South Carolina Sends a Message of Tough Love, Part 2
As a Christian I revel in absolutes. I’m not big on shades of gray. It’s why I use so much data in my analysis, because numbers are constants while opinions are variables.
But a worldview predicated on absolutes comes with a catch. You must be willing to apply them to yourself, your biases, and your preferences as well, and not just heap them upon those you don’t agree with. This is one of those times.
I am a proud Ted Cruz supporter. I want to see him be the next President of the United States, and have spent almost every waking hour when not on the air or spending private time with my family doing whatever I can to make that happen. I’m also an evangelical. The five solas of the Protestant Reformation are the foundation of my own worldview, my work, and form the core of my being.
Unfortunately, the troubling numbers out of the South Carolina primary on Saturday are sending both of my native tribes a message of tough love. And if we ignore them we are doomed to repeat them. One of them is political and the other is spiritual.
Today we look at the spiritual message. Yesterday we looked at the political one.
For months now I’ve had countless liberal media members incredulously asking me why Trump is doing well with evangelicals. Though many of these people are unbelievers, their question reveals some level of reverence for the faith nonetheless.
Because what they’re essentially saying – especially after Trump won evangelicals in South Carolina of all places – is this: “I thought you Christians stood for something better than this.”
It’s not just Trump’s adulteries and divorces. I wasn’t a virgin on my wedding night, and I’ve previously shared that I was fully engrossed in the porn culture like many men of my generation. Nor is it the many lies Trump has told on the campaign trail. I’ve told lies before, too. Neither is it Trump’s vulgar language. I lose control of my tongue at times as well. And it’s not even his liberal positions on practically everything Christians supposedly hold dear, though this seems to be what baffles liberal media the most. These are all mere symptoms of the real problem.
See, the reason Trump should be soundly rejected by evangelicals is that he openly flaunts his rebellion against God without shame. By claiming he’s never asked God for forgiveness because he doesn’t think he needs it, and calling self-esteem heretic Norman Vincent Peale his Svengali, Trump concedes he isn’t even a seeker. He’s crafted his own pagan religion that suits his own desires and that makes him no different than the moral relativists on the Left we allegedly oppose.
Trump essentially looks at the bloodied, bruised, and broken Christ on the Cross and responds: “What kind of loser doesn’t come down from there if he has all that power?” He fails to see the point of what’s happening here: Christ has laid down his power in order to give power to Trump, and all of us, to believe and be saved.
“But Steve,” some of you will respond, “are you claiming Trump is not a Christian?”
No, Trump is claiming that.
The first step toward becoming a Christian is to seek forgiveness, which Trump admits he has not. And he doesn’t just admit sheepishly, but proudly.
Liberty in our constitutional republic is predicated on the notion that our rights come from God and not government. But how can someone be trusted to protect our God-given rights if they don’t really believe in God? People who don’t believe they require God’s forgiveness believe only in themselves. They are, functionally, atheists. Different religions sincerely disagree on doctrine, but they all sincerely believe forgiveness is required—whether that forgiveness is found on Easter or Yom Kippur.
For the evangelical, it’s not that he never sins. It’s that he knows Christ atones for his sins so he can be forgiven of them. For the evangelical, it’s not that he won’t ever sin again. It’s that he’s been given the grace to humbly seek forgiveness when he does, and has a willingness to be held accountable for his actions as well as make restitution if necessary. This contrite spirit is found nowhere in Trump.
That’s not to say someone has to be an evangelical to be an effective politician, but it does mean that evangelicals should not allow their political desires/fears to redefine what it means to be an evangelical. By supporting Trump and demanding no humility or integrity from him at all, evangelicals are defining down what their faith means to a watching world—and it’s not a good look.
How are we going to make America great again by rejecting that which made it great in the first place?
We are telling the world that we really have no standard other than ‘Merica. That mammon is Lord and not Christ, and that when push comes to shove we really can’t be counted on in times of tumult to be a port in a cultural storm. We are telling them that our house is built on the same sand as theirs.
Trump has made no move to curry favor with us or what we believe. He’s shaken his fist at God by rejecting His greatest gift, His forgiveness. Not coincidentally, Trump has also rejected nearly every reason we risk creating enmity with a culture through partisan political activism in the first place.
He’s Planned Parenthood’s “favorite Republican.” He refuses to make protecting religious liberty a priority. He told Kim Davis to violate her faith. Trump has promised the Rainbow Jihad “forward motion” on their agenda. In short, this is a very bad return on investment for evangelicals.
Unless your faith is nothing more than waving the flag. In that case, congratulations—you’re in a cult.
The evangelical belongs to the worldwide body of Christ, not a cult of personality or a homeland. Patriotism, or love of country because it stands for something righteous, is a good and noble thing. But nationalism on the right is simply the alter-ego of socialism on the left. Both are byproducts of statism which demand we set aside our cherished principles in order to serve the group-think. Like when we see Trump supporters say, “It’s time to set conservatism or Christianity aside and do what’s best for America.”
Silly me, I thought we were trying to conserve the foundations which are what’s best for America. And that must include the Judeo-Christian heritage from whence our virtue and ethics came. How are we going to make America great again by rejecting that which made it great in the first place?
Sadly, though, the American church is quite sick. Replete with prosperity pimps, shallow teaching, and gutless preachers. If you want to really be depressed, Google “George Barna” and go read all of his research. Our sickness has produced an era of evangelicals who think “make America great again” is in the Bible right next to where it says “the Lord helps those who help themselves.”
If you look at book, movie, and music sales it’s never been more profitable to be an evangelical, except there’s very little cultural transformation to coincide with the record revenue. What good does it profit a man to gain the whole world, only to lose his eternal soul in the process?
Evangelicals should be asking discerning questions like: “If Trump’s perspective is so myopic as to not consider his own eternal fate, why should I trust him to prudently consider my fate from the vantage point of the most powerful office in the world for the next four years?”
But that would require us to seek after the real Messiah and not a cheap, secular imitation. Besides, zealots are all the rage these days. We seem to relate to them better than a cause that calls us to be better than we are.
The inconvenient truth is that more and more evangelicals believe God exists primarily to serve their worldly needs – happiness, contentment, comfort, etc. – and understand little of His mission to heal our spiritual brokenness. I mean, who wants that poor, tortured Jew bleeding out on a tree. He’s low energy and we need a winner.
So the mob will just scream “Give us Barabbas” instead.
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