A Post-Election Letter to Young Evangelicals: Yes, Jesus Is Sovereign–But Suffering Matters

Dear God-loving young evangelical,

I want you to know something: I hugely appreciate your confidence in God.  It is deeply heartening to me to see that you are showing firm confidence in the Lord in the wake of the defeat of the pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-religious liberty presidential ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.  The dust is settling one week after this precipitous defeat.  How appropriate and right that you would go to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and providence for comfort in these hard days.  So you know, I have gone there with you, and must continue going to the secret place of God’s power and majesty.

We are keenly reminded in these days of what Luther taught in his day: that we so often look for God in the world of glory, yet find him in the cross of crucifixion.

I do have a second point to make here, though.  There is a potential danger, oddly, in our response.  It is this: we could so focus on God’s sovereignty that we lose sight of the hard truth that America has just elected the least pro-life president ever to a second term.  Jesus is on his throne; heaven is not worried by earthly developments.  Yet human suffering is real.  It will substantially increase, I fear, in our days, and in days to come.  More babies will be killed, and more funding will go to Planned Parenthood.  Our president will not, barring a miracle, work to overturn Roe v. Wade.  Traditional marriage will continue to suffer major attacks, and the movement will likely pick up steam with our pro-homosexual marriage president in place.  Religious liberty, already under unprecedented assault from a man who is, quixotically, religious, will likely continue to wane.

In these and many other ways, we see that we have entered a deeply sobering cultural and societal moment.  America has long been philosophically hostile to the Christian and Protestant worldview.  Now, I fear, it is institutionally hostile to our worldview.

Does any of the foregoing obviate the glorious truth that God is guiding history to its end (see, um, all of Revelation)?  Does not the Lord, in the elegant words of the old King James, turn the king’s heart wherever he wishes (Prov. 21:1)?  Yes he does.  But will suffering increase in America in coming days?  It very well may.  Will Christians find themselves under increasing pressure?  I think so.  Might we lose some of our cherished liberties, which have allowed evangelical churches to function in sum as a missions powerhouse?  It would not surprise me.

God is sovereign, my friends.  Absolutely and totally.  But even as Jeremiah wept for Israel, so we weep for what America–historically a Protestant-influenced nation, a carefully chosen characterization–is becoming.  This is not wrong.  It is not falling captive to politics.  It is not losing sight of the spheric control of the Trinitarian God.  It is, I think, driven by a love for the image of God, mankind, and by a clear-eyed appraisal of real human suffering.  Babies will continue to squirm in the womb, desperately trying to evade their death; children will grow up in unbiblical and disordered homes that view homosexuality as good and right; churches and institutions will feel pressure both from a growing governmental tab and the loss of religious liberty.

This is human suffering.  It did not begin with the 2012 presidential election.  It began with the lack of Adam’s protection of Eve, and the eating of forbidden fruit.  We know sin is real and that it brings suffering.  It always will, until Christ returns and remakes this cursed place.

Yet we are aware, from a study of human history, that suffering can wax and wane.  Persecution is not a good.  The faith that persecution strengthens is good (1 Pet 4; James 1).  I implore you: do not pass on the mistruth that persecution itself is good.  It is not.  But what God does in us through trials is indeed good.  In some cases God uses persecution to build the church; see what’s happening in China at present, or the first four centuries of church history.  In other cases persecution is devastating for the church; see North Africa after the rise of Islam, post-Calvin France, and many places in contemporary Europe.  In other words, persecution can bring good, but it also can be terrible for God’s people.  Have we not read our Old Testament prophets?

This is in no way to shake our faith in our sovereign, all-powerful God.  It is, though, to acknowledge the hard and tragic dimension of life in this fallen world.  We place all our faith in Christ and his final redemption.  Yet we weep for those who suffer.  It is not wrong to experience both these realities.  This is, in actual fact, what it means to be a Christian in a sin-cursed sphere.

So: trust God.  Celebrate the advancing kingdom of God.  Find solace and joy in the gospel of Christ.  But also: weep for those who suffer here.  Mourn what is lost.  Pray like the wind, work while there still is time, ask the Spirit to help you realize all the power of God that is inside you.

