A Collection of Thoughts on the American Evangelical family.
American Evangelical Nostalgia for “a Christian nation.”
How many times have you heard, “America is a Christian country!” OR “America was a Christian nation!”? When was the last time time you heard an American Christian wax nostalgic for some undefined time in American history when “Americans feared God!”? I’ve heard this phrase more times than I can care to remember, and every time I hear it, I’m dying to ask these questions:
When, exactly, was America a “Christian nation”?
Was it when nearly half of the country was prepared to kill millions of people for the “right” to buy, sell, and own other human beings? Would a Christian nation think slavery was worth dying and murdering for?
Was America a Christian nation when Jim Crow was adopted nation-wide as a solution to the “negro problem”? Would a Christian nation show astronomical rates of lynchings and murders of thousands of Negros for two centuries?
This should go without saying, but there is no such thing as a Christian nation. Not even the Vatican — the only Christian theocracy on earth — is a Christian nation. Certainly not with the all allegations of sexual molestation and pedophilia that have been linked to the institution for at least half a century. The world is fallen, sinful, and most importantly, not our own. Many Christians seem to forget that our citizenship is of the kingdom of Heaven; we are instructed to be in the world but not of it. While we are here, our priorities are to minister God’s good news to a fallen world, to care for the poor, sick, and marginalized, and to be good stewards of the resources God has placed in our care.
The American Evangelical Family and Its Cruxes
The Crux of Evangelism Abroad: It is hard to leave your family and friends to travel to some distant part of the world to preach the gospel. But it is much harder to confront ourselves and our society about our failings. Some would even say going on a missionary ministry to some remote part of the world is a welcome escape from the chaos at home. While racial and economic problems bludgeon America, it’s as though American Evangelicals become even more desperate to ‘spread the gospel’ abroad rather than minister to the pain and strife (political and racial) in their own backyards. Global evangelism is definitely a necessary and vital ministry, but many American Christians seem to be pursuing this at the expense of the equally necessary mission of ministering to themselves and their own neighbors with wisdom and love.
The Crux of Abortion: Abortion is a sin. Killing an unborn child, a person innocent of every conceivable crime, is a sin. However, many Christians understand abortion in our fallen world is, mildly speaking, a complex issue. For instance, I do not know many Christians who would insist a mother carry a child to term if there are complications with the pregnancy, if the mother’s life is at risk, or if the child was conceived via rape or incest. The fact remains that if a woman has an abortion, as with any other sin, she should live in repentance. The fact also remains that abortion is only one of several societal ills that need our attention, and that rather only being anti-abortion or pro-birth, Christians are instructed to be pro-life. That is, helping these women see their pregnancies as gifts not divine punishment, prayerfully and financially supporting these women long after delivery; and working to ensure those currently on this planet have food, shelter, and healthcare.
Essentially, working to reduce the abortion rate is only a sub-set of our whole pro-life ministry, as is working to reduce our incarceration rate, our gun violence rate, and the marginalization of the minorities and poor in our midst, among other things. This is a complex task requiring long-term investment — a responsibility I believe Christ has entrusted to those who claim to love him. Instead, Evangelicals seem to have set up abortion as a one-stop litmus test issue.
For better or worse, abortion has become the modern Evangelical’s rallying cry; an ill so grave that it must be vanquished at whatever cost. It does not matter a person’s character, it doesn’t matter if this person rages against the marginalized in our society — risking more suffering on those already in existence, it does not matter that a person is unrepentant about sexually molesting a child/teenager, what matters is abortion. In this way, many Evangelicals have turned abortion into a crux — an arbitrary bar under which we will not lower ourselves — and therein make a mockery of Christianity. The world mockingly looks on as we fiercely advocate for the unborn, knowing that once that child is born, our advocacy curiously loses intensity. We suddenly become apathetic and even hostile to this child’s claims of racial and economic suffering. This is the standard, the pitifully low standard of the modern American Evangelical. Evangelicals seem to be willing to exchange the well-being of those unlike themselves, relying on abortion — one of several issues that rightfully demand our attention — as a crux. A Christian community that somehow holds every sin permissible or tolerable, except abortion, deserves to be mocked. But while we set our arbitrary bars and cruxes, it is important to remember that it is God, who will not be mocked.
The American Evangelical family and Representative Leadership
American Evangelicals supposedly still make up more than 60% of the American population eligible to vote. This is a very significant number that can be used to do an awful lot of good in the country, politically and otherwise. This is a number that means if American Evangelicals truly wanted a government that reflected the Christian fruits of the spirit, they would have it or at least half of the government would. Instead, what do we see? We see a group of people who repeatedly nominate and then elect some of the most unrepentant of our ilk into office. We see Christian leaders use and contort the scriptures to defend senators, governors, judges, and presidents. We see the American Evangelical community cannibalize itself for short-term and empty victories that the world will only ‘over-correct’ in the next election cycle, further lurching our entire society into more sin. We see a curious phenomenon where the American Evangelical community is committing sin to chastise a sinful society that only digs in its heels to commit even more sin, creating a self-reinforcing loop where America tumults further and faster into Hades. It seems few, if any, are committed to being decent, much less Christ-like, examples of good behavior, compassion, and integrity.
Of course, while this is happening, China — a country notorious for one of the worst on-going persecutions of Christians in history — continues to gain global clout in the shadow of a, mildly speaking, boisterous and incapable American leader.
The American Evangelical Family and the Cancer of Pharisaical Hypocrisy
American Evangelicals are a demographic group that throughout history and till today, still struggle as much as, or even more than, the general population in addressing the seven deadly sins inclusive of racism, sexual harassment/assault, and slander. In a bid to make our society more comfortable for ourselves, in pursing short-term validation and comeuppance for perceived societal slights, American Evangelicals risk committing a grave sin by turning a blind eye to the suffering of their own neighbors and thereby fail to obey the Lord’s second most important command: love thy neighbor as thyself.
If in truth one gets the leaders one deserves, then our leadership is an accurate reflection of ourselves: an Evangelical family suffocating on its own Pharisaical hypocrisy. Unless Christian Evangelicals take a hard look at themselves, at what we’ve ‘gained’ at the expense of brutally honest and steadfast discipleship, at what reactionary measures and sticking-head-in-the-sand tactics have done to our understanding of each other, this will not end well.