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As a white man who has labored over the last 17 years for the gospel, racial reconciliation, and justice, I found myself disappointed and discouraged when I found out Donald Trump became our new president. Don’t get me wrong.  I wasn’t excited about the thought of Hillary Clinton either.

I have seen some encouraging steps towards racial reconciliation. Many of the younger people that I meet hunger for stronger cross-cultural relationships. They appear to be concerned about addressing systemic racism and injustice.  This has given me hope and the sense that things are possibly improving…

…but then Trump.

81% of white evangelicals voted for him.  How was this possible? What does this mean? I don’t think that everyone who voted for Trump is racist.  But with that said, the man framed almost every aspect of his campaign on bullying minorities and women, intimidating his opponents, preying upon people’s fears, and promising to build walls.

Walls…

…A literal wall between us and Mexico  A financial wall between us and global trade partners.  A relational wall between the privileged and minorities by encouraging “stop and frisk” police tactics.  A wall between his supporters and minorities by haranguing and bullying the latter with vitriolic speech and name-calling.  A wall of fear and hatred for refusing to denounce the KKK and white supremacists who have rushed to his side. A wall of oppression towards orphans, sojourners, and refugees by promising to keep “those people” out of our country.  The list goes on.

If there is one positive, he has stated that he will build a wall between the unborn and the abortionist’s scalpel, which would be an extraordinary gain if he were able to do so.  Yet, can one call that a complete victory if he’s still committed to trampling on the lives and dignity of millions of other people?  One must also ask, “Can a man be trusted who claims to be an advocate for the unborn, and yet has demonstrated crude and misogynistic behavior towards women?”

Trump has promised for over a year to be a wall-builder, and the resounding white evangelical vote for him affirmed that they think we need more walls to progress as a nation. If we want to remain safe, grow economically, and essentially become “great again,” then we must build more walls.

Wall building and Taming the Culture

A wall has two primary purposes:  It protects people on one side of it and it prevents the progress of people on the other.

Sadly, this barrier-building mindset has been the approach for most of the moral majority for almost fifty years now.  Many white evangelicals have looked chiefly to the government and legislation to prevent the advancement of liberal culture, silence the rabble, and protect the church by erecting more barriers. For decades, this tactic worked. The walls were up. Christian morality was the dominant social currency. The liberals were held in check. The church was safe.

If we briefly examine American history, we can understand why most of our minority brothers and sisters are lamenting the election of a man who promises to build more walls. As soon as Europeans set foot on this continent, walls were erected that denied the indigenous Native Americans and the African slaves their God-given humanity.

For over 150 years, African-Americans had to endure the walls of legalized segregation and walls to prevent access to adequate housing and education. Walls were built to keep them from voting and a myriad of other legalized walls were erected to hinder their social advancement. These barriers were established intentionally to keep marginalized people marginalized, and the privileged people privileged.

Over the last decade, the white moral majority have seen threats to their walls. The advancement of the LGBTQ community has endangered the sanctity of marriage. ISIS and immigration has threatened national safety.  The BLM movement has intimidated quieter and safer communities with their noise and passion. A black president breaches the wall of white male dominance in the political arena.

These holes in the wall have created fear in the hearts of the privileged: if things don’t change, the privileged might find themselves marginalized. And so a presidential candidate who promises to “make America great again” becomes an obvious champion for people who want to protect their way of living and prevent others from advancing their lives. Building barriers has always been more convenient than seeking to build relationships. Trump promises to get everyone back on the right sides of the wall again.  And for some – that would be great.

The Bridge of the Incarnation

But how does all of this fit into the blueprint modeled by Christ? In order to build a relationship with fallen humanity, Christ didn’t build a wall – He built a bridge. It was called the incarnation. He took on human flesh, died a death that we deserve, and then rose again. He made a bridge between God and us. At the same time, He equipped us and exhorted us to build bridges with others. Until that moment, the wall of our sin separated us from both God and one another. But praise the Lord that the wall has been toppled, so that meaningful relationships can be forged and others restored.

Throughout scripture, God makes it apparent that His people are called to care for the oppressed with extravagant love, mercy, and grace.  Christ’s people have always been instructed and equipped to build bridges. This is what it means to be both a “shalom-maker” (Matthew 5:9) and an “ambassador for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20).  Interestingly, Jesus saved his harshest critique for the privileged – for those that lived behind their walls of moralism and power and oppressed the disenfranchised. Christ-followers build bridges to the oppressed, and not walls against them.

The only time we see Christ building walls was when he made Himself a barrier for those who had no one to help them. He made Himself a wall between an angry mob and a vulnerable woman caught in adultery. He was a barrier between little children and his own disciples’ impatience and disdain.  He stood in the gap for a woman who incurred verbal abuse for washing Christ’s feet with her hair. Throughout the bible, we find God siding with those who are oppressed. They are the obvious objects of His biased favor. He calls His people to protect them from oppressors and to promote their total flourishing through justice.

This is the dilemma for the white evangelical church going forward. How can we effectively build a bridge of the Gospel to a hurting and unbelieving world when we recently championed a man who said he would build walls to keep the hurting and oppressed, hurting and oppressed? In an attempt to protect themselves, their morals, and their way of living, white evangelicals potentially set fire to the most important bridge that connects them to culture.

In Ephesians 2, Paul joyously informs us God has demolished the “wall of hostility” between others and those around us. How do we share with the unbelieving world the joyful news that our God topples walls between people groups when the majority of white evangelicals placed a man in office that builds them? In my mind, these are the questions that the church must wrestle with in the days ahead.

Throughout history, God has demonstrated that He can do a whole lot with very little to advance His kingdom, love, and compassion. Thus what currently appears to be an enormous setback for racial reconciliation, justice and Gospel-promotion, may be the very blueprint for God’s greatest work of revival and renewal that this country has ever seen. God has informed us that He is “the God of hope” and that He desires for all of us to “abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).  May all of us abound in the hope that no barrier will hinder God’s own bridges of the gospel and justice.

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