Integrity matters. If you want to serve as a testimony to Christian ethics, then you’re actually going to need to hold them, and that means holding them with consistency. Hypocrisy and double-standards will effectively serve to mute your witness.
It’s hard to cry out against a sin in one instance when, in another instance, you’ve excused, blown-off, or chosen to overlooked that sin.
What if the sort of “power” and influence Jesus intended for his followers wasn’t one of ends-justify-the-means ethical compromise and political power-plays, but witness to a “revolutionary”-like ethic like that of Mt 5-7, with all the integrity, lowliness, and self-sacrifice involved therein (5:13-16)?
Many advocate ethical compromise for the sake of “the greater good” (or “the lesser of two evils”). But what shall it profit the church if it gains a whole election but loses its witness? What if the church’s witness is the actual means of its impact?
Some evangelicals are saying, “The election is over. What’s done is done. There’s nothing we can do about it now. Besides, maybe he won’t be as bad as you thought. Let’s see what happens.”
If that’s you, I’m afraid you’ve misunderstood folks like myself from the very beginning.
Large swaths of evangelicals defended and/or excused Mr. Trump’s moral corruption and damaging rhetoric — his racism, misogyny, degradation of the handicap, dismissiveness of sexual assault, inciting hatred towards immigrants, prompting fear and callousness towards refugees, etc. Regardless of what type of president Mr. Trump turns out to be, that still happened. That can’t be undone.
You see, for some of us — at least as much as I can speak for myself — our outcry against evangelical support of Trump has never been centrally about the electoral contribution of your vote Tuesday, as if we had some political agenda that now becomes moot after the election (“What’s done is done”). Nor has it ever been about “providing a solution” to a dilemma we never claimed to be addressing in the first place — the nomination of two generally unlikeable candidates.
Our primary concern is and always has been the spiritual condition of evangelicalism, about the church’s witness, integrity, and faithfulness to truth. And that’s something that obviously transcends the election itself. The 2016 election didn’t create (and therefore conclude) the concerning state we now see; it merely exposed it.
Now that some of the tense political posts have subsided a little, allow me to make a sincere appeal to my lesser-of-two-evils, evangelical Christian, Trump-supporter friends:
(1) If Mr. Trump was in fact, as you believed, the lesser of two evils, than I can understand your pleasure that one perceived evil was avoided; but do not rejoice that another — even a perceived lesser — was elected.
(2) Notwithstanding the question of whether it was legitimate in the first place, any appeal to a lesser-of-two-evils argument is now assuredly moot. In other words, one can no longer attempt to justify Mr. Trump by means of an appeal to a perceived worse alternative, because now there is no alternative.
As such, join us as the church in our testimony to truth, compassion, and justice in respectfully calling out this administration if/when it violates our Lord’s ethic to love neighbor. My fear is that in a self-righteous attempt to justify one’s past vote for Trump, many evangelicals will feel it necessary to defend him while in office, and, as Jesus might say, “The latter state will become worse than the former.”
Theological liberalism (as J. Gresham Machen described it so well) is anything that seeks to tame Christianity and use it for its own purposes.
It can take the form of the social gospel, where Jesus becomes little more than a means to relieving poverty and oppression, things that are certainly good, but Christless and gospel-less when you remove the cross and the necessity of conversion.
It can take the form of the prosperity gospel, where God is simply a means for the realization of my health and wealth — a cosmic vending machine if you will; a genie to grant me my selfish desires.
It can take the form of so much of what goes on in mainline evangelicalism, where sermons are no more than pop psychology lessons cast in Christianese, where Christianity is “Life in the Suburbs 2.0,” here to make your life a little bit more comfortable and functional.
And it can take the form of the Religious Right, where particular political ideologies and agendas get baptized as Christian, where appeals to faith are shallow attempts to mobilize Christians as political allies, and where scripture gets abused (think “people of God” texts for [insert United States here]) are used for one’s own end and as ammunition in a misguided expression of culture war.
On the other hand is a theological conservatism: Jesus does not exist for my purposes; I exist for his.