Jesus, politics, and evangelicals have increasingly become focal points within social commentary and religious debate, even finding its way to social media forums, such as Twitter. Whether it’s about America being God’s “chosen” nation or the decline of moral values in society as a whole, many conservative and alt-right Christians have been found making a strong, yet embarrassing impression on those outside of the Church.
I’m an Evangelical Christian who can be found somewhere between conservative Christian values and progressive Christian discussion. I’m weird, you might say. Just getting that out of the way before you get too confused with why I’m sharing my thoughts on these matters.
We live in the information age, which basically means that you can’t hide what you used to hide from the public eye. What is hidden will be found out. Politicians are no longer squeaky clean as we once thought. Hollywood execs and celebrities are filling our newsfeed with scandal after scandal. Church leaders are being caught taking advantage of their congregations, whether financially, physically, or emotionally (protestant and catholic alike). Very little is hidden that will not be revealed.
What does this mean for Christianity, particularly in the ever contentious American political landscape?
Recently, accusations of pedophilia by Roy Moore – a GOP senate candidate from Alabama – were raised regarding a 14 year old girl he presumably assaulted years ago. Roy Moore is considered a man of strong Christian and conservative values, yet these accusations are bringing to light secrets that have likely been hidden from the public eye for decades.
In his piece “The unholy excuses of Roy Moore’s allies” by Daniel Burke of CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/10/politics/moore-unholy-excuses/index.html), we are presented with a disturbing underworld within the ranks of conservative Christian values in the United States. What happens when allegations are made towards a beacon of Christian nationalism? Defensiveness that falls nothing short of insanity results. One excerpt of the article by Daniel Burke caused me to stop and ask, “Is this really the Jesus of the Scriptures?” In defense of Roy Moore’s possible behavior, we weren’t presented with any verifiable facts. Instead, we got a bizarre and irrational excuse as a defense:
“‘Take Joseph and Mary,’ Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler told the Washington Examiner. ‘Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.’”
A bit unusual? Pedophilia? When did Jesus teach us that moral compromises were permissible as long as you represented conservative moral and political opinions?
Shockingly, after the allegations were made public, evangelical and politically-divisive leader Franklin Graham tweeted, “I’m praying for Roy Moore and his family.” You won’t find a tweet from Graham calling for prayer for the victim, nor for her family. As Moore has been considered a Christian political power-player, prayers are given on behalf of a pedophile wearing the mask of Christian nationalism, yet none are offered for the person who was wounded through their immorality. Billy Graham and his son, Franklin, are completely different in their handling of politics and politicians. One prayed for and loved both political parties, while the other demonizes those who hold a different worldview than his own. Such a tragedy within Evangelicalism.
If your blood is boiling towards my words thus far, let me offer you a little clarity on my own position and intention for this article. First off, I’m not a liberal, nor do I identify with the GOP and Christian nationalism. I fall somewhere in-between – a place not easily welcomed in our current political climate, yet a place I desperately believe must exist. You might say that I believe in the Jesus who can be found on both sides of the aisle, which scares many people within the Church.
In addition, I also attended Liberty University, which happens to be considered a conservative Christian institution built on Christian and American values. The years I attended LU were some of the best years of my life. I loved the student body, my professors, and the growth in my faith that occurred over those critical years. Yet, even so, I have recently distanced myself due to the conduct of the current Chancellor – Jerry Falwell, Jr. His father was political and not always in agreement with my own values, yet he somehow had a more graceful way of carrying his point of view. His son reminds me of Franklin Graham – an apple that fell so far from the tree that it’s hard to tell if it’s even from the same tree.
Rather than being known as a University that is pouring the love and Gospel of Christ into the social conversations in our world, the primary identity of Liberty University in the public eye at this time is Christian nationalism, Trumpism, and a blind eye towards moral compromise for the sake of national power. It’s been humiliating to watch a school that I am so very proud of to become a mockery in the marketplace of ideas and cultural discussions. Unless you’re a Trump supporting Christian nationalist, you will likely have a bitter taste in your mouth when Liberty University is mentioned.
Dear Christians, what have we become as proclaimed “followers of Jesus” when we become representatives of a Jesus who never existed in the Scriptures?
What has the Church in America become when we are willing to compromise moral convictions to follow a mere man for political ambitions, not a Kingdom-minded vision?
When will we realize that the Kingdom that Jesus spoke of had nothing to do with the kingdom of America?
Jesus’ words should haunt the souls of American Christians who are holding tightly to a nationalistic worldview, rather than a Kingdom mindset that is focused on bringing heaven to earth.
“Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.’” – Luke 17:20-21 ESV
Even during the days that Jesus walked the earth, the Jewish people were hoping for a political leader who would free them from the oppression of the Roman empire. However, instead of a leader who would raise up a flag and a new empire on the earth, Jesus raised himself up on a cross and formed an invisible Kingdom only known through the eyes of the soul, not through the decaying eyes of flesh and bone.
As long as we live in this world, the political climate matters and I’m not suggesting otherwise. We should take social matters and public policy with the utmost seriousness, as it often affects millions of people, even outside of our own country. However, if we pledge our utmost allegiance to Jesus, our greatest focus and passions must be found within the Kingdom of God, not the kingdoms of man.
As we continue to navigate the complex and tumultuous waters of American politics, I pray that we will not compromise our true allegiance to the Kingdom of God for a temporary kingdom made of straw, inhumanity, and immorality. If we continue down the path we’re currently treading, we will likely turn into the monster we seek to destroy.