Saturday, July 20, 2019

Musings on Diversity in Democracy: Who Are Our Neighbors?

  By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
Is diversity America’s strength?  Not when our president can exploit deep-seated xenophobic fears and hatred and have a 46% approval rating.  Trump’s tweet that those we don’t like should go back to where they came from is racist and rejects diversity in democracy.  The ugly reality is that America is more divided today than at any time since its Civil War.  

Americans pledge allegiance to one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, and believe that God’s will is to reconcile and redeem humanity.  Satan’s will is to divide and conquer, and Satan does a convincing imitation of God in the church and in politics.  There’s little doubt which side is winning the cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil.

Since most white Christians support Trump, it would seem that the church also opposes diversity in democracy.  If so, it rejects the teachings of Jesus summarized in the greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  It’s a common word of faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims that has no boundaries of race or religion.
Luke’s account of the greatest commandment has a Jewish expert in the law ask Jesus, Who is my neighbor?  Jesus told him the story of the good Samaritan, in which a Samaritan was a good neighbor to a Jew.  Jesus then told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)  That had to be shocking to the expert in the law, since Jews despised their Samaritan neighbors.             

Ancient Jews were notorious for opposing diversity.  Joshua set a precedent for ethnic cleansing at Jericho; and when the Jews returned from exile in Babylon, Ezra and Nehemiah purged non-Jews from the Holy Land.  In today’s Israel, Palestinians suffer similar treatment. The altruistic teachings of Jesus were critical of leaders who rejected diversity.

After the death of Muhammad, Muslim leaders resorted to Islamic holy war to compete with Christianity for worldly power; and the church used Crusades and Inquisitions to compete with Islam in defiance of the altruisitic teachings of Jesus.  Since then the church has promoted a triumphalist religion and politics with European colonialism and American exceptionalism.
Popular religions protect the status quo of power rather than challenge it.  The radical teachings of Jesus on the sacrificial love of discipleship have never been popular.  From the time Christian leaders made an unholy alliance with worldly power, they have subordinated the unpopular altruistic teachings of Jesus to more popular and exclusivist Christian doctrines.

The majority of white Christians who support Trump with shouts of Send her back! have sacrificed Jesus on the altar of partisan politics.  Jesus emphasized that our neighbors include those of all races and religions, but today’s church has ignored those moral teachings.  The church cannot support both Trump and Jesus and survive as a credible religious institution.

There are isolated examples of churches that promote the altruistic and universal teachings of Jesus as God’s word, and one of them is Robin Meyer’s Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City.  Meyers says he became a heretic with the help of Jesus.  Today his large but isolated church in Oklahoma is the exception that proves the rule.

In a world of increasing racial and religious diversity, America must welcome pluralism.  Americans can debate their differences with their neighbors without racist attacks on those with whom they disagree.  If the church expects to remain America's dominant social institution, it must restore its credibility by promoting diversity in America rather than condemning it.


This commentary relates to Lessons #3, Love of God and neighbor: a common word of faith (see Mark 12:28-33; and Luke 10:29-37) at pp 25-30 and pp 223-225 in The Teachings of Jesus and Muhammad on Morality and Law: The Heart of Legitimacy.  It is an interfaith study guide posted in Resources at     

David Brooks reminds us of the illusory ideal of an America that once celebrated its diversity; but that ideal has been discredited by Trump and his supporters who exemplify an ugly racist America.  See

Trump supporters’ newest rallying cry — ‘Send her back!’— reverberates across a nation fraught with racial tension. See

Max Boot is a conservative commentator who has written on Trump’s racist tweet: I may not agree with AOC’s squad, but they are better Americans than Trump. Boot has criticized criticized Republicans who fail to condemn Trump for his blatant racism. “Many Republicans turn a blind eye to Trump’s bigotry because something else — tax cuts or judges or Israel — is more important to them. Sorry, Republicans. There is nothing — nothing — more important in the United States than racism. Where you stand on that one issue defines who you are as a human being. Silence is complicity. All Republicans who stand mute in the face of Trump’s latest racism are telling you who they really are. It’s an ugly picture of a morally bankrupt party that has now embraced racial prejudice as a platform.” See
George Will has offered a stirring and stark assessment of what Donald Trump's presidency means for our politics and our culture: "I believe that what this president has done to our culture, to our civic discourse ... you cannot unring these bells and you cannot unsay what he has said, and you cannot change that he has now in a very short time made it seem normal for schoolboy taunts and obvious lies to be spun out in a constant stream.” See

Robin R. Meyers is the author of Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Following Jesus (Harper One, 2009).  Meyers recently spoke at the University of South Carolina on       How I became a Heretic with the Help of Jesus.  For a review of American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel, a movie featuring Meyers and his Mayflower Congregational Church, see
Related commentary:    
On the greatest commandment and love over law:
(1/11/15): The Greatest Commandment: A Common Word of Faith
(1/18/15): Love over Law: A Principle at the Heart of Legitimacy
(1/23/16): Who Is My Neighbor?
(1/30/16): The Politics of Loving Our Neighbors as Ourselves
(3/31/18): Altruism: The Missing Ingredient in American Christianity and Democracy
(10/13/18): Musings on a Common Word of Faith and Politics for Christians and Muslims
(2/23/19): Musings on Loving Your Enemy, Including the Enemy Within
On religion, race and politics:
(7/5/15): Reconciliation as a Remedy for Racism and Religious Exclusivism
(7/12/15): Reconciliation in Race and Religion: The Need for Compatibility, not Conformity
(7/19/15): Religion, Heritage and the Confederate Flag
(3/12/16): Religion, Race and the Deterioration of Democracy in America
(3/26/16): Religion, Democracy, Diversity and Demagoguery
(7/9/16): Back to the Future: Race, Religion, Rights and a Politics of Reconciliation
(7/16/16): The Elusive Ideal of Political Reconciliation
(10/22/16): The Need for a Politics of Reconciliation in a Polarized Democracy
(11/19/16): Religion and a Politics of Reconciliation Based on Shared Values
(11/26/16): Irreconcilable Differences and the Demise of Democracy
(2/18/17): Gerrymandering, Race and Polarized Partisan Politics
(8/19/17): Hate, History and the Need for a Politics of Reconciliation
(11/11/17): A Politics of Reconciliation that Should Begin in the Church
(12/9/17): Religion, Race and Identity Politics
(1/6/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Diversity in Democracy
(10/20/18): Lamentations of an Old White Male Maverick Methodist in a Tribal Culture
(12/29/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Justice in Religion and Politics
(3/9/19): Musings on the Degradation of Democracy in a Post-Christian America
(7/6/19): Musings on Democrats, Busing and Racism: It’s Deja Vu All Over Again
(7/13/19): Musings on Sovereignty and Conflicting Loyalties to God and Country

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