History is not going to look on the leaders of Evangelicalism Kindly for this idolatry.
Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner
I have never understood why Christian Leaders take cheap shots at Beth Moore, I suppose if you are heavily complementarian then she is violating your pet theology and therefore a Heretic. I, however, have always found her to be more orthodox, more biblically sound, than most of her male counterparts, especially on Twitter. This weekend she tweeted the one tweet that every biblical scholar should know to be true and has either been too cowardly to say, or because they have been deceived, have said the opposite.
Check out the entire thread
I do not believe these are days for mincing words. I’m 63 1/2 years old & I have never seen anything in these United States of America I found more astonishingly seductive & dangerous to the saints of God than Trumpism. This Christian nationalism is not of God. Move back from it.
— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) December 13, 2020
And, God help us, we don’t turn from Trumpism to Bidenism. We do not worship flesh and blood. We do not place our faith in mortals. We are the church of the living God. We can’t sanctify idolatry by labeling a leader our Cyrus. We need no Cyrus. We have a king. His name is Jesus.
— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) December 13, 2020
As you can tell, Moore is properly, and reasonably angry, an anger I share. I have written against Christian Nationalism as a Heresy (it is) and against the Christian Play for Power that marks the Evangelical backing of Trumpism. Moore is correct, both are dangerous both are devoid of the Holy Spirit, both are going to lead to destruction. There is no way around it. Christian Nationalism, historically, leads to the exile of the Church by the Culture and in many instances, all-out persecution against the church.
Why, because no matter how you read scripture, it is hard to make any other conclusion than the fact that God interprets king making (Trumpism) as betrayal and rejection (2 Samuel 1-3) and trusting the governments of man or confusing the nation with God’s Kingdom as a failure to Trust God as well as Idolatry. Even in Judah, when preserving the freedom of the nation became more important than following God and what God commanded, when turning to Assyria or Egypt was seen as redemption, but turning to God was not, God did not take kindly to these violations of His law, His Sovereignty and His Truth. Ahaz’s failure to trust was met by a proclamation of destruction, Hezekiah’s trust in Egypt was met with the Rabshakeh’s taunt and the only reason Judah was not destroyed under Hezekiah was the Rabshakeh’s Blaspheme (Isaiah 35-38).
But we are under the New Covenant, a Covenant of Grace, now we can do what we want?
Wrong, Every Gospel writer, ever Epistle Writer, refutes the idea. Ask yourself, what kind of kingdom did Jesus establish? Was it an Earthly one? Yes, but was it confined to a geographical location such as Judah? No, it was not, to claim it was is to make the claim Jesus was wrong. The early Missionaries went far beyond the borders of Judah. They were not confined to Palestine, they went to Rome, to Ireland, to Italy, to all the world, establishing a global kingdom that would one day have a physical center, when Jesus returned, but until that return, we were to be a kingdom within kingdoms. The United States of America is the Kingdom of God in the same way a peanut is a movie projector, they are two very different things with very different values. This does not mean we should not pray for our nation or its leaders, or even that we should not ask God to bless our nation, but we should be aware of the standard for blessings from God. Eugene Peterson lays out that standard as: “Living the Jesus life in the Jesus way.” We cannot claim to be children of God and then deny that status with the way we live. The Christianity of the culture, the Christianity that has become nationalistic and which has been taken in by Trumpism is great at quoting scriptures, but in no way does it resemble the life Jesus put before us to live. It fights culture wars at the expense of its allies and with the intent of eviscerating opponents rather than showing them Christ. This isn’t Christianity, if Jesus wanted to start a culture war, he had a chance to start one over paying Taxes to Caesar, he didn’t. He also did not tell the people to give themselves wholesale to Rome, just the opposite, he told them to pay their taxes, give their money to Caesar and themselves to God. The point? God gets all your allegiance, your heart, your soul, your mind, every inch and fiber of your being and make up, Caesar can have your money, but God gets your allegiance, no if’s and’s or but’s about it.
But that is not what our leaders have been telling their constituents, a sizable, influential, minority have been actively telling you the opposite. In a move that has just hastened the churches decline and long slide into cultural exile, they have fed their flocks to the wolves, telling them that the only hope for Christianity was not Jesus, but Caesar. See the problem? If your allegiance isn’t to God and God alone, you are not living as He has told you to live. Jesus also told us that no one can serve multiple masters for exactly the reason we see in our culture today, you will hate one and love the other. Living a life that is totally opposite of the one God has called us to, especially to maintain something man-made over something God-made, is to reject God, to make a mockery of His name and to deny His work in the world. To say that a nation of man is, or is more important than, the kingdom of God and its priorities is to make an idol out of that nation.
Let me reiterate, the fault of this is on the leadership of Evangelicalism going back to the late 19th century when the Gospel of fear first reared its ugly head among evangelists. A gospel that controlled how Christians went about political engagement and which become the center piece for “The Moral Majority” in the 1970’s. It is this Gospel of Fear that drives phrases like: “This is the most important election of our lifetime” which has been applied to every single election in my lifetime that I have a recollection of. It is this gospel of fear that is used to control how a person votes on issues, how they vote in elections, how they are mobilized to fight foolish and ill-gotten culture wars. It is a Gospel of Fear that fuels Christian Nationalism and Trumpism in general. Those Christian Leaders who have been Passive (As Moore calls out) and those who have actively led us astray into Heresy.
