Up against it

A post last week to Franklin Graham’s popular Facebook page began with the following:

“The news reports that liberals are up in arms about a potential executive order from the president to protect religious freedom in this country.”

The executive order would hand conservative evangelicals something they crave at the moment— the legal right in many cases to discriminate against same-sex married couples. It would be a significant political victory and a huge payoff on the great evangelical gamble on candidate Trump.

But what’s important to Franklin Graham and his throng of online admirers is that the proposed EO would piss off liberals. Is there better evidence you’re doing God’s work?

Evangelical Christianity has become in large measure about what it’s against. While the idea of religion as warfare is nothing new — at the church of my youth we sang a hymn about Christian soldiers marching onward to war — the faith is increasingly being defined by its enemies. It affirms what it’s not.

It is also outwardly focused and expressed; true believers size up others, looking for deficiencies of character or confidence and openings to suggest there is spiritual matter to fill the void. This is inherently an exercise in judgment, and as faith and politics become more fused the judgment extends to topics that are decidedly non-religious.

This is how we end up with posturing from the religious right about agricultural secretaries and homeland security policies, the recasting of faith as a conservative political enterprise.

As evangelical Christian leaders fret over millennials’ disinterest in matters of faith, they’d do well to articulate reasons in favor of belief that don’t require the denigration of those outside their own spiritual and political cloister.

It would be refreshing if they looked for the good in themselves rather than focusing on the flaws of others.