Resentment vs. Compassion Part 10
Don’t Trust Your Pastor!
Don’t trust your pastor! If your pastor preaches that we should love God and our neighbor above all things–even above our nation–then, don’t trust that apostate preacher! If your pastor admonishes you to love our nation’s enemies, don’t trust that heterodox teacher!
Who, then, can we trust? We can trust Fox News prophet Tucker Carlson. Carlson demands that pastors make a choice. Either march in the culture war with the Republican army or “cowardly” avoid politics. Only 5% of pastors in America are “courageous” enough to join the battle, Carlson whines. What are members of congregations to do? Leave those congregations and join an “America First” movement such as Turning Point USA!
Similarly, American Christian nationalist Charlie Kirk has issued a call for today’s America to return to the Bible. The Bible is the foundation for this nation’s Mayflower covenant made by John Winthrop at Plymouth Colony.
“Woke pasters…need to fina another job,” Kirk declares. He routinely criticizes as “an abject failure” any pastor who advocates for racial justice in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd. Using contemporary politics to write a new creed, Kirk claims pastors who don’t preach accordingly are “afraid of the Bible.” So, “we’re not going to put up with another pastor or ministry that doesn’t speak out against this stuff. I don’t care how nice they are. That’s the call to action,” he adds (reported by Brian Kaylor and Beau Undewood).
Our liberal and progressive friends dare not mistake what is happening by calling this “white” Christian nationalism. Yes, ACNers eschew Critical Race Theory and such. But, do not mistake ACN for an ideology that appeals solely to the white folks in the choir. 43% of Hispanic Protestants are either adherents or sympathetic to Christian nationalism. 38% of African American Protestants are either adherents or sympathetic to Christian nationalism. Those rejecting ACN outright, as one might imagine, are Jews and other non-Christians. Thus speaketh Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).
African American preacher Branden Tatum sings in the American Christian Nationalist (ACN) choir. Tatum confesses that he was once a racist–that is, he was prejudiced against white people. He falsely believed that police departments treat people of color with racist violence. But, he converted. He over came the “big lie” that America is a racist country. He now affirms that the U.S. Constitution is “inspired” by God and that the constitution protects racial equality and freedom even for black people. There have always been “good white people” who repudiated slavery and racism. Liberal pastors and progressive churches perpetuate the lie that American cannot shed its racism. Therefore, we may conclude, ACNers believe they tout truth rather than the lies told by CRT and those liberal clergy.
North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson addressed the National Association of Christian Lawmakers on Nov. 17, 2022. Robinson attacked our pastors for not being able to “find a way to do their job correctly” because they “have lost sight” of the Bible and the U.S. Constitution.
Why might an ACN want to drive a wedge between lay people and their pastors? Because pastors preach that God transcends national boundaries and because pastors enjoin us to love our enemies. So, by wooing members of church congregations away from their pastors, ACNers entice voting Christians to side with the political forces of the Republican Party.
In sum: if our pastors cannot get on board, then dump them overboard.
The Church of MAGA
“How many [are] excited that our president, Trump, is coming back?” Julie Green asked attendees of Reawaken America to loud cheers. “They can’t intimidate this body of Christ because we are something different. We are the remnant, and we will not back off, we will not back down, and because we know that God is on our side and we win.”
MAGA churchgoers attack the older generation on behalf of the younger generation, decrying the age of the current president and the presideent’s wife. The post-millennials are going to take power, they announce. Blood curdling to many is that terms such as “civil war” get muttered from time to time.
“Women want to be led by strong men,” declares Tucker Carlson to applause at Turning Point USA. “We believe in a dominant America,” shouts Carlson. The “left should be terrified,” he adds. “We will defeat the globalists.” Carlson’s Turning Point USA speech is followed by a commercial by Republic Monetary Exchange to protect your “gold and silver.”
Brian Kaylor sums up what he observes.
“This traveling variety show of Christian Nationalism, anti-vaccine rhetoric, QAnon conspiracies, and election denialism is more than just another political event. It includes times of congregational singing of praise music, prayers, sermons, and even baptisms. This MAGA revival that’s been going around the nation for over a year cannot be fully understood in merely partisan terms.”
Unless your pastor worships at the Church of MAGA, withhold your trust.
Low Respect for Pastors’ Ethical Integrity
Don’t trust your pastor. Why? Because pastors lack ethical integrity. That’s what Gallup says.
“Previously,” writes Aaron Earls, “Americans said pastors had a high or very high ethical standard and level of honesty, reaching 67 percent in 1985. After a decade of decline, Americans’ views of pastors rebounded through the 1990s and reached 64 percent in 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Since then, however, the downward trajectory has only slowed briefly amid sexual abuse scandals that were first exposed in the Roman Catholic Church and have since been revealed among other denominations and groups.”
Only one third of those polled could attest to the ethical integrity of clergy. Nurses, doctors, and pharmicists rate more highly than pastors. The good news is that clergy are more trustworthy than members of Congress or telemarketers. “The 34 percent who believe pastors have high ethical standards marks a two-point drop from the previous historic low last year of 36 percent” reports Earls.
What’s the problem with our pastors?
One reason we say–don’t trust your pastor!–is that we fear our pastor has sold out the gospel of Jesus Christ to American Christian nationalism. Another reason might be that clergy since the cataract of sexual abuse lawsuits have inundated the courts and the media. What we need to sort out is whether this loss of public trust is due to right wing political leanings–Ooops! I mean left wing political leanings–or to a sleezy moral image generated by other clerical shenanigans.
