Today, the US will inaugurate its next president.
For some, this day marks the end of an era of hope. Trump was viewed by many as an anti-establishment president who aimed to bring in and reinforce Christian values.
Many others consider today as the end of a horrible blemish from which the church has had to apologetically defend itself against a myriad of charges.
It is important to recognize that the church has been divided since the first century. Such divisions, though not acceptable, are part and parcel of the nature of the church.
We have seen, however, a radical divide growing over the last several years.
The tagline for this website is “challenging the church to be the church.”
I suppose that there isn’t a better time for this charge than the present. The church, for some time now, has been getting swept away in the morass of politics.
It is time for the church to be the church. We are the body of Christ and, as such, we are called to reflect God’s glory to His creation.
One of my great concerns is that many within the church are far too wed to contemporary politics and nationalistic hopes.
One of the consequences of such thinking is that we fail to recognize that the kingdom of God is a global entity.
In addition, a focus on contemporary politics and nationalistic hopes often reflects the conviction that imposing Christian ethics and values upon the nation makes the nation a better place. But the ethics of the Bible are for the church. As David Crump states, “since only the church can be the church, kingdom behavior can be expected only of kingdom citizens.”
The question is: are we more characterized as repentant sinners who are aiming to live godly lives and reflecting the upside-down nature of Jesus’ kingdom? or, are we better characterized as American elitists who believe that the right people in power in the US will make this a better country?
Much of the history of Christianity suggests that imposing Christian values is not the way the Church has grown or is called to grow.
Alan Kreider notes that an examination of the early Christian movement found that the early Christians grew in number not because “they won arguments; instead they grew because their habitual behavior (rooted in patience) was distinctive and intriguing. . . . When challenged about their ideas, Christians pointed to their actions. They believed that their habitus, their embodied behavior, was eloquent. Their behavior said what they believed; it was an enactment of their message. And the sources indicate that it was their habitus more than their ideas that appealed to the majority of the non-Christians who came to join them.”
In a letter to Diognetus (5.4–16), an early (2nd century?) Christian writer explained: “While dwelling in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot is cast, and adhering to the local customs in both dress and diet and the rest of life, they show forth the remarkable and confessedly paradoxical character of their own citizenship. They live in their own homelands, but as resident aliens; they participate in all things as citizens, but endure all things as strangers. Every foreign country is their homeland but every homeland is a foreign country. . . . They spend time on earth, but they have their citizenship in heaven. . . . They love everyone, but are persecuted by everyone. . . . They are extremely poor, but they make many rich. . . . They are reviled, but they bless. They are insulted, but they show honor. . . . When they are punished, they rejoice as those who are made alive.”
It is time to get back to where Christians were respected because of the way they lived. To do so, we must learn to walk as Jesus did.
This raises another problem: too many Christians know more about politics than they do Jesus. How can we expect Christians to think, believe, and act differently when they struggle to know what acting Christianly even means?
As David Crump says, “Tragically, for a large majority of the conservative American church, allegiance to the nation-state and their favored political party is more important than faithfulness to the kingdom of God and to the lordship of Jesus Christ.:”
No wonder, then, that we have so many varied convictions regarding politics and culture. When the church is not grounded in Jesus and the Word, it is likely to believe most anything.
As Christians gather today to pray for our nation, I urge you to make your prayers Christian. What I mean is that we should be praying for our nation to uphold justice and righteousness. We should pray that our leaders are doing with is right. That, after all, is what God ordained them to do (Rom 13). We should be praying for peace; but not a peace that comes at the expense of others. True peace.
But moreover, we should be praying for the church to be the church.
NB: response to concerns: I have heard conservatives crying out that “we are going to lose our freedoms” because of this left-leaning administration.
- I doubt that this is the case. It seems that every time a new administration comes to power that doesn’t side with someone’s views, the resultant cries of an impending apocalypse go forth.
(E.g., in 2008, when Barack Obama became President James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council declared: “Nearly everything I have stood for these past 35 years went down to defeat.” This statement is befuddling. After all, what kind of ministry was he building that everything went down to defeat as a result of a national election? Surely, he must not have been building something for the kingdom of God)
- Secondly, didn’t Christianity begin in the midst of the Roman world? Has the church not survived the rise and fall of empires for the past 1900+ years? If I am not mistaken, my knowledge of Christian history suggests that the Church has often thrived when it was oppressed. If so, maybe oppression is a good thing?
- Finally, have we considered how the supposed loss of freedoms is supposed to impact the church and our Christian walk? Sure, it may make it harder for us to move forward as Christians, but who says that is bad?
I could add many more items to this list, but it would only make this post into a book instead of a blog (e.g., what freedoms? The ones I experience as a white male at the expense of our brothers and sisters of color? [of course, mentioning this one only opens a Pandora’s box of controversy, so I will not venture down that path]).
 I find this conviction incredulous since the character of Trump often reflected anything but Christian values.
 It is critical to recognize that division was present shortly after the resurrection. In Acts 6, there was an ethnic division growing among the first Christians. In virtually every NT letter there were false teachers and false prophets and prophetesses who were causing divisions.
 Crump, David. I Pledge Allegiance, 114.
 Kreider, Alan. The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, 2.
 Crump, David, I Pledge Allegiance, 9.
 “Dobson on Obama’s Reelection: ‘Nearly Everything I Have Stood for These Past 35 Years Went Down to Defeat,’ ” Right Wing Watch, January 7, 2013, available at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/dobson-on-obamas-reelection-nearly-everything-i-have-stood-for-these-past-35-years-went-down-to-defeat/ (italics in original).