Preaching in the Era of Trump
By O. Wesley Allen, Jr.
Now more than ever, it’s time to preach.
The election of Donald Trump left countless faith leaders across the country speechless. Now that he is president, silence must give way to prophetic preaching.
Christians have long debated whether politics should be addressed from the pulpit. Following Donald Trump’s controversial, divisive rise to power and the sweeping changes his fledgling administration have already proposed, that’s no longer a question--political preaching will be the order of the day, even for pastors who try to steer clear of controversy. It’s up to preachers to make the church great again by leading it to embrace and embody God’s concern for those whose lives are at stake in a Trump administration. Veteran teacher, preacher, and author Wes Allen offers a blueprint for addressing current events through a Gospel lens, persuasively and pastorally--without engaging in divisive, antagonistic rhetoric.
Wes Allen discusses how shifts in socio-political situations require new applications of the gospel in this post for Patheos.
"Talking politics from the pulpit is always a risky proposition. ...One who took up the challenge is Wesley Allen, a homiletics professor at Perkins School of Theology and President of the Academy of Homiletics. He is also an ordained United Methodist minister. Soon after the election, colleagues encouraged him to take up the mantle and offer a response to the question of the hour. How should the church respond? How should preachers respond? This book is the result of those early conversations. The book went to the printer not long after the inauguration, and so this book was written prior to Donald Trump taking office. It was written based on Trump's campaign promises and speeches, along with the way he had comported himself in the past. ... As for the author, he is upfront about his political inclinations.... Nonetheless, this is about more than politics. This is about being faithful to the Gospel and pursuing justice and mercy and kindness. It's about standing up for those who are being persecuted and treated inappropriately. This is about welcoming the stranger. ... Allen's book provides those of us who preach some wisdom for addressing the issues of the day. He names them and helps us formulate a way forward. He closes the book on a hopeful note: 'I pray that the era of Trump leads to a revival of preaching related to social justice themes of God's good news that essentially makes the era of Trump null and void in reshaping the diverse landscape of American society' (p. 111). Only time will tell. In the meantime, we who preach must remain vigilant and deeply rooted in the Gospel so that our preaching might be faithful to the call. It won't end with the close of the Trump era, for each era has its own challenges and will require its own word of wisdom. For now, Wesley Allen offers us a word to take hold of, regarding 'preaching in the Era of Trump.' "―Robert Cornwall, "Ponderings on a Faith Journey" review, 01/22/18
"If there is a theme sentence for this book, it can be found in this statement which is repeated in several forms throughout: '…it is not the preacher’s job simply to preach the gospel; it is the preacher’s job to get the gospel heard, then believed, then lived'. Allen has faith that good, gospel preaching can counter the unethical and unjust public rhetoric of any era. But the pastoral prophet (or prophetic pastor?) should know that speechifying is not enough. God is at work in preaching to shape a people who can make their own confessions and take their own ethical actions. Allen is clear: you don’t have to agree with him and his diagnosis, but we preachers dare not sit safely on fences nor imitate the rhetorical violence of our commander in chief and his ilk. Wes Allen reveals a more excellent way unfolding before us, if we are but bold enough to walk it." ―Sam Persons Parkes, Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence "Must Reads" blog, July 2017
"Wes Allen has done American churches a huge favor by writing Preaching in the Era of Trump. He names the elephant in the room and gives pastors wise guidance for shoveling out the manure and seizing the moment. If you're a pastor, buy a copy and read it before Sunday. If you're a member of a congregation, buy two copies and give one to your pastor, and then make a breakfast date to talk about it together."―Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration
"Wes Allen has written a forthright, practical guide for those who preach during the presidency of Donald Trump. But, he really speaks to the timeless challenge clergy always face of speaking about God's love in the face of injustice, sin, and hate. He offers less judgment than challenge. He offers anecdotes, lessons, and practical strategies for preaching the ethic of love in the face of hate. I wish Wes Allen was the pastor of my congregation."― Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches
