Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Destruction of the Evangelical Witness

I wouldn't call myself an Evangelical these days... at least not in the conventional sense of that term but that movement plays a significant role in my background.  There was a long time when I would have identified myself as such.  My tradition - the Baptist movement - and my denomination - The American Baptist churches, USA - both include significant proportions of folk who would call themselves "evangelical."  I know the theology and have good friends who are evangelicals.  While it is a branch of the Christian Church that I no longer call home, I do have deep appreciation for the best parts of that movement and often tell my church and my more liberal friends that I and we have much to learn from our evangelical brothers and sisters.

All that said, I am very worried that the evangelical church is in serious danger of destroying its witness and damaging the Church perhaps permanently.  At the very least, they are convincing a lot of unchurched folk that they do not really believe what they say they believe and that they are more concerned about cultural influence and power than about following Jesus.  How so?  By endorsing Donald Trump and clothing it their faith.

I have no right to judge Donald Trump's faith or lack thereof, but if, as many evangelicals are saying, he has recently had a conversion experience, then somebody out to be helping him figure out what following Jesus looks like.  All of these big name evangelical preachers like Jerry Falwell Jr. ought to be sitting him down and telling him that a follower of Jesus ought not be making fun of differently abled folk, ought not to be lying almost as often as he opens his mouth, ought to think more carefully before denigrating women and/or treating them as sex objects, should not be inciting his followers to violence... the list goes on and on.  Of course, there is the problem of his past which seems to fly in the face of every value these evangelical leaders claim to hold... bad enough in itself, but he hasn't said a single word that shows any repentance from any of it.  Indeed, he said that he does not need any forgiveness.  These folk should be coaching him at the least or calling him out.  For years they questioned Barack Obama's faith and are doing the same to Hillary Clinton when both of them were/are good members of local congregations and speak squarely from the Christian tradition.  It is true that both Obama and Clinton are pro-choice... but as more than one person has argued, they both present policies that are more effective at lowering the rate of abortion than any recent Republican candidate.  See here and here.

Instead of calling him out, some very visable prominent evangelicals have doubled down arguing that voting Trump is the only moral option, that his behavior regarding the Khan family was appropriate, and even comparisons between Trump and Ronald Reagan (as close as conservatives have to a saint).  It is true that many evangelical leaders have spoken out in opposition to these leaders, it is these who have gotten the most press and the polls seem to indicate that white evangelicals are among the most faithful supporters of Donald Trump.

So... to my evangelical friends, distance yourself from Trump and from those evangelical leaders who are supporting him or at least call him on his behavior or forever be resigned to the fact that you have abandoned your values and sullied the cause of Christ.

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