Human Rights

This Pastor Left His Own Church Because It Had Too Many Trump Supporters

Keith Mannes has been a devoted pastor for the Christian Reformed Church in Michigan for over 30 years and it was something he loved. But now he’s had it. Giving his last sermon on October 11, he walked away from the ministry that’s becoming increasingly divided and fraught with political tension, The Holland Sentinel notes.

Mannes became increasingly frustrated with the church’s unquestioning support of President Donald Trump so he knew it was time to leave. It makes him sad because he loved the congregation he served at East Saugatuck CRC where he served the past four years. But for a while, he said he’s felt that the church as a whole “has abandoned its role” as the conscience of the state by supporting Trump. So Mannes knew it was his time to leave.

“There’s a quote from Martin Luther King where he said, ‘The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state,” Mannes said. “That just hit me hard because I think broadly, the white evangelical community in our country has abandoned that role.”

The church has been protective of Trump and it’s been an unpleasant situation for the good pastor.

“The question of the church largely and how it’s functioned in this moment has been really disturbing,” he said. “That’s been troubling enough that I need to lay it all down.”

Mannes said he’s not alone in this. Other Christians are dealing with the stress of the situation. Polls reflect this somewhat, showing that while white Christians still support Trump, that support is declining nonetheless.

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center from Sept. 30 to Oct. 5 found that Christian support for the president has dropped since August. Published Oct. 13, the poll found 78 percent of white evangelical Protestants reported they would vote for or lean towards voting for Trump if the election were held that day. That’s dropped from 83 percent in August.

The poll also reported 53 percent of white non-evangelical Protestants supported Trump while 52 percent of white Catholics supported him. These numbers are down by six and seven percentage points in August, respectively.

Trump frequently makes hateful and divisive comments and the strain on believers is widening in a fashion similar to the ways earthquake faults widen. That support, said George Lundskow, a sociology professor at Grand Valley University who studies religious sociology, depends on how people view God.

While some of Trump’s actions don’t align with Christian values, he has instead aligned himself with conservative Christians because his actions match their views of God as being a judgmental and punitive God.

“(His actions) don’t seem very Christian, much less conservative Christian,” Lundskow added. “I don’t think it’s about that. It’s something else about religion — whether you see God as punitive and judgmental, or the loving, forgiving version of God. That definitely shapes political views as well.”

He explained that Christians who see God as punitive generally support Trump because they view him as strong-willed in his attacks on opponents and they also believe he “punishes” poor people. Contrastingly, Christians who believe God is loving and forgiving view him as “liberal” and supporting immigrants and “social justice” for poor people.

It’s this latter group to which Mannes adheres and he notes the disconnect between himself, the church, and the political candidate it continues to support. This disconnect began in 2015, almost as soon as Trump walked off the escalator at Trump Tower and announced his candidacy.

“From the time he came down the escalator,” Mannes said his internal struggle became very real. “It’s only been building ever since. From the beginning, I thought there’s something about this man and the instrument that he is for a lot of things that are just very not Jesus.”

As someone who’s long been a non-believer, I really don’t know if Jesus existed but I’ve always, always been taught that Jesus led through love, not cruelty or hatred. So I’m on board with Mannes here and I hope love and kindness triumph on Election Day. Because if you don’t have that, what do you have?

meet the author

Megan has lived in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida and she currently lives in Central America. Living in these places has informed her writing on politics, science, and history. She is currently owned by 15 cats and 3 dogs and regularly owns Trump supporters when she has the opportunity.

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