The Challenge of American Christian Nationalism (ACN)
Patheos columnist Jason Elam posted a demure in 2021, “Why Jesus and Nationalism Can’t Co-Exist.” Elam feras idolatry.
“First of all, converting a Christian worship service into a patriotic rally is idolatry. National flags and anthems simply have no place in Christian worship. If Jesus is the Savior of the whole world then those who call themselves Christians (literally, “little Christs”) have no business promoting one nation over another. As people of The Way, we are for everyone, everywhere. Period.”
Now, whom should we trust? The ACN politician? Or the progressive pastor? Does Jason Elam sound trustworthy?
In sum, if you’re ACN, don’t trust your pastor if that pastor affirms God’s gracious salvation internationally, globally, universally. A trustworthy pastor watches Fox News, supports the candidacy of Donald Trump, votes Republican, shoots guns, and embraces Christian nationalism. Now we’ve got that clear. Whew!
Wake ‘n’ Woke Anti-Christian Nationalism
In previous Patheos posts, I’ve sought to sort out the difficulties confronting us when trying to understand Christian nationalism along with Anti-Christian nationalism. ANC and anti-ANC weave together like strands of spaghetti. They’re hard to unwind and straighten out.
Resentment vs Compassion. Part 1: From Resentment to Ressentiment
Resentment vs Compassion Part 2: From Ressentiment to Reparations
Resentment vs Compassion Part 3: Russian Christian Nationalism
Resentment vs Compassion Part 4: American Christian Nationalism
Resentment vs Compassion. Part 5:” Ressentiment in the White ‘n’ Woke Unhappy Consciousness
Resentment vs Compassion. Part 6: Ressentiment with Copmpassion
Resentment vs Compassion Part 7: Christian Natiionalism’s Decline Narrative
Resentment vs Compassion Part 8: The Unhappy Consciousness Narrative
Resentment vs Compassion Part 9: To Slay the Christian Nationalist Dragon
Resentment vs Compassion Part 10: Don’t trust your pastor
Resentment vs Compassion Part 11: Christian Nationalism vs Anti-Christian Nationalism
Summary: Don’t trust your pastor if…
Are you ACN? If so, do not trust your pastor if that pastor is…
- gospel-centered, proclaiming God’s saving grace for all persons including non-Americans, immigrants, and Democrats;
- justice-oriented, defending a poor person’s right to health care along with equality under the law;
- patriotic, yet worshipping the God who transcends all nations;
- dedicated to the global common good, placing America’s good within that more comprehensive vision.
My close friends and progressive colleagues have been quite critical of me. They fear that I have underestimated the level of threat posed by American Christian nationalism.
In my wrestling with the controversy over ANC in this Patheos exploration in Public Theology, I have faulted white ‘n’ woke progressives for creating a myth, a chimera, a boogyman. I have argued that extremist groups such as Alt Right are few in number and have very little influence. In addition, what we call American Christian nationalism is not a church thing. Rather, it’s located only in the rhetoric of Machiavellian politicians. For this reason, I have concluded that American Christian nationalism is not a movement. It’s a scapegoat for progressives.
Well, perhaps this conclusion is exaggerated. Perhaps distorted. Perhaps my critics have serious truth on their side. Perhaps I’ve underestimated the scope and danger of Christian nationalism. The shrill rhetoric of ACN makes claims that “there’s an all out war on” the Christian perception of reality touted by those progressives who embrace trangenderism, Critical Race Theory, and are diffident about militarism. ACNs call such liberals and progressives “evil.” Do I want to be called, “evil.” No.
Nationalists brag about their passion for America. And as self-proclaimed “warriors” they rally Christians to anger against Chinese and Russians abroad and liberals and progressives at home. “Crush our enemy” sounds loudly in such rhetoric.
It is more than just ominous that a force such as ACN would want to crush us. This means I must take up rhetorical arms to defend the liberal and progressive agenda as well as construct a wholesome worldview with America’s place in it.
It appears now to me that Tucker Carlson and his minions have with uncanny subtelty swept Christian symbolism up into the trash bin of Republican rhetoric. My heart aches for truth, common sense, and integrity.
Yes, indeed, I believe American Christian nationalism is today a danger to the American moral fabric. Tomorrow, it may become a danger to the world. What we hear today from the mouths of ACNs is uncannily reminiscent of the ideological rhetoric we heard in Europe just prior to World War II. If we remember this history, we may not have to relive it.
So, when on Sundays my pastor–Pastor Tom Gable–rises into the pulpit and reminds the congregation of Jesus’ teachings regarding the love of God and the beatitude of the peacemaker, I’m aware that my Christian nationalist friends would not trust this pastor. But I certainly do.
Ted Peters directs traffic at the intersection of science, religion, and ethics. For Patheos, he posts articles and notices in the field of Public Theology. Peters is an emeritus professor at the Graduate Theological Union, where he co-edits the journal, Theology and Science, on behalf of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, in Berkeley, California, USA. He authored Playing God? Genetic Determinism and Human Freedom? (Routledge, 2nd ed., 2002) as well as Science, Theology, and Ethics (Ashgate 2003). He is editor of AI and IA: Utopia or Extinction? (ATF 2019). Along with Arvin Gouw and Brian Patrick Green, he co-edited the new book, Religious Transhumanism and Its Critics hot off the press (Roman and Littlefield/Lexington, 2022). He has just published The Voice of Public Theology (ATF 2022). See his website: TedsTimelyTake.com.
His fictional spy thriller, Cyrus Twelve, follows the twists and turns of a transhumanist plot.
Pastor Peters has prepared a series of Short Prayers for Lent 2023 beginning with Ash Wednesday. But, don’t trust them.