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.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Politics of Faith Pt. 4: We are going to lose the culture war

  1. Scotty! Thanks for these thoughts, they mostly resonate with my own conclusions I’ve been coming to over the last several years. Determining the right relationship and responsibility Christians and the Church have in regard to politics I find to be a complex issue that most seem to have over-simplified thoughts about. For me, I see political involvement as simply another potential way to love one’s neighbor – out of many many possible avenues to love one’s neighbor.

    We as Christains are never told if and how to put our principles and beliefs and ethics into public policy – it really wasn’t much of an option in NT times. I have no problem with those who want to do good through public service and policy. But there are at least two dangers in doing so,

    The first danger is to see political policy in black and white terms. While we know that our morals, which are grounded in love of God and love of neighbor by Jesus himself, are black and white and should not be compromised, its not always clear in what form or to what degree these ethics are to be coded in law. I think most of us agree we shouldn’t make laws requiring love of the one Trinitarian God under threat of punishment, etc. We knwo Jesus commanded us to have concern for the poor. Does this mean implementing state or federal level welfare programs where the potential exist in some cases to do more harm than good? It seems that specific policy, then, has a large level of grey that takes wisdom and awareness of context to work out. What is right in 21st century America may not have been for 16th century England or modern African nations. So we should be humble in judging policy differences with other Christians, though our MOTIVES should all be grounded in the gospel and love of God and neighbor.

    A second major pitfall is the tendency to trust in political power. I think there is a fine line between seeking to do good within political power and to influence it – and putting your trust and hope in political power and feeling like your mission depends on it – like the health of the church or the efficacy of the gospel depends on political power. Jesus and the apostles are very skeptical and outright reject political power as a means to our goals of making disicples. Yes, they recognize God uses political powers to punish the injustice and even reward those who do good – but at the same time these powers are often portrayed as being in direct rebellion to God. While we may work with and within political power this is not where our power comes from to effect the most change and accomplish our mission. In fact, as the Gospels and the book of Acts show, the mission of the church will be triumphant despite the political powers. Its nice when we can work together, but even if they are against us we win. We don’t need them. Another problem with trusting in political power is the temptation to use it to get our way – to use it improperly or selfishly. And putting hope in political power can lead to feelings of panic or desperation when we lose it. This desperation can lead to compromise in order to maintain or regain power. And I think that is what we see happening with Christians and Trump these days – we are desperate for political power, seeing it slip from our fingers, and willing to support anyone, no matter how unChristian, for the promise of retaining and regaining some political power. Its sad.

  2. Casey, thanks for the thoughtful reply.

    I agree with your thoughts. The relationship between politics and religion is complicated and is something I’ve been trying to dissect on this blog for a while. The political arena is certainly a viable avenue for making our voices heard and achieving significant social good, but it comes with a mixed bag of corruption, greed, scandals, etc. I think you are exactly right when you say that “We don’t need them [political powers]”

    Maybe in the past, it was easier for Christians to get behind a particular candidate who represented our views and spoke with moral clarity, but I think now that ship has sailed. Maybe some day there will again be a party that nominates candidates we can genuinely support, or maybe not. Either way, we cannot sacrifice our message of love, compassion, and inclusion in a desperate bid to score some political points.

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