Evangelicals Live in a Two-story House
Evangelicals have been in a tizzy lately over transgender rights, books in public schools and libraries, how soon the law can prohibit an abortion, and an astonishing array of desired government interventions. I am confused. The people who insist the government should stay out of their lives and churches are now insisting on the government telling everyone else what to do.
When evangelicals insist on government intervention and when they want the government to leave them alone presents a conundrum. Psychologists refer to this as a “boggle” moment. The brain feels as if there’s been a minor earthquake. From wanting government to enforce prayer in schools to insisting the government stay out of evangelical church policies, there’s more confusion than clarity.
Country music singers George Jones and Tammy Wynette were not thinking about evangelical politics in their hit song, “Two Story House,” but it fits like a glove. Evangelicals now inhabit a two-story house. Upstairs there’s the political war room. Downstairs are the living quarters for the family. Entry to the upstairs room requires leaving behind all the values evangelicals taught me way down south in the Antioch Baptist Church, NipNTuck, Louisiana. The theme of this article is a house divided in disarray and disgrace.
Here’s how this two-story “story” evolved. The evangelicals have trashed everything they taught me about Jesus and Christian faith. With a commitment to individualism and a consumer mentality about truth, evangelicals have become religious libertarians.
Evangelicals see Individual Responsibility Not Government
The Rev. Dr. Robert Jeffress provides a biblical text for the evangelical need of a two-story house. Jeffress argues, “Look, the godly principle here is that governments have one responsibility, and that is Romans 13 [which] says to avenge evil doers. God gives government the power of the sword, of capital punishment, of executing wrong doers. He doesn’t give you and me those responsibilities or rights individually. So, there is a distinction between what the Christian individuals’ responsibility is and what government’s responsibility is.
The key statement that provides the foundation for the two-story house: “There is a distinction between what the Christian individual’s responsibility is and what government’s responsibility is.” Christian faith is separated from politics.
An Evangelical Contradiction
This is a contradiction. Evangelicals push for prayer in public schools, an intrusion of religion on politics. They push for Bible classes in public schools, another intrusion. They insist that our government restricts abortion. They push to overturn gay marriage. They pass laws prohibiting transgender care. They pass local laws banning books with content they don’t like.
For a people who want the government to leave them alone, evangelicals are spending a lot of time and effort attempting to control the handles of government and impose their values through government intervention.
A Word from Jesus
Given the evangelical adoration of biblical texts, I will overlay the parable of Jesus on “final judgment” found in Matthew 25 as a way of tearing down this two-story house. I contend that every action that Jesus identifies in Matthew 25 as essential to being found acceptable in the day of judgment is deemed to be of no value to evangelicals. I also insist that this judgment is not for individuals: “All the nations will be gathered before him.”
“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.”
Evangelicals support reduction of free breakfast and lunch programs for poor students. They support reduction in food stamp benefits and heavy penalties for those who “steal” from the system. They are in favor of reducing Social Security benefits and welfare benefits. They are not in favor of eliminating student debt from college loans. They are a walking, talking contradiction of Jesus’s teaching. I was hungry and you told me to get a job and support myself.
“I was naked and you gave me clothing.”
Here the evangelicals have a legitimate defense. They say, “Look at all the clothes closets we operate.” We do clothe the naked. But when it comes to government aid for the poor in the essentials – food, clothing, and shelter – there’s only a sense of restraint.
“I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Conservative immigration policy varies from the cruel to the inhumane. Build a wall. Stop immigration. Refuse citizenship. Send DREAMERS back to their home countries. The people of the “American dream” are now manufacturing the “American nightmare” for immigrants. They turn up their noses at Bible verses insisting that we care for strangers, aliens, and sojourners. They use their austere literalism to insist that “immigrants” are not intended in any of the commandments of God.
They waltz their way around Leviticus 19, a book that they love to take literally when it comes to gays. But when it comes to immigrants, a completely different method of interpretation. “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. You shall not cheat in measuring length, weight, or quantity. You shall have honest balances, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. You shall keep all my statutes and all my ordinances and observe them: I am the Lord.” Our conservative brothers need to chew on this Leviticus passage.
“I was sick and you took care of me.”
Conservatives have fought against national health care for more than two decades. When 40,000,000 Americans could not afford health insurance, conservatives did not care. The Affordable Health Care Act contains language that almost all Americans support. Who would be opposed to “affordable” health insurance? “Health care” is a primary concern for all of us. Yet conservatives refused to talk about the Affordable Health Care Act and tagged it as “Obamacare.” Now, all they care about is repealing Obama Care. Providing health care for all has never been a conservative strong suit.
“I was in prison and you visited me.”
Prison reform makes no headway among conservatives. Building prisons is a growth industry in the USA. Passing out long sentences for minor drug offenses is “written in stone” as a good in the eyes of conservatives. “Lock ‘em up!” is the policy. This is especially true in relation to young African American males.
Other Areas of Confusion and Concern
Evangelicals taught me to forgive my enemies. Now, the mantra is, “If somebody screws you, screw them back, five, ten, fifteen times.”
They taught me to tell the truth. Now, the truth is expendable and lies are accepted as alternative versions of the truth. Lying is necessary to defeat the liberals who are even bigger liars.
Personal character with virtues like honesty, patience, kindness, goodness, and empathy are essential to a Christian life. Character no longer matters. What matters is our leaders need to enact policies that protect America.
Evangelicals live peacefully and blissfully on the first story of the house with Jesus and the Bible. They live militantly and belligerently on the second floor of hell or high-water politics.
It works great – for conservatives. There’s no sense of contradiction, hypocrisy, or dishonesty in their minds. Only a strange kind of blissfulness interrupted by liberal protests.
For evangelicals and conservatives individual care of the poor, the sick, and the prisoners is Christian; government care is socialist. Evangelicals argue, “As individuals we care for the poor, the sick, and the prisoners. We do not want the government enacting “socialist” policies when it come to welfare, food stamps, health care, and prison reform.”
Tammy and George were right: “How sad it is, we now live, in a two-story house.”