American Christians have an unfortunate blind spot when it comes to politics. While they worry about how to put “Christ” back into Christmas, many of them are slowly but surely taking the “Christ” out of Christianity.
For example, for the last few weeks Christian leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr., Franklin Graham, James Dobson, and others have vocally supported the Republican candidate for the US Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore, and last night 80% of White Evangelical Christians voted to place him in office. They failed. But that failure doesn’t change the fact that today there are still millions of Christians in Alabama who actually believe that Moore stands for “Christian Values”.
By “Christian Values,” they mean “Conservative Republican Values,” not the values of Jesus as expressed in the Gospels or in the Sermon on the Mount. To hear Roy Moore’s version of “Christian Values” simply look at what he has said throughout this campaign and over the last decade of his career as a politician and a judge. Very little of what he says is informed by anything taught by Jesus.
Moore has said he wants to eliminate every Amendment to the Constitution after the Tenth. This means he’s in favor of taking away voting rights for Black Americans and Women. He’s also said that America was “Great” when white families owned slaves.
None of this was objectionable to 80% of the White Christian voters in Alabama. And I haven’t even mentioned the 9 women who have accused Moore of sexual misconduct and trying to date several of them when they were underage. This apparently didn’t bother those Alabama Christians either. They were willing to overlook all of these infractions because there were more important things at stake. Like maintaining a Republican majority in the Senate, for example.
This is not Christianity. This, pure and simple, is Nationalism.
Specifically, this is Christian Nationalism and it’s slowly rotting the American Evangelical Church from the inside out.
This unholy entanglement of faith and politics has effectively manipulated a religious group that identifies with Jesus and twisted them into a voting block that is primarily driven more by political interests than the Sermon on the Mount.
As comedian Doug Stanhope has said, “Nationalism teaches you to hate people you’ve never met and to take pride in accomplishments you have no part in.”
For White Evangelical Christians, those “people (they’ve) never met” include Muslims, Immigrants and people in the LGBTQ community. Moore has gone out of his way to condemn all three of these people groups in his campaign for Senate. He said that a person of the Muslim faith shouldn’t be allowed to hold office, accused immigrants of taking our jobs, and argued that homosexuality should be illegal.
Again, none of these things are synonymous with anything Jesus ever said. To the contrary, Jesus famously taught his followers to love their neighbors – even if they were from another race or religious group (as famously portrayed in the Parable of the Good Samaritan) – and said nothing at all about homosexuality in any of the Gospels.
But for an overwhelming majority of white Christians in Alabama, this is irrelevant. Moore’s platform resonates emphatically with their Conservative Republican values and that is close enough.
However, it’s not just an Alabama problem. Many Christians in America are oblivious to the way their political entanglement and tribalism have led them away from the teachings of Jesus and into the heart of darkness.
It started a long time ago. As Princeton historian Kevin Kruse details in his book, “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America,” our country’s religious prostitution began in the 1950’s. That was when, as Kruse explains, business leaders plotted to link Christianity, Republican politics, and libertarian economics tightly together.
Why? Simply to create a feeling of solidarity between Christians and Corporations who might both see “Big Government” as a common enemy.
Their goal was simple: To entangle Christianity with Republican politics in order to benefit big business.
The entanglement agenda reached a fever pitch when Christians in the Moral Majority registered thousands of voters to put Ronald Reagan into office on his promise to take a stand for Christian values. They rallied to vote Reagan into the oval office twice. But in the end they got nothing in return; no abortion repeal and no legislation on school prayer.
In spite of the fact that they supposedly had the ear of the American President (who many believed was a dedicated Christian), and a six-year Republican majority in the Senate, Christians were left holding the bag. The Republican party got what they wanted, but the Evangelical Christians in America got nothing.
As former Moral Majority leader Ed Dobson said about this in his book “Blinded By Might”:
“What did Reagan do for us in eight years of office? He gave us credibility, and he ultimately did nothing in terms of our long-term agendas.”
Simply put: Entanglement works.
Today, many Christian leaders and pastors vocally support candidates that a few years ago would have been rebuked by the Church for their shameful behaviors. But today these politicians are unapologetically embraced so that the Republican party can gain power and maintain dominance in the House or the Senate.
The entanglement of the Christian faith with politics is now pervasive. It has saturated the Evangelical Christian identity.
Thankfully, many Christians are waking up to the dangers of entanglement, including conservative political columnist Dana Hall McCain who recently said:
“Here’s where we are: the GOP has come to understand that Evangelicals are trained seals. We show up and clap for any clown you can slap a Republican jersey on. It doesn’t even have to be a godly or wise person. Our votes are a sure thing, and we’ll turn out and vote for problematic or corrupt GOP candidates far more consistently than non-religious conservatives. So come to terms with the fact that the church isn’t influencing diddly squat, not even in our favorite party. To the contrary, the church is the one being influenced — and our credibility before a lost and dying world destroyed — because we have believed the great lie about political engagement.
We have all the power in the world, but we lack the faith to exercise it. They own us because we don’t trust God enough to call the bluff.”
She’s right: Christians already have “all the power in the world” and it’s called “The Gospel.” Unfortunately, American Christians have slowly abandoned all faith in that power to transform hearts and minds from the inside-out and they have traded it for legislative power to govern from the top-down.
The entanglement of Christianity and Conservative Politics is now fully realized. Many Christians in America cannot separate their faith from their politics. They are more American than Christian. They cannot imagine following Jesus apart from political action or influence via their political party.
Those on the outside of the Christian faith cannot see the difference between their faith and their politics either. This is probably one of the more damaging aspects of this entanglement. Christianity, to a non-Christian, looks more like a political party, not a way of loving our neighbors or following the teachings of Jesus.
Because American Christianity has become so completely entangled with Conservative Republican politics, the faith has become impotent and irrelevant for a growing number of people. Thousands of people are leaving the faith because they are sick of this political entanglement. The Evangelical Church in America is on the decline. They are slowly becoming older as younger members opt out of the movement and they have inevitably headed the way of the dinosaur as older members die out.
Even if the younger generations wanted to follow Jesus what they find when they enter most American Christian churches smell a lot more like politics than the aroma of Christ. Until Evangelicals abandon their lust for political power, they cannot fully embrace their faith. Or, as one wise man once put it: “You cannot serve two masters. You will hate one and love the other.”
The simple truth is this: Roy Moore may have lost the Senate race in Alabama, but Evangelical Christianity has lost far more than this by supporting such an un-Christ-like candidate.
To the Church in America I say, repent of your Nationalism and crucify your politics. It’s time to pledge allegiance to the Lamb while you still can.
Keith Giles is the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” available in print, ebook and audiobook formats.