In the darkness, strike a light, and plunge back into the valley of the shadow of death, knowing that soon this darkness will pass away, and we will shine like the sun.

Your friend,

Owen.

  • http://www.theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

    Really? Really. Good gosh. We’ve elected plenty of Republicans and they have done next to nothing to actually do anything about Roe v Wade or gay marriage. Many white conservative voters are highly critical of minority voters continuously voting for Democrats despite the fact that they don’t actually do anything to help them. Yet we’ve been subjected to exactly the same dog-whistle manipulation by politicians on the right who fall all over themselves to declare their pro-life commitment and then do nothing about it. The accusation that more babies will die because Obama was re-elected is absurd. Heck, abortions were up under GW vs the Clinton years. If we really care about the unborn, we’ll stop pretending that our votes do ANYTHING AT ALL to help save lives. We need to get down and dirty and help the men and women who are deciding that they can’t take care of the children they create – make a way for them to form families. Provide for them. Befriend them. Support them. Voting is a bullfeces way of protecting the unborn. The laws aren’t going to change until the hearts of the people change and real world needs get met – and that doesn’t depend on who is in office! That depends on us!

    And what about the suffering of the poor? The people who work 2 and 3 jobs and still rely on the government to feed and house their families? Why does their suffering not matter?

    Please, please, please stop with this inane political crap and deal with reality. There are people who need our help. Yeah, it would be great if the law were changed, but for the foreseeable future, that isn’t going to happen regardless of who is on office. By conflating protecting the unborn with who we vote for, you’re perpetuating the same lazy trope that we can sit back, vote every so often and call ourselves pro-life because we made a meaningless gesture in support of the politician using the correct dog whistle. I call BS.

    • ostrachan

      Lot of assumptions packaged in here. So you know, I do personally volunteer in a local pro-life effort. I agree that this is a fight that should cost us something. For too many evangelicals, being pro-life has no real teeth. It’s a conviction, but not a conviction turned into action. I am with you in bemoaning that reality.

      In terms of politics, they matter. Voting matters. The law of the land matters. Dividing politics from Christian involvement isn’t helpful. It doesn’t reflect reality. It’s not one or the other that we are concerned with–it’s both, while always keeping Christ at the center.

      Whether you agree with me or not, do you think you could tone your response down a bit? Fine to disagree with me, but I would love for this blog to not be prey to overheated, angry, personally defamatory online interaction. Thanks!

      • http://www.theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

        Show me one person who is alive because of political action regarding abortion. Show me the constitutional amendment regarding overturning Roe v Wade the Republicans have been fighting for. There isn’t one. They’ve been dog whistling us. They haven’t done anything serious – particularly at the federal level – and they aren’t going to. They are using the issue because they are committed to power, not to saving the unborn. I’m sick of it. And I’m sick of large numbers of Christians playing along with it.

        I am glad that you are on the ground doing the work, I really am. God bless you for it. I was once poor, alone and pregnant and a crisis pregnancy center made all the difference for me. It’s truly God’s work. But please, don’t go after fellow Christians for no longer buying the voting = helping the unborn trope. Perpetuating it does provide cover to those who aren’t willing to do anything other than pull a lever and whine about the otherside.

  • Will

    YES! Thank you for taking these words directly out of my mind and posting them so graciously. Favorite post election article I have read.

  • http://www.theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

    Also, if you could please direct me to the chapter and verse where Jesus says to respond to our enemies by fighting for our rights. Where he lead his followers to defeat the people who wanted him dead. Oh yeah – he never said any such thing. Instead, we’ve been told “don’t resist the evil man”. We’re supposed to be following a man who refused to fight and allowed himself to be defeated. But we can’t do that because that would require real faith. We’d actually have to believe that stuff he said about “he who seeks to save his life must be willing to give it up” and put it into action. Because if we did it God’s way, everyone would suffer terribly while God was defeated, right? Jesus was DEAD. As a doornail. DEAD. And God resurrected him. But he can’t do anything today if we don’t fight for him? Really?

