Lent, Evangelicals, Putin, and Supping with the Devil

Lent, Evangelicals, Putin, and Supping with the Devil March 7, 2022

The Eastern Orthodox began this last Sunday what they call the season of Great Lent, which is the period of fasting and reflection that leads up to Easter. And last Sunday was forgiveness Sunday. On that day we think about God’s great forgiveness and how we are to forgive others. In fact, our very salvation is predicated upon our forgiving others (See Matt 6:11-15). Sobering to say the least. I took some time to reach out to those I have wronged to ask forgiveness. I have plenty more to ask and I’m sure that will continue.

In that light, I recently ran across these two articles (here and here). I was disappointed, saddened, and frankly dismayed after reading them. The saddest part though is I wasn’t shocked. It was totally expected. There is a continuity, a linear, sequential logic to the white evangelical mindset as to the political world, both domestic and foreign. Of course I don’t mean all white evangelicals. I mean the 81% who supported and still support Trump.

They, and other conservative Christians in other traditions, continue to show an alarming sympathy for authoritarian political leaders, both here and abroad. They seem ready to give up on democracy if it means getting the world they want, the rest be damned, even if it’s a majority. Of course, if they do get their way, they will then turn around and expect that same majority to take them seriously when they share their faith, their testimony, their “witness.” I’m sure that will go over real well.

Part of Lent is fasting. The fasting is to emulate and participate in the fasting of Jesus before he was tempted by the devil. Here is one of those temptations:

The devil led him [Jesus] up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” (Luke 4)

Here is the political temptation. It is to have earthly “authority” and “splendor” or wealth, gained from the shadow, the brokenness that is still an aspect of this life. We are faced, as individual Christians, and corporately as the Body of Christ, the Church, with this same temptation. It comes to every Christian in every age. It comes to the Church in every age. I believe, in our time, that too many Christians and too many Christian traditions are failing this temptation. They seem willing to take the devil up on the offer.

When we hear things like, “Well, Trump may be rough around the edges, but he’s strong (authority) and will stand up for us,” we know the offer has been taken. When we hear things like Putin is “savvy” and a “genius” after invading and waging war (authority) on an innocent populace, we know the offer has been taken.

When we see Christians begin to champion or show sympathy for authoritarian leaders who claim in their words to be defenders of the cross but in their actions prove to be tools of the devil, we know the offer has been taken.

When we see Christians getting behind and supporting white, Christian, nationalist, authoritarian movements, we know the offer has been taken.

When we see Christians believing lies (who is the father of lies?), conspiracy theories, and rank nonsense because it dovetails with their political views (which includes supporting authoritarian leaders), we know the offer has been taken.

When we see Christians overlooking the poor character, ethics, and integrity of political leaders because they claim they are “pro-family” or “pro-life” or pro-tradition, or will protect Christians (which is usually code for they will privilege Christians over non-Christians) from all the “others,” we know the offer has been taken.

Here’s a suggestion to white evangelicals, traditionalist Catholics, and traditionalist Eastern Orthodox: Given the past support or sympathy for Putin from too many in those traditions, for Lent, why not reach out to any Ukrainians you know, or can reach, even if only on social media, whatever, and ask for their forgiveness.

And then reconsider the offer you either have taken or are considering. It’s probably not going to work out the way you thought. As someone has said, “He who would sup with the devil had better have a very long spoon.”

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