January 25, 2016
Ha… got your attention didn’t I?!?!
I am very reluctant to send out this rumination but it is in response to a question asked by a dear friend: How should churches respond to “Donald Trump (and the fact that so many Christians find him attractive despite his total lack of faith or evidence of moral integrity)”?
Somehow I want to respond to this question without simply quoting a number of secular political “talking points” that we hear each day in the news. Without wanting to play semantics, and yet realizing that words and language are enormously important, I would want to define a few things. The press not only has reported that “Christians” are voting for Trump in large numbers, but they also include the term “evangelicals” in their statistics, i.e., “large numbers of ‘evangelicals’ are determined to vote for Trump.”
First, “church” is simply made up of people so the question might more accurately be “how should ‘church people’ respond to Donald Trump.”
So how does one define “Christian” in our culture? In my mind… it’s not so easy. Allow me to mention something that I talked about a few weeks ago. There is a difference between “the church”, and “The Church.” The first refers to the numerous man-made institutions across the globe that are filled with “Christians, nominal Christians, non-believers, posers, universalists even practical atheists,” you name it and they are in the church. Most of them would identify with the term “Christian.” And of course there are the many folks who claim the title “Christian” who have zero connection to any Christian body, institution, home group, or para-church organization. They are “Christian” because they may have been raised in the church, but no longer have any affiliation. They are “Christian” because they say “yes” if asked if they believe in God. They are “Christian” because decades ago they made some sort of “faith proclamation,” i.e., prayed the sinner’s prayer. Or they may even be “Christian” because they live in the U.S.A. I suspect, however, this group diminishes daily.
And then there are those who are few in number. Those who are part of the “invisible Church,” i.e., True Believers across the planet. These are the folks Jesus talked about when he said: Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. This is one of those scary verses in the Bible, but I take it to mean that there are not very many real “Christians” but a lot of self-proclaimed “Christians.”
So when we say that “Christians” are voting for Trump, I’m not really sure who the polls and the press are talking about.
Years ago I had a number of people in the church who were mad at me and “accused” me of being an “evangelical.” Sadly they had no idea what that word meant. Basically I was put into the Jerry Falwell camp. Please know that even when years ago we did have a clearer sense of what that word meant it did NOT mean “televangelist”!!! If you’re going to accuse someone of something, at least know what you are talking about!
I was in seminary over 30 years ago. I remember one prominent Christian scholar saying that he no longer used the term “evangelical,” nor did he want to be called an “evangelical.” His reason? Because the term was used so broadly and irresponsibly that it no longer had meaning. I know this much… if he didn’t know what it meant 30 years ago I can assure you that neither you the reader, nor the secular press knows what it means either! So in answer to the question about “evangelicals”… again, I don’t really know who we are talking about.
I honestly have not spoken to one person who has said they are voting for Trump; not that I have that many conversations about these things because they nauseate me. But if the polls are accurate, there are a bunch of “church” people voting for him.
What about “Church” people – true believers, the “narrow gate” Christians, the Invisible Church people? Are they voting for Trump? I don’t really know since the press and the polls do not clearly distinguish these folks.
Why then are “church” people or the loosely defined “christian people” voting for Trump “despite his total lack of faith or evidence of moral integrity?” Since many of these people have less concern for “faith or integrity” than they do for getting what they want, and they are angry and disgusted with the status quo, it makes total sense to vote for someone who is going to shake up the establishment. The thought seems to be, “Let’s roll the dice and see what happens. It can’t be worse than where we are now.” I should add that the front runner on the Democratic side is no star herself when it comes to “faith or integrity.” In reality I have no memory in my lifetime of two worse front running candidates for President. One is an embarrassing, spoiled, loose cannon. And the other might soon be brought up on felony charges for, at the very least, stupidity and at worst dealing irresponsibly and illegally with top secret information. Pick your poison, I guess.
Years ago there was an abandoned barn near where I lived. The barn was FILLED with rats. My friends and I would quietly go into the barn, plug up the escape holes and kick any place where the rats were hiding. We would then chase them with bats, hockey sticks, or BB and pellet guns. On one occasion I was in a very small room with a friend and we had trapped a rat in the corner. We hadn’t factored in that the room was too small to swing our bats. The cornered rat panicked and ran at us. I opened the door like a matador and let it run right past my foot. Why do I tell you that? Read on.
In the end I think people are simply angry and fearful. When we are backed into a corner we get vicious. Trump is a vicious candidate. Not the only one, I might add; he just doesn’t try to hide it. The “Christians” who are voting for Trump (in my humble opinion) are responding more to their anger and fear than they are to the Lordship of Jesus. That’s why the way is “narrow” – because it’s HARD.
I should add this verse from 1 John 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, ecause fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
What does that mean? If God is love, and we allow ourselves to be controlled by our fears and there is no fear in love…, well… you figure it out.