I saw recently Russell Moore wrote two pieces for Christianity Today on the relationship between evangelicalism and conservative politics, both are must reads (here & here). In these articles Moore provides evidence that the current wave of conservative faith-based is not in fact rooted in churches, but in those who have given up the much of the church. I recognize the truth in these articles not because Moore or CT is associated with them, nor even because of the facts he presents, but because of the disturbing trend I have witnessed over the last few years. I have been writing this post all year but it was not until I read those articles that some of these elements crystalized for me. What truly sent off warning signals was that on the same day I read Moore’s article I was hit with a targeted ad for The Daily Wire which advertised the search for meaning could be met on their site.
For the last few years individuals like Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson have been advocating for true meaning being found in their conservative ideals. These same individuals will often talk about the Bible in positive terms, but only ever a truncated form of the Bible, which puts me in mind of Thomas Jefferson’s reliance on Scripture. Ask yourself if the Christian Bible is so profound and so essential for America (along with all the other things they say) why do neither of these men (and the scores of others) actually believe the central premise of the New Testament? They trumpet the morality, when it is convenient, but do not seem to want to take it seriously in their own lives. Rather, the Bible for them is simply one of several sources of morality with which they craft their own framework for life (the very thing conservative Christians often accuse more progressive Christians of doing). The Bible for them becomes a system of good morals, but the only morals which are ever discussed are those which fit neatly into their personal belief system. This reality is easy to notice when such celebrities use the Bible to defend their points. Conservative commentator Megan Basham recently used Old Testament verses about the virtue of paying back loans to oppose Mr. Biden’s plans for loan forgiveness. She paid no attention to the fact the verses were not talking about the lender and that there is plenty of Biblical support for such a concept. What she is doing is twisting the Scripture to fit her conservative ideals. Similar abuse of Scripture happened two years ago when a certain segment of the Christian right opposed the racial justice protests happening in our country and began to talk about the “sin of empathy” because empathy had become a hot button word. Yesterday I wrote about how some are using language of the Spirit to silence Scripture, these individuals have the same mentality but are often doing the reverse. What I have seen is from these characters the use of cherry-picked Scripture to silence the moving of the Spirit. There is a belief the Scriptures contain good moral teaching that can be applied to our lives, but instead of allowing God to direct their reading of Scripture they are scanning Scripture for the verses that reinforce their moral philosophy.
What Russell Moore said is, I believe, true; the overwhelming reason base for this new conservatism is not within the churches. There is a reality that ring wing media outlets are co-opting Christian language and even the Bible in a way that provides a Christian veneer to their beliefs. The trouble I see and Moore did not respond to is that while these concepts are being pushed by those outside the Church, I am seeing where they are gaining influence within church spheres. There is a vocal faction of Christians that are aligning with this political faction and seem to be taking cues from them. Over the summer I saw some of these individuals tweeting they want Jordan Peterson to make a profession of faith so they can ordain him, their point was they wanted a legitimate claim to baptize his ideology. These same individuals (many are pastors) regularly praise Ben Shapiro and The Daily Wire as an outlet of Christian virtue. It concerns me that there such a group within the Church, I do not want to drive fear by creating the perception that this is a growing faction which threatens the Church. However, I am concerned by the fact that this faction exists in the same way I am concerned about a group who would pit the Spirit against Scripture. These are, after all, two sides of the same coin, both want to maintain their individual beliefs over against listening to God, and both actively limit what Scripture says in their own ways. I am concerned that there is a group within the Church that listens to this ideology and I am equally concerned that there is a group outside the Church who associate the pseudo-Biblical worldview of these political conservative with the Church.
The truth is Christians, like all other humans, get enamored when a person we like or want to agree with gives us a reason to agree with them. We see this phenomenon among Christians on both the left and right when political figures they are predisposed to like quote from the Bible. And we do see this on both side of the political aisle. It is important for Christians to recognize the manipulation that is happening and happening more frequently on the conservative end of the spectrum. In the past I have argued that Christians need to partner with non-Christians when our goals align and I stand by that. What I am speaking against is the misguided belief that we stand in the same camp with these groups. I stand against the misguided belief that would seek to ordain Jordan Peterson’s advice, or completely support an elected official who cherry-picks or misapplies Scripture to attack political rivals. When we do this we allow culture to usurp our message and twist it in the minds of others who we are trying to impact.
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