To the editor: Randall Balmer shines a light on the scandal embroiling white evangelicalism: President Trump and some evangelicals found one another by mutual resonance with toxic white supremacy. ("Under Trump, evangelicals show their true racist colors," Opinion, Aug. 23)
There are white people in America who call themselves evangelical yet demonstrate complicity with a white supremacy that scandalizes the gospel — and there are other white evangelicals in America who categorically and publicly disagree.
Balmer points out what many evangelical leaders have been decrying for years and what this election made apparent: that culture sometimes overshadows the gospel in determining the evangelical political vision. Evangelicalism is a movement dedicated to the primacy of faith in the way of Jesus, so this confusion of priorities is a crisis.
The word "evangelical" has morphed from being commonly used to describe a set of theological and spiritual commitments into a passionately defended, theo-political brand. Worse, that brand has become synonymous with social arrogance, ignorance and prejudice — all antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Balmer's claims, while not new, are deservedly painful for millions of white evangelicals who are deeply offended by racism, repelled by Trump, and who vocally deny the false theo-political brand that co-opts the faith we hold dear.
The call now to these white evangelicals is to subvert the racism within and around us. This must be fueled by honest self-examination and lead to an understanding that we are far more complicit in white supremacy than we might understand. Then, we must repent our guilt.
Repentance is not the seed of shame; its fruit is to empower the repentant ones to actively change course toward justice, both personal and systemic.
Mark Labberton, Pasadena
The writer is president of Fuller Theological Seminary.
To the editor: What a hatchet job Balmer's piece is.
Evangelicals partner with churches of every color around the world, sponsor programs for the needy around the country and world, and cheerfully coexist in congregations that include whites, Asians, Latinos and African Americans — but our "true colors" are racist?
Shame on The Times for showing its own bigotry and bias by publishing such tripe.
Patrick Goodrich, Brea
To the editor: Trump's purported racism played a role in his election, but even within the white evangelical bloc it probably didn't net him many votes.
I have dear relatives who are Protestant and say they voted for Trump so they could get Vice President Mike Pence.
These pious souls have hoped that Trump will be ousted ere long, leaving "I'm a Christian first" Pence to take over. They've reasoned that Pence will learn from his tenure and enhance his appeal as a future presidential candidate.
Either way, they deem Pence far more likely to advance a faith-friendly agenda than either candidate on the Clinton-Kaine ticket might have. Evangelicals obviously concur.
As much as racism raised its ugly head during the campaign, the Trump-Pence ticket's shrewd playing of the "God card" proved pivotal.
Sarah S. Williams, Santa Barbara
To the editor: The tragic truth is that many conservative Christians seem more loyal to the Republican Party than God. However, a similar critique could be made about many liberal Christians' commitment to the Democrats.
Because so many Christians limit their civic engagement to a only a few issues, they tend to join the party that best aligns with their views on those issues and ignore or even defend the un-Christian values within the group. I am continually dumbfounded by Christians who defend Trump's religious zeal in the face of copious evidence to the contrary.
In contrast, Jesus never joined himself to any political (or even religious) agenda in his day. For him, the kingdom of God was preeminent; it was the lens through which all other institutions were viewed. Because of this, Jesus was an equal-opportunity offender, a speaker of truth to all kinds of power.
As Christians, we are first and foremost citizens of the kingdom of God and only secondarily of our country. This correct perspective should call us to speak up now against racism, misogyny, classism, tyranny, greed and other forms of oppression. But it should also lead us not to silence our voices when the occupant of the Oval Office is a Democrat.
Derek Engdahl, Pomona