Politics Destroying Our Witness

This past week I saw a video clip from John Hagee’s Cornerstone church which showed people on stage exhorting individual’s to chant “Let’s go Brandon.” [(So no one can accuse me of left-wing bias) here is the Christian Post article which also discusses the meaning behind the phrase for those who do not know.] Admittedly this was an outside group using the location for a rally and does not inherently reflect the worship services of the church. I do not care much for John Hagee (the theology he espouses in books like “Four Blood Moons” is awful), but if the climate of Christianity were different I think I could give this a pass. After all, his Church was, like so many other churches do, allowing an outside  group to use their facility. However, it is foolish to think that many of Cornerstone’s congregants were not a part of the rally. Further, Cornerstone is known as a conservative church and they should recognize that people would equate their values with the values of the organizers of this really. Let alone the fact that given the charged political environment we live in any arrangement between a church and a partisan political group is going to look like tacit endorsement. Also, this event follows closely on the heels of Greg Locke’s Global Vision Bible Church shouting the same “Let’s go Brandon” chant during a worship service. Locke , for his part, also called out his congregation, yet I am picked that he has chosen to draw the line here when he has called Joe Budden a pedophile during a sermon. In fact it is a disturbing trend that Right Wing Watch’s Twitter feed is full of pastors and churches making spectacles  of themselves. Frankly, I take Right Wing Watch (and most of Twitter) with a grain of salt, but I am saddened by the fact that they are often not taking pastors out of context in the posts. These pastors make bold predictions in God’s name (without representing of false claims), demonize political opponents, and show little regards for historical or theological truth. How can I possibly defend this kind of behavior? These Christians spent four years saying that Mr Trump was unfairly targeted and abused and that we should pray for a president. Now they are good with veiled profanity toward a president they disagree with politically (but one who claims to be a fellow believer and brother). I am not a fan of President Biden but is he evil, no; does he deserve such treatment in churches, no.

The trouble is that over the last four decades Christianity has been wed unnaturally to politics. It all begins with the idea that God is working out a plan through America as a divinely chosen nation. If one believes that and that God’s will is easily discernible in history, then one can cherry pick history to find events which support this notion. That is exactly what has happened among conservative Christians. Now we are to the point that conservative political truth is equated with Christian theological truth and the celebration of American culture stands in for Christian worship. Such false nationalism has reached a point where churches feel comfortable singing hymns to the American flag. If conservative political truth is the same as God’s truth, then those who oppose this political mindset are inherently working with Satan. This is the mindset embraced by those pastors who cultivate this mentality in their congregations and that is why the condemnation of the “Let’s go Brandon” chants can seem somewhat disingenuous. They have clearly drawn a line that says the president is evil because he is standing in the way of God’s ideals (and God’s anointed president). 

To be sure there were many (including Christians) who were equally disdainful of Mr Trump. And, though I am not aware of it, I would not be surprised to learn equally repugnant things were said of Mr Trump in churches. I have heard claims like this used to excuse right-wing hatred of Mr Biden, but it is simply childish to defend one’s bad behavior with the claim, “He started it!” which is what such claims are saying. Pointing the finger at the other side for our bad behavior is the opposite of Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 7:5). It is the case that liberal Christianity also baptizes political ideals with Christian language in a way that subjugates Christian ideals and that speaks to how large the problem is for American Christians. Both sides are often guilty of demonizing the other and lifting political ideals above those of the Christian faith.

The truth is Christianity cannot be expressed in terms of Republican or Democrat ideals. Each party has stated goals which can be consistent with Christian ideals, and each party has ideals that are certainly not in line with Christianity. By demonizing political parties or specific individuals we forget that we do not fight against flesh and blood. When we make the other side out to be evil, we forget that Jesus loves those individuals as much as he loves us. The churches that are closely aligned with the Republican party and specifically Mr Trump are going to suffer as they suffer.

The worry I have with these churches is bigger than the fact that they will have no ability to reach their political opponents with the gospel. [Honestly the fact that this isn’t the biggest issue is insane.] But as Christians tie the gospel to political platforms they are inherently undermining the credibility of the gospel. As Christians justify and explain away the political hatred spilling over into the church, they will diminish the integrity of the message. Of course, this is precisely what is happening this week as people take aim at Hagee and Cornerstone. Their statement is bland, they stop short of any real criticism of the actions taken in their facility. How is the church supposed to bring healing to the nation when pastors and congregations are stoking the flames of cultural division? The political partisanship so deeply rooted in some corners of the church needs to be weeded out so that our message can have the integrity of the gospel of Jesus. This Sunday we celebrate the fact that Jesus reigns over all the world. Saying Jesus reigns over the whole world means that I will treat everyone with the respect and dignity due a child of God, even if that person supports a different political ideology. That means stop the chanting, stop the name calling, and begin to listen to the other side with the hope of having thoughtful dialogue. We are Christians, subjects of Jesus we should transcend the pettiness of the world’s political tactics.

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