A few weeks ago, the New York Times ran an article from opinion columnist Frank Bruni offering some commentary on the pending impeachment proceedings of President Donald Trump. While admittingly speaking from the left side of the aisle, he states somewhat objectively, and maybe even prophetically, that the effect of such legal proceeding on the people of the United States will be that “a dangerously polarized and often viciously partisan country would grow more so, with people on opposing sides hunkering down deeper in their camps and clinging harder to their chosen narratives.”
While I may not agree with Bruni on many things, he is spot on here; a storm that has been brewing for decades is about hit peak, fever-pitch levels. The worldview chasm that separates the ideals between the Left and Right is getting wider, and this ought to be alarming to conservative Christians. Not because Christians and Republicans are synonymous; they’re not. But because the driving issues at hand go far deeper than Red versus Blue. Boiling beneath the political surface are battles of morality, sexuality, and theology. Many Christians have forgotten a key promise of scripture: the world hates the gospel and will use whatever means necessary to subdue the church’s message.
The “hunkering down” effect Bruni describes is setting a playing field for a nation that will socially and politically allow for open hostility towards Christians. Even if President Trump manages to avoid impeachment and get reelected, every passing political and social failure on the Left is storing up more indignation towards the conservative right. A day is quickly approaching when the progressive Left will regain political power and with unbridled fury produce legislation making life very difficult for conservative Christians. Real physical, emotional, and financial persecution is coming for the church. It is not a matter of if, but when.
Shortly after starting to write this article I received clear validation in my thinking. Texas-based Democrat and presidential hopeful, Beto O’Rourke announced as part of a campaign promise that if he is elected to the presidential office in 2020, he will change the tax laws such that any non-affirming church will lose their tax exemption status. Such a radical change in policy would force many churches to choose between submitting to the state’s morality (not God’s) or face severe financial duress – even possible bankruptcy.
Holed up under the umbrella of religious freedom for several hundred years, I fear the church in America is largely unprepared for the lurking persecution that awaits her in the coming generation. The separation of church and state canopy that has protected her is growing distressingly thin. Decades of passively dealing with issues like abortion, birth control, racism, and same-sex marriage have undermined whatever footing she’s held. Liberalism has all but seized control and it is time for American conservative Christians to recognize the writing on the wall: follow Christ and you will be persecuted.
The Bible warns that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:13) and that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:9). Christians of every age should not only expect persecution, but be prepared to rejoice in the hope that might be counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s name (Acts 5:41).
We should begin praying now about these realities for churches and families. It’s time to prepare our children for a culture that will hate them for their faith. I read a quote recently (regretfully, I do not recall who said it) that said in so many words if we are not proactively preparing our families to withstand the attacks of the culture, they will be assimilated into it. Not possibly assimilated but certainly; as in, it will happen. We must speak boldly, honestly, and directly to our children and fellow Christians about the dangers of the sexual revolution and the changing world. These are not just the ramblings of some internet blogger; remember, such things are promised to us in scripture.
Christian, align your thinking with that of scripture and remind yourself of surety in our Savior. Consider together the numerous times in the Old Testament how God purged sin from his people. God has often used persecution as a means of purifying and growing His church. Tertullian, Church Father, once famously said that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Apologeticus, Chapter 50). After the purging fires of persecution, what remains will be pure gold.
While it is the time to start preparing our churches, families, and hearts for persecution, it is not time to fret. God will be with His people. Regardless of any changing political landscape, God reigns. America is not eternal. It is a nation and one day it will fall. It’s buildings, monuments, and ideas will perish. Be warned but do not be discouraged. Our God is mighty and preserves His own.
In closing, I encourage you to muse the words of The Apostle Peter:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you can rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that he tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in the praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you do not see him now, you believe him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9, ESV)