During his term as President of the United States, I was reading articles calling into question, even calling out Evangelical support for Donald J. Trump. These articles originate from both the godless Left and from Liberal Christianity, who ironically, even hypocritically, think conservative Christians make strange bedfellows with President Trump.
The American church is a house divided, but that is a very long history. With the birth of Liberal Christianity in eighteenth century America, and its ascendency to great power and influence in the nineteenth century, the counter-measure was stern Fundamentalism and its zealous sister, Pentecostalism.
Both Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism were conservative, turn of the 20th Century, Christian movements, expressing themselves in ways that have now become stereotypical. Regardless, both were politically conservative and nationalistic. The term “Evangelical” is broad and has been oft used to group together subgroups of Conservatives. When I see the term “Evangelical” in an article, I must first read the article to determine whether or not I belong to the Evangelicals. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I do not.
Conservative Christians and Liberal Christians are at odds with one another: theologically, practically, and politically. Theologically, we saw the division of Princeton Seminary in the 1920’s, with the birth of the more conservative, Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. Practically, we have the evangelical versus social gospel. Politically, we have the Republicans and the Democrats.
In American politics, we have more than the one issue of religion. Our constitutional right to freedom of religion means the state is not to interfere with the assembly of religious groups, nor impose its will or might upon them. This was a problem in Europe that our American forefathers did not wish to import to the United States.
Religion definitely expresses itself in American politics. Today, the Democrats have Jews, Muslims, Catholics, and Liberal Christians representing them at every level of government. This aligns with Liberal Christianity’s theology and practice. In the view of Liberal Christianity, God loves everybody and everyone has an entitlement to grace.
The inclusive spirit of Liberal Christianity does have its effect in politics. Globalism, rather than nationalism, statist versus individual freedom, egalitarianism versus patriarchy, all of which leads to the support of abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, legalized recreational drug use, open borders, defund the police, and free benefits for illegal aliens. The theological term for Liberal Christianity’s political platform is “Antinomianism.” Literally defined, it is lawlessness. Democrats want the state to play God, in forwarding their interpretation of righteousness. In other words, people should be free to sin in their preferred way, and the state should protect their freedom to do so.
Meanwhile, the religious expression for the Republicans is stereotyped as white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestants. In this version of conservative Christianity, a form of “God only loves America” rhetoric emerges. The American dream and the American way are the way, the truth, and the life available to all who come to the United States, legally. And if you do not wish to play by the rule of law, then you are free to leave.
The exclusivity of Christianity (not believed by Liberals) is transferred to the conservative, Christian, Republican. It is called, “American Exceptionalism” formerly known as “Manifest Destiny.” In a bizarre twist of expression, Republicans see the state as the enemy, while championing patriotism. Democrats see the state as the solution to every problem in life, while flying zero American flags at their presidential debates. No doubt this is confusing to foreign observers.
The double-minded nation, supported by a divided church, is a bit unstable. Yet, here we are with the oldest working constitution in the entire world. America is an idea in world history, being played out in these United States. Like the church that struggles with pendulum swings between Legalism and Antinomianism, so the United States swings between Conservatism and Liberalism (or whatever name the Left is using this week).
The conservative church has the Republican party and the Republican party has the conservative church. The liberal church has the Democratic party, and the Democratic party has the liberal church. In this, we see there is no real separation of church and state, only expressions of the church’s attempted influence upon and in the state. These expressions, manifested in policy and practice, are derived from Bible interpretations. Yes, Virginia (the girl and the state)…theology matters.
Bible interpretation is the most divisive exercise in the church, hence, the United States. Even the Leftist Atheist is doing it! In reality, the United States is trying to understand Jesus Christ (obviously many are ignorant of this fact). Jesus Christ is the subject of the Bible, and He is revealed to us on the pages of Holy Scripture. Is Jesus a Conservative or a Liberal?
Bible interpretation should help us see Jesus’ political leaning is an eisegetical question. In other words, it is backwards. We should see Jesus for who He is in reality before we push our political leanings on to His Person and work. Our Lord Jesus Christ is Lord of all (Acts 10:36). All authority in heaven and earth belongs to Him (Mt 28:18). He reigns, as the only Sovereign, King of kings and Lord of lords (Ps 115:3; 135:6; 1 Tim 6:15). The fact is that Republicans and Democrats are all sinners (Rom 3:23).
The Bible is clear that sinners need a Savior. There is only one Savior of sinners (Acts 4:12) — He who came into the world as the perfect conservative, keeping and fulfilling the whole Law of God (Mt 5:17). In His death, Jesus was the perfect liberal, laying down his life for the state, that is, His holy nation, His church, the Israel of God (Gal 6:16), derived from the elect of every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9; 7:9).
The church in America, and America in the world, will continue to labor to know Christ and understand His will for this nation and this world. In that process, God is calling out His elect, redeemed, regenerate people, both conservative and liberal, to take on dual citizenship.
As ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20), appointed as occupational missionaries, located in these United States, let us live and tell of our better country, the heavenly one (Heb 11:16). In our collective endeavor to exemplify the virtues of freedom (Liberalism) and responsibility (Conservatism), let us labor in love for one another, in our labor of love for our neighbor (Lev 19:18; Mt 5:43), and as we labor as unto our one Lord.
At best, we will only achieve a vague version of the glories of that heavenly capitol city, Zion, but let us never lose sight of the fact that in Word and deed, we are privileged to reveal a little bit of heaven on earth. Our group lab project is called “America.”
Spokane Valley, Washington
September 22, 2022