Politics of Faith Pt. 4: We are going to lose the culture war

We are going to lose the culture war. And that is okay.

In fact, as I alluded to in my previous post some months ago, we never should have gotten involved (politically) in the first place and now we are dealing with the consequences of that misguided effort.

Why do I say that we are going to lose the culture war? Mostly because Jesus said it.

Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,  and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” Matt. 24: 9-12

This does not sound like the idyllic Christian Republican America Jerry Falwell hoped to usher in with the Moral Majority. The world will continue to reject Christ and his followers and descend into wickedness, which Jesus told us would happen, so why do we always act surprised? And more to the point, why does a large segment of the church feel that there is a Christian mandate to combat this trend through the power of the ballot?

For several decades right-wing politicians have pandered to the powerful “evangelical” (whatever that means) voting bloc on issues of Christian morality, such that “Republican” and “evangelical Christian” are practically synonymous in a political context. And yet our culture continues to shift away from traditional Christian morals. Homosexual marriage is legal, prayer is forbidden in the public forum, and Roe v. Wade remains untouched for forty years. The pipe dream of the Moral Majority is slipping away, and the progenitors of this doomed movement are desperately trying to cling to any remaining shred of political hegemony. Now, in a turn of events so remarkably cynical it almost defies belief, we are presented with a lying, misogynist, racist, litigious, power-hungry, habitual philanderer and told by our so-called faith leaders that we must vote for Donald Trump because he is “God’s man to leader our nation.” (Jerry Falwell Jr)

This disturbing circumstance is the inevitable consequence of conservative Christians for decades acquiescing to being characterized as single-issue voters, especially on the issue of abortion. Perhaps the most strikingly misanthropic message of the Trump candidacy is the belief of the party leaders that Christians will vote for anyone so long as they pay lip-service to pro-lifers, even if that candidate has a long history of donating to pro-abortion candidates and is widely viewed as a racist adulterer with a troubling admiration for fascism. Yet the Trump apologists tell us (and not wholly incorrectly) that the other party is no better. The church struck a Faustian bargain with the Republican party years ago, and now we find ourselves scorned by the left and taken for fools by the right.

The false prophets urge us to cling to this arrangement. They tell us that our very culture is at stake, and if we just persevere a bit longer, we can put “our people” in office and take our country back. But does that sound like sound like something Jesus would say? Would Jesus advocate lending our support to an unrepentant, rapacious egotist just for so our party can hold on to some vestige of political power? Or would he say “What good does do a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul?”

Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying that the sanctity of life is not important. It is an important issue, and Christians should continue to speak out on it. But we cannot let that single issue define us to the extent that the world thinks that we will tolerate any amount of corruption and avarice in order to get pro-life candidates into office. That is damaging to our witness. Decency matters. Integrity matters. Compassion for the poor and the outcast matter. We cannot let the political elite play us for such rubes that we forsake the core tenets of our faith to chase the dangling carrot of pro-life legislation.

As I said earlier, the culture war has always been a losing battle. Now we are dealing with the repercussions of our improvident participation, which came from a desire for political power and had nothing to do with the real Gospel of Christ. The true Gospel has always spread through love for our neighbors, not through power in Congress. The world will continue to sink into sin, but Christians are called to live our lives in such a way that we are a beacon of hope to the world. The most effective evangelism, as demonstrated by Jesus, is simple acts of loving one’s neighbor and sharing the good news that there is redemption in Christ. Paul, the greatest missionary in church history, lived in the Roman Empire, one of the richest and most degenerate, hedonistic cultures the world has ever known. Paul had little money and no political power, yet his churches flourished because they were founded on the Gospel of love and not the quest for wordly influence.

With the election coming up this fall, I urge the Christian community to be less concerned with our strength as a voting bloc and more concerned with the image of the Gospel we are presenting to the world. The candidate you vote for may or may not win, and if they do win, they may or may not deliver on the promises made during the campaign. Politics is politics, and political success is fleeting. We should be more focused on matters that are eternal.