One of the major objections to Christian support of Donald Trump that I (and many others) raised during the presidential campaign of 2016 was what it would do to the witness of the church in America. If we Christians belong to an eternal Kingdom, and if our singular priority in this life is to build that Kingdom, doing damage to the witness of the Church of Jesus has to be significantly concerning to me.
I feared what would happen if, in the eyes of the Western world, Christianity became synonymous with Trumpism. Mind you, it doesn’t have to. A Christian can fully support the good actions of President Trump while simultaneously condemning his weak character, shameful coarseness, and undisciplined retaliations. And that’s where many Christians who voted for Trump have settled these days – support what is good, reject what is bad.
The problem comes when significant, high profile Christians – whether that be Jerry Falwell, Jr. or Franklin Graham – remain unwilling to condemn the bad, even when it includes flagrant opposition to God’s Word. Take for instance Falwell’s embarrassing response when asked to condemn the President’s sexual affair with a porn star while his 3rd wife was pregnant, and then paid her off to keep her quiet: “we are all equally bad, we are all sinners.”
That’s both humiliating and irritating. We are not all equally bad. We all fall short of the glory of God, no question. But there’s a reason some will face harsher punishment in Hell than others. There’s a reason some will find higher places of glory in heaven.
But more to the point, the fact that any Christian leader cannot say unequivocally that cheating on your pregnant wife with a porn star and then trying to cover it up is wrong, is astounding. It is indicative of a mind more committed to political calculation than moral clarity. And that is extraordinarily dangerous for the church’s witness. Why?
First, because it cheapens the eternal message of salvation in Christ alone to a temporal political crusade. And second, because it opens the door for false teachers to mislead those left disillusioned by the church’s confusion.
I thought about that when I saw that the borderline heretical group Red Letter Christians (heretical because of their presumption that there is a higher Christian ethic to be found in merely embodying the “red letters” of Scripture over the fully inspired counsel of God’s Word) was preparing a political rally masked as a “revival” in Lynchburg, Virginia this April. Lynchburg is the home of the world’s largest Christian institution, Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s Liberty University.
Left-wing activist Shane Claiborne is leading the charge, which comes as no surprise to anyone who has read his regular anti-Falwell attacks that pepper his Twitter feed. And while there is much to fairly criticize about Falwell’s stewardship of the true message of Christ in our culture, it’s not as though a man like Shane Claiborne who:
…it’s not as though that is the direction true Bible believers in America should gravitate either. After all, organizers of this Claiborne/Red Letter Christian event aren’t ambiguous about their agenda:
“In word, worship and witness, this ‘revival of Jesus and Justice’ will stand in stark contrast to the distorted Christian nationalism that many white evangelical leaders have become known for,” the statement reads in part. “It is a gathering for people of faith or no faith who are curious about Jesus and troubled by the state of evangelicalism in America.”
“Justice,” in case you’re wondering, isn’t a reference to eternal justification. You know, the kind Jesus was concerned about. No, this “justice” is social justice – the true religion of many progressive Christians who see government as God, and who substitute economic retaliation and reparation for the power of eternal redemption.
In other words, this event has all the makings of a political rally that condemns those wrapping Christianity in Trump-wing Republican politics, all while wrapping Christianity in left-wing progressive politics.
And Jesus wept.