The Republican primary election in a Bible Belt state with the largest voting block of self identifying evangelical Christians was held last Saturday. The results of the election was the undisputed nomination of a serially unrepentant adulterer who owns casinos and strip clubs, promises retribution on his enemies, believes Planned Parenthood does good things, and makes frequent use of vulgar and uncouth language in his stump speeches. His name is Donald Trump.
For the record, the Democrats will vote next week. Also for the record, self identified Republican evangelicals voted for Mr. Trump in droves, rejecting a heretical Seventh Day Adventist running a dishonest campaign, a governor who’s best known for leaning left, another governor who’s best known for his last name, a socially conservative Roman Catholic who has made a concerted effort to reach out to and partner with Evangelicals, and a candidate who arose from among them as a staunch conservative who, by all accounts, is an actual evangelical, albeit perhaps mildly charismatic.
Again… the largest voting block of evangelical Christians, so far, clearly rejected all else to vote for the Planned Parenthood candidate.
To understand why, we have to first break through the myth of the “evangelical christian” demographic. By and large, the “evangelical” is defined by demographers as a person who attends a protestant church regularly. That’s it. For them, it’s where you go on Sunday morning, not what you believe when you get there. So the person walking into Perry Noble’s church is counted as being similar to the one who walked into RC Sproul’s. In reality, the average attendee of these churches are very different from one another.
And yet it is not simply demographers that make this mistake, rather it is also Christians themselves who mistake other supposed believers in bad churches as real believers in good churches. To one another, we may say that those elsewhere on the spectrum do not belong in the realm of Evangelical Christianity, but practically we’ll do little about it. Many have the stomach for words, but not for a sustained holistic campaign to draw clear lines and make clear what side everyone is on (much like we do with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons). This leaves us in the unsavory position of being the defacto big tent populist movement appealing to style and preference, instead of substance and creed. It ought not surprise us then when a big tent populist movement votes for a big tent populist candidate.
Trump swept Cruz among evangelicals. Every district.
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) February 21, 2016
Our unwillingness to stand for doctrine and to draw clear lines of division, our fidelity to unity above truth, is directly at fault for the evangelical support of Donald Trump. When evangelicals believe that they can believe whatever they want they will also do whatever they want. When evangelicals believe that principles don’t matter they will fall easy prey to a manipulative politician using them to gain power.
In short, evangelicals have a worldview problem. This problem springs from the fact that that evangelicals, including many conservative evangelicals, have avoided developing a worldview on matters that are not directly related to Scripture and to Christianity. The failure of modern Christians to realize their place in the world, its effect on them, and their effect on it has ironically produced worldly Christians. Quite simply the scriptural precept of being “in the world but not of the world” has meant for many that they need not concern themselves with anything that goes on outside of the church walls. What many who believe this fail to consider is that those things going on outside of the church walls will, one way or another, find their way inside the church; and those inside the church will find their way into the world. The way American Evangelicalism is doing things leaves the average Christian unable to handle either situation, and thus many are inconsistent and contradict their supposed beliefs with infuriating actions. By avoiding the issue because “it’s not the Gospel”, we’ve produced a people that only know the Gospel. Even that is debatable from time to time.
You can’t believe whatever you want, brothers and sisters. What Scripture says about all matters in life actually matters. Conservative Evangelicals avoiding politics because it’s “not the gospel” are no better than mindless Evangelicals who vote for Trump or Sanders because they like free stuff or want to tell off the establishment.
I do not believe that Christ intended His Church to be a cloistered private group living quietly in a world gone mad. I most certainly do not believe that Christ intended his church to be a part of the madness. Unfortunately what many do not see is that the goal of being a cloistered private group, the unwillingness to speak publicly and to openly rebuke those who name the name of Christ but do not bow the knee to Christ, has thrust those in need of rebuke into the madness. And by association, in the world’s eyes, those of us who do bow the knee Christ are thrust along with them. We are most concerned with our brothers and sisters understanding the Bible, and rightfully so. Those efforts must continue to to be our top priority. But those efforts are meaningless if our understanding is disconnected from our practice. The average attendee at Perry Noble’s church would agree with that people need to know Jesus. But where they disagree is understanding that knowing Him means making Him Lord, not merely changing your Facebook profile to claim Christianity as your religion. It is their theology of Jesus and Salvation that matters, not merely that they cheer for team Jesus.
Now, to be truthful, many of my fellow conservative believers will agree with what I just wrote. And it is indeed true that many (not enough) have worked and will work very hard to reach the nominal believer who is just going to church to belong, or out of ritual (or whatever). I am far from the lone voice. Our efforts have fallen on deaf ears, and far too many who agree with us in doctrine find it unseemly to rebuke bad churches and declare demonstrably false Christians as false. The fear of “out of control discernment blogging” is real. The queasiness of having the hard conversation is overwhelming. Yet still, there are some who will join me in saying what needs said. Some have said it for years before I even noticed; many will say it better.
But few of them will wander far from what is among them within the church. Few of those who would, readily, defend against creeping falsehood within the church speak about the need for the church to go outside of itself into the realm of business, culture, and yes, politics.
The fact of the matter is this: God’s Word is sufficient. It informs us with principles about all matters of life. And yet, while there seems to be a new marriage book written every month, few and far between are the books on how to run a business as a Christian, or how Christians should think about various art forms, or what our worldview of economics should be. The Bible has those answers, but we aren’t asking the questions.
Politics is no different. While there are too many kooks who read the news and attempt to smash it into Scripture, and there have been too many who attempt to incite another moral majority to make our secular world a Christian nation, not enough are willing to teach a balanced and Biblical view and say “God has something to say about leadership, government, citizenship, law, and justice.” Christians all over the spectrum are confused because the church continues to fail to make it clear how to think through such a situation. As a result, Christians have no idea how to view the world around them. And, as a result, Christians who would no doubt find it unseemly to gamble in a casino or abort a baby voted overwhelmingly for a casino owner who praises Planned Parenthood. It is insanity; and the worst part is that it is entirely avoidable.
Let South Carolina’s (and now Nevada’s) results be a lesson to us all. We don’t need to believe that we have a moral majority that must take over the world; but so long as God grants us the stewardship of a vote we DO need to know how to use it properly. We DO need to understand how we should view the world, and affect the world -even the political world- so as to glorify God and honor Him. That didn’t happen last Saturday (or Yesterday) as thousands of Christians threw away Biblical principles to endorse a wicked man. We can either allow that to continue, believing we “shouldn’t get too involved”, or we can admit that those thousands have no idea how to think Biblically and as a result are poor stewards of God’s gift of the vote.
It’s up to you, brothers and sisters. But as for me and my house….