But we should know better, we should be better. Christianity is not a faith of fear, but of hope, of freedom, of love, of light. Fear chains us to this world, it acts as if this world is all there is. It also reduces God to something that is powerless unless the right person is in office or the right law is passed. This goes beyond idolatry, in Isaiah 36, this is called “Blaspheme.” God is not someone you can manipulate, He is not even a thing, He is an omnipotent being, greater than the greatest conceivable being. He is Lord, and He is coming as Lord, to reduce him to one of the deaf and dumb gods of this world is deny the facts of who He has revealed Himself to be.
This is not the first time we have done this as Christians, Zionism viewed some of the deadliest wars, the Crusades, of the Middle Ages, Crusades that eventually led to Christians killing Christians in Constantinople. Crusades that Historians largely agreed were ill-gotten, ill-advised, and harmful to Christian Mission. Yet we were so sure that God wanted us to liberate the Holy Land. We were willing to set aside the very Word of God to accomplish what we thought God wanted. That is not something we can do, Jesus himself tells us not to undermine the Word: “Anyone who adds…the plagues mentioned to this book will be added to him” (Rev. 22:18). There is a penalty to be paid when we go extra biblical. The Pharisees added to the words of God and they had judgment declared against them.
James spends an entire book telling Christians not to engage in Conspiracy Theories, Agitating for war and other forms of sedition. Instead, He tells Christians to live the life of Christ, focus on doing what a proven faith does. Proven Faith doesn’t spread false hoods, doesn’t practice elitism, doesn’t power-monger, doesn’t fear monger, doesn’t set a forest ablaze, instead it cares for the widow and the orphan, it makes sure those in need get those needs met, it lives the Jesus Life in the Jesus Way.
This is all a failure of leadership; we have elevated narcissists and then are left to wonder when they feed us to the sharks to feed their ego. The Gospel of Jesus Christ gets replaced with the Gospel of whoever the spiritual tyrant is at the top of the heap. This is not the way we were meant to live, in fact, Jesus expressly tells his Disciples in John’s Gospel not to do it. In Galatians Paul points out that when you add to the Gospel, you lose the Gospel, the same is true if you subtract from it, anything added to the Gospel denies the Gospel. Too many Christina Leaders have denied the Gospel by addition and subtraction. Anytime the equation is: “The Gospel +” or “The Gospel –“ you have lost it. The Gospel should never be played with or adjusted, watered down or made a burden. The Jesus Life, the way He chose us to live, is truly life-giving and enough to keep us occupied. It is the height of cynical decadence to call The Gospel of Jesus Christ boring, or to discard it when it contradicts our worldview. In fact, the opposite is true, when Jesus challenges your worldview, your worldview is what is wrong. Jesus is never wrong, not because He is a dictator you should not question, but because He is God. You are allowed to question Him, He even allows for you to put off following Him, but in the end, He is always right, and He will always be King. He is patient and loving and kind, but He is also Sovereign. Christian Leaders who place Biblicism as a core value (Evangelicals) should know this, hold to it and be bound by it. If the authority of the Word of God is paramount, then obeying Jesus is essential, even when obeying Jesus contradicts what the Gospel of Fear tells us to do or contradicts the worlds ways to which we have been enticed.
But I suspect there is another result of hubris at play here, the idea that we think that God’s way is foolish and even dumb. And from the world’s standpoint that is a perfectly acceptable position to hold to, but we should not be holding to the world’s viewpoint. Blessed Mary tells us that what God is doing: “He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.” The proud think that the kings of this earth, the rich of this world, they are the way to go. But God does not have much use for them, instead he topples them and sends the rich away empty, all so he can exult the humble and feed the hungry. The Magnificat of Mary reminds us that God’s kingdom is upside down, its opposite, foreign to us, confounding our wisdom. It’s the opposite of Nationalism or Trumpism, it’s the opposite of power religion. The power in Christianity is in the humiliation of Christ, the weakness of a crucified savior. Modern Christians do not like that, it implies we may have to get our hands dirty, to love our neighbor during their sin, not after they have repented of it. It also means we have to reject strong men who make grand claims of salvation through earthly means, and who may even claim divine mandate. It means God didn’t get it wrong, as we are apt to think, or the world is apt to tell us.
The fact is, and Beth Moore knows this and has taught this faithfully her entire career, Christianity is supposed to be so utterly different, such a radical third way, that the world cannot compare us to themselves because our life, the life of the Spirit, is so much greater than anything this world offers or any path this world tells us to take. Christians have a long history of putting the powerful of this world to shame, it is when we align ourselves with them that things go poorly with us. The Jesus Life, the Jesus Way is the only way, it is the best way, without a doubt. We should not be complicit in sending people down a road that leads to their immediate and eternal destruction, it will lead to our destruction as well. As Moore said, leaders who lead their congregations astray will be held accountable, if not in this life, before the throe of GOD, a much more terrifying place than any mean Tweet or threat of violence. Those Christians who stood up at this weekend’s Jericho rally and stoked the flames of violence, who breathed lies and falsehoods in the name of an earthly individual. Those leaders who have led us to this point, they will be judged harshly by God and by History for this act of idolatry and blaspheme. Woe to them on that day when Christ return.
Beth Moor is correct, and we should listen to her. But more importantly, Jesus is correct and we should obey Him.