Come back to Your First Love
“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.”
This morning’s news coverage featured an attack by President Trump on Republican Arizona Governor Doug Ducey:
“President Donald Trump publicly and repeatedly lashed out at Gov. Doug Ducey[IT1] on Monday, contending the Republican leader and Trump supporter had "betrayed the people of Arizona" by certifying an election that didn't go the president's way.
Trump unleashed a series of blistering posts on Twitter a few hours after Ducey and other state officials signed off on Arizona's general election results, confirming Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the once reliably red state.
"Why is he rushing to put a Democrat in office?" Trump asked, including a clip of Ducey discussing getting Senator-elect Mark Kelly sworn in as soon as possible. "Especially when so many horrible things concerning voter fraud are being revealed at the hearing going on right now."
By "hearing," Trump meant the public meeting between Trump campaign lawyers and a handful of state lawmakers taking place two miles from the Arizona Capitol. In front of an audience that included at least two Arizona congressmen, the president's team had made unsubstantiated claims of election fraud and urged the Legislature to throw out the state's results.
"What is going on with @dougducey?" Trump continued on Twitter. "Republicans will long remember!"
… He also shared a post that asked: "Who needs Democrats when you have Republicans like (Georgia Gov.) Brian Kemp and Doug Ducey?
I have lived in Arizona since 2010. I voted for Governor Ducey in 2018. Though I have not agreed with every decision that he has made, I can say that from my vantage point as an AZ resident, he is an honorable man. He also was loyal to the president, some would say to a fault. Unfortunately, he serves a man who is not honorable and with whom loyalty only runs in one direction. One Arizona paper characterized Governor Ducey’s support of President Trump as “years of loyal support.” Here’s how another Arizona paper described Gov Ducey’s loyalty to the president:
“I’m thinking of all the times Ducey put the good of the president above the good of the state. Like when he suddenly announced last year that he was[IT3] OK with Trump closing the border with Mexico -- "our No. 1 trading partner, times four" -- or when he abruptly opened up everything in Arizona in early May because Trump was coming for a visit and had pronounced that COVID was over.
Or when he attended all those Trump rallies this fall, often without a mask, after telling the rest of us to "mask up" and avoid crowds.
And this, governor, is the thanks you get for your loyalty: a presidential pummeling”.
If you dissect President Trump’s allegations, you find that they were untrue and that he was unfairly attacking Governor Ducey. The president said that Governor Ducey was “rushing to put a Democrat in office.” But Democratic Senator-elect Mark Kelly’s “swearing-in comes earlier than other Senate contest winners from the general election because his race was a special election to fill the final two years of the term John McCain was elected to in 2016.” When the election results were certified, Senator Kelly’s swearing-in was a by-product.
Even the president’s claims that the certification of election results was “rushed” is untrue: “State law mandates that the secretary of state, governor, attorney general and Arizona Supreme Court chief justice certify the canvass on the fourth Monday after the general election.”
Here’s Governor Ducey’s response to the president’s false claims:
“Ducey made several posts on Twitter defending his actions in certifying the vote and defending election integrity in Arizona, given the state's long history of voting by mail and other laws in place to prevent voter fraud. He didn't mention the president by name, or specifically reference his comments.
"The problems that exist in other states simply don't apply here. I've also said all along, I'm going to follow the law. So here's what the law says," Ducey wrote.
He continued, adding:
"It requires the Secretary of State, in the presence of the Governor and the Attorney General, to canvass the election on the fourth Monday following the general election. That was today. This can ONLY be delayed if counties DECLINE to certify their results. ALL 15 counties in Arizona — counties run by both parties — certified their results. The canvass of the election triggers a 5-day window for any elector to bring a credible challenge to the election results in court. If you want to contest the results, now is the time. Bring your challenges. That’s the law. I’ve sworn an oath to uphold it, and I take my responsibility seriously."
