July 16, 2024

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Church Vacated by Trump | Pres

Church Vacated by Trump |  Pres

(Phoenix) The first sign of change came in 2016 when he joked in his sermon. ” I said Make Jerusalem great again Pastor Caleb Campbell told me that mockingly, compared to Trump’s rhetoric…it just doesn’t work. I got a lot of negative reactions. »


We’re in a room at Desert Springs Bible Church in Phoenix, where he first came in 2001 at age 19. He was a drummer in an orchestra. He became its senior pastor in 2015.

“I listened to Trump’s speech and it was clear to me: My congregation will never accept this!” said the 42-year-old man.

He made a mistake. Between 2016 and 2020, his church lost 80% of its believers.

“I was saying simple things: We shouldn’t encourage our government to put children in cages. They said I was promoting Marxism. The next day, someone called me a fascist, and it was really confusing in a week… I started getting text messages, emails, people telling me. Tucker Carlson said Or Glenn Beck said if your pastor talks about social justice, get out of that church. Christian churches have been talking about social justice for 100 years, what is happening? »

Among evangelical Christians, Trump was originally seen as the biblical “King Cyrus” who freed the Jews from Babylon. He was a pagan from the Jewish point of view, but he was an instrument of God. So with Trump: a bad Christian, if not an unbeliever, by whom will the divine work be accomplished.

“The doctrine has changed,” said the pastor. Now he is portrayed as a martyr persecuted by the government. I have heard people who are true believers compare him to Jesus crucified. »

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As news of the invasion spread, the church in the desert emptied out of sight. When the services began to be bilingual because the church welcomed many Latin American immigrants, former members told him: if they want to sing in their language, let them go back to their country.

The epidemic is coming. Religious services are virtual. There is no way to measure attendance.

“I don’t know how bad it is. »

Apparently, he saw things getting out of hand when believers came to demonstrate to demand the reopening of the church in the midst of an epidemic and to hold an emergency service. That same spring, he held a virtual “reconciliation” service with African American pastor friends after the killing of George Floyd. He received new aggressive messages. “What you’re doing is unbiblical, you hate white people!” »

The church reopened in the fall of 2020. There were more empty pews than usual. But how do you know if it is renunciation?

When the events of January 6, 2021 unfolded at the Capitol, he didn’t think he was saying anything controversial by calling them “bad.” Another wave of protests has arrived. A large portion of his audience not only voted for Trump, but also believed in the theory of election fraud.

This church, despite being well established for 45 years, has not received any money. The council met.

“Phoenix is ​​at the center of the political abuse of religion. If we don’t fight this, who will? We’ve been too bad for the consequences. »

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Losing all his friends in consequence.

“To recover, I went to meditate in a park every day and wrote down the names of the relationships or friends I had lost. I reached over 300…”

His treatment also involves immersing himself like a spy in the world of these pro-Trump “evangelicals.”

“I went incognito among 3,000 people to many of these meetings. And you know what? We feel good. People have a sense of loss and are promised a return. We will love our country, stand for our ancestors and defend Christian values. It looks good. But beneath the surface, it is intimidation, making enemies. It encourages people to condemn their neighbors instead of serving them. This is an inhuman act of migrants. »

Photo by YVES BOISVERT, The Press

Pastor Caleb Campbell

Caring for others is central to the Christian faith, but what Christian nationalists say is that the way to care for others is to get rid of the bad guys, to drive out the enemy by force. Who is the enemy? All that is not We are.

Pastor Caleb Campbell

He continued his immersion by subscribing to newsletters and going undercover to all kinds of events on the fringes of these churches – especially Dream City (see other text).

“You know, in the Bible, Caleb was the spy sent by Moses…”

There was this monthly event called “Independence Night”.

“It was terrible. It was a religious service. It was like I do: three songs, an offering, a prayer… But the speaker Charlie Kirk didn’t say: I’m a political activist from Turning Point, a conservative group founded by Charlie Kirk in 2012. 18 Even as a student, his organization’s goal was to campaign for minimal government and tax cuts, which prompted the group to turn from neoliberalism to Trump The group has raised millions of dollars to promote voting.

“Charlie Kirk said in his speech that God protects the right to bear arms. Choosing a school There are no schools or guns in the Bible. You may well reason from the ancient text, but the Bible does not said It is not.

“All around, I see my people, people I’ve known for 10, 15 years … they raise their hands and sing hallelujah. »

He made a book about it, Disarming Leviathan, It will be released this summer. The Leviathan of the Bible is a sea monster that devours men. Also in political literature it is a totalitarian state.

He is the epitome of chaos. What I saw in evangelical churches and families were people fueled by anxiety and rage.

Pastor Caleb Campbell

“There is deep concern about what they perceive as genocide. Their way of life in the world is directly threatened. They feel surrounded by a chaotic world. So it’s easy to believe the person on the scene. Trump is saying people are invading us. Threaten us. Put me in power and put this country back. “I will make a better country. I will protect God. This is a threat theologically, but it works.”

Caleb Campbell has led a theological double life to the point of welcoming Turning Point’s policy manager to his campus in 2022.

“I was very upset. I said to myself: I am going to destroy them. I will find arguments in the Bible. Guns do not have a divine right, and not for transgender people!

“And then this girl comes along, absolutely adorable, so relaxed. I’m the bad guy in the room! My mind is completely changed after this meeting. They don’t need an enemy to destroy them, but a missionary to join them.

“What if I start loving them, showing compassion to them? This is what inspired me to write the book. My hope is not to bring ex-members back to the House. But to appease them. Take the debate from head to heart. I can face them: OK, that the election was stolen.” What is your source? But it can only happen if we connect through the heart.

For two years, I have been meeting people. I try to lead by hospitality. Make them realize that I am not the enemy.

Pastor Caleb Campbell

“What I was taught was that we should be servants, not warriors. Treat the other person not as an enemy combatant but as another image of God. The other politician, the other race is not the enemy, but our neighbor. Even though he is our enemy, Jesus tells us to love him. Not to dominate or ostracize him. My hope in this book for American Christians is that through generosity we can maintain our diversity. »

Campbell came from an independent family. He voted for Bush Jr. in 2000, Obama in 2008, and then the marginalized.

“My job is to help people find their own answer, I’m not telling anyone who to vote for, what to think about gun control, birth control, immigration. I don’t believe the Bible gives an answer about abortion or medical assistance in dying. I oppose any Christian who claims to take control of the government to improve the way of life. Left or right. »

Losses are not the only ones. Other believers, many Latinos, and other “refugees” from pro-Trump churches have come to swell his ranks, seeking to denounce Christian nationalism.

Contrasted with Dream City, an almost “white” church.

New members are far from compensating for those who left. But the pastor did not regret his positions.

“At the end of my life, when I reflect on my journey, I want to say: I did it with integrity. »

What is an “evangelical Christian” anyway?

The term “evangelical” refers to the English Protestant doctrine that wanted to return to the true foundations of Christianity and the teachings of the Gospels.

“First, there are four pillars: seeing the Bible as an authority, a transformative experience [born again ou un éveil], social action based on the vision and faith of Jesus as God incarnate, explains Caleb Campbell. English abolitionists fought against slavery under this doctrine.

“In America, it became a political term in the 1970s when many leaders aligned themselves with the Republican Party. It no longer has theological but political meaning. If I read this term, I say: Are they talking about Jerry Falwell or the British tradition? »

“But the ancients believed in this new faith. Now some don’t believe that, but see an easy path to power. Say only the correct Bible words. »