Saturday, April 22, 2017

Evangelicals Who Actually Believe the Bible

It’s no secret that Donald Trump’s base has a massive component of white, traditional evangelical Christians, a constituency without whom he could not remotely have won the presidential election. The majority in Congress, most in state legislatures and state governors’ mansions also owe their political victories to this constituency.
It is also no secret that a majority of this base, including evangelical ministers willing to risk their tax exempt status by so-proselytizing from the pulpit, have joined in the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-safety-net-for-the-poor rhetoric that has been the core of Donald Trump’s platform throughout his campaign and the basis for most of his early legislative proposals and executive orders. Most of his base has reveled in the personal insults Trump hurls against anyone who remotely opposes him or his views and accepted as truth his myriad unsubstantiated deflections and accusations, ranging from Russian involvement in the election to his denied sexual proclivities even in the face of recorded evidence to the contrary.
Bottom line, there are just too many self-labeled evangelical “Christians” who seem to have edited from their bibles tolerance, kindness, support for the disadvantaged, neighborly love and neither sitting in judgment nor casting the first stone. They are, as I have said on many occasions, “menu Christians,” hypocrites who actually believe that they are practicing Christians even as they patently reject some of the bible’s key mandates.
But before we write off evangelicals or Christian traditionalists in general, it is essential to know that there is an equally growing force of such deeply religious Christians who stand, with those of many faiths, aghast at what they are seeing the new Trump administration saying and doing, people who are very skeptical that Donald Trump ever embraced a true conversion to Christianity. They represent what Christianity is really about.
Most recently I was gratified to see a piece, written by Christian blogger Marvin Thompson, in the April 3rd The Christian Post, an article that seemed like a call-to-action to true Christians, evangelical and otherwise, to stand against Trump and enforce those religious principles that so many “menu Christians” (my words) have chosen to ignore, to me, the essence of Christianity. Here is what Mr. Thompson wrote:
“The LA Times Editorial on April 2, 2017, described Trump and his tactics during the presidential primaries and election as ‘…a narcissist and a demagogue who used fear and dishonesty to appeal to the worst in American voters.’ This is not merely the judgement of a disappointed liberal media unable to come to terms with a devastating election loss, and is now inveighing against the President with unwarranted charges and innuendos. If the Church, and especially evangelical churches, take that view and ignore the many conservative voices, including many within the evangelical community and other Christians not self-identified as evangelicals, then our problems run much deeper that we think.
“No, the LA Times’ conclusion is a commentary on the degradation of evangelical morality. Notice, the worst in American voters. Now, pause and let that sink in.
“Do you get it? Do you see the gravity of the situation for a community that professes to stand on the infallible truth of the Gospel and on immutable biblical principles? No? Then consider that it is the evangelical vote that carried Trump through the primaries and over the top in the election. Do you see it now?
“Not yet? Then consider, further, what we know about Trump, about his lack of a moral compass and his unabashed embrace of it; his disrespect of others, be they male or female or disabled; his willful mendacity; his contempt for God, despite what Paula White, Dobson, et al claim about his so-called conversion (where is the evidence, as evangelicals like to ask?); his catalyzing effect on the worst racist elements of society; his promotion of hatred and violence; his utter lack of empathy for the poor and less fortunate. Nothing has changed since his election as President. Except, he now has the power to propagate his warped morality. This power was given to him by the evangelicals. Does that make it any clearer?
“Unfortunately, there seems to be more attempts to justify voting for Trump by pointing back to the (false) choices presented in the election than to address the real moral problem facing the Church. It is either that evangelicals have exalted as moral acceptable the worst in American voters, or they cannot see the consequences of their actions, which calls into question their understanding of scripture. That is the root of the problem, isn’t it? Biblical illiteracy.
“The charitable path to take in critiquing the state of evangelical morality at the present time is to ascribe it to a lack of knowledge. They lack a knowledge of God; knowledge of what is required for Christians; knowledge of the value of maintaining godly integrity in a morally corrupt society, and just like elections have consequences, there are consequences for evangelicals’ lack of knowledge.
“Hosea 4:6 says, ‘My people will be destroyed, because they have no knowledge. You have refused to learn, so I will refuse to let you be priests to me. You have forgotten the teachings of your God, so I will forget your children’ (NCV).
“Is that a justified charge against evangelicals? Yes. They once demanded an impeccable moral character for their leaders. Now they say it does not matter. They once demanded moral purity, now they say it is more important to have someone in power who may lend support to their various causes. They say that a godly conscience is not as important as love of country. How is it possible for a person who knows the scriptures and the God it reveals, to espouse those views? Bad company corrupts good character (Corinthians 15:33).
“This blog has warned before that evangelicals now own the outcome of what they proudly (but so wrongly) declare to be God’s answer to prayer.
“What happened is more analogous to Jehoshaphat’s ill-advised alliance with Joram in 2 Kings 3, than to God approvingly granting their request. Jehoshaphat ignored the implicit warning of Elisha to Joram in v. 13: ‘Why do you want to involve me? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.’ Nevertheless, he prophesied a victory. But what seemed like victory because of answered prayers, for the Lord did a miraculous thing by defeating the enemy (vv. 16-25), turned to humiliation in the end. ‘The fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land.’ (v. 26). So even in what seemed like victory was the greater loss of respect and influence.
“The only thing that can come from an alliance of good with evil (for evangelicals incredibly claim that it is morally acceptable to choose one evil over another!) is the dissolution of the good.
“Again, the worst in American voters speaks of those who empowered Trump. What made evangelicals bypass candidates with obvious biblical principles and more godly character for a man so devoid of those virtues? Alas, he appealed to their core values of character and morality. That is an indictment on evangelicals because their overt support validates and elevates his crassness and gutter character. The problem for evangelicals and the Church is convincing the world of sinners, skeptics, and cynics that there remains any abiding morality.” Wow!
I’m Peter Dekom, I am humbled by Mr. Thompson’s words and grateful to hear a biblical interpretation that is consistent with the Christian teachings I learned as a boy.

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