The 19 per cent

This is written in response to the 81% of White Evangelicals who voted for Donald trump in the US elections.

I am Evangelical. I am the 19 per cent.

I am William Tyndale, who, in the early sixteenth century, yearned for the plough boy to understand the bible better than the pope. So he dedicated his life to translating the bible into English. For this, he was strangled and burned at the stake.

He was the 19 per cent.

I am the Levellers, campaigning for radical equality and religious liberty more than 250 years before universal suffrage. For these causes, they too gave their lives.

They were the 19 per cent.

I am John Wesley who yearned to take the gospel to the industrial working classes – and was kicked out of the Church of England for doing so.

He was the 19 per cent.

I am the Methodists, who trained working class men and women to be preachers, in an age when clergy were largely Oxbridge educated.

They were the 19 per cent.

I am William WIlberforce, campaigning for decades for the abolition of slavery in an era when the majority of church leaders considered it acceptable.

He was the 19 per cent.

I am the Toldpuddle Martyrs who came together to form a trade union to defend their wages and rights as agricultural workers but were betrayed by their local church – as well as the governing authorities. Writing to the local vicar, George Loveless said:

The poor are rapidly becoming their own teachers, and it is in vain you try to hoodwink and keep them in darkness; light is appearing around them…They see that labour is the source of wealth… that they are kept in poverty and degradation by those who, living in luxury and idleness upon the fruits of their labour, tell the working man his portion is to labour, to suffer, and to die.

They were the 19 per cent.

I am the Chartists, turning up en masse to churches to petition preachers to preach on Isaiah 58, Matthew 25, Micah and Amos so that they would exhort their congregations to commit to God’s heart for justice and equality.

They were the 19 per cent.

I am Keir Hardie, who delivered blistering sermons on wealth and poverty to middle class congregations, and built a political party that would create the NHS, the Welfare State and expanded universal education.

He was the 19 per cent.

I am Gladys Aylward who was turned down for overseas missionary service because she was a working class woman, but who spent her life savings on a one way train ticket to China. She served hundreds of orphans at a time of great danger. Across China, she became known as the “Virtuous One”.

She was the 19 per cent.

I am Corrie Ten Boom, who offered sanctuary in her home for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany in an age‎ when the German church had completely capitulated to the governing authorities. For her efforts, she would herself spend time in concentration camps. After the War she would take literally Christ’s words to “Love your enemies” when she reached out to forgive the camp guard who had served while she had watched her own sister die.

She was the 19 per cent.

I am Martin Luther King whose powerful words written in the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” are so relevant to our age that they leap off the page as if the ink is not yet dry:

Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”….. . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”

He wasn’t the 19 per cent because he was African American. But like those before him, he faced resistance from the 81 per cent. Indeed, his legendary “I have a dream” speech was aimed directly at them. It quoted Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the Declaration of Independence, well-known hymns and, of course, the bible. Resistance to the message of that speech lives on – and indeed finds its ultimate fulfillment via Nixon’s Southern Strategy and the Moral Majority – in the form of the Trump presidential campaign.

The 19 per cent have given us the English bible, democracy, universal suffrage, equality before the law, trade unions, universal education, emancipation, civil rights and the British Labour party. They abolished the slavery and child labour. They overcame barriers and chose to serve anyway. And they were extremists in love, grace, mercy and forgiveness.

The 19 per cent are Evangelicalism’s radical beating heart. And that heart beats more strongly and loudly today than it ever has done now Donald Trump has been elected president. The 19 per cent will provide sanctuary for refugees, defend the religious liberty of Muslims and take a stand against hatred in all its forms. They will throw themselves in harm’s way to protect others. They will count a “respectable” reputation for nothing compared with the privilege of sharing God’s love and justice.

They will do all of this at great personal cost. But they will earn their place in history.

The 19 per cent have a glorious, precious legacy. It falls to us who share in that inheritance to preserve – and advance it – for future generations.

Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising it’s shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. The Bible (book of Hebrews)