By Tony Campolo
Older white working class men have been hurt and are angry—and for good reason. They have suffered three-quarters of the eight million job losses caused by the 2008 financial crisis. The male-dominated industries of construction and manufacturing were the hardest hits by that recession and the effects are still being felt. Close to 20% of working class men in their prime working years were not employed by 2016. Sociologist will tell you that financial stresses are the major causes of marital disruption and there were many divorces and other family difficulties as a result of husbands being unemployed.
Progressive social justice preachers, like myself, have championed causes for every other oppressed group except for these older white working class men, whom we have often cast as “the enemy” in accord with the prejudices of some of our human rights groups. Perhaps this is one of the reasons they have drifted out of our churches.
We social activists have preached against global warning, which we believe has been caused in part by carbon emissions, and we have lobbied the government to put restraints on those factories that were guilty of such emissions. This, of course, caused many industrialists to take their factories and the jobs that go with them, and move them to other countries like Mexico and China, where restrictions on carbon emissions were not as strict as they are here in the United States. So when Donald Trump told them that he would financially punish those industrialists who try to take their factories out of our country, working class white men cheered.
Trump told them that they had been left behind by the social movements that the liberals in the Democratic party have espoused over the past half century, so it should not surprise us that they found in Donald Trump someone who expressed what they felt.
In the past, the Democratic party has claimed to be the party of the working class, but these older working class white men tended to see it as a party made up of an educated, latte drinking, haughty, and condescending elite with whom they could not identify, and that did not seem concerned with their plight. The Democrats assumed that because they were members of the working class they could take their votes for granted as they had before.
The possibility of winning working class people back to the Democratic party has not been helped by those party professionals who declared them to be people who stupidly voted against their own political and social interest. Nor did the Democratic party do itself any good when some of their “sour grapes” losers accused these neglected citizens of being Islamophobes, homophobes, xenophobes, and sexists. Many of the rest of us also may have harbored such unfair prejudices but have learned sophisticated, politically correct, ways of concealing them, knowing that these attitudes would be unacceptable in the circles in which we travel. Not surprisingly, there are an array of these working class older white men who really know this and mock our hypocrisy.
It is time for all of us to remember that Jesus did not find His followers among the elite of His day. As a matter of fact it was the religious and political elite who deemed Him a threat to their privileged status. They were the ones who eventually crucified Him. It was the working class folks, on the other hand, who heard Him and from whom he chose His disciples.
A prime concern of mine right now is that President Trump, along with his new cabinet members and his other appointees, could betray these older white working class men who have cheered their new president at his many rallies. There is growing evidence that they are introducing policies that could harm them. My hope is that he will respond to their hurts and frustrations in ways that will give them—and the rest of us—hope. Given the Wall Street bankers and financiers that Donald Trump has appointed to high offices so far, and, on the other side of the political aisle, the Wall Street billionaire operative who is now the Democratic minority leader in the Congress, I wonder if the concerns of these older white working class men on Main Street will continue to be ignored. I fear that could happen. Let’s pray for better things.
10 Jun 2016
by Tony Campolo
Red Letter Christians should try to be at the Ocean City Tabernacle (550 Wesley Ave., Ocean City, NJ 08226) on June 26th at 7:00 pm. Along with Mark Lowry (of T.V. fame) I will try to explain the unique spirituality preached by Jesus, as highlighted in the red letters in many bibles.
Jesus was quite specific about what we should do to prepare for intimacy with God; how we should pray, and what to expect to happen because of our prayers.
Here are some things I will address:
- When Jesus told us that when we pray we should, “go into a closet and shut the door,” He was telling us that prayer should be a time and place when we shut out the extraneous things in the world and be totally focused on Him.
- That prayer should be a time of surrendering to Him, and in stillness allowing His spirit to invade our hearts and minds.
- That prayer should be a time of “cleansing.” This happens when we name those dark things in our lives and allow Him to reach across time and space to connect with us and absorb those dark things into Himself.
- That prayer should be preparation for action. We should come away from praying empowered to do His work in the world. Prayer should motivate us to share the gospel with others and to work to end sexism, militarism, homophobia, racism, and economic injustice. When Jesus prayed it resulted in action, and it should do the same for us.
