by Mark Lewis Taylor
The Statement below on the Trump Presidency, signed by 33 of 40 some current faculty at Princeton Seminary, was also signed by 12 Emeriti Scholars and 5 Adjunct-Faculty. It appears today at the Seminary’s official website.
None of us signers, writing on our own, would write the statement as it appears here collectively. I myself, and no doubt other signers too, would frame it and word it differently – theologically and politically.
Nevertheless it is a valuable starting point. As a member of this faculty I can affirm it, and am proud of its appearing, for the following reasons:
- This statement from a majority of Princeton Seminary’s current faculty offers a public display by a group in a Christian institution taking a clear stand. These current faculty have united to break silence.
- The statement positions Christian faith and the gospel over and against the Trump presidency’s policies. The language of Christian faith in God, in accord with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a faithful church is set against the “America first” nationalism and “American exceptionalism” of Trump’s regime.
- The statement is quite comprehensive in identifying a wide range of the Trump administration’s many modes of repression and discrimination, decrying Trump’s attacks on different group’s identities and also the Trump administration’s allegiance to “the wealthy classes.”
- The statement “harbors no nostalgia for the politics of the past.” Such a statement as this could have been – and should have been – formulated earlier during the previous administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. It is not an affirmation of the neoliberal regimes of the past.
- This statement is a critique of rising destructive powers within the Trump adminstration, but also in promoting “war and repression abroad.”
- The statement confesses “our own complicity and sinful entanglements” in the past eras that have led to the current political and social crisis. It does not position the faculty above or outside the problem.
- Instead of a Christian triumphalism this statement affirms a need to work with other religions (Muslims, Jews, those of all faiths, and with secular brothers and sisters of good conscience).
- The statement, as the final sentence shows, is a call “to resist the present destructive politics.”
Anyone who knows my theology and politics knows also that I would have written a different statement. Here is not the place to discuss those points of difference. Now, I welcome how as colleagues we worked through to this statement for our time. With Trump’s declarations emboldening anew some of the ugliest forces of US history and present life, Christians – in their churches, seminaries and other contexts – need to step forward as uniting forces to unleash their own collective and public counter declarations. And then the organizing work will have to follow. This is just a beginning; for it will not be enough to just oust Trump. Surely it will not be adequate to return to the very neoliberal modes of governance that have greased the skids for Trump’s emergence. The struggle will be long, but this statement below is one beginning.
I want to stress that this Statement was the fruit of many signers’ efforts. Some 5-7 of us wrote drafts or parts of drafts. Students and faculty aware of community members at risk pressed the faculty Religion & Society Committee on the urgency. We listened. The Committee took the proposal for a statement to General Faculty. At that January meeting when the Seminary President asked how many might want to sign on, 23 raised their hands. The President suggested the statement’s posting at the seminary’s web site. I was assigned to coordinate a drafting committee that was a rough and ready group that met when it could, often changing in make-up. We nurtured it along, and amidst our many different views came out with this statement.
IN DEFENSE OF CHRISTIAN FAITH AND A DEMOCRATIC FUTURE
On the Trump Presidency: From Members of the Princeton Seminary Faculty
February 24, 2017
(signers to this statement do not represent the Seminary or the faculty as a whole)
We, the undersigned, believe that because God is sovereign over all creation and because all human beings are embraced by God’s all encompassing grace, the god of Donald Trump’s “America first” nationalism is not the God revealed in our scriptures. Regardless of our specific political persuasions we agree that the attitudes fostered by this nationalism are inconsistent with Christian values of welcoming the stranger as if we were welcoming Christ, of seeking to distinguish truth from deception and conceit, and of believing that no institution or government can demand the kind of loyalty that belongs only to God.
We also believe that the policies and approach embraced by the Trump administration run counter to democratic values, as executive orders and members of the new administration’s cabinet often seek to demonize Islam, foster white supremacy, compromise the rule of law and intimidate judges, undermine the empowerment of women, ignore the destruction of the environment, promote homophobia, unleash unfounded fears of crime that worsen the “law and order” abuses of police and security forces. We reject the pervasive aim of placing the monetary gain of wealthy classes over the welfare of its citizenry by undermining education, quality employment, and health care. We believe that Christian faith and US democracy are not the same thing; hence, we stand against the notion of a “Christian nation.” But as Christians who are also citizens or residents of the US, we stand against the attitudes and policies that are being fostered in this present political climate.
