taking the words of Jesus seriously

Editor’s note: This adapted transcript excerpt is taken from a conversation between Johnnie Moore (former leader of Trump’s evangelical executive council) and Shane Claiborne on the Unbelievable podcast with Justin Brierley. Catch the full interview here.


Johnnie: . . . Let me just say, I remember at the inauguration in 2016. And I remember the protests around the inauguration. I remember how the city was shut down. I happened to be in the city during the inauguration. And so there are more National Guard troops in DC today than there were then because of what happened at the Capitol last week. But I think we have to remember that the opposition to Donald Trump, you know, preceded his presidency, and we had the most significant sort of anti-election sentiment, let’s say back then. You know, the only thing to compare to it is what we’re seeing now. And so for that time, it came from one side of the aisle.

And I’m not saying all that to say, “Well, what about this, or what about that?” But what I am saying is, for some reason, over the last four years, the information hasn’t gotten through. And I think our media—and I’ve no criticism of the media, generally, I work with the media every day and have many friends who are in the press, I’m not a critic of the press—but I do think the press has become hyper politicised in the United States of America. And, even some of the information that changed: it’s just stuff I just patently disagree with. The pictures of the cages, you know, came from the Obama administration. The first term of the Obama administration, I believe, there were more deportations of immigrants in the United States in the first term of the Obama administration, than in most of the Trump administration. Shane and I agree that we need to bring in more persecuted Christians and other immigrants in the United States.

I am a pro-refugee, pro-immigrant evangelical. Shane and I agree on addressing poverty and all of these other issues. We’re both pro-life, as he said. Where we disagree is in the way of addressing those problems. So, you know, for instance, I’m critical of the way the United States government has outsourced a lot of its refugee resettlement policy to multilateral international organisations. And the reason why I’m critical with that is because when I was in Lebanon, in Iraq, in 2014, you know, Christians were telling me, and Yazidi were telling me, they wouldn’t go into the UN camps because you had ISIS fighters who were sending their families to the UN camps. They didn’t feel safe there, and our refugee resettlement process was and still is, to this day, in need of reform.

When it comes to border security, I mean, one of the most amazing things that has happened over the last administration is we have significantly—because of bipartisan effort of evangelicalism . . . — moderated some of the original positions of the administration on human trafficking, and on our southern border it has gone down drastically. The amount of fentanyl coming across the border of the United States, largely from China’s killing 1000s of people every single month in the United States of America is just one more example. And I could go on. Even when the pandemic was happening, the Trump administration—not the Obama administration, or the Biden administration—the Trump administration, through an incredibly innovative program has delivered 130 million boxes of food to families all across the United States of America by taking a different approach by buying food from farmers who had access and then giving healthy food to people who needed it. Like there are all these other pieces of this equation that just aren’t given any time. And misinformation and disinformation can come from both sides of the argument. And that concerns me too, because I feel like it’s unnecessarily dividing.

READ: With New Executive Order, This Immigrant is Leaving Church Sanctuary After 3.5 Years

Justin: Do you think that’s fair in any way? Shame that we are sometimes only given the worst possible picture of Trump—while I’m sure Johnny doesn’t think he’s a saint, either. Nonetheless, they do not. Yeah, what’s your view on that, Shane?

Shane:I don’t know, if you’ve been down to the border, you know, Johnny, I went down to the border. I went to one of the detention centers there. We went to the encampment where, with our policy right now, they remain in Mexico—you know, stay over on that side. There’s an encampment of 300 families that we visited there. And so I mean, I just saw all of that firsthand and met folks that had been detained, not because they were in a gang in El Salvador, but because they were a young family trying to find a better life. And so I mean, that’s what I saw. And I know that is true. And I have critiques of the Obama administration, and this is why I say I’m not partisan because some of our highest numbers of immigrants coming into our country have been under republican presidents but the lowest numbers that we’ve had ever are under Donald Trump. And this is before the pandemic even, so I think that’s the concern.

But you know, I’m not a single-issue person either. I mean, my ethic is one of life. I believe every person is made in the image of God. So for me, the immigration issue is a pro-life issue. The death penalty is. Our obsession with guns is. The Black Lives Matter movement and racial justice are. All of these are issues of life. And Donald Trump has unleashed some of the most horrific principalities and powers. That’s what I would name it, as scripture calls it: that these are dark forces that are at work. And Donald Trump is just a manifestation of some of that with his policies and his rhetoric. But, boy, when we see what happened at the Capitol . . . that’s why it’s unsurprising to me. This didn’t come out of nowhere.

We have 400 years of history that we haven’t reckoned with that is surfacing. And so what we see in our streets, I think, is fueled by white fear and fragility, a white rage and anger. This has so much to do with race, which is why when we talk about the Christians who support Trump, it’s so important to say that it’s 80% of white Christians, white evangelicals. When you look outside of that to people of color that are Christians, 80% of them are against the policies and rhetoric of Trump. So there is a fault-line of race that we really have to recognize. And what happened at the Capitol was an uprising of white supremacy that was totally baptized by Trump. 

Justin: We’ll come back to you, Johnnie. We’re just gonna go to a quick break. And I do want to then open up sort of the wider issues of the church’s relationship with politics in the US and what that has looked like and will look like going forward.

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