On the morning of July 14, President Trump tweeted comments about “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen,” disparaging their home countries and suggesting they “go back” to the “broken and crime infested places from which they came,” adding that Rep. Nancy Pelosi would be all too glad to make the travel arrangements.
Later that day, I responded on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, writing: “Christians—conservative or otherwise—should denounce Trump’s words about Progressive Dem Congresswomen and his derogatory statements about places where POC [people of color] live. His words this morning are completely unacceptable.”
As you might imagine, responses to my denouncement were sharply divided.
Christians in the United States are sharply—and deeply—divided by politics these days. If we will remember core things we hold in common, however, we can confront the divide more productively.
To see how this may be the case, I want to break down my social media post.
A few things Christians can agree on
I called Christians to denounce Trump’s words about The Squad—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan—because though he didn’t call the women by name, his passive-aggressive allusion to them was clear enough. The net effect was to focus anger toward the women more than toward their political positions.
The Squad is known for their radicalism and far left views. Like some who responded to my social media post, I don’t subscribe to The Squad’s politics, but I do hold them to be people created by God.
It isn’t necessary to target people in order to respond to political positions they hold. We can critique their political positions without attacking their personhood. Christians ought to be able to agree on that.
It is true that the four congresswomen have not always spoken well of this country or those in government. After her election in 2018, Rep.Tlaib said she and others were going to impeach Trump, calling him a word I won’t quote (in the same way some media outlets wouldn’t quote Trump calling certain countries a vulgar term). Her description of Trump ought to be denounced just like Trump’s insinuation about her ought to be denounced. Governing officials ought to be above such low talk. Christians ought to be able to agree on that.
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Trump saying that The Squad—though he didn’t call the four women by that name in his tweets—should go back to the countries from which they came employs an old racist trope. Anyone who’s lived in the United States for more than four decades—which includes me—has heard the trope “go back to [fill in a place]” said to or about someone from the continents of Africa and Asia. Trump ought to be above such demeaning talk.
Trump also has a reputation for demeaning women. Anybody who paid even the slightest bit of attention to the 2016 election cycle knows Trump thinks he can do whatever he wants with a woman because she will let him. He said so himself—and called it “locker room talk.” Such talk is contrary to Scripture.
Those who profess Christ—who call themselves Christians, including Trump—should abide by Paul’s instruction in Colossians (3:8, 4:6) and Ephesians (4:29, 5:4) regarding the content and nature of our words, that they be honoring to God. Christians ought to be able to agree on that.
Seeing Trump’s words through filters
When Trump tweets about women—who, in this case, also are people of color—don’t be surprised if people filter his words through his earlier words about women in particular and places he despises. He’s created his own reputation. The media didn’t do that. He has used the media over decades to help him craft his reputation. He knows what he’s doing.
Speaking of filters, some of my social media respondents read my words through a filter in the same way I and many others read Trump’s words through a filter. We all do this, and we all must be aware of it.
Some of my respondents may have thought I called for unquestioning support of The Squad. To the Republican respondents, the thought that I might have called for unquestioning support of The Squad may have brought my Christian commitment into question. To the Democrat respondents, the same notion may have solidified my Christian commitment. In either case, the tail’s wagging the dog.
My Christian commitment—as suggested above by the things I think Christians ought to be able to agree on—supersedes my political commitments and is what led me to denounce what I perceived to be another attack on persons rather than politics. For the record, I disagree significantly with all four women and Trump.
My explanation may be no more comforting than the perception I created. Perceptions shouldn’t wag reality, however, any more than the tail should wag the dog. Christians ought to be able to agree on that, too.
Choose our words carefully
The way we talk about each other reveals our view of God and God’s creation.
That idea haunts me. It haunts me because I have not always honored God by how I’ve talked about people—even recently. The attention I’ve given this whole matter of Trump’s tweets about “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen” is shaping me to be much more careful in how I talk about others.
How I talk about others should not be calculated but Christlike.
It is basic to Christianity that all people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), that all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and that God desires that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, the words we employ about one another ought to honor God’s intention for creation. Christians ought to be able to agree on that.
I don’t have to agree with The Squad’s politics, with the religion of at least two members of The Squad, or with Trump to denounce Trump’s tweets about them. Neither do you. Why? Because, despite their politics, each person involved—including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi—is a person created in the image of God. Christians ought to be able to agree on that, too, even if they don’t like it. And God never said we had to like it.
Eric Black is the executive director, publisher and editor of the Baptist Standard. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @EricBlackBSP. The views expressed are solely those of the author.