Commentary: In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." In 1 Thessalonians 5:15 of the New International Version, Jesus implores his followers to not "return evil for evil." And in 2 Corinthians 10:4, he taught Christians that "the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world."
On no other topic was Jesus more committed or clearer than nonviolence.
But apparently President Trump and his evangelical Christian base does not feel any sense of internal conflict when it comes to Jesus' position on war and the use of force against America's enemies.
A day after Trump ordered the targeted assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, at Baghdad’s international airport, he appeared before a raucous crowd of Christian supporters in Miami. In his speech, he claimed that Soleimani was planning a “very major attack,” and he was “terminated” in a “flawless” strike. Trump went on to say, "Qassem Soleimani has been killed and his bloody rampage is now, forever gone...He was plotting attacks against Americans, but now we’ve ensured his atrocities have been stopped for good.”
These lines were met with roaring applause by the packed megachurch. According to a report in the New York Times, "they held hands and prayed. They sang songs praising God... They chanted “USA” and “four more years...”
“He’s talking from his heart,” said Michelle Hoff, who came to the rally with two other women from her prayer group. “I can’t remember when we had a president who was honest like he is. Like everyone else, he’s a sinner saved by grace. A lot of people say stuff that they don’t do. He’s doing it.”
Not one to miss the moment, Trump even went so far as to claim, "I really do believe we have God on our side ... or there would have been no way that we could have won.” “People say, ‘How do you win?’ You don’t have the media. You have so many things against you, and we win. So there has to be something.”
It has been said many times by people far smarter than me, but it bears repeating, especially in light of the President's latest breach of international law: one cannot be a follower of Jesus and celebrate murder. To cheer the killing of another human being may make good political sense, but it is not an act of Christian duty and it would not have pleased Christ. To celebrate an assassination in a church is not only a distortion of the Christian message, but it is also a gross example of moral hypocrisy and massive self- deception.
I do wonder if evangelicals care what Jesus said and did. Is it time to stop giving them a label that they are not prepared to live by? Why not just call them Evangelicals for Trump or simply Trumpists?
George Cassidy Payne is a freelance writer and social worker in Rochester, NY. He has degrees in history and theology from St. John Fisher College, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and Emory University.