Hypocritical Christians: Donald Trump Edition

He said Two Corinthians! Not Second Corinthians! Definitely not a Christian! Hahaha!

He said little cracker and little wine! Definitely not a Christian! Hahaha!

He put his offering in the communion plate! Definitely not a Christian! Hahaha!

He said wine for communion in a Protestant Church! They usually use grape juice! Not A Christian! Hahaha!

One of my favorite parts of leading the Sunday church service, back in my leading-Sunday-church-service days, was the morning announcements. Most people’s favorite parts—the prayers, the music, the singing, the Eucharist, reading in unison (you know, the worshipy parts of the service)—I didn’t care for those so much. Don’t get me wrong. A long drawn out one-sided conversation with the divine gets me going as much as the next guy, but it’s not nearly as much fun as a long drawn out one-sided conversation with a group of people who just arrived, just woke up, and who have no choice but to sit quietly and listen to everything you have to say.

Most ministers do announcements all wrong. They view it as a necessary and useful way to communicate information about the day’s service and about what’s going on in the life of the church. Huge mistake. 1) It’s not necessary. People can read. And, they usually read whatever is in front of them when the service gets boring (hint: long drawn out one-sided conversations with the divine, or the former masquerading as a sermon).  2) It’s not useful. Dedicated church members and guests already know everything you are announcing. Undedicated church members and guests either have yet to arrive, are rushing inside, are wondering why that weird guy is staring at them, or the words “now for today’s announcements” have got them already reading the bulletin because they’re not just bored, they’re anticipating boredom. That’s a bad start.

Announcements are not a necessary or useful time to communicate information about the day’s service and what’s going on in the life of the church. It is however a necessary and useful time to informally communicate who the pastor is and what the church is like. If you tell the congregation the million things going on and the thousand ways to participate, you’re not telling them their options, you’re telling them that you’re a program church and that the person sitting in the pews is a really useful and helpful way to advance the church’s own goals. If you read off the announcements that are already listed in the bulletin, you’re telling them that you’re boring. If you read off announcements that should have been in the bulletin but aren’t, you’re telling them that you’re unprepared, disorganized, and boring.

During the announcements, I always made sure to be mindful of the difference between what I said and what I wanted to communicate. I was serving in a large, imposing building that gave off the look and feel of a highly respectable, highly liturgical, uptight, and wealthy congregation. It was however, led by me, a weird twenty-something wannabe hippie preacher who served an informal, odd group of characters who would probably rather have an accomplished, older minister but couldn’t afford it. They liked displaying both things simultaneously. They took pride in their oddity. And, it fit our community, a historic, artsy neighborhood comprised of old buildings and strange people. So, I gave the announcements, but I didn’t rehearse them (like I do with almost every other instance of social interaction), I was just genuinely weird. I said everyone was welcome, and I said it with the long hair, untrimmed beard and dressed down look that a few people at the church recommended (read: demanded) that I change multiple times. I made jokes. I was self-deprecating. I was strange. And then we transitioned to a formal organ prelude followed by traditional liturgy. That was all on purpose.

One Sunday morning in the middle of announcements, a young man walked into the church and sat down in the front row. He was the type of guy that you notice immediately and who forces you to remind yourself not to judge – only because you are judging the absolute crap out of him. He was small. Skinny. Oddly dressed. He was dirty. Shaved head. He had tattoos everywhere. Arms, legs, neck and face. The tear drop tattoos below his eyes made me a little uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable as the fact that he was talking, after the service had started while sitting next to no one. I continued with the announcements. And he kept on with his own long drawn out one-sided conversation. A lady sitting a few rows behind got up and sat behind him. She tried to tell him that the service had started and that it was time to listen to the minister. She is one of the nicest people that I know, and she was trying to be helpful.

I was about halfway into telling the congregation about our worship committee meeting when our young guest with the shaved head and face tattoos started yelling at the lady behind him. It was a scene. He used a few choice words that aren’t normally used in a church setting. Everybody stared. There’s a difference between what is said and what is communicated. The lady sitting in the row behind him tried to tell him that the service had started and that it was time to listen to the minister. What was communicated, though certainly not intentionally by the speaker, was that he wasn’t welcome, that he didn’t belong and that he wasn’t doing things the right way. What was said and what was heard were not at all the same. What was said as kind was heard as rude. So he responded back, screaming, “This is God’s house! And I can speak to him here whenever I want!”

