I recently released my first book called book called ‘A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community.’
It the continuation of my twenty year journey as a local church pastor and online activist, to try and craft spiritual communities where all people are truly welcome—especially those most often excluded based on gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religious tradition, nation of origin, or less rigid theology.
Given the clarity with which I’ve declared my contempt for our current President and my exasperation with those still supporting him, lately I get a fairly loaded but still reasonable question:
“So, John,” they ask me, “is your ‘bigger table’ open to Trump supporters?”
Well, yes it is—though sadly I don’t expect many of them to pull up a chair or to stay very long and here’s why:
The bigger table as presented in the book, is built on a commitment to four non-negotiables for all those who gather there:
Radical hospitality: Everyone is equally celebrated and effusively welcomed without reservation—because they have the same inherent worth.
Total authenticity: People can be a fully non-edited version of themselves and know that won’t be a deal breaker for their full inclusion.
Real diversity*: Difference in worldview, religion, experience are all not only expected, but seen as necessary and beautiful.
Agenda-Free Relationship: You don’t meet someone with the expectation of changing, fixing, or saving them. You simply listen to their story and count it as equally valid and meaningful as your own.
These are the humanity-honoring preconditions for every person coming to the bigger table we’re building, which is likely problematic for those currently supporting this President—a man whose entire campaign and first year in office have been defined by exclusion; by fear of the other, by the hoarding of advantage, by the marginalizing of the outsider. Donald Trump isn’t just seeking to make the table smaller—he’s trying to legislate out all but the wealthiest and whitest. He’s attempting to buy the table and deny access to the lion’s share of those seeking to be present.
And this is the crux of the matter: to align yourself with this President (the one of muslim Bans and Mexico walls and healthcare sabotage and Supremacist coddling and LGBTQ condemnation and Dreamer expulsion—is to loudly champion the smaller table, and to clearly declare a vast portion of the world unequivocally uninvited. It is to ratify his contempt for humanity by proxy, and there’s really no other way around it.
To see all that you’ve seen and to still contend that this President has the slightest bit of compassion or decency or competency, points either to a complete lack of sense, of awareness, or of character—all of which make fellowship with real barrier-shattering diversity a tall order. Reiterating this President’s platform and his conduct or declaring it reasonable or normal, in nearly every way takes a chainsaw to the bigger table.
Donald Trump’s steadfast base (composed mainly of white Christians) have never not been welcomed at the table, and that’s why this will all be difficult for them. In order for his proponents to meet people in relationship while upholding those fundamental non-negotiables that affirm the intrinsic worth of disparate humanity—they really have to stand in direct opposition to him. It’s virtually impossible to simultaneously claim alignment with this President—and with a table where equality, diversity, and empathy all get seats. So as much as someone like myself (seeking to be the people of the bigger table) truly extends the invitation to the world, I know that many Trump boosters will not come or stay very long because they are still holding too tightly to prejudice and hatred, to grab hold of what is being offered there: a place where those things are of no use.
Yes, everyone is invited and welcome where the people of the bigger table gather, but those not committed to hospitality, authenticity, diversity, and relationship without religious agenda—probably won’t come. Those who use FoxNews as their primary source of information will likely reject the heart of the bigger table, because they have been indoctrinated to see so many potential table mates as a threat. Given Trump’s dehumanizing treatment of LGBTQ people, Muslims, women, immigrants, and people of color—my guess is that most of his most ardent cheerleaders won’t show up to make those groups feel they’re seen and heard and respected, and that simply isn’t up for discussion.
If LGBTQ men and women aren’t truly welcomed at the table, it isn’t big enough.
If people of color don’t get to be fully present and heard, it isn’t big enough.
If non-Americans don’t have an equal seat, it isn’t big enough.
If Muslims can’t be there without feeling threatened, it isn’t big enough.
If women are asked to take a lower seat, it isn’t big enough.
This isn’t virtue signaling or identity politics—it’s unapologetically demanding an equality that has been absent.
The dream of the bigger table is to create space where no one feels they are disqualified from dignity.
It is a non-partisan, non-sectarian aspiration.
It claims no political ideology and no theology—beyond an apologetic of love that allows everyone proximity.
It isn’t about making America great, it’s about making humanity human.
Yes, the invitation to the bigger table is open to the world—but active violence, discrimination, and bigotry will have to wait in the car because they are not welcome.
There’s a chair for everyone at the bigger table, but not everyone will want to take a seat—because they’re not used to making room for the world.
And they’re going to need to if it’s going to be big enough.
Trump supporter, consider yourself fully invited—but know what your RSVP will require.
*Diversity does not mean tolerating active bigotry or violence against people. The table is big, not because you can say or do any horrible thing you want to, it’s big because all people’s inherent worth is protected—especially those usually marginalized. It will not sacrifice oppressed people on the altar of us tolerating their oppressors.
Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.