This morning I received an email announcing Mike Pence as Taylor University’s 2019 commencement speaker. I am deeply troubled by this decision. I hope you will read this letter not assuming I am writing a critique based on political partisanship. Indeed the only partisanship I claim is the one that Jesus preached, demanding I side with the stranger, the hungry, the poor, the homeless, the imprisoned, and the oppressed. It is out of fidelity to that gospel, that good news, that I am compelled to voice my condemnation as an alumnus.
From the beginning of the Trump campaign, indeed for many decades before, Trump’s ascendance has been laced with racism and violence against women. His presidency has been defined by an anti-blackness, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-Muslim fervor that characterized his campaign. It is most clearly, most violently, and most abhorrently exemplified in his treatment of people seeking asylum at our border, and the separation and imprisonment of vulnerable children and their families.
As I wrote a month before the election, every vote for Donald Trump would send a message to anyone not white, not Christian, not native born: you are not welcome here. Now it is clear that not only are they not welcome, they are not safe. By inviting Mike Pence to speak at your commencement this is the same message you are sending to students, faculty, staff, alumni and prospective students who are black, who are indigenous, who are refugees, who are immigrants or the children of immigrants from ‘less desirable’ countries: You are not welcome here. You are not safe here.
Many Christians believed a Vice President Pence would be a moderating, moral force within the white house. But at every turn, with every lie, every corrupt action, every violent policy, every racist word, every encouragement of a white supremacist ideology, Mike Pence has supported, defended and covered for the President of the United States. He is the false prophet baptizing the violence of this administration under a false Christianity based on exclusion of others. It is devoid of love, and is therefore decidedly anti-Christian.
That you would invite this man to speak at your commencement is an indictment against you. It lays bare the evangelical exchange of the love of God for political power and influence, and it’s willingness to cast aside any person and community who is not white, not native-born, and not Christian in the process. It exposes Taylor University’s embrace of this exchange. I am grieved by this decision. I am angered by this decision. And mostly, I am concerned for the students on campus who feel further marginalized, ignored, and cast aside by this decision.
I invite you to repent of propping up and legitimizing this violent, racist regime, and to disinvite Vice President Pence from your commencement ceremony. Without doing this, and without deep reflection and confession of our University’s role in advancing white supremacist, misogynist and xenophobic violence, Taylor’s path will lead to the same place reserved for those who fail to welcome the stranger in their midst.