“It’s a safe bet that 'The Donald' won’t hear any of the sermons instigated by this book. And there’s the pity. Donald’s not big on church and has heard few sermons in his lifetime. However, some of the folks who put their trust in Trump may attend to sermons and therefore may be urged to think like Christians about the age in which we live. I love Wes Allen’s conviction that the elevation of Trump is a call for better preaching. Our national mistake, when viewed through the eyes of faith, is great opportunity to reflect more engagingly upon the gospel. If you are a preacher, wondering what to say in the Age of Trump (and I hope you are) this book is a godsend. Thanks, Wes.” ―Will Willimon, Duke Divinity School, United Methodist Bishop (retired), and author of Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism
"Preaching in the Age of Trump is like a much needed urgent-care facility for preachers reeling from the election and its aftermath. Wes Allen offers not only an accurate diagnosis for how our country and the church has found itself in this place of crisis, but prescribes effective strategies for preachers to address the fear, turmoil, prejudices, hatred, and divisiveness of this time, as well as the need for proclaiming prophetic justice. While never mincing words about the staggering array of evil now before us, Allen also reminds us in this must-have book that the preacher’s task is to address the humanity of our congregations, even while casting out the demonic forces that hold us in thrall." ― Leah D. Schade, Lexington Theological Seminary and Author, Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit
"All preaching is contextual. All Preaching has its own urgency. All preaching is the interaction of people with one another. All preaching matters. There are time when these reality seem to be in vivid color - almost surreal color. Many of us feel that the age of Trump has put an “instagram-like filter” on our context, urgency, and interactions so that it matters all the more what we say and how we say it. Many of us recognize that something has to change - that something has changed. Wes Allen’s insights, passion and pastoral heart is what so many of us need at this time. This books modern-day “pastoral epistle feel” makes this a book we need. And, we need the kinds of preaching Allen calls for." ―Doug Pagitt, Pastor of Solomon’s Porch and Author of Preaching Reimagined
“President Donald J. Trump has ushered in a new era of post-truth, alternative facts, and intimidation tactics targeting everyone from the intelligence community to national media. His tweets spew racism, hate, and intolerance, and his orders have separated families, desecrated tribal lands, and closed America’s doors to the refugee. These harrowing times demand that the prophetic voice of the pulpit arise and resist. Dr. Allen has masterfully and insightfully provided a way forward to accomplish this.” ―Michael W. Waters, founder and Senior Pastor of Joy Tabernacle A.M.E. Church in Dallas, Texas and author of Stakes Is High: Race, Faith, and Hope for America
"Many ministers are struggling with how to proclaim the gospel of Christ in congregations polarized by partisan politics, racial tensions and fake news. O. Wesley Allen, Jr. takes on the challenge of how to give voice to not only the gospel but relate it to the world outside the church walls. Allen's examination and clarity of several homiletical strategies crossing a wide range of pertinent issues and policy decisions will help ministers and the Church respond to the widening rift in our society and congregations with meaningful, Christ centered conversations."― Rev. Evan M. Dolive, author of Seeking Imperfection: Body Image, Marketing and God
"Wes Allen has written a timely and important book that addresses one of the fundamental questions the church faces in what feels like a cultural crossroads: How do we preach faithfully in a world where so many congregations are divided over the issue of a Donald Trump presidency? Walking a fine line between the pastoral and the prophetic, Allen offers practical wisdom sure to challenge all preachers in search of authentic ways to navigate these uncertain times. This is a book all preachers need right now.―Derek Penwell, Douglass Boulevard Christian Church (Louisville), author of The Mainliners Survival Guide to the Post-Denominational World
"It would be hard to imagine a more timely or important book. As the church awakens to the reality of fascism at home and abroad, the prophetic timidity of mainline clergy must bear some of the blame. Preachers have been sleeping through history, our voices muzzled by phony arguments about politics in the pulpit and faith as a purely individual affair. Wes Allen has made it clear that now is the time to clear our throats and speak truth to power again. Let’s hope we are not too late. If we are, let’s go down preaching." ―Rev. Robin R. Meyers, Mayflower UCC Church (Oklahoma City) and author of Spiritual Defiance: Building a Beloved Community of Resistance