As we look at the role of the US in promoting war and repression abroad and division among its own peoples at home, however, we confess our own complicity in the sinful entanglements that have created this political and social crisis. Not all of us have taken a firm and vocal enough stance against what Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “giant triplets” of violence in the United States: “racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.” We have often embraced academic elitism that overlooks the needs of the unemployed or the value of jobs that do not require higher education. We recognize a legacy of failure that marks past presidential administrations, and so harbor no nostalgia for the politics of the past. But we do not believe that Trump is a remedy for that legacy of failure. In Trump’s values and policies we see no public witness consistent with the Gospel or with the values of those who are believers in Jesus Christ and members of Christ’s church.
We not only reject Trump’s values and policies, we also renew our commitment to a future where both the church and the academy will foster attitudes and actions so that human beings and the whole of creation can thrive. We join our hearts, our minds, our voices, and our actions with those of religious believers–Christians, Jews, Muslims, and people of all faiths, as well as with secular people of good conscience, to resist the present destructive politics in our country and to seek reversal of their destructive consequences here and around the world.
MEMBERS OF THE CURRENT FACULTY
Afe Adogame, Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Christianity and Society
Eric D. Barreto, Frederick and Margaret L. Weyerhaeuser Associate Professor of New Testament
Raimundo Barreto, Assistant Professor of World Christianity
Clifton Black, Otto A. Piper Professor of Biblical Theology
Lisa Bowens, Assistant Professor of New Testament
John Bowlin, Robert L. Stuart Associate Professor of Philosophy and Christian Ethics
Michael Brothers, Associate Professor of Speech Communication in Ministry
Sally A. Brown, Elizabeth M. Engle Associate Professor of Preaching and Worship
Ellen Charry, Margaret W. Harmon Professor of Systematic Theology
Kenda Creasy Dean, Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church, and Culture
James C. Deming, Associate Professor of Modern European Church History
Heath Dewrell, Assistant Professor of Old Testament
F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp, Professor of Old Testament
Nancy J. Duff, Stephen Colwell Associate Professor of Theological Ethics
Gordon Graham, Henry Luce III Professor of Philosophy and the Arts
William Stacy Johnson, Arthur M. Adams Professor of Theology
Jacqueline Lapsley, Associate Professor of Old Testament and Director of the Center for Theology, Women, and Gender
Cleophus J. LaRue, Francis Landey Patton Professor of Homiletics
Bo Karen Lee, Associate Professor of Spiritual Theology and Christian Formation at Princeton Theological Seminary
Gerald Liu, Assistant Professor of Worship and Preaching
Bruce McCormack, Charles Hodge Professor of Systematic Theology, and Director of the Center for Barth Studies
Elsie McKee, Archibald Alexander Professor of Reformation Studies and the History of Worship
Kathleen McVey, Joseph Ross Stevenson Professor of Church History
Gordon Mikoski, Associate Professor of Christian Education
James H. Moorhead, Mary McIntosh Bridge Professor of American Church History
Dennis Olson, Professor of Old Testament
Richard Osmer, Ralph B. and Helen S. Ashenfelter Professor of Mission and Evangelism
Brian Rainey, Assistant Professor of Old Testament
Paul Rorem, Benjamin B. Warfield Professor of Medieval Church History
Mark S. Smith, Helena Professor of Old Testament Literature and Exegesis
Mark Lewis Taylor, Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Theology and Culture
Sonia Waters, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology
Richard Fox Young, Elmer K. and Ethel R. Timby Associate Professor of the History of Religions
Abigail Rian Evans, Professor Emerita of Practical Theology
Richard Fenn, Maxwell Upson Professor Emeritus of Christianity and Society
Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Helen H. P. Manson Professor Emerita of New Testament Exegesis
Darrell L. Guder, Henry Winters Luce Professor Emeritus of Missional and Ecumenical Theology
Geddes W. Hanson, Professor Emeritus of Congregational Ministry
Daniel L. Migliore, Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology
Patrick D. Miller, Charles T. Haley Professor Emeritus of Old Testament Theology
Peter J. Paris, Elmer G. Homrighausen Professor Emeritus of Christian Social Ethics
Luis N. Rivera-Pagán, Henry Winters Luce Professor Emeritus of Ecumenics
Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, Eisenberger Professor Emerita of Old Testament
Wentzel van Huyssteen, James I. McCord Professor Emeritus of Theology and Science
Charles Converse West, Stephen Colwell Professor Emeritus of Christian Ethics
Elizabeth Bloch-Smith, Old Testament
Richard Lischer, Preaching
Darryl W. Stephens, United Methodist Studies
Joyce MacKichan Walker, Presbyterian Polity
Ruth Workman, Spiritual Direction