The Scandal of the Evangelical Soul

photo-1474649107449-ea4f014b7e9f_optBoth conservative evangelicals and progressive evangelicals lost their soul in the last two years. For two years Christians have ramped up their verbal engagement in a presidential election, and it seems to me that European evangelicals have engaged the same. Everywhere we have traveled in the last two years, especially in the last nine months, the conversation is about Trump, Hillary, and the president. Mostly about Trump.

Serious Christian conversations about other topics have been brushed aside and even entirely dropped. The election has been the only topic. One would think that whoever is the next president will somehow take us to the promised land. Kingdom of God, as I have argued in Kingdom Conspiracy, and president of the USA are barely distinguishable.

Passions seems to have been entirely engulfed in nothing short of hatred and contempt for Trump.

I have questions: How long do you want to live in this political war? Until your side wins? Until it wins the next time, and then learn that the cycle will not stop? Is the struggle of politics every going to end? What do you want out of this political war?

Demonization and Other-ing are the method now of political discourse. Just as Chris Cuomo has demonized Trump, so Sean Hannity has demonized President Obama. Choose your scapegoat, but scapegoating is the method.

Noticeably, the voices of those who voted for Trump have been silenced into a corner while their voting did the deed.

Everybody thinks they’re a prophet, which (for too many) means social criticism of the federal government. (Prophecy is far bigger and better.) FaceBook rants, diatribes, pointing toward the supposed foibles of our targeted leaders, and criticism of the evangelical Right have become the norm. They are filled with caustic words. This is not Christian, nor is it civil.

James 3:9    With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?  12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Politics has divided the church and stripped the soul from American especially evangelical Christianity.

Some have contended that they have left the church because it was too political, but the irony is that it was because the politics was not their Leftist brand. They have now become fierce critics of their brothers and sisters in Christ who may well have voted the other way. (They’re afraid of being crowdpounded so those who did stay silent.)

There is plenty of triumphalism among the Right but because of social media they have been more silent than verbal. But the triumphalism is there. The Right has its amygdala as stimulated by presidential politics as the Left.

Civil discourse has disappeared from the USA. Christians, who have every reason to be the most civil of all people — read Richard Mouw’s books on Civility — have joined the throngs instead of pointing to a different way. This shows the soul has been stripped from the church.

The church of Left and Right has been co-opted and the witness has turned the volume knob to mute.

My point is this: the church has Jesus Christ, the church has the gospel, the church has a fellowship of compassion, love, justice, and reconciliation. The church is not a caucus for a political party but a fellowship of differents with a different politic. When the church decides it is a political caucus, when Christians turn all conversations into politics, the church has lost its soul.

How about this? One month, no conversations about Trump, about the election, and see what happens. We may find this as difficult as going off social media for a month. We may discover a whole new conversation, something wholesome and something edifying. Something unifying.

Join me.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.