Black Pastors Meet With Trump
In early October, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump sought prominent black pastors in the United States to meet with him, hoping to use his celebrity and financial status to garner their endorsements. Some pastors, such as Bishop Paul S. Morton, refused to meet with Trump. Morton stated via multiple media outlets that, as a Christian, he could not attend the meeting, due to the way Trump has treated people. Morton further explained his sentiments to Roland Martin, the host of the NewsOne Now radio show. Regarding his decision to boycott the meeting, Morton said:
“I think it was definitely a setup. Let me explain. I was invited to the first meeting in Atlanta, and that’s when I refused to go to it. I just knew it wasn’t right, and I knew it was kinda a setup. So I wasn’t on the flyer for this one, because they knew where I stood. I didn’t want to meet with him because I knew what it was all about; just getting a line of black pastors behind you; and I (hypothesizing Trump) got these pastors behind me. And you know, perception unchallenged becomes reality…. You didn’t have to really endorse, but just the perception of pastors standing behind you. And because I believe as pastors…, that disturbed me because if we are representing the Kingdom (of God), how can we endorse someone who talks down to women, says that the immigrants are rapists and murderers? How are we gonna deal with people like this who threw out a black man because he just believes that black lives matter? I would not be caught there for that.”
It is interesting that Morton says his name was not on the flyer because he refused to attend the meeting and implied that they knew his stance well enough to leave him off of it. This is noteworthy in light of how many pastors insisted that they did not sanction the use of their names on the flyer. Morton’s comments and the fact that his name was not on the flyer lends itself to the idea that those whose names were on the flyer did not express clear opposition to the idea of attending the meeting. Logic would lead one to deduce that, even if they did not intend to endorse Trump, many of those whose names were on the flyer at least agreed to the meeting in New York.
Despite Morton’s statements, several prominent black pastors were more than happy to mingle with Trump on his campaign trail. In fact, two of those religious leaders, Bishop George Bloomer of Durham, North Carolina and Darrell Scott of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, seemed to endorse Trump from the start.
Many people, including those who deny endorsing Trump, seem confused about what it means to endorse someone as a candidate for president. As a result, I feel it is important to clarify what endorsement means before continuing. Endorsement is the act of giving one’s public approval or support to a person or cause. In a political context, endorsement is defined as the public expression of approval or support for someone running for office.
During a press conference with Donald Trump, Darryl Scott stated that he had met Trump four to five years ago, at which time Trump was considering running in the 2012 presidential election. Regarding Trump’s ultimate decision not to enter that presidential race, Scott said, “When he (Trump) didn’t run; frankly, I was very disappointed…. When I heard he was running again, I couldn’t wait to jump on board.” Though later denying that he had endorsed trump, it’s clear that he is acknowledging his past and present support for Trumps candidacy.
After Scott’s spiel, George Bloomer stepped to the podium and issued a controversial statement regarding Trump’s potential as a president. “Ya know; for me it’s a spiritual thing,” Bloomer stated. “There’s a scripture in the Bible that talks about consuming fire and purifying fire. When you look at it, fire is just fire. What determines a purifying fire and a consuming fire is the materials that you placed in it. So if you put wood or paper in it, it’s going to consume it. If you put precious metals in it, it’s going to purify it.” Bloomer directed his attention to Trump before adding, “I believe that you have been tried by the fire and the fire has not consumed you. And that’s where I am. It’s time for us to have somebody who can bring some jobs to this nation, and look out for the Christians, our spiritual and Christian rights. And I’m sold (at least that’s honest) with you on that. You know I am. Appreciate that. Thank you so much.”
In declaring that Trump has overcome the fire and expressing his readiness for a candidate that will increase employment rates and protect Christianity, Bloomer is issuing an endorsement. While that endorsement might seem subtle to some, proclaiming himself “sold” on Trump is an overt one.
As a religious leader, Bloomer’s comments are troubling for multiple reasons. His statements contain contradictory double-talk masked by superficially profound wording. Worse yet, he takes scriptures out of context and molds them to suit his own ends, a tactic that he frequently uses to captivates his followers while creating material for new books that will lead to more money, notoriety, and personal gain.
Bloomer states that a fire is just a fire before saying that what one puts into the fire determines what type of fire it is. These two statements contradict each other, leaving me to wonder whether a fire is just a fire. The contradictory nature of these ostensibly deep statements betrays their underlying shallowness. Bloomer says that if you put wood or paper into a fire, it will consume them, while it will purify precious metals. This is even more confusing, considering he is talking about putting things into the same fire. Despite insisting that a fire is just a fire, he says that wood and paper meet with consuming fire while precious metals meet with a purifying one.
