How do evangelicals explain their inexcusable reticence in denouncing Trump’s disgraceful reaction to the racist assault on Charlottesville? The evangelical brand has virtually no currency in the eyes of most who care about morality and intellectual integrity, and is now in danger of becoming a derision.
Forget that the word evangelical no longer evokes any spiritual metaphors or anything of the divine, or of righteousness, or any of the virtues; it has become a symbol of spiritual, moral and intellectual hypocrisy. The word conjures up a self-serving people who are now seen as fact-averse, tolerant of hate, and compassionless. Recent polling reveals that when people hear the word evangelical they think of politics. For the church, it is the worst-case scenario. Yet, it did not have to come to this.
Evangelicals did not get into this mess by accident or by a series of unfortunate events. They made a calculated decision to let the evangelicalists drive their chariot over the cliff for the sake of political expediency, and that against every biblical, moral and intellectual caution. Of course, evangelicalists are those who self-describe as evangelicals but for whom true evangelical values, Christian integrity, and biblical morality are merely sinecures for their worldly ambitions and political causes. Evangelicalists like Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr. and Paula White and others of their ilk have adulterated the word of God and their Christian leadership. Their purpose is not to let Christ be seen that “all men be drawn to him.”
For the evangelicalist, political activism and whatever it inheres – lying, prevarication, obfuscation, deceitfulness, etc. – takes precedence over preaching the Gospel, sound doctrine and godly conduct. For example, admitting that Trump was the antithesis of all that was moral and good, one evangelicalist writing an opinion piece in the Christian Post, urged evangelicals to vote for Trump in spite of a godly conscience to do otherwise, because the love of country is more important.
There is another who claimed, using scripture, that it is a moral duty – amounting to a divine command – to choose one evil over another. Thankfully, there were enough knowledge of God and scripture by a vocal few who pointed out the spiritual danger of such rank eisegesis, thus prompting a withdrawal of that thesis. However, the mindset that rationalizes bad behavior and encourages abandoning longstanding morality for immediate gratification on the basis that it serves a good purpose is highly problematic for the church.
Still, another presented Dietrich Bonhoeffer as an example to follow. That is saying it is acceptable to do the wrong thing for a good cause. What is so dangerous about that suggestion is that it subjugates God and his righteousness to our standards of right and wrong. We are often presented with moral dilemmas for which there seem no good choices as far as life and death is concerned. But it just seems that way; it that does not mean the options are only bad ones.
In each example, there is both moral and intellectual hypocrisy. First the moral hypocrisy. In elevating political activism above the Great Commission, evangelicalists preach a high morality while engaging in and approving those who practice and promote the most immoral deeds. In elevating the love of country above a godly conscience, evangelicalists preach the kingdom of God but promote the kingdom of Satan. Evangelicalists berate “liberals” for their lack of a moral compass while giving their blessings to other evangelicals to abandon their moral tradition for political causes.
The intellectual hypocrisy is used to justify the moral hypocrisy. What Bonhoeffer did is not to be regarded as prescriptive for Christians in such situations. The argument used in its favor is of the same kind employed by the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. It confuses in the mind of the deceived, the clear command given by God. The appeal of the Bonhoeffer argument is that his decision saved lives. Who can argue with that? But its spiritual weakness is that it denies the power of God. Remember the scripture, “having a form of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5)?
Those promoting such options ought to know that personal actions, regardless of outcome, if ungodly means are employed, are never approved by God. It is a hard place to be for a Christian to face moral dilemmas such as life and death decisions, but it is never acceptable to choose the wrong in order to gain a desirable outcome. Who is the person that believes God would ever provide a way out that includes doing wrong, or that he ever leads us to do wrong in any situation? The problem is with us. We choose to do the wrong, and even if we escape with our lives, it is still wrong.
Bonhoeffer saved lives, but he did not do it God’s way. He did it his way, and for that he has to answer to God. In Numbers 20, Moses struck the rock and water came out to quench the thirst of the people as God wanted, but he did not do it God’s way, and failed to enter the Promised Land. The Hebrew Boys stood firm in the face of death and maintained their integrity, and God turned up for them in the “midst of a burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3). Do we doubt that God will do the same for us, or are we lacking in such faith? No doubt it is the latter. For we cannot explain in any other way the acceptance of doing wrong to further the good.
With the current mess in the White House, the silence of the evangelicalists highlights their moral and intellectual hypocrisy. The previous administration occupying the White House got no reprieve from the voices and pens of its evangelicalist critics. Now, with the most immoral, corrupt, and inhumane administration in power, their voices and pens seek to distract by invoking equivalencies in a shameless demonstration of political partisanship at the expense of honesty and truth. Surely, evangelicals do not want to continue to say that character does not matter? They must be aware by now that they were played by a man whose only cause is himself. They must sense by now that their Faustian bargain will only bring further reproach.
Erick Erickson, conservative editor of the Resurgent, wrote in the Saturday 5/20/2017 Washington Post, “Watergate may have turned Charles Colson from hatchet man to pastor, but the defense of President Trump is turning a lot of pastors into hatchet men. Few people come away from Trump’s orbit without compromising their characters.”
Unfortunately, the once bold voices that dared to stand against the evangelicalists during the election season, have been subdued like craven minions not daring to utter a word. They are called evangelicals, once proud defenders of the Gospel and truth; once custodians of all that is moral and good and godly; once defenders of decency and decorum; once the voices of hope and salvation. Yes, the word evangelical once stood for something good and respectable; something that pointed to righteousness, hope and salvation; something that pointed to the Lord. Now, a derision.