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ACNA priest behind viral anti-Trump blog warns president may be 'God's judgement on America'

ACNA priest behind viral anti-Trump blog warns president may be 'God's judgement on America'
Fr. Thomas McKenzie wrote in his blog post that Donald Trump 'holds and proclaims racist, sexist, and violent attitudes that are in direct opposition to the Christian message'

By Chris Riotta
The Independent
February 26, 2020

The Rev. Thomas McKenzie used to keep his political beliefs outside the doors of his Anglican Church of the Redeemer in Nashville, Tennessee -- until Donald Trump came along, and forced the evangelical Christian to make a difficult choice.

The Anglican Church in North America priest felt compelled to speak out about the reality TV star and real estate mogul who, at the time, was expected to dominate the Republican primaries on Super Tuesday in 2016. Doing so would likely alienate a significant number of his parishioners in the solidly Republican state, but Fr McKenzie saw a threat in Mr Trump of biblical proportions.

He ultimately decided to publish a blog post on his church's website, nearly a week before voters flocked to the polls on Super Tuesday, about the surging Republican candidate. The post was uncharacteristically titled: "This Isn't Funny Anymore: Why I'm Voting Against Donald Trump."

"I'm writing this before Super Tuesday, before anyone is the nominee of either party," he wrote at the time. "There is an issue I have decided I need to say something about. And that issue is Donald Trump. I oppose his election as President, and believe that any other candidate now running, from either party, would make a better President. I believe his election would be dangerous to our country, and to the Church."

Fr McKenzie said he thought a couple hundred people might possibly read his words, but the piece received over one million page views. He caused such a stir, in fact, that the priest's blog post was one of the most engaged with on social media last Super Tuesday, according to NewsWhip data.

In a follow-up interview with Fr McKenzie nearly a week before Super Tuesday 2020, the priest told The Independent that Mr Trump "is worse than I expected" as president, while warning of potentially-irreversible damage to both the country and the Church if he was to be re-elected come November.

"I'm shocked by his utter disregard for human rights, civil rights, his misogyny, his racism, oh my Gosh, the way he treats people coming from South America," the priest said. "If he were more competent, I'd be even more worried. If he was a competent person, he might actually be a dictator."

Fr McKenzie didn't do much press after his blog post went viral -- after all, that was never the intention. He didn't become a pundit for MSNBC or CNN, and the politically-infused posts virtually stopped immediately after his first one caused backlash. The priest did, however, write an automated response to a wave of emails he received about the post, writing: "Interestingly enough, almost none of the e-mails I've received from Trump supporters have tried to refute what I wrote."

"They've been attacking my character; and/or they've been accusing me of being pro-choice, pro-illegal immigration, pro-Hillary, pro-terrorist, pro-socialist, pro-whatever," he added. "Some things I've received have been down-right vile. This has not done much to persuade me that Mr. Trump is not a demagogue. Fear and anger seems to be the main message I'm receiving from his supporters."

Despite his best attempts to once again separate politics from religion, Fr McKenzie said the Trump era has made that all but impossible.

The priest lost a close friend "very surprisingly" following Mr Trump's election, he said, and numerous parishioners left the church over the blog post he wrote.

"It cost me personally, it probably cost the church economically," he said, adding: "I do everything in my power to be as generous, and as balanced as I possibly can, especially in public ... certainly from the pulpit."

There are times, Fr McKenzie said, when his sermons have seemingly caused political tension, even when he was not discussing politics at all.

"Even if I say the words 'truth matters', which, as a Christian, of course truth matters ... some people are going to be like, 'oh, that's coded language about the president,'" he said. "So that's terrifying. And, I don't know, maybe sometimes they're right. Maybe I am talking about the president."

Fr McKenzie said he may have been "overly concerned" about how Mr Trump would act on the world stage back in 2016, adding: "He hasn't nuked Tehran, so I'll give him points for not starting a nuclear conflagration."

But he said that he stood by his blog post, and was planning on voting for anyone who wins the Democratic nomination in 2020 -- whether that be someone as progressive as Bernie Sanders, or the former vice president, Joe Biden. The priest said his decision came down to protecting the country for future generations.

"I think you can tell what the rest of his presidency will look like since his impeachment," he said. "He has been more belligerent, if that's possible. He seems completely unleashed at this point, he's going to hurt his enemies, bring in people who are sycophants to do his bidding, which will only make things worse for the country."

Fr McKenzie added: "It makes things bad for the church as people associate Christianity with him. There is nothing about him that makes me believe he's a Christian in any meaningful way, but he associates with Christianity, and some of us associate with him -- which, in turn, makes us look terrible."

Asked whether the priest would write another blog post ahead of Super Tuesday, he responded "probably not" and said there was "too much noise" to have any sort of impact ahead of the crucial vote.

"God is not out to make every country 'great,'" he said. "It may be that Trump is God's judgement on America, and that's what we're experiencing. I hope not, but it could be.

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