In recent days political pundits and commentators have been baffled by what is now called the “Trump phenomenon”. Despite saying outrageous things that would normally have killed any political campaigns, Donald Trump’s support continued to grow according to the polls. The typical explanation that had been given was that “Trump supporters” are not concerned with, nor offended by the same things that one typically expects from the general electorate.
Without getting into the politics of it, I believe the Trump phenomenon teaches Christian leaders an important lesson: It is so easy to surround yourselves with people who sound like you, think like you, agree with you and build a “personal empire” by feeding your “fans” or “followers” or “supporters” (or congregants?) exactly what they want to hear.
In my experience as a pastor, I have seen that as pastors, it is very easy for us to speak boldly when we are among our own congregations, when we are “preaching to the choir”, so to speak. But very few of us are good at communicating and having meaningful and genuinely respectful dialogue with those who are different than us. Folks who are from another religion, folks who believe different than we do on social issues, or even Christians outside of our own communities. Perhaps much of that is simply due to the fact that we don’t do it often enough. However, in a time where tension continues to grow along religious lines, religious leaders such as pastors need to set an example of what it means to seek understanding and look for ways to unite and bring people together. We need to stop caricaturing or worse, demonizing those who are different than us, simply because “it will preach” or because that’s what our “fan-base” expects from us.