When Populism and Personalities Kill

“He will fight for us. He’s not your typical politician. He will shake up the establishment.”

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Those words and many others are what have enticed a number of President Donald J. Trump supporters to hitch their wagon to his train and ride it all the way to its destructive end and destination. He is a man who has captured the minds, dollars and fervent loyalty of his supporters to include many evangelicals. In capturing and holding such loyalty, President Trump even attempts to “talk like us” (and by “us” I mean Christians) by using certain words that kept many by his side without seeing even the dangers of that.

But through the chaos, division, gross malfeasance and lawlessness that has been the hallmark of Trump and his Administration during these past four years, the train on fire that many rode to the end manifested itself devastatingly on January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol where at least five people were killed, many citizens and law enforcement injured. Millions of Americans and others worldwide watched in horror as a mob of insurgents stormed and overtook the U.S. Capitol as those believing that their president, their hero and country had been unfairly ripped from them through the outcomes of the 2020 presidential election in which President Trump was defeated. NOTE: This mob does not include the many Trump supporters who are not part of this travesty and are equally grieved by what occurred.

Capitol Riots on January 6, 2021. (Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Daily News and WUSA-9 CBS/Washington, D.C.)

The process on January 6, 2021 on other such occasions in our country’s history was to be a routine formality for Congress and Vice President Mike Pence to certify the election results (certifying Joe Biden as the next President and Kamala Harris as Vice President). But days leading up to, an insurgent mob loyal to President Trump arrived in our nation’s capital and on Wednesday, January 6th, stormed the Capitol in what lawmakers condemned as an attempted insurrection aimed at overturning the results of an American election–a response largely publicly championed and incited by President Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and others. What Congress began at 1 p.m. that day was derailed by an attempted coup that led to lives lost, multiple injuries, destruction to the Capitol, offices and property therein as rioters pushed their way inside. With members of Congress, staff, Vice President Pence and others quickly escorted to safety and fitted with gas masks to overcome tear gas used by law enforcement to scatter the mob, the unfolding events shocked and appalled. It is a day that will live in infamy and certainly stains our country. Committed to what they started on Wednesday afternoon, Congress and Vice President Pence returned to certify the electoral college votes, completing this process around 4 a.m. Thursday, which affirmed Trump’s 306-232 defeat.

People are responsible for their own actions. We also expect for those who acted criminally or contributed in some way to the violence to be held accountable. Several have already been arrested.

I live, work and worship in Washington, D.C., and am praying for our city and this country, as you likely are. I did not expect the grief that is so heavy upon my heart.

The Church

This is not a political message as I strive to remain apolitical. Though it has political references, this message is expressly for the Church. The Church has long been an enemy of the state–an enemy of this world as was expected and intended. With the prince of this world (Satan) operating as he has been since being kicked out of heaven and taking one-third of the angels along with him to wreak havoc against God and His children, the Church, the Christian is squarely in his sights. Persevering through opposition, oppression and persecution are par for the course for those who decide to follow Jesus. Jesus clearly warns us of this in John 15:18-21 (New International Version):

18 “If the world hates you,(A) keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you(B) out of the world. That is why the world hates you.(C)20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’[a](D) If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.(E) If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name,(F) for they do not know the one who sent me.(G)

It is dangerous for the Church, for the body of Christ to seek an agent outside of Christ to relieve us from persecution. True–it is good that we have allies joining us in the fight to advance light and godliness amid darkness. In fact, not even Christ is pulling His Church out of the battles but rather, calling us to engage so that we are indeed that “city on a hill,” the light that points the lost, the deceived and the hopeless to Christ and the cross–not to a politician, platform or personality.

So what is populism? Populism is defined in several and yet similar ways. The Oxford English Dictionary defines populism as “a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups,” also defined as “the quality of appealing to or being aimed at ordinary people.”

Certainly, there were many other reasons why voters voted for Trump for 2016. Whether in hopes for a better economy, a fair shake for small businesses instead of golden parachutes for corporate America CEOs, or Hillary Clinton was covertly evil, cold and can’t trust her, or whether to support and advance pro-life policies or simply for the fact that he “talks tough” following President Barack Obama who was weak on a number of issues. The reasons are varied and not a broad stroke. This is the case with many voters who vote for a candidate (and often the conflict of doing so). In America, we’re allowed to vote for who we choose. We’re also allowed to change our minds (which some did once seeing the Trump Administration on display). The fervent support and loyalty that President Trump received from many in the church was built trusting that he would not tone down who he was, that he would fight to protect the underdog (and some evangelicals see themselves and the collective Church in this category), and that he would not capitulate to the political establishment. This was an attractive, shiny object that blinded many.

Whether politician, a personality or “celebrity” preacher, being loyal to such things and people can kill the witness of the gospel and skew our line of sight. It is dangerous when the Church is not willing to call such people to account for their wickedness, division and lawlessness. She loses footing in her walk, in her light and line of sight. We don’t walk alongside the world’s systems and behaviors. The Church, the body of Christ was never meant to. If Christ was hated by the world, those who follow Christ will be too. We don’t need a rescue from anyone else other than Christ. We don’t need anyone to stand up for us. It will most certainly backfire.

Our Inheritance, A Glorious Kingdom

Dear brothers and sisters we belong to a Kingdom not of this world! We have a glorious inheritance, a glorious Kingdom in which our God reigns forever and ever and ever! He is seated on the throne today even in the midst of this upheaval. HE is our strongtower that the righteous run into and are safe (Proverbs 18:10). HE is our Rock and a mighty Rock is He. HE is our refuge.

Let us run this race as the Church that truly believes this (and many of you are). We need nothing else. Be bold enough to call evil what it is and have no loyalties to it (Ephesians 5:11). We can advance the gospel and godliness without the backing of a personality. Let’s boldly lift Christ up so that HE may draw all men unto Him (John 12:32). We need not lift up anyone else’s banner for in doing so, we kill our witness.

Love and prayers,

Nicole

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