History is being made every second of every day. Each event, no matter how insignificant it seems, has a determining effect over the course of its unfolding. It stretches the imagination to grasp the breadth of causation a single action has, or the initiating cause(s) of that action, because people do not normally engage in introspection or philosophical reflection. As a result, we remain mostly unaware of the consequences of our actions – all our actions.
It is no different within the church. Current events have highlighted the spiritual somnolence of evangelicals, and their quiet complicity with morally egregious activities at the highest level.
In an opinion piece in the Christian Post, Richard Cizik asked, “Do well-meaning conservative Christians understand that getting their news from Breitbart, supporting President Trump’s racist comments [“They’re rapists…” speaking of Mexican immigrants], and giving a campaign position and then a White House title as “Chief Strategist” to Breitbart’s Steve Bannon, puts them in league with dark forces?”
“Nor do these good people understand that supporting the proposed “Muslim Ban,” to be litigated before the Supreme Court in October, puts them in league with some very dark forces which are enemies of the Gospel? Do they know that “white supremacy” comes in many guises and is sinful?”
Cizik concluded in both instances, “I doubt it,” and added “Many think they are simply supporting traditional Christian values, and a mono-culture.”
He is being very charitable in assessing that many are simply deceived. At least, we would all like to think that they are only being deceived and are not really sympathetic to the white supremacy ideology. But the silence coming from their camp, especially the tepid response of their leaders to the moral equivalency in President Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, leaves very little confidence for that thought.
David Brooks writes in the New York Times, “… white identity politics as it plays out in the political arena is completely noxious. Donald Trump is the maestro here. He established his political identity through birtherism, he won the Republican nomination on the Muslim ban, he campaigned on the Mexican wall, he governed by being neutral on Charlottesville and pardoning the racialist Joe Arpaio.”
The history of racism in the church does not allow for a simplistic assessment. The sentiment of white supremacy is woven in the very fabric of American evangelicalism, especially in the Southern Baptist tradition. It must be identified, confronted in all its forms, and rooted out for the sake of the Gospel.
Songs of Solomon 2:15 reads: Catch us the foxes, [t]he little foxes that spoil the vines, [f]or our vines have tender grapes.
The NKJV Study Bible explains, “The Shulamite’s brothers called on Solomon to catch them the foxes. Many times they had seen little foxes creep into the vineyards they tended and destroy the roots by gnawing on them. The vine of the budding love of the couple was tender and needed to be protected from these “little foxes,” which symbolize the problems of life that may gnaw away at a relationship.”
The relationships at stake are the ones between the church and its Gospel witness to the world, to the truth, to a high moral standard, to godliness, and ultimately to God. The church is as divided as it has ever been on racial lines. But this is what our adversary intended, and we have played right into his diabolical hands. Racial bigotry is sin.
“If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also,” (1 John 4:20-21, NKJV).
Christians cannot ever side with or associate with anyone who fails that basic test of love. Those evangelicals who remain silent or still stand by Trump without forcefully denouncing what he stands for is complicit, and are standing against God. Or else they are sorely deceived – as seems to be the case with Paula White who, with a warped sense of godliness, thinks that standing against Trump is standing against God. They have failed the test of love. Foxes!
The foxes (I call them evangelicalists) are threatening the tender grapes of virtue. They will cause the fruits of virtue to fall from the vines before their time is ripe for harvesting, and the church will be poorer for it. We have seen the foxes in the church, and well-meaning Christians need to recognize them. Once found, take them out if they cannot be rehabilitated, and in that way, preserve our testimony.
These foxes/evangelicalists are corrupting good behavior and giving voice to the dark sentiments that thrive in hatred and self-servitude. Unless the remaining conscientious evangelicals who have kept silent to this point rise up and take out those foxes, the spoilage will be even greater than it already is, and any recovery will be that much harder.
Yes, history is being made this very moment. The question for evangelicals, and the Church is, which side of history will they be remembered for?