Monday, March 14, 2016

If Trump Came to Your School

Over the week-end, I learned that Donald Trump would speak at Lenoir-Rhyne, a small, liberal arts Lutheran college very much like Newberry College, my undergraduate school.  I have many thoughts about this, but the Bishop of the North Carolina Synod says it better than I can, with great eloquence, in his recent Facebook Post:

"The disclaimer: I have never posted anything about a political candidate on FB before. I feel compelled to now.

The news: Donald Trump is scheduled to speak at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, NC on Monday at 10 a.m. L-R is a liberal arts institution begun by and affiliated with the NC Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, to which I was elected bishop last May.

Fact check: Many, if not most, liberal arts institutions issue all candidates for president who make it to the televised debate level an open invitation to speak at their university. Usually Duke or Wake gets the nod in NC, but the Trump campaign said yes to L-R. All candidates were invited. Other ELCA-affiliated colleges in other synods issued similar invitations. L-R's administration was just contacted late this morning by Trump's campaign to say they were accepting the invitation, and it was announced this afternoon. It's spring break at L-R next week, so students won't be around.

The stakes: A liberal arts institution, especially in a democracy and even affiliated with the Church, exists for the free exchange of ideas. No matter how viscerally distasteful any particular candidate might be to any individual or even to what the Church itself stands for, to deny any particular candidate (and especially the Republican front-runner) the opportunity to speak is to fall prey to the very principle that outrages us, i.e, "denying basic human rights to others." Free speech, particularly in a presidential election year, is a most basic democratic right.

My position: This candidate, in my opinion not only as a private citizen but as a bishop in this Church, is a farce, an embarrassment, and a danger to nearly everything I hold dear. That he this late in the game is still leading one of our major political parties with his rhetoric fueled by fear and anger is diametrically opposed to any reckoning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ I can imagine. Even leading "Evangelicals" have said as much.

My plan: Assuming he indeed shows up, I plan to be there, clerical collar and bishop's cross on, to protest NOT the fact that he's there but his platform that would deny refugees access, that would invoke violence at every turn, and that would stir up bigotry and hatred. I could go on, but you get the point. I would be deeply honored to be the one escorted out or even punched out as the heckler that Trump so condescendingly points out at each rally. But I won't try to drive out hate with more hate and anger. I will stand there, pray, sing, march, chant, wave signs, whatever I need to do and with whatever consequence to say, "This is not who we are, America. This is not who we are, North Carolina. This is not who we are, Church." And I hope the reporters and the cameras are there, and I hope they might care what I/we have to say in the name of Jesus.

So what?: Stay tuned for more details if you might like to stand with me, Republicans, Democrats, Christian, other faiths, and unaffiliated, either in Spirit or in person on Monday morning."

Back to me, Kristin:  I can't be there, but I will be praying for them and with them.

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