showing…while the heart is unclean, untouched. This is a recurring theme in Jesus’ teachings for a reason, and his message to the hypocrites is His most fiery for a reason.
But He still loves the hypocrites. That is why He tells them the truth. And the good news is that hearts can change. While we speak the truth and take our stand, may this give us some understanding and hope for those finding justification in Trump for their hate in this moment.
Christina Forrester is the Founder and Director of Christian Democrats of America and co-host/co-producer of “What Would Jesus Pod?” Follow her at @Christinaof9 on Twitter, Instagram and /ChristinaForrester on Facebook.