Weeks ago, I watched news coverage in Arizona, showing armed Trump supporters gathered to intimidate poll center workers. I’m not sure the quote below from a November 4th article describes the footage I saw or whether it was a similar incident elsewhere in Arizona:
“As tensions flared in Arizona overnight, armed pro-Trump protesters descended on a counting center in Maricopa County, after Biden's commanding 200,000-vote lead was slashed to just 68,000 as ballots continued being tallied.
They faced off with police and security outside the counting center, chanting that every vote should be counted with the result in the balance. At least one person made it inside, forcing the center to close with staff locked in.”
The president strongly denounced the counting of votes after election night. Arizona, ironically, was one of the states where the president wanted officials to keep counting votes as Biden’s lead shrank. Governor Ducey has demonstrated that he is an honorable man by promising to keep his “sworn oath” to follow the law, despite the president’s best Twitter intimidation tactics. My concern is that the president’s words often trigger violence. In April, the president tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” as part of his barrage against Governors whose position on opening up their states during COVID-19 didn’t match his. His words helped trigger an armed protest at the capitol building in Michigan. Some of those protesters present were later involved in a plot to kidnap Michigan's Governor:
“In April, President Trump tweeted in support of ‘liberating’ Minnesota, Virginia and Michigan: three states with Democratic governors.
‘I really shuddered and was horrified. I mean, liberate Michigan from who? And by what means?’ said Dana Nessel, Michigan’s top law enforcement official. ‘When you say ‘liberate,’ you know, that is a call to action. It's a rallying cry. And I think it's a call to arms. And that's really, I think, what it turned out to be.’…
Among the protesters, militia groups carried automatic rifles and suited up in body armor to show their support. Some were photographed going into the capitol.
Whitmer reflected on the protests at the state’s capitol.
‘People remember those pictures… where people with weapons were showing up and intimidating legislators and threatening me at that point,’ she said. ‘Now, we have come to find that some other members of this plot were actually at that event. And I think that that kind of tells you how the rhetoric really can have horrible, disastrous, dangerous consequences for others.’
Whitmer said this menacing is absolutely ‘unacceptable’ and ‘a threat to our democracy and the American dream.’ She added that both parties, and the president, have a role to play.
‘I think the hesitancy to even call out white supremacy creates space for groups that are looking for anything to hang their hat on,’ Whitmer said. ‘I do think that the rhetoric has made safe harbor for people that are engaged in these activities.’”
In the excerpt from MGA Vol I below, I shared an incident where the president jokingly remarked that you could get away with shooting Mexicans “in the panhandle.” Nine months later, a man who opened fire in a Walmart in El Paso quoted Trump rhetoric related to stopping the Mexican invasion:
“…Mr. Trump has filled his public speeches and Twitter feed with sometimes false, fear-stoking language…At a Florida rally in May, the president asked the crowd for ideas to block migrants from crossing the border. ‘How do you stop these people?’ he asked. ‘Shoot them!’ one man shouted. The crowd laughed and Mr. Trump smiled. ‘That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff,’ he said. ‘Only in the Panhandle.’
This past summer, Aug 3, 2019, there was a mass shooting in El Paso, TX. The shooter cited white nationalist themes and quoted words used by President Trump:
…President Trump repeatedly warned that America was under attack by immigrants heading for the border. ‘You look at what is marching up, that is an invasion!’ he declared at one rally. ‘That is an invasion!’…
Nine months later, a 21-year-old white man is accused of opening fire in a Walmart in El Paso, killing 20 people and injuring dozens more after writing a manifesto railing against immigration and announcing that ‘this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.’”
According to the F.B.I, “The president’s rhetoric has been identified in a series of actual attacks,” Mr. Levin added, “but moreover the day-by-day ticks of F.B.I. hate crimes shows there are increases after sustained and fervent remarks by the president that enter into an online feedback loop that also ends up in other discourses, both at the water cooler and on television.” In MGA Vol I, I said, “The President of the United States has a box of matches, and our country is on fire.”
