“Mulligans,” Grace, Trump and Dreamers

I’ve been completely speechless for several days, after seeing this video featuring several local women, supporting Donald Trump, and excusing his affair with a porn star, and doing so based mostly on their so-called Christian faith.
The American view of Christianity was already in tatters *before* Trump came along. In the past decade, the number of Americans identifying as “Christian” has dropped by ten percent.
Is it any wonder when we see these kinds of videos? Or hear the comments of Tony Perkins, allegedly a Christian ministers, suggesting that we give Trump a “mulligan” for his porn star affair?
The leaders of evangelical American Christianity are showing themselves to have no soul, no center, and no Christian value that they will not sell out if they believe it leads to power. That’s *not* Christian. That’s the sycophantic state religion of empires. Christianity has “been there, and done that” with the Roman Empire, and the Empires of Europe.
The forebears of contemporary evangelical American Christianity sometimes died, defending their right to worship God as they understood God, and avoided unnecessary entanglements with The Powers That Be. Some of today’s leaders, Perkins and Dallas’ own Rev. Robert Jeffries, rush to defend Trump at every turn.
Maybe some of these women are members of Jeffries’ church. It would have been interesting to see where they attend, frankly.
I’ve worried about even writing these words today, given the charged environment between men and women. And already, in comment threads, I’ve seen nasty things said about these women, their appearance, their accents, their dress. I don’t want to add to that. I have no desire to “slut shame” Stormy Daniels.
Jesus, after all, was famously known to care for prostitutes and other men and women of questionable societal standing.
I just want to do one thing here, as a Christian minister. I want to confront, challenge, and refute the THEOLOGY these women are espousing.
They talk a lot about Grace.
Grace is something we know a lot about at Northaven. We talk about God’s grace constantly. We talk about how it’s all-pervasive and how God loves of all of God’s children, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or economic circumstance.
But these women —along with Perkins, Jeffries, and others— are espousing what I’ve always believed to be a dangerous kind of Christian theology as it pertains to God’s grace. It’s “once saved, always saved” theology.
The idea is that once God saves you, that’s it. You’re good. You’re justified before God. No further work needed.
This is certainly not a part of our Wesleyan view of Grace. John Wesley DID teach us to believe in “prevenient grace,” or the grace that comes to all human beings. I hear these women talking about that.
But, where their concept of grace seems to slip is that they seem to believe Trump deserves a “mulligan” for his affair, since it happened before he was president. That’s not how it works. Grace is NOT a mulligan. If Donald Trump expresses sincere regret and repentance for what he’s done, then forgiveness and reconciliation might be possible. But contrary to what they’ve said here, he’s done nothing of the kind. He’s not said he’s sorry. He’s not admitted his mistakes. He hasn’t tried to make things right. He and his wife have not made a public appearance together since this story broke. That’s not evidence of repentance. That’s likely evidence of a painful personal situation, being played out on the world stage.
Speaking of “mulligans” for mistakes, what about The Dreamers?
They come to mind. Certainly, most evangelical Christians and their President would believe The Dreamers have made a “mistake” somehow, by being in this country. (I do not believe this, but they do…)
So, is Trump willing to give them a “mulligan” and allow them access to the American Dream?
And before you say, “Yes! He has a ten-year plan of restitution that would get them there…”
Understand: That’s not a “mulligan.”
That’s incredibly onerous “restitution” for young Americans who have already contributed much to our society.
Sooo…to push the logic….Does Trump owe the American people a ten-year plan of restitution for his affairs and treatment of women?
I don’t see him offering this…do you?
Either grace comes to all people, and we live as people of grace, or we don’t.
I happen to believe in Grace. Grace is why I support The Dreamers. Grace is why I oppose the Death Penalty. Grace is why I believe everyone deserves the change to turn their life in a new way. Grace is why I opposed “the wall.”
I believe in “Repentance,” which is different from feeling BAD about something. Repentance is turning in a new way. It’s confessing and admitting what we did, and saying “I won’t do that again…”
My theology is this: That BECAUSE of God’s grace, no human being is beyond redemption. God *does” believe in second chances. And understanding that makes me more willing to support government policies that give second chances to the poor, the marginalized, the outcast….as Jesus often told us were the very people God’s grace rests with the most.
For those of us who have been blessed in life —materially, spiritually, physically— when we really understand God’s grace, we become more GENEROUS and loving toward everyone, not with long lists of requirements…but with true hope and love and faith. In fact, Jesus makes it clear that for those richly blessed by God’s grace, there is an even larger duty to be loving, grace filled and generous with the resources God gives us (“To whom much is given, much is required…”). If we’ve been given much, our calling is to build longer tables, not taller walls.
Donald Trump, and his evangelical minions within the Christian faith, talk the language of grace. But they walk and walk of judgment, condemnation, and exclusion.
I know they SAY they are Christians. But I need everyone to know that their actions and words do no speak of the Christianity I know and profess.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of The Woods United Methodist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas. For seventeen years, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas, Texas. Eric is an avid blogger and published author. Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy.

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