No, Mr. Trump, You Do Not 'Tell It Like It Is'

The lives you disparage have worth and value.
07/21/2016 09:29 am ET Updated Jul 21, 2016
Photo Credit: Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters

We’re all watching your campaign, Mr. Trump.

On a large scale, media sources are covering speeches, interviews, and spectacles during the Republican National Convention this week. We’ve encountered your words on television, podcasts, newspapers, and social media newsfeeds. You have certainly captured a lot of attention, and from that position, are speaking loudly on an enormous stage. You will do so again tonight.

– And –

On a large scale, we’re watching crowds as they continue to applaud your speeches, interviews, and spectacles. We’ve encountered their applause on television, podcasts, newspapers, and social media newsfeeds. You have certainly captured their attention, and as we watch your campaign unfold, many of us have been dismayed and disheartened to discover our neighbors applauding and expanding the enormous stage from which you speak.

I am dismayed and disheartened –
not because my neighbors are conservatives, and
not because they are registered voters for the GOP.

I am dismayed and disheartened because the growing applause for your controversial, discriminatory rhetoric targets some to be attacked. This crescendo of applause sends a clear message that some particular human beings are not our neighbors to love.

While much could be said about this, there is one sentence that seems to encapsulate such growing applause. I hear it continually from your supporters:

“I like Donald Trump because he tells it like it is.”

Your disparaging words about minorities have tapped into the racism and xenophobia we harbor and enact in this country. Your words may indeed serve as a barometer to measure our history and shameful motives. In that sense, you are speaking some truth, but only in the way you hold up a mirror to reveal our own capacity for discrimination.

Yes, in that sense, you may reveal something true within your rhetoric.

But beyond that,
I want to say clearly and emphatically,
“No, Mr. Trump, you do not tell it like it is.”

Because –

If you were truly willing to tell it like it is, you would be talking about the deep, unending worth that is found in every human life.

If you were truly willing to tell it like it is, you would apply that conviction toward the lives of those who suffer and are continuously marginalized in this nation.

If you were truly willing to tell it like it is, you would accompany those lives and construct a public stage for their voices.

Instead, you solicit applause for your discriminatory rhetoric, and it expands the enormous stage from which you speak.

As your campaign has unfolded,

You have slandered African-Americans with false crime statistics.
You have labeled Mexicans as rapists and criminals.
You have vilified Muslims and called for a total ban on their immigration.
You have equated Syrian refugees with the terrorists who displaced them.
You have disrespected women during your public debates.
You have mocked a journalist with a disability.

All of these human beings are our neighbors, and their lives have worth and value. That is the truth. So no, Mr. Trump, you do not tell it like it is.

Now, if you will allow me to speak truth from a particular angle, I would like to address you from the deepest part of my own identity. I would like to speak to you as a Christian and as a minister.

In my life of faith,
I do talk about human worth and dignity,
I do speak against racism and xenophobia, and with love,
I do say unabashedly –
Black lives matter,
Mexican lives matter,
Muslim lives matter,
Refugee lives matter,
Women’s lives matter, and
Disabled lives matter –

But I will be honest with you and my audience: It is rare for me to speak so publicly against the language of a particular political candidate.

As a minister, I take care never to tell people how they should cast their specific vote. I have my own convictions, but I believe that all people should vote according to their own conscience.

As a minister, I also know and love people who have voted for you. I recognize they may do so again now that you have won the Republican nomination. I will disagree heartily, but I will continue to love these people personally.

But I must speak out against your language because is dangerous. It stands against my convictions of faith, but most importantly, it vilifies and harms the very lives my faith and my humanity call me to love. These lives belong to people who are our neighbors.

I am a Presbyterian minister, Mr. Trump, and while on the campaign trail, you have claimed my denominational church as your own. Months ago, it became clear that you do not have active membership in any Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation. But you were baptized into this faith at the beginning of your life.

And as a minister from the tradition you claim, I know this –

On the day you were brought to the baptismal waters, a community gathered from a particular congregation. That family of faith surrounded those waters, and they surrounded you. They did so with a pledge and a proclamation that reveals the deepest truth of all:

In love, you were created,
In love, you were redeemed,
In love, your life has been claimed forever.
You belong to God, and
You belong to the community.

As a minister from the tradition you claim, I know that pledge and proclamation was shared on the day of your baptism. Every time a community gathers around human lives, we are invited to enact such a pledge and proclamation with our own.

And so, Mr. Trump,
please remember,
the lives you disparage have worth and value.
That is telling it like it is.

From such universal love, we speak love in particular ways.

Black lives matter,
Mexican lives matter,
Muslim lives matter,
Refugee lives matter,
Women’s lives matter, and
Disabled lives matter.
Human lives matter.
Please tell it like it is.

This piece was first published on Smuggling Grace.

Renee Roederer is an ordained PC(USA) minister and the founding organizer of Michigan Nones and Dones, a community for people who are “spiritually curious and institutionally suspicious.” This community in Southeast Michigan includes people who are religiously unaffiliated (the Nones), people who have left established forms of institutional churches (the Dones), and people who remain connected to particular faith traditions but seek new, emerging visions for their expression. 

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