The Politicization of the American Church.

“Evangelicals in this vote have created a pretty deadly and chilling effect on their witness to Christ and the gospel and the scriptures. There’s not only a credibility problem in terms of the body politic. There’s also an evangelistic problem.”  Thabiti AnyabwilezPastor of Anacostia River Church, Washington, DC

Anyabwilez, pastor of an influential African-American church, wonders if the evangelical church’s support of Donald Trump has wrecked her credibility.  He is certain that the white evangelical vote, supporting Trump 8 of 10 times this past Tuesday, has shed light on the divide between them and their African-American brothers and sisters in Christ.

On both accounts, I believe he is right.

Anyabwilez is not alone in his concern.  Yet, there seems to be no clear Evangelical voice regarding the stunning outcome of last Tuesday’s election.

Where some feel despair, others feel the opposite: delight.

It has even been suggested that the outcome of the election is a result of God’s people praying.  This suggestion is embarrassing to me, personally.  More than embarrassing, this suggestion – and others like it – reveal a deeper and more troubling reality.

That is, the politicization of the American church.

I don’t mind Christians being involved in politics.  In fact, I believe we should be politically involved.

The term politic is a good one.  Its origin contains words like citizen and city.  Indeed, politics – at its best – is concerned for the welfare of the citizenry within the city – every last one of them!

This is good.

It’s as it ought to be.

Politicization, however, uses religion.  As it does, Christians get used.

Politicization is the corruption of the term.

Politicized In Every Area of Church Life

It’s a term leveraged by the ‘left and the right’ to garner support for a particular view and cultivate disdain for all differing ones.   The politicization of the church has caused the diverse and varied people of God to be pigeon-holed into a small, anemic, gospel that looks far too much like Friday Night Lights than it does Sunday Morning Confession.

It’s not just a problem in the ‘conservative’ wing of the church.  The progressive or ‘liberal’ wing shares the blame as well.

The difference between these two terms might be compared to the difference between the terms individual and individualism.

The term individual is a good term.  Christians believe that  individuals  have been created in the image of God.

Personhood is sacred.  To say less is to lie.

Individualism is the corruption of the term individual.  This corruption conveys is the idea that I and I alone am all that matters in the world.  Individualism is also idolatry.  It trumps all else.

At this point, if you’re still reading, some of you may be making assumptions about how I ‘voted’ or how I think we should have ‘voted.’  I am not interested in that, nor do I care.  It’s not about who voted for whom.

It’s about the fact that we believe – truly believe – that one candidate or party is of God and the other isn’t.

Both major party candidates in this election were their own type of demon. It’s not a stretch to say one was a felon and the other a fascist.

I grant you, many of us felt hemmed in by this election.  Trapped into a ‘lesser of two evil’ choice.

The Church as a Third Voice

While there were other options, this feeling was palpable.

The issue , in my mind, is not for whom we voted, but the amount of hope we are placing in the outcome of the vote and the reckless way we have expressed our support for  the candidate for whom we voted.

The church – of all institutions – ought to be a ‘third’ voice.  It’s the church’s voice that ought to loudly proclaim: we can do better.

Rather than throwing our weight with one party or another, our voice ought to be the one that says it’s time politics be redeemed.

Such an approach is clearly biblical.  Colossians 1 indicates that Christ has come to redeem all things.  This must include politics – particularly politics at its best!

How do we go about this? That’s work for all of us – not just some of us!  But here are some suggestions as the place where we may begin:

  1. Pray for outgoing President Obama and incoming President Elect Trump. The election is over.  Let’s work together toward a peaceful transition of power and pray for a humble proposal of policies
  2. Hurt for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are genuinely concerned by what a Trump Administration will bring.  Based on Trump’s campaign rhetoric, millions of Americans have reason to be concerned, and are, concerned.  Visit with them.  Pray with them.  Be with them in their pain and seek to hear and understand.
  3. Lament and mourn. Yes, this is really where we are in the American election cycle.  It’s not a time for celebration and cheer.   America is Babylon and we are reaping the outcome of such a society. Some have argued that this past election cycle looked more like God’s judgment than His blessing.
  4. Be a prophetic voice against straight-line party politics. Both parties have many policies against which the church can speak and for which the church can stand.

Gloat?  Not now, not ever.

Celebrate? Not this.

No.  But we can do the following:

  • Pray
  • Hurt
  • Lament
  • Proclaim

In doing so we may just become the people of God that only the people of God can be!

Disrupting to Renew!