Listen: Dr Ed Stetzer in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty
Evangelical leaders have been urged to influence President Trump to speak out more clearly against the racism and hatred perpetrated by right wing supremacist groups.
The August 13 ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville Virginia initially called to protest the removal of a Confederate statue from a local park turned violent when neo-nazis, white supremacists and others from the so-called alt right confronted left wing counter-protesters.
Deep echoes of a racially segregated past often lie just below the surface in some southern states as events in Charlottesville showed.
The response, or multiple responses, of the US President have dismayed many who feel he has hedged his bets. He was slow to condemn right wing extremists while blaming ‘both sides’ for what happened.
Prominent church leader, author and commentator Dr Ed Stetzer was so distressed by the events at Charlottesville he penned a number of articles calling on church leaders to speak out, and use their influence to convince the President of his “unique responsibility” to disavow white supremacist groups.
Evangelicals, bible-believing regular church-goers, were significant in supporting Donald Trump through both the primaries and the election, support he courted.
Following his election the President appointed an evangelical advisory board. Dr Stetzer was invited to join that group, but declined. He has called on this group to use its influence on this issue, and told Open House he understands some have indeed done so privately.
Dr Stetzer argues that right wing groups have been “emboldened” under the current Presidency and has called on church leaders everywhere to speak out. “[S]ilence on issues of injustice is sin,” he wrote in a recent blog:
“For the first time in a long time, the masses of this movement are proudly showing their faces (no hoods this time). And we must be willing to acknowledge that they have been emboldened by the rise of Donald Trump and the values and rhetoric surrounding his 2016 Presidential campaign. Although the President seems to teeter-totter between silence and condemnation, the table has been set. The truth is, it is clear that many in the alt-right movement feel as though a door has been opened for their supremacist worldview, and that ‘Make America Great Again’ was about their warped definition of a great nation. … As I’ve been watching Charlottesville, my heart grieves for what this movement stands for. It is the antithesis of who we are called to be, and the plans that God has for us, and for the world.”
He is one of Open House’s favourite commentators, and we spoke with him about Charlottesville and the evangelical ties of the Trump Presidency.