    I’m glad I’m not following the god you and a lot of supposedly conservative christians are. My God has given me instructions and they don’t include fighting for rights or using power to enact his ways. My God raises the dead from the grave. My God isn’t just sovereign – He’s waiting for his people to actually do what he’s instructed us to do.

  • http://griffingulledge.blogspot.com Griffin Gulledge

    Thanks Owen.
    Loved this line:
    In the darkness, strike a light, and plunge back into the valley of the shadow of death, knowing that soon this darkness will pass away, and we will shine like the sun.

    Beautiful. Good work.

  • Jethro

    Owen,

    Is it possible you’re a bit too invested in politics? The re-election of Obama (by an overwhelming majority I might add) is not tantamount to the persecution of Christians.

    This all seems like a bit much really.

  • John

    Good piece. Sadly, a high percentage of our young evangelicals value being liked and viewed as cool, hip, non-judgmental and inclusive more than they value scriptural purity and holiness, which many of them actually disdain and consider pharasaical. What’s worse, they generally have little sense of discernment and have lived in a world of false security and do not believe anyone is inherently evil. Think 2nd Thessalonians. While nowhere near “an overwhelming majority” (52% to 49% hardly falls into that category), we do seem to be at a sort of tipping point that does not bode well for the future of our land. Every single person under 30 should be required to read Metaxas’ “Bonhoeffer” before voting again.

    America will not be delivered by Republicans, but she may well be destroyed by Democrats. We need to all pray for discernment; for it was a lack of discernment and courage that brought the German church into Hitler’s fold for a season. Not to say Obama is Hitler; but simply to say the church needs to speak out for all truth, not just popular truth, and don’t choose political candidates with the same mindset you once used to vote for homecoming queen. Otherwise we may well get another Hitler in the future. See http://gospelriot.com/how-hitler-won-the-support-of-the-german-christian-church/ and http://vimeo.com/11208555 .

    The good news is neither party will destroy the church, and the worse things get the more we will see the wheat separate from the chaff, and that will be good for believers.

  • Rachel

    Thank you so much. It has been salt in my wounds to be considered weak in faith because I’m mourning what this election means. Nice to know I’m not alone. This article was very encouraging to me.

  • Rachel

    Jesus calls us, the church, to care for those who are most vulnerable. To know God’s heart means to understand what he’s telling us and showing us thru all of Scripture. To allow Scripture to interpret itself. To listen to the Holy Spirit’s leading while engaging our brains to know how to apply his principles. It’s this kind of thinking that has freed slaves, lifted the status of women above dogs and provided for education of all classes. No verse specifically for that, but the heart of God in all of it.

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  • http://southerngospelyankee.wordpress.com yankeegospelgirl

    Amen. I will refer back to this post every time I hear someone talk about “fear-based theology” and “fear-mongering.”

  • Stacey Remick-Simkins

    Funny thing is that Romney and Ryan were ready to take everyone’s rights away and lie to everyone that they were going to protect rights and push back government. Instead, Mormonism is a blasphemy and Christians were championing someone who believes that Christ failed. Not only that, but these same “Evangelicals” love to talk about babies but they don’t want to take care of them once they are in the world. Let’s not forget that the 47% that Romney liked to categorize were once babies in the womb. So was my friend, who at 55, is in a nursing home because of debilitating disease that has taken her life from her. She was once that very baby in the womb who evangelicals are now ready to marginalize because she is considered a drain on the economy. What about those on dialysis who are still able to work and live active lives, raise families, yet they have to rely on Medicare and Medicaid to pay for their $100,000 a month bill for dialysis care? These also were once babies in the womb. Somehow, these same evangelicals have completely lost sight of what pro-life really means. Yes, abortion is a horrific thing but so is rape. Yes, abortion is a horrific thing but so is telling a helpless, ill and sick person that they are a drain on the economy.