Further analysis of the scriptures referenced by Bloomer illuminates just how strong his endorsement of Trump was. When the Bible mentions fire, it is almost always a reference to God, judgment, or salvation. From a biblical standpoint, the wood or paper would represent judgment, the fire would represent God, and the precious metal would represent Christ, salvation, or the holiness that purifies someone and protects them from the fire. Bloomer is making a correlation between Trump’s lead in the polls despite his many controversies as salvation of a man through Christ, a metaphor that would strike a deep chord with Christians. Yet it was little more than Bloomer’s attempt to win Trump’s favor while coming across as deep and profound.
After Bloomer spoke, Scott approached the podium for a second time to, “Dispel this, no, not to you guys (the press who were present), media-created notion that Donald Trump is a racist. He is not a racist. We are not here as token blacks to support him. We are here because we want to be here.” This statement alone implies endorsement, and Scott took it several steps forward by adding, “We are concerned about the direction of this country, and we believe in this man and his leadership.”
This press conference was to be a precursor to a meeting where, according to Trump’s campaign, over one hundred prominent black leaders would give him public endorsements. Some pastors declined to attend on ethical grounds. However, many others considered endorsing Trump but changed their tunes due to the scorn they received, and the backlash destroyed the intended endorsement rally.
Despite the above quotes and footage of Scott and Bloomer’s endorsements of Trump for president, both men have since denied that they ever endorsed him. They have even contended that they never intended to endorse him. They claim they attended the meeting to hear Trump out and influence him. Though the official endorsement rally of one hundred prominent black pastors never materialized, Bloomer, Scott, and others still met with Trump on Monday. However, the glowing praise and open endorsements Bloomer and Scott gave Trump after the initial meeting did not last. Their positions seemed to be as a leaf on a windy day. The two made a quick jump from championing Trump as America’s next president and maintaining that the meeting had been harmonious to insisting it was comprised of confronting Trump regarding his history of racially charged comments and questioning him about several serious issues facing the black community.
Usnews.com reports that, following Monday’s meeting, Bloomer insisted that he, “…asked him ‘Are you a racist? People are saying that about you. If you are seeking the African-American community to support you, at the least, you’re not helping with these kind of things that are going on.” Bloomer also added that, “If he (Trump) wants to have our ear as a community, to at least tone down the rhetoric some kind of way, tone it down. And he said that he would.” These comments don’t seem to mesh with Bloomer’s earlier statements, in which he declared himself sold on Trump, whom he described as purified by righteous fire.
Yet Trump had something much different to say when he spoke to the media. “The beautiful thing about the meeting (with Bloomer, Scott, and other black pastors) is that they didn’t really ask me to change the tone,” he said. “I think they really want to see victory, because ultimately it is about, we want to win and we want to win together.” Someone in this scenario is not telling the truth. However, Trump said these things in front of Bloomer, Scott, and other black pastors, none of whom verbally objected to his statements at that time.
It comes as little surprise that Trump’s version of the meeting is the complete opposite of the version Bloomer and others are now claiming. Regardless of their initial show of solidarity, the lack of genuine connection between Trump and the pastors was palpable. None seemed to know Trump to any significant degree, and video footage shows that during the press conference following the initial Atlanta meeting. Trump did not bother to name or introduce any of the pastors before they took the podium to announce their support for him.
Regardless of what actually happened during the following meeting and the backpedalling of Bloomer and others as they faced backlash regarding their endorsement of Trump, this is a pathetic state of affairs. The pandering of these so-called leaders to Trump is sad. As pastors, they are supposed to be spiritual and religious leaders, yet they abandon the members of their congregations who see them as moral authorities.
At first glance, one might be puzzled at the notion that black religious leaders would meet with this candidate, let alone endorse someone who is known for making racist and misogynist comments, making fun of the disabled, blaming minorities for the country’s ills, and refusing to engage in any substantive discussions regarding issues plaguing the black community. Worse yet, Trump exhibits many symptoms of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I’m no theologian or psychiatrist, but Trump says incendiary things to and about opponents, immigrants, the disabled, and any other person or group of people he dislikes not because he is a “straight shooter” or “tells it like it is”, but because he seems to suffer from what is, in all likelihood, a personality disorder.