Mark Lowry, who regularly appears on television in Bill Gaither’s “Homecoming” concerts, will be joining me, and singing from his repertoire a variety of gospel songs related to what I have to say about prayer.
I hope you come to the gathering on June 26th. Red Letter Christians very much need the kind of deep spirituality that prayer can give us if we are to engage the world with Christ’s radical calling all Christians.
25 Jan 2016
By Tony Campolo
Donald Trump has revealed something about we the American people. It is not just Republicans who are marching to his drum beat. If he becomes the Republican nominee for the presidency we will learn very quickly that he has very strong support among Democrats as well. Mr. Trump is a populist candidate who understands the intensity of the discontent and fears of a host of Americans. In the face of his challenges we must ask if we have become a people who have forgotten what we once claimed to be. At the base of the statue of liberty we read these words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! “
Do we still believe those words or do we resonate with Mr. Trumps desire to build a wall across the Mexican border? Are we ready to join him in stereotyping those undocumented immigrants who he described as rapists, murderers, drug pushers and thieves – while going on to say, in a condescending fashion, that “some of them might be decent people”. His willingness to discriminate against groups of people because of their religious beliefs – as he indicated he wants to do temporarily towards Muslims who want to enter America – is not only unconstitutional, but to many of us, it is immoral. He has suggested that thousands of these Muslim people danced in Jersey City on 9-11 without giving one iota of evidence. This ended up only feeding the anger and animosity towards Muslim people.
Mr. Trump’s sexist attitudes towards woman are well known and need no elaboration here. The more outrageous his declarations the higher his polling numbers go up. If you do not believe that Mr. Trump can win the presidency, than you underestimate his appeal to a huge sector of people in both parties.
There are some liberal clergy who have spoken out but the vast majority of the Evangelical clergy are remained silent on these matters. That Mr. Trump is opposed to gay marriage and abortion is enough for many to define him as an Evangelical and far too many of the rest of us think that that makes him okay for the presidency.
Evangelicals readily ignore our Lord who called upon us to welcome aliens and told us in Matthew 25 that if we fail to make room for the “stranger” we are rejecting Him.
The respect that Jesus showed towards woman flies in the face of those Evangelicals who ignore the degrading comments that Mr. Trump has made about woman, in opposition to the kind of respect that Jesus showed towards them.
Trump’s shocking statements about prisoners of war and especially about the heroic John McCain who could’ve been set free from his Viet Cong captors, but refused to leave behind his fellow prisoners, deserved some rebukes from Evangelical televangelists, but none have been forthcoming.
Some fellow Republican candidates (bless their hearts) have spoken boldly against Mr. Trump’s values and have tried to distance themselves from him. But I am still looking for notable Evangelical spokespersons or publications, like Christianity Today, to do the same.
The question I am raising is not about the character of Donald Trump, it’s about who we are as Americans, and more specifically, who Evangelicals are who follow after him. If he wins the Republican nomination, and the pundits increasingly believe that he will, I fear that my fellow Evangelical brothers and sisters for the most part will vote for him. This is why so many of us are calling ourselves Red Letter Christians instead of Evangelicals. Unless Evangelical leaders who sense that there is something radically wrong with Mr. Trumps social values and speak against them, there may be a new generation that may choose to call themselves Red Letter Christians because the word “Evangelical” will be carrying the baggage that the Trump campaign is presently carrying.
Read Tony’s Article “The Perils of Well-Meaning but Short-Sighted Generosity” on Sojourner’s God’s Politics blog.
09 Mar 2009
Read Tony’s blog on Huffington Post, “Will Faith-Based Programs Go Sour on Obama?”
From the blog: “From the beginning, there have been some religious leaders who greeted the funding of faith-based social services by government with ambivalence. On the one hand, they believed that these religiously grounded programs needed extra funding and were pleased that the White House wanted to help. On the other hand, they had deep concerns about how government dollars would change the character of those faith-based ministries receiving this aid.”
27 Oct 2005
Click here to read a blog entry by Tony on Huffington Post titled “Evangelicals and Bill Bennett.”
From the post: “Bill Bennett has been a darling of Evangelicals since the publication of his Book of Virtues. It made him a hero because he espoused old-fashioned values that Evangelicals tout loud and clear. But has this hero-worship of Bennett curtailed their ability to criticize him when he makes outlandish statements?”