In January, the president of my college, Liberty University, endorsed Donald Trump for President of the United States. In doing so, President Jerry Falwell Jr. created a campus culture of hesitance and silence surrounding political discourse. Many times over the past year, the association between Trump and Liberty has made me feel as if my own voice had been taken from me, and that the school I attend and love now carries a terrible connotation.
I’m not the only student who is fed up with this association and the rhetoric surrounding it. My voice has often felt suffocated by my conservative evangelical peers who feel it is their “moral obligation” to vote for Trump. But lately there has been another pulse beating through the heart of this campus. In fact, Trump’s recent sexual assault comments were the final straw: My friends and I decided we had to respond by forming a group of concerned students called Liberty United Against Trump. We wrote a statement rebuking Donald Trump to let the world know that the students at our school do not universally support President Falwell's endorsement.
In one week, we received more than 2,000 signatures from supportive fellow Liberty students. And not just students, but faculty and alumni as well. The media coverage we received was unexpected, but we stepped up and tried to respond. It seemed as if the whole world wanted to hear from a student body that had been so heavily tied to Trump.
To be clear, I love this school and our leadership here. The aim of my group is not to shame Jerry Falwell Jr. for his endorsement, but rather to send the message that the student body he represents is not unanimously behind Trump. Not every student here is blind to the blatantly un-Christlike characteristics that Trump embodies. Many of us deeply believe that he violates the very fabric that Liberty has spent decades representing, exemplified in its motto: “Training champions for Christ.”
At Liberty, we have large gatherings three times a week called “convocations” — these are mandatory meetings during which a speaker comes and talks to students. The speakers usually vary in professions, views, and walks of life, but in the past few weeks, they have all been Trump surrogates, including Dinesh D’Souza, Ralph Reed, and, of course, Mike Pence. These speakers come to inform students about their point of view and try to influence us to support Trump.
And they have influenced some. On campus, I’ve heard students defend their support of Trump by saying they’re not voting for a “pastor in office.” I have seen students openly putting this election ahead of Christian values. In denouncing this sentiment, Isaiah 44:9 says, “All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame.” I believe that placing a misogynistic, racist candidate before Christ is a clear indication of this type of idolatry.
It hurts to see my fellow students openly support a man who does not in any way represent the quintessential Christian values and morals that our community purports to uphold, but it also hurts me specifically because of my Hispanic heritage. Trump does not see either my humanity or my culture’s importance. It’s frightening that a leading candidate for President of the United States feels no shame in openly espousing the idea that undocumented immigrants are rapists and murderers — the deliberate speech of a demagogue. His claims are completely baseless and only serve to incite fear among his supporters.
My father came to this country when he was 17 with very little in his pockets, simply to have the opportunity to pursue the American Dream. He gave everything he could, sacrificing any modicum of his own comfort to seek his dream and provide for his family. In 1994, he founded what would become one of the leading construction cleanup companies in a major U.S. city. My father is just one example of what immigrants from Latin America can achieve: They are every bit as hard-working and hold many of the same family values as Americans do — without having the privilege of being born in America.
Christians (and everyone else) in the United States should seek to unite rather than divide. What makes immigrants any different than privileged Americans in God’s view? God does not discriminate. Whether a person is male or female, rich or poor, Hispanic, black, or white, He shows the same enveloping love to everyone.
Donald Trump is the antithesis of this belief. He is creating division where people need unity — at Liberty University, and in America at large. This is why I felt the need to speak out against Trump in our original statement of Liberty United Against Trump. As an American, and also as a Hispanic evangelical Christian, I cannot support a candidate who is blindly creating this discord in my country.
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