Considering these serious issues, it seems unbelievable that any pastor of any race who claims to be a spiritual leader and considers themselves a Christian would be pleased with Trump’s continual lead in the polls, let alone find it ethical to support him. However, I believe the answer to this question is simpler than one would think: Bloomer, Scott, and other pastors, black and white, who jumped onto the Trump bandwagon are opportunists. They are more than willing to put their ethics and integrity aside for personal gain.
In contrast, Morton’s commitment to maintaining his morality allowed for thorough contemplation of Trump’s motives, character, and history. Morton concluded that he did not even want to entertain the possibility of being seen as supporting Trump and therefore refused to attend the meeting. While Morton was not alone in his sentiments and decision not to attend, a disturbing number of pastors were too obsessed with the potential benefits of associating with Trump to think beyond their own selfish desires. Like most opportunists, they didn’t bother to consider Trump’s character, reflect upon whether they were disheartening or alienating members of their congregations, or ponder the likelihood that Trump was using them for political gain.
It is not coincidence that Trump’s attempt to meet with one hundred influential black pastors followed his infamous Birmingham campaign rally, in which his supporters physically assaulted a Black Lives Matter protester while removing him from the rally. Trump worsened the situation and increased the backlash by saying the man deserved to be “roughed up”. Trump was facing accusations of racism long before the rally, and the way he timed this meeting makes it obvious that he felt it was time to show off his black “friends” to neutralize the fallout from the rally, his comments about the assault, and the myriad of racist remarks he has made throughout his campaign.
This further erodes the moral, ethical, and perhaps even intellectual credibility of Scott, Bloomer, and other enthusiastic Trump supporters, many of whom attempted to recant their support in response to the intense negative reaction that their shameful behavior elicited. As Pastor Jamal Bryant pointed out, these pastors were pawns in Trump’s game. Even worse, they seem to enjoy being pawns and even shamelessly using scriptures and their positions as religious leaders to justify their duplicitous behavior.
They enjoy the opportunity to broaden their reach and receive national attention. These two things were the metaphorical 30 pieces of silver for which they abandoned their congregations, communities, integrity, and religious beliefs. They traded all of these things to gain exposure, which equates to increased fame, higher book sales, and more speaking engagements, to say nothing of the money that comes with those things.
The sudden allegiance of these pastors to Trump was a shock to many, but it should not surprise those familiar with the brand of Christianity that many of these pastors sell within the black community. This facade of Christianity involves pastors continuing to choose personal gain over their congregations and communities. It also involves bamboozling followers into neglecting their own needs to expand the pastor’s personal empire, which masquerades as God’s kingdom.
A perfect example of such opportunistic behavior exists in Durham, North Carolina, where Bloomer’s church is located. This city has one of the country’s highest murder rates and economic disparities across racial lines. Although Bloomer is one of the wealthiest individuals in the community, he has made little to no effort to combat these issues. Therefore, why would anyone expect any more from him on the national stage. He has been far too busy collecting offerings, booking endless speaking engagements, maintaining his television slot on the Word Network, and showing up to anything that provides a chance for him to gain national attention.
Many opportunistic pastors have controlled their followers for years with pseudo-profound messages that have little to do with the gospel of the Bible. These pastors also insinuate that their financial and material gains are proof they are true followers of God. This manipulation often leads their followers to turn a blind eye to the unethical behavior of the pastor or view them as being above reproach.
Within many of these churches, no one will acknowledge the pastor’s venality because they see their pastor’s fame and financial success as their own ticket. They are spiritual hostages of their pastors to further personal gain, but they seem to suffer from a form of Stockholm Syndrome that causes them to protect and defend these opportunistic swindlers and charlatans. As the Bible states in 2Peter 2:2-3, “And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.”
It is often difficult for people to think for themselves within any group, and most find it hard to separate their identity from that of a group they belong to. This is why most Democrats disagree with everything Republicans say, most Republicans disagree with everything Democrats say, and many blacks dismiss Bill Cosby being accused of sexual assault by forty different women as part of a conspiracy. Likewise, that mindset is why many whites believe accusations that the first black president was born in Kenya and plotting to destroy the country, all the while denying that racism exists in modern society. It is also the reason many blacks blame every difficulty they experience on racism. When a person’s identity is overtaken by a group, they become blind to reality, which reminds me of a passage in the Bible.
In Matthew 10:34, Jesus is quoted as saying, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father (biological or spiritual), a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemy will be those of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
This passage conveys that a Christian should support the truth, even if it means being at odds with members of their family, race, political party, community, or even a multi-billionaire running for office. Though Trump sought to bolster his credibility within the black community by summoning over one hundred black religious leaders for endorsements, let every man be a liar if it goes against the truth.