There is a Liberal strain of Evangelicalism that gets a lot of favorable coverage in Leftist Mass Media. They are both political liberals and theological liberals. The thing that makes them popular with Big Media is the way their spokespersons use credentials as “Christians” to bash American Christianity. In particular, these are the liberal Evangelicals who are Democrats who oppose President Trump, and they oppose Christians who support President Trump. So we are at the intersection of religion and politics and the culture war. Lamestream media promote Leftist Christians as a way to drive a wedge between President Trump and his base.
I am writing to address one particular thing that gets said by liberal “Christians.” I saw it recently on several Leftist blogs, where they were riffing on coverage of the release of a new book. It did not generate much in the way of media coverage, primarily because Big Media was chasing Mueller investigation squirrels and Charlottesville anniversary racism squirrels. However, I thought it worth addressing because we have seen it before and we will see it again.
The topic was “Fear.” It was said that 81 percent of ‘Evangelical Voters’ had been motivated to vote for Donald Trump by fear.
Well, I agree, but, I strongly disagree with the things that were said. Some of the things that were said are that the Evangelicals who support President Trump are “mean” “selfish” “racist;” you know, all the usual Leftist blather. But stick with me and eventually I will get around to a theological point.
The book this time is Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, by John Fea, who is a liberal Evangelical and a history professor. Last month The Atlantic ran a long feature by Fea. Near the top, the professor gets to spiritual issues:
Moses told the Israelites to “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today.” The Hebrew God told Job: “At the destruction and famine you shall laugh, and shall not fear the beasts of the earth.” The Psalmist wrote: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.”
The Gospel of John teaches Christians that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” St. Luke writes: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Despite all these scriptural passages, it is still possible to write an entire history of American evangelicalism as the story of a people failing miserably at overcoming fear with hope, trust, and faith in their God. But it is also possible to find evangelicals, drawing deeply from Christian theological resources, who sought to forge an alternative history.
Fea then launches into a diatribe, reviewing historical points to trash American Evangelicals of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. He grinds the ax of how American Evangelicals were fearful anti-intellectual xenophobic racists. After too many words, he wrapped that up with remarks about racist fear of Obama, and homophobic opposition to SSM. He pivots to current times with this:
After a recent lecture on Trump and his evangelical supporters, a woman approached me at the lectern and identified herself as an evangelical who voted for Trump. “I am part of the 81 percent,” she said, “but what choice did I have?” I have heard something similar many times from evangelicals who voted for Trump.
He gives a brief review of the Hillary campaign, and then brings out the big trope:
Ironically, some evangelicals have found a savior. They sought after Trump, he answered them, and he delivered them from all their fears.
But other evangelical options are available. Evangelicals are people of hope, not fear. The practice of Christian hope points us to a life beyond this world, but it also requires us to act in such a way that models God’s coming kingdom. The Kingdom of God is characterized by the love of enemies, the welcoming of strangers, the belief in the human dignity of all people, a humble and self-sacrificial posture toward public life, and a trust in the sovereign God of the universe. Fear is a natural human response to social change, but evangelicals betray their deepest spiritual convictions when they choose to dwell in it.
This is a conflation of fears. Throughout this essay he does what we have seen so often before. He is mixing up spiritual fear with worldly fear.
Spiritual fear is fear of eternity. In death there are two directions for your soul to take. Eternal rest with Jesus, or else eternity in the place that is without God. Christians can look forward to eternity in the full confidence that the spiritual debt they owe has been paid in full because they have been adopted into the family of God. There is hope in the blood of Jesus there, and no spiritual fear.
Worldly fear is the fear of bad outcomes in this life. For most white American Christians this does not mean fear of bad guys in the neighborhood. That may be a real fear for some, but, politically, that is a law-and-order, justice system issue. There was a great deal of fearmongering over this issue, but little of the Trump vote in 2016 was manifested as votes for personal safety.
Rather, these votes were for a secure future for children and grandchildren. The fear was that America would descend into chaos. First, in rough neighborhoods in blue cities that foolishly degrade and impede their own police forces. But, later, nationally, as our overextended economy collapses into a new Depression. These are thoroughly worldly fears. They are genuine fears, and they are not much related to spiritual matters.
Further to the worldly fears of Evangelical Voters, we feared that the Democrat Party will transform America in an ugly way that will dismantle our free exercise of our traditionalist Christian religion. We remembered that Hillary said that traditionalist religion “will have to change.” She was