Over a week ago now, the Capitol was attacked by rioters. Watching Trump supporters almost literally walk straight into the Capitol gave me a multitude of emotions: shock, frustration, rage, hopelessness, discouragement. I saw an almost entirely white group of supporters moved to violence and ultimately, people would lose their lives. I saw rioters, many of which were carrying blue lives matter flags or gear, attack the police and be met with little resistance. I felt that the efforts of an almost entirely peaceful movement (BLM, over 90% peaceful protests) are continually met with violence while terrorism is being dealt with with no concern for the people inside the Capitol.
Is this patriotism? Or is this Christian nationalism charged by the inflammatory and false narrative that our democracy is compromised and the election was stolen? Maybe one of the most infuriating things I saw was the flag that read “Jesus Saves.” Where now, political idolatry and evangelicalism seem to be one in the same.
To clarify, I’m not pointing Evangelical Conservative Republicans to follow Democratic policies or vice versa. Nor am I declaring my allegiance with either side. No policy will fully do the work of the Kingdom and we have to realize that. Much of our division as a Church has come from the over reliance on world systems and our lack of reliance on what scripture says. I’ll go into this more later.
If I am honest though, I have been disappointed by the inaction in the Church. I am moved to tears by the American Church’s apathy towards the marginalized. Many in the American Church have turned to idolizing their religious freedom along with political figures who swear to protect it.
Unfortunately, the American Church has a history of this. In the 19th century, slave holders used the Bible and religious freedom to justify slavery. They quoted scripture like Genesis with the “curse of Ham” and verses like Ephesian 6:5 to show that God made black people to be slaves. Then, after the Civil War, politicians, pundits, and even preachers redeveloped a theology that “defended the reconstituted Southern racial order as divinely ordained.” “Separate, but equal” became not just a legal doctrine of constitutional law, but a God ordained statute.
The entanglements of racism and religious freedom have even been found in seminaries. Bob Jones Sr. was a fundamental evangelist who founded a college in 1926 in Panama City, Florida and they would eventually move to Greenville, South Carolina. This college would become known as Bob Jones University. When classes started in 1927, admission was only given to the members of the white race and this would persist until 1971. Even after allowing black students in the university, they didn’t allow interracial marriage. As stated by Jonathan Pait in 1998, a public relations spokesman for the university, “God has separated people for his own purposes. He has erected barriers between the nations, not only land and sea barriers, but also ethnic, cultural, and language barriers. God has made people different from one another and intends those differences to remain. Bob Jones University is opposed to intermarriage of the races because it breaks down the barriers God has established.”
While at the same time that there is spiritual unity in the body by Christ (Ephesians 4), division is apparent among the American Church. We are united spiritually, but separated structurally. I believe that people who fall into the trap of Christian nationalism think that by blindly following their party, they are defending God. That they are standing for truth, love, and righteousness as they break into the Capitol building and “preserve the democracy.” If anything, it seems as though conspiracies and lies have done more to twist truth in our democracy than many politicians ever could.
The unfortunate piece is some American Christians have fallen into the pattern of basing their prejudice toward others off lies, the media and poor exegesis. In the same way, some have launched themselves into a full social “wokeness” that is performative and ignores/degrades the people it is meant to help. My friends, fundamentally we are reading the Bible wrong and not fully expressing God’s love (1 John 4:12). Just as Charles Spurgeon said “Divisions in Churches never begin with those full of love to the Savior.” To use the words of Benjamin Watson “there can never be unity without justice.” Our own personal relationship with God is a result of justice served to Jesus in our place, taking on our sin and making peace with the Father.
Christians should not be tempted into the power of empires and politics, but called into the “saving, serving, sacrificial power of Christ.”
The Jesus of the Bible is not subservient to political parties and worldly power. Instead, He offers His Love which comes through us repenting, giving our lives to Him and loving Him. Christians should not be tempted into the power of empires and politics, but called into the “saving, serving, sacrificial power of Christ.” When our own allegiance to a world power ignores the disenfranchised and marginalized, we have crossed over from patriotism into idolatry. For example, many Christians rightly speak up against abortion (Proverbs 31:8-9). As we should, but we should also provide resources to women who feel, from their economic circumstance or emotional/mental instability, their only option to be aborting a life.
Have people in the Church been so focused on religious dedication that they’ve actually pulled further away from the Word of God? I would go so far as to say that the “fasting and praying” that many do to hear God’s voice is not accepted by Him. That people in the Church go to Church and sing worship songs while simultaneously ignoring the immigrant, the poor, and the oppressed.
This leads us to a very important passage in Isaiah portraying God’s heart and His justice. Isaiah 58:6-9 says ““Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness”.
This whole passage reveals the true motives of these Israelites: their fast is only to appear Holy while actually ignoring God’s commands. Fasting draws us closer to God and lets a fleshly need be fulfilled by the Holy Spirit. The word used in verse 8 is aruwkah (healing) which literally means wholeness. By Christ Jesus we are united, but as the Body of Christ, we haven’t loved each other like we are. We don’t bear each other’s burdens like we should (Galatians 6:2). Instead, it’s easier to attach ourselves to a side and conspiracies than to actually listen to our brother/sister struggling. The pains of hate, and racism have not just been enabled by the American Church, but they’ve been perpetrated by it. I contend that for too long the people of the church have “fasted” to God, but have ignored seeking His Heart. Some earnestly seek God, but at the same time fight and quarrel with members of the body who call for active faith.
Wholeness is found in abiding in the heart of God. His heart is with those who are weak and we are called to serve them.
You will never be made whole by ignoring the oppressed, the poor, the hungry, the slave, or the marginalized. Wholeness is found in abiding in the love of God (John 15:10-11). His heart is with those who are weak and we are called to serve them. God’s blessings (peace, restoration, fullness) come forth in our obedience to His call for us to act in tzedeqah, or primary justice which outpours from our relationship with God and makes right all relationships in our world.
God continually, without ceasing, guides us as we pour out ourselves for the marginalized. As we seek to pour ourselves out for others something amazing happens: God fills us (Matthew 5:6). The reward for giving, loving, and showing mercy to our neighbor is not a political victory, but is wholeness. In verse 9 it says that if we take away “the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness” God will make our “gloom be as the noonday” and makes us like a “spring of water.” This is the fast that these Republicans of the Church should seek as well as Democrats: To love their neighbors and come to a deeper understanding of the heart of God. Did Jesus identify with the powerful, or did He choose to be counted with the weak?
I write as I myself am guilty of apathy. I find myself trying to ignore all the darkness in the world and just focus on my own walk. Racism, slavery, poverty, and abuse of power are still rampant even in a post-Christian culture. The thing is God continually points me back to being a light in darkness and putting His love in me into action. We can’t be apathetic to those in need. “When we reject apathy, we make room for something else. We align ourselves with the life-giving mission of Christ. We pair our unique passions with the work God is already doing through His Church.”(Kelli B. Trujillo)
If you made it this far, consider donating to these organizations: