Ed Stetzer says, If You Are Unable to Critique a President, You Have Lost Your Prophetic Voice

Ed Stetzer
Ed Stetzer

by Ed Stetzer

This weekend was an important moment in our nation and, I think, for evangelical Christianity in America. Reflecting and responding to the events following Charlottesville is worth our time and energy.

Many issues are already being discussed, and it’s important that we think deeply on issues of race, but I’d like to ask one additional question: Why are a subset of (often evangelical) Christians unable to see when President Trump has stumbled and feel they must defend everything he does—even after he obviously saw his error and sought to fix it today?

President Trump’s Stumble

On Saturday, President Trump had what many have reported as the worst day of his presidency.

Some of the most egregious elements of our society were exposed, and the President had an obvious opportunity to explicitly condemn the racism in a way that would have provided much-needed moral and political leadership for our country. Instead, he missed the opportunity by condemning in a generic and unhelpful way, that was received with widespread (almost universal) critique from around the world, including from many Republicans.

I wrote about this on Saturday, with conservative Senators Orrin Hatch and Marco Rubio’s tweets asking the President to say more, those comments being just a few of many from politicians and leaders that took a firm stance against (and named) this racial hatred. The large number of respondents even included some of Trump’s closest evangelical advisors.

Yet the President was then strangely silent. He sent out no tweet that day—only one of four days in his presidency that have gone without tweets.

This is the same president who is quick to call people out, by name, with remarkable and often shocking specificity. Furthermore, this is the same president who ruthlessly criticized former President Obama for failing to call out and name “radical Islamic terrorism.” The lack of communication is obviously a major stumble on the part of President Trump.

That’s just the fact. And it is a fact that even the President knew he needed to remedy today.

But this is, for the sake of this article, old news. The President has sought to make it right and, while I would have liked to see him say more, he ended up breaking the silence and declaring white supremacy “repugnant.”

For this I am thankful.

How Christians Respond Matters

My point here today is not to discuss the President’s response today (or his lack of it over the weekend). I have already discussed some of this in greater nuance elsewhere. I want to look in another direction and reflect on the ways I saw many Christians respond—ways that concern me.

Now, the President’s stumble was obvious. President Trump saw the need to make it right, and spoke more today. But some Christians seem unable to say that this was a mistake (more on this in a moment), but instead defend the President no matter what. Their responses concerned me, and these problematic responses seem to fall under three categories:

First, some Christians responded with an argument of redirection.

They pointed out there were other people doing bad things in Charlottesville. This is the point President Trump made when he initially said “many sides.” The reality is there was only one group of people in Charlottesville that claimed they were doing the bidding of Donald Trump, therefore this is the group of people he clearly needed to condemn. (I’m thankful he’s since seen this and eventually spoke out, naming them.)

Rather than acknowledge that President Trump made a mistake in his response (and unnecessarily divided the country), some Christians acted like third-grade children by saying “Look, somebody else started it.” This argument denies the validity of the evil that caused the events in Charlottesville, and distracts us from healthily critiquing our President’s actions. This redirection goes against the scriptures, which calls us to “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17).

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SOURCE: Christianity Today

Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.