Some of you might have noticed that, around the time of the November election, some of my posts here and elsewhere became a bit more political. Honestly, I’ve always been a political person. My two favorite conversation topics are religion and politics, which – you can imagine – makes me a much beloved dinner guest in many homes. :p
But it’s a difficult mix. The one thing I criticize most harshly about American Evangelicalism is just how political it has become. I’m a fervent believer in the separation of Church and State, and I do not think salvation, spirituality or purity can or should be legislated. So I thought I’d take a moment to explain why I’ve grown a bit more political and the ways in which my faith informs my politics.
Christian but Still a Citizen
While the majority of the U.S. population claims to be Christian, I do not believe America is a Christian nation – and I think it is extremely problematic to classify it in such a way (for reasons too numerous to list here). For starters, our nation and its wealth was built on genocide and slavery.
However, I still care about my country. I like our Constitution and Bill of Rights and believe they should be preserved and defended. I also believe that governments exist to serve their people. A government that exploits its people is an abomination.
One reason I’ve become more political recently is that I believe our Constitution and the institutions that uphold it are under threat. Yes, my allegiance is to Jesus Christ first, and in Him I have peace when everything else is dissolving into chaos. But that doesn’t mean that I have to – or should – let chaos pass without comment.
One of the things I treasure most about the U.S. is our enshrined freedom of religion. That freedom allowed Protestant Christianity to flourish here when it was under attack elsewhere. Other religious minorities have flocked here to escape persecution as well. Limiting “freedom of religion” to just one religion sets a dangerous precedent. Christianity may be the main U.S. religion today, but what if an atheism becomes the majority? Or Mormonism? Or Scientology? Freedom for all religions keeps Christianity free as well.
Moral Law vs Spiritual Law
So I have these two things at work: my religious faith and my political philosophy. I try to keep the two separate, but there are points where they converge. Take, for example, the issue of welfare (which I’ve written about before). My faith says that Christians are commanded to provide for the poor and needy. Some have argued that should only occur on an individual basis – but I say if we’re going to label ourselves a “Christian nation,” then things like welfare and fair wages should be primary features of our economy.
At the same time, my political philosophy says that governments exist to serve their people and ensure their wellbeing. Therefore, even if we’re not claiming to be a Christian nation, there should still be some sort of federal provision for disadvantaged members of society – whether that’s a guaranteed minimum income, affordable education, food stamps, or some other program.
But what about legislating? Here’s where it gets a bit tricky. As I said, I don’t think purity can be legislated. But I do believe in moral laws whose main purpose is to protect and serve people, and many of these are deeply informed by my faith.
For example, I despise financial fraud or usury of any kind. I graduated from college in 2007, just as the economy was beginning to melt down from the housing bubble. I saw firsthand how financial fraud can completely devastate hardworking people. In my opinion, it is one of the world’s worst evils – and the Bible has a lot to say about charging obscene interest rates, withholding wages, stealing, and defrauding the poor. YA DON’T DO IT. It hurts humanity and makes God awfully mad.
Issues like gay marriage. Here is where I distinguish between a moral law and a spiritual law. There are a handful of verses in the Bible that appear to address homosexuality, and it is clear to me that consensual gay sex – if indeed a sin – is a sin that one only commits against himself and God. Only the participants’ spiritual state is affected; broader society is untouched. And I think activities that only impact an individual’s spiritual state – such as salvation, church attendance, relationships, etc. – should not be regulated by the government. That’s an infringement on freedom of religion.
It is the Holy Spirit and the Church’s job to address sin. It is the government’s job to address public health and ethics.
Abortion is even trickier. I’m personally opposed to abortion. I’ve never had one and, God help me, I never will. But…I have seen people encounter circumstances where termination of a pregnancy was a wise and merciful thing to do. There are valid circumstances that require women to consider it. So while I am morally opposed to the practice in most cases, I acknowledge that there are sound reasons for its existence. And for those reasons, I think it should remain legal and accessible to all women. (You may disagree.)
My Real Beef
However, there’s a bigger reason I’ve found myself more politically outspoken these days. It has to do with Christian leaders’ endorsement of Donald Trump. Normally, this would not be a huge issue for me. I grew up in a conservative church; pastors rallying around Republican candidates is nothing new for me.
What is new is the lengths to which these leaders have gone to overlook, dismiss and explain away a lifetime of Trump’s moral and ethical failings. I am both befuddled and appalled that Christian leaders sanctified – and continue to sanctify – one of the most degenerate human beings to have graced our planet in recent memory.
I do not use the word “degenerate” lightly or often.
In this case, I feel I have to speak up. My silence would be complicity in these leaders’ attempts to pass Trump off as “God’s anointed.” And I will do no such thing. History has shown that anyone who aligns himself with Trump will pay a heavy price in reputation, credibility or position. I truly believe that by embracing Trump, evangelical leaders are endangering the spiritual wellbeing of the Church.
The other day on Twitter, I wrote the following:
My entire youth, Christian leaders told me to avoid people like Trump…to be bold & courageous…to take a stand against evil. Tim LaHaye published an entire series of books on the end times, on what to expect when the Antichrist shows up. How he will speak and act. And here is Trump doing & saying exactly those things, embodying everything I was taught to stand against. And those Christian leaders are now demanding my silence. That I stand down. That I get on board and support this man.
I open the scriptures & read about people who mock, who slander, who defraud, who lie, who engage in smooth talk…I point this out…and I’m told I’m wrong. That I’m being hysterical and butthurt. God’s going to use Trump for some amazing purpose, I’ll see.
And people keep showing me these videos…here’s Trump sitting in church. Here he is being prayed over. Rev. So-and-so blessed him. And I shouldn’t speak against this because it’s rude, because people support him & my speaking out offends them.
And the thing is, I’m not out there insulting Trump voters. I’m not calling them nasty names. I’m just pointing out the deplorable things he says & does. But even this is too much, apparently. I’m not “giving him a chance” to show the good he can do.
People talk about how painful it is to abandon one’s faith. But what happens when your faith abandons you?
What happens when your leaders pivot & sanctify everything they’ve ever preached against? And label you the traitor?
I don’t yet know the answer. But I certainly won’t let their betrayal pass without comment. My faith won’t allow it.