I totally get it. Faithful and God-fearing means one has to stand up for the cause of God in the face of encroaching evil. Students of the Bible do more than wait as human conflicts increase and environmental breakdown intensifies. In the unseen clash between rulers of darkness and angels of light and right, we are participants.
Participant may be too lazy a word here. When it comes to the influence now being waged by some of America’s evangelical groups, they’re working with a vengeance to bring Christian values to the forefront of world morality. It is vengeance because, as one conservative author and commentator writes, when they helped elect Donald Trump as president, they vowed to “hit back twice as hard” because they believe they had to take a backseat in the era of Barack Obama.
Obama, a professed Christian, increasingly sought to uphold the Constitutional principle of the separation of church and state. The White House began to neutralize the language that traditionally recognized Christians. Federal agencies and funding recipients were expected to offer their services with neutral and thus inclusive treatment. Further, Obama created an atmosphere that was inclusive of a diversity of people, religious beliefs and practices. He included Muslims and members of LGBTQ+ communities into official White House ceremony and tradition.
With Trump’s election, largely credited to the support of Evangelical Christians, the power of the church, at the invitation of the state, is just warming up. From a cabinet with eight active and vocal Christians, to the quick and unobstructed appointment of pro-life judges on the federal bench, Make America Great Again, means Christians are back in style.
The Netflix documentary “The Family” traced the underground influence Christian leaders leveraged among elected leaders in the U.S. and globally. The National Prayer Breakfast, according to the film, has been more than a time for prayer, reflection, and direction. Rather, it is a chance for well-connected, yet religious activists to gain access to world leaders in order to influence their policy and governance. So much for the separation of church and state.
Evangelicals, so sure that they are on the right side of the Bible and history, claim Trump is the most “biblically friendly” president the U.S. has ever seen. They are so sure on this that when Trump surprised his own cabinet and intelligence personnel with an abrupt change in Syria, Evangelical pundit and pastor Pat Robertson said Trump was in danger of “losing the mandate of heaven.”
Whether you consider yourself Christian and care about the unborn or the incarcerated, the rule of law or police abuse, there has to be a balancing analysis and maybe synthesis. Matthew 25’s mandate to reach the poor, the oppressed, and the incarcerated in mercy for Christ is clear. It is clear, also, that the Bible invites each believer to cast his or her whole being squarely on the Lord’s side—believing and doing the work of the kingdom (Matthew 7:21; Matthew 10:32, 33; Matthew 12:50; James 2:17, as just some example texts). For Christians who cherish liberty of conscience, there is a critical question: how much of God’s kingdom comes to this world, when Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world”?
If there were a playbook, I would think some of these ideas would be central operating principles for the Christian seeking to affect her world:
The end does not justify the means. Consider the tragic story of Judas, who for 30 pieces of silver, sold away the Messiah to be crucified. This illustrates the idea that even though the plan of God to redeem the world meant His son would shed His blood and die, God didn’t endorse the betrayal, the conspiracy, the blood money. “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” Judas cried, on his way to a guilt-ridden suicide.
Hollow participation to gain position and power likewise damages the unity, commitment and the witness of the body of Christ. The Spirit exposed the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira, and their final, lying words condemned them.
Love covers a multitude of sins, but don’t use love as your cover-up. Maybe David, a man after God’s own heart, was too secure in his prosperity, power and poetry. He completely blanked when tempted to wield his power to get what he wanted, and again, to what end? The shedding of innocent blood.
Finally, we can never fool ourselves into thinking whatever fundamentalist mission and vision we’re on need not pass the test of the light of scripture, and wise counsel. God sees all. (Revisit the scenes in Ezekiel 8 in which spiritual leaders betrayed God’s trust behind closed doors.) Sure, there will come a time when the masses will not endure sound doctrine, and true believers will suffer. In the meantime, the prospect of public scrutiny should lead us to act with transparency and accountability before God and people.
This article is part of our 2019 November / December Issue