Should Christians always support President Donald Trump?
A senior bishop with the Church of England says no.
Liverpool Bishop Paul Bayes attacked American evangelicals for their “uncritical support” of Trump, suggesting that “self-styled evangelicals” needed to think harder about their faith and values.
Some “people who call themselves evangelical in the U.S. seem to be uncritically accepting” positions taken by Trump, Bayes said at a ceremony celebrating the launch of a new Christian charity aimed at eliminating discrimination based on sexuality or gender.
The president’s politics, he continued, are at odds with a religion that emphasizes the protection of the poor and weak. “Some of the things that have been said by religious leaders seem to collude with a system that marginalizes the poor, a system which builds walls instead of bridges, a system which says people on the margins of society should be excluded, a system which says we’re not welcoming people any more into our country,” he told the Guardian newspaper.
“Some quite significant so-called evangelical leaders are uncritically supporting people in ways that imply they are colluding or playing down the seriousness of things which in other parts of their lives [they] would see as really important,” Bayes added. “Whenever people say those kinds of things, they need to be able to justify that they’re saying those things as Christians, and I do not believe it’s justifiable.”
Eighty percent of white evangelical Christians voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center. Three-quarters approve of his presidency.
“If people want to support right-wing populism anywhere in the world, they are free to do so. The question is, how are they going to relate that to their Christian faith?” Bayes said. “And if what I believe are the clear teachings of the gospel about love for all, the desire for justice and for making sure marginalized and defenseless people are protected, if it looks as though those teachings are being contradicted, then I think there is a need to say so.”
Bayes was careful to emphasize that he wasn’t talking about all evangelicals. “many, many [American] Christians who are trying to proclaim the gospel as we’ve received it, even if that means political leaders have to be challenged,” he added.
Bayes’s sharp rebuke echoes the message of other top Christian leaders. Last month, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told ITV that he “genuinely [could] not understand” Trump’s appeal among Christians. In his Christmas Day sermon, Welby took on “populist leaders that deceive” their people.
When asked about Trump in 2016, Pope Francis said, “A person who thinks only about building walls . . . and not of building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel.”