    I am a Christian. I know Christ died for me on the cross. I also know that he called upon all of us to choose between money and him. These same evangelicals have purloined their witness for pride in an idea that babies are more important in the womb than they are when they are born. Ryan and Romney would have sold all of us to the God of money, power and authoritarianism. While Obama is not perfect, he has stated his faith publicly and actually done a great deal of good for many of the most disenfranchised in this country. This speaks volumes more than any kind of rhetoric which betrays a dark pride of self-righteousness has ever done.

    • http://southerngospelyankee.wordpress.com yankeegospelgirl

      If you want to talk about removing freedoms, Obama has been much more “religious” in imposing his beliefs on the country than Romney would have been with his Mormonism. Yes, liberalism is its own kind of religion, and Obama is a pure ideologue. I don’t think he’s a Christian, I don’t even think he’s a Muslim. He worships leftism. And he will stop at nothing to force America into his own personal vision of what it should be, however disastrous it may prove.

      • Lisa

        Wow Yankee, your mind reading abilities are impressive. I like your Christian humility and how you show love to your enemies. Christians like you really make me so anxious to go back to church.

    • House

      I´m certainly not saying I agree with everything that has been said, but I think Stacey and some others are bringing up valid points that need to be considered both intellectually and theologically by the conservative right. It´s amazing to me that so many who call themselves believers in and followers of Jesus Christ can so greatly differ on such critical issues. Didn´t Jesus call for unity among believers in John´s Gospel?

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  • Hilary

    Ummm, I know I shouldn’t get sucked into this but . . . what are you guys going to say if abortion rates go down, sharply down, if Obamacare works out ok? If birth control as part of available health care mean there are fewer unexpected pregnancies to women unable to commit to them, and better health care coverage means that more woman can make the economic choice to continue an unexpected pregnancy? I know if my health care coverage was shitty and precarious and I already had one child with bad athsma, I’d seriously consider an abortion if I could barely provide for that one child, and knew I couldn’t provide for two. My already existing child would take precedence. If through Obamacare I had secure health care, that might be different. This is hypothetical for me, but not for other women.

    What are you guys going to do if gay marriage doesn’t wreck straight marriage? If gay and lesbian couples get legal, civil marriage and . . . . . nothing else happens to straight people. No church is forced to conduct a gay marraige, no straight couples get divorced for no other reason then because their gay neighbor got legally married, kids raised by gay couples turn out just as ok as kids raised by straight couples, ie what are you going to do if the sky doesn’t fall?

    And for the record, being told you have to accept people different then you that you don’t like is not religious persecution. Not being hired, having your place of worship vandalized, being forced into ghettos, having to wear distinctive clothes and pay extra taxes just because of religious identity, that’s persecution. Pogroms are religious persecution, being expelled from countries is religious persecution, being forced to convert with a sword or gun to your head is religious persecution. Having your gay coworker get the same family benefits as you do at your job is not persecution.

    Do you guys have any plans for what you’re going to do if gay marriage and Obamacare don’t totally ruin America?

    Hilary

  • Jo

    Why all the anger here? Owen, your article gives me a peace. That is because yes, I am a born again follower of Jesus Christ and I know what His Word states. Thank you for this post.
    So sorry for those who do not get a peace from it…
    I see suffering and hurt in their hearts. I too have lost all in this economy at 58. Home, health, possessions and I am struggling. I am a new poor “boomer.” Family raised, paid for college and wedding. Now we are struggling.
    This is how I view it. I trust in the Lord. He will never leave me or forsake me. Any of these angry responses really read His WORD? Really know this loving God? If you read you will see how all things work together, the good & the bad, for His outcome. And in the end….yes, it will be HIS outcome.
    When you take your last breath where will you be?
    I will stand by HIM, against killing babies.
    I will stand by HIM, for the Promised land of Israel.
    I will choose a man for president that is pro-life, and pro-marriage (man & woman) over one who is not.
    Obama is not a christian….sorry, he is not. A true christian is pro-life and pro-bible(marriage & homosexuality is clear).

    So fight all you want, let out your inner anger….you will not have peace until you know JESUS.
    http://www.Godspeaks.com


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