A Church Divided Under Trump’s White House

A Church Divided Under Trump’s White House
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Why you should care

Because after the celebrations, some Trump fans still have deep wounds to heal.

Katrina Rogers is mild-mannered and meek. She’s quick to shrink from the spotlight, and gingerly speaks with folded hands. Heads turned when her father enthusiastically threw his support behind Donald Trump in July.

Not much of a surprise, since her father is the garrulous pastor of Antioch Road to Glory International Ministry in Charlotte, North Carolina. Back in July, the historically Black church hosted Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, and former The Apprentice star Omarosa Manigault — against the derision of local critics. In a state where 95 percent of Black voters cast their ballot for Clinton, Rogers and her family took a sharp turn and steered straight toward the Donald.

Some say religion and politics ought not to mix, but for Rogers, “there are very real issues, and these people come to church with these burdens every Sunday. It’s nice to pray for them.” But the public endorsement in this year’s controversial election left the church deeply divided. Twenty of the 200 members — mostly women, Pastor Thomas Rogers says — left the church in protest. His home was shot at, his car window shattered and vandalized and his congregation vehemently attacked, he says. It’s all sticks and stones, retorts Katrina: “We were fortunate to have God on our side.”

“You can’t trust Hillary Clinton, because if you turn your back, she’ll stab you,” a 5-year-old says matter-of-factly.

Pastor Rogers refuses to put politics aside. For the 73-year-old, Clinton is the “anti-Christ” for dipping her hand in Iraq, Libya and Syria, Obama is “the worst president in history” and Trump is “a smart businessman.” The pastor is a bit of a rambler, going on about Bill Clinton’s three-strikes crime bill in the Black community as well as Hillary’s foreign policy. All the while, Pastor Rogers brushes off Trump’s more controversial rhetoric around women, Latinos and Muslims. Don’t “blame Trump for his wrongdoings, when we have done wrong ourselves” as sinners, he nods.

On election night, the church teems with vanilla cake, orange soda and a couple-dozen-strong crowd who linger after evening prayer. “Make America Great Again” hats are passed around and Donald Trump signs abound. “You can’t trust Hillary Clinton, because if you turn your back, she’ll stab you,” a 5-year-old says matter-of-factly. He casually sips his orange soda and devours his celebratory cupcake whole. We’re too stunned to point out the icing smeared all over his lips.

Around him, eyes are glued to the network of choice, Fox News. Bishop Edward Reese and his wife believe that Trump’s victory was prophesied by the Lord, adding that Clinton’s positions on abortion and gay marriage and her criticism of North Carolina’s bathroom bill disqualified her as “against God.” He continues in full sermon mode: “God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for the same reasons.”

Rakim Faulkner, a twentysomething Black voter in Charlotte, has “taken junk” on Facebook as his frenemies rallied against him when he endorsed Trump. Now, he’s busy trashing them as Trump takes North Carolina and a few other key states. “The reason I jumped on the bandwagon was that he’s not a politician, and politicians always lie” — sounding not unlike his hero. “I’m Trump’s biggest fan.”

As the night’s headline result slowly becomes clear, joy spreads across Katrina Rogers’ face. Then, utter silence as she drinks in the news. “You try not to second-guess yourself, but you know?” She shrugs, her hands over her heart. Months of tension and mudslinging are over at this church, and finally, “we can all move on.” Now begins the process of stitching back together a community torn apart. No concrete plans yet; perhaps some wounds need more than just time to heal.

OZY2016

The route to the White House: news, stories and analysis from on and off the presidential campaign trail.