I walked over to him with my microphone still on while he was still yelling. “Hi. My name is Craig. What’s your name?” He responded, “Luke.” (Not his real name). “Nice to meet you Luke. You are most welcome here at our church. Thanks for joining us! Give me one second, will you?” He nodded. I told the congregation that I was glad that they were worshiping with us today and gave the signal for the organist to start the prelude. I turned off my mic and talked to him for a few minutes. He was funny. And kind. He had some problems. I apologized for us not making him feel welcome. He accepted it. And I invited him to eat with me after the service during our fellowship hour. He accepted. Like most young guys I know and with whom I’ve worked in the past, he loved to eat. Food breaks down all barriers. We became friends.

What was said? What was communicated?

To the first question, I didn’t say much. I told him my name. He told me his. I told him he was welcome. We said that to every person every week. I asked him to eat with me afterwards. We said that to every person every week. I apologized. I was the pastor of a church. I apologized to someone on a near hourly basis. What was communicated to him? That he was welcome. That he could come as is. That someone cared. What was communicated to the church? That everybody is welcome. Everyone. And here is how. He joined us for fellowship hour afterwards. He was welcomed. He ate with members and guests. He made friends. I didn’t even have a chance to sit next to him and eat because he was already joined by new friends. He came back every once in a while. And he would stop by my office just to tell me how he was doing and to see what I was up to. My last week in Baltimore I ran into him, told him that I was leaving the church and that I would miss him. He gave me a hug. I don’t do well with normal emotions that other people have like missing other people in times of long absence. But to my surprise, I miss him.

The responses to Donald Trump’s missteps in church and talking about religion bother me. They don’t bother me because someone just so happens to not be completely honest about how they are representing themselves with regard to their religious devotion or identity. I was a pastor, not only were people never honest with me about their religious devotion and identity, I wasn’t ever truly honest with them either. Any minister who tells you that they are always honest about their religious devotion and identity is absolutely lying. “How often do you pray, Pastor?” “…Well, there are many different types of prayer.” Come on Pastor, just tell them the truth. Say instead, “I’ve been feeling very distant from God lately. I don’t pray much anymore. I don’t know why. Do you have any advice?”

What is said? The truth.

What is communicated? I’m human and struggle with spiritual disciplines. I need your help just like you need mine.

I’m bothered by the responses to Donald Trump’s missteps in the church and talking about religion because the people who are doing so, the Christian ones anyway, are the very same people who claim that everyone is welcome in their churches, no matter who they are and what their sin. But what they are communicating is that a certain type of person isn’t welcome. If you’re disingenuous in your faith, you’re not welcome. If you don’t know that we use grape juice instead of wine, you’re not welcome. If you don’t know that it’s Second Corinthians instead of Two Corinthians (even though it says 2 Corinthians not Second, but you just should know better), you’re not welcome. If you put the offering in the wrong place, you’re not welcome – but we’ll gladly take your money anyway. If you don’t have a deep understanding of the historical views of the church regarding the nature of the sacrament, you’re not welcome. If you’re rich, part of that 1%, you’re not welcome. If you’re Republican, you’re not welcome. If you hold positions that I consider to be so objectionable that they are beyond redemption, you’re not welcome. If you oppose what I believe during the holy season of presidential elections, you’re not welcome. Donald Trump, you are not welcome here.

He said Two Corinthians! Not Second Corinthians! Definitely not a Christian! Hahaha!

He said little cracker and little wine! Definitely not a Christian! Hahaha!

He put his offering in the communion plate! Definitely not a Christian! Hahaha!

He said wine for communion in a Protestant Church! They usually use grape juice! Not A Christian! Hahaha!

2 thoughts on “Hypocritical Christians: Donald Trump Edition

  1. Craig, this has to be my favorite post you’ve ever written. Not only does this resonate with religion and politics, but with life. The argument between what is said and what is communicated is spot on! I think this struggle is becoming very real in society with all its technology. People are so impulsive that they do not stop and consider their words. The ease in which we can communicate has sadly diminished our ability to do so properly. I’m sad for the world that you left your leadership role in the church because I feel you have so much to teach. However, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t end on a blunt, less serious note so I have to say that if being a teacher in the education system wasn’t so soul sucking I’d say you would make an amazing teacher.

    Like

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