Historical data maintained by the F.B.I. shows that the president’s remarks not only have led to an increase in hate crimes but also an increase in hate groups:
“Hate crimes in the United States rose to their highest level in more than a decade last year, while more murders motivated by hate were recorded than ever before, the F.B.I. said on Monday…
The sharp rise in homicides driven by hatred — there were 51 last year, according to the F.B.I. — was attributed in large part to the mass shooting in El Paso in August 2019…
Over all, the F.B.I. collected data on 7,314 criminal incidents motivated by bias toward race or ethnicity or gender identity in 2019. It was the third straight year the metric surpassed 7,100 incidents and it was the highest number since the F.B.I. reported 7,783 incidents in 2008…
the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups,... noted that the rise in hate crimes in recent years has come as the number of white supremacy groups has surged. According to data collected by the S.P.L.C., the number of white nationalist groups grew 55 percent between 2017 and 2019.
The upswing in hate crimes last year underscored the upward trend in bias-motivated crimes during the Trump era, and the harsh rhetoric against Latino immigrants was seen as motivating the gunman in the El Paso shooting.
Hate crimes directed at Latinos rose almost 9 percent, to 527 incidents last year from 485 incidents in 2018… Last year, hate crimes targeting Black people fell slightly, by less than 1 percent…’Blacks are still the No. 1 target, at twice the level they represent in the American population,’ the report said.”
I have a genuine concern for the safety of people in Arizona and other states where the president is still stoking resentment and anger based on false, wide-scale tampering with the election. In this final chapter, I’m calling on all Republican and evangelical leaders to follow the example of Governor Ducey and other elected Republicans to follow the law and call the election over. It’s time to stop supporting the president’s attempts to intervene at the electoral college level to throw out the certified, even hand-counted election results.
It’s time for those continuing to prophesy or insinuate that God is going to produce another election result to stop. Just stop. Stop before it leads to violence. No, you may not be the one to initiate actual violence, but your continued endorsement of false, massive election fraud might trigger violence from groups like the “Wolverine Watchmen” who tried to kidnap Michigan’s governor.
Not only is it past time to end false claims about the election, but it’s also time for the Republican Party to come back to standards of decency and integrity. I am a huge George Bush fan. I shudder to think that President Bush, his father, and Senator John McCain can be said to have something in common with the president. Unfortunately, they do—“Republican nominee for president.”
I was taught that Republican leaders and certainly Christian leaders represented the moral high ground. But they winked at the president’s overtures to the Proud Boys, actions with Ukraine, attacks on Senator McCain (even after his death), communist state-style firings of the Attorney General, FBI Director, three National Security Advisors, the Secretary of Defense, the Director of Homeland Security, and key members of the State Department including the whistleblower.
If being a Republican doesn’t mean standing for integrity and standing against racism, why shouldn’t I vote Democrat? If the Republican party stands for “family values,” I can honestly say that I don’t want to teach my family that a blatant disregard for integrity and the support of racism is what we value in our family.
Many American Republicans were tired of the hypocrisy, the lack of decency and character, and defected the party in droves. Never in my lifetime have I seen so many prominent members of a party not only defect but publicly denounce the candidate of their own party.
Instead of celebrating the 70 million voters who voted for Trump under the notion that America was on the right track, Republicans should go into soul-searching mode and finally admit that America will never be made great again by becoming divided again. It is time for the Republican party to reject the 1950ish vision of a Trumpian America where open racist sentiments against non-whites are just part of the culture and the American way of life.
Republicans should bury the Trump regime and its cronies now before thoughts of nominating him again in 2024 surface. Start moving back to candidates like the Bushs and McCain. Men of decency, character, proven political and military service. Men with a family life similar to the Republican family values you claim to espouse. Republicans need to come back to choosing men with a vision of America that is not exclusionary but represents the America we live in today.
And what of the millions of evangelicals that supported the president’s reelection in 2020? Get back to electing men and women of character and decency in 2024 and beyond. Recommit to selecting men and women that possess the same types of characteristics you’d use to choose leaders in your own church: “Faithful husband to his wife. Temperate, sober, vigilant. Sober-minded, prudent. Of good behavior, orderly, respectable. Given to hospitality Uncontentious, not soon angry or quick-tempered. Not covetous, not a lover of money.”
