I plan to crowd source a big purchase of New Testaments.  Thousands of them – in compact print editions.  They’re to be night-dropped by glider into evangelical strongholds – some parts of Brooklyn and vast regions in Texas, Alabama, and other states where many of my fellow citizens seem not to have read it.  (Selma, the home town of Jeff Sessions, comes to mind, as does Roy Moore’s back yard.)

 According to many sources, four out of five white evangelicals voted for Trump.  This means that by the millions they condone, or at least overlook, his racism, his gospel of greed, his divorces, his groping, his supporters on hate radio and Fox.  Sadly, and in a great disservice the millions in the faith community who struggle with Trump’s leadership, ‘white evangelical’ increasingly translates to ‘bigot.’  That much is almost cliché.  The doctrinal cause is not: many of these self-proclaimed spreaders of the Gospel are clearly unfamiliar with that gospel, the Good Book’s part two.  “Blessed are the meek” has gotten by them – and certainly Trump.  As well as:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” “Blessed are the merciful,” and “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  These quotes are from Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount, for those of you in the drop zones.

 This reading lapse is most evident in the on-going tragedy on the Mexican border – met with a huge silence by Trump apologists of all denominations.  True, some individual ministers (Franklin Graham) and organizations (National Association of Evangelicals) have deplored the crisis – but often not its source.  Graham dilutes blame over decades, defends law over love, spares Trump.  Certainly, he must not be familiar with, or perhaps misreads, Matthew 19: “Suffer the little children…”   

 By aligning themselves with Trump, many American evangelicals – those spreaders of Christ’s Word – have made themselves over into an Old Testament team.  They have swapped love for law and order, for morality by Pence-proscription, for an eye-for-an-eye retribution, and for the comforts of kingship.  Many actively promote intolerance and oppose constitutional values out of a soulful OT darkness.  Mike Huckabee and Robert Jeffress are examples.  Matthew, who is excellent at profiling Pharisees, again comes to mind: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” 

Democracy is New Testament.  The traditions and constitutions of the West are in fact imbued with it.  Gender equality, for instance.  While various religions and sects still treat women as cattle, governments recognize (albeit very imperfectly) the full rights of women. Freedom, for another instance.  What you do in your home is your business.  You need not worry about sanctimonious outsiders erecting invisible fences around you.  Happiness.  You have a right to pursue it, as you define it.  (Invisible fences, again.)  And social comity. Because of its recognition of equality and freedom and hell-dismissing happiness, democracy’s post-gender, post-dogma, and post-puritan ideals are now the go-to social unifiers.

Simply put, democracies are more advanced than many religions just as some cultures are more advanced than others.  So-called religious freedom legislation is retrograde, an effort to put religion back on top.  But we are past the point where bigotry should survive, even if it is “deeply held” bigotry.     Just as we are past tolerating cultural differences if they mean genital mutilation, the burka, arranged marriages or royal succession.    

The evangelical movement in the United States is not monolithic.  One fifth of white evangelicals did not vote for Trump and good men and women have spoken out against the tragedy on the Mexican border.  Leith Anderson, president of the National Associate of Evangelicals, mentioned above, is among them.  As is Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.  These pastors, and many progressive evangelicals, are aware of the New Testament.  I believe those folks are the movement’s future.  But they have a steep climb.  In the meantime, there’s the air drop.  Because the New Testament needs to be read, understood, and preached honestly, even if it means rejecting Trump.  Perhaps that makes me an evangelical.