Earlier in the book, I referenced the transaction the Church made with the president:
“This is politics at its most transactional. Trump was being hired by evangelicals to do a job — to defend their institutions, implement pro-life policies, and appoint conservative judges. The character of the president was irrelevant so long as he kept his part of the bargain. Which Trump largely did.” It’s time to come back to believing that God can put a man or woman in office that genuinely shares and tries to live our values. It is an absolute lie to say that no other Republican candidate would support pro-life policies and appoint conservative judges.
It’s time to come to a reckoning within the evangelical community that there are still parts of our community that are still very much drawn to the president’s racist rhetoric. It’s time to declare that this type of rhetoric is not welcome within the body of Christ. It’s time to be the light and stand apart publicly and stop using conservatism as a shroud for racism.
I have repeatedly stated that I consider Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” message prophetic. It’s time for the Church to come to a conclusion, as a united body, on whether it believes the words in that message were inspired by God and worth striving towards. As the Church, we would quickly respond that we already acknowledged back in the 1960s that racism was wrong. To that, I would counter with a Hebrews 2:1 admonition that “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.”
Can we as the Church continue to side with the president and say that racism doesn’t exist anymore? If Dr. King’s “Dream” is allowed to serve as the prophetic standard, can we still agree with the president as we stand before God “to give an account” (Heb 13:17)?
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood…
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of ‘interposition’ and ‘nullification’ - one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!”
Billy Graham may be the greatest American evangelist of recent generations. I make no apology for quoting him so often. He said, “Tragically, too often in the past evangelical Christians have turned a blind eye to racism or have been willing to stand aside while others take the lead in racial reconciliation, saying it was not our responsibility. (I admit I share in that blame.)”
Reverend Graham is not alive for me to ask, but when he said “others” took the “lead in racial reconciliation” I believe in his lifetime he meant people like Dr. King. I have already stated that Pastor Seymour at Azusa should be considered as one who tried to lead racial reconciliation in America in 1906. Just to be clear, I’m not asserting that it takes a black man to lead racial reconciliation. In fact, I side with Reverend Graham to assert the opposite. It will take white evangelical leaders, who are currently “standing aside,” to step forward and model Graham’s example and “share in the blame” for considering racial reconciliation someone else’s “responsibility.”
I believe racial reconciliation in America is God’s agenda item; it’s a priority of His. I believe that the revival at Azusa was God’s initiative. The unity among races in the Spirit that was modeled there is something that He wants to continue to model but not just in church. We cannot have amazing multi-ethnic, spirit-filled worship in church and then go back into a society dominated by racism and inequality. That’s the next-level message of racial unity that Dr. King lost his life preaching about. Though he died, that message still rings out louder than the bullet that took his life.
We cannot allow our politics to have a greater priority than God’s desire to have racial unity in America. We cannot allow the word of a man, of a politician, or even a preacher to be greater than the principles of God, the Word of God. We must come back to our “first love.”
I repeat what Reverend Graham said about repentance as it pertains to the Church and racial reconciliation: “Our consciences should be stirred to repentance by how far we have fallen short of what God asks us to be as his agents of reconciliation.”
In MGA Vol I, I said, “I believe God has given America a mantle of leadership. I believe that God has created our melting pot to serve as an example to the world.” In addition, I said that “I believed that the Lord would raise up new national Christian leaders if the current leaders were unable to keep the body of Christ from failing the same tests on unity and race that previous generations have failed. I said that I believe that this failure would result in the mantle of our nation’s Christian leadership passing onto others. I believe we are on the very threshold of this now.”
I saw an interesting quote in the Washington Post that shared similar sentiments:
“White evangelicals have become, in essence, an offshore island, one whose inhabitants[IT12] are slowly but steadily distancing themselves from the American mainland. The fading Island of White Evangelica will, eventually, lose its influence over America.”
To lose the influence of “white evangelica” would be a tragedy and not accomplish God’s vision for a new Babel, filled with multi-ethnic people, of every race and hue, who acknowledge God. It a tragedy we can avoid, but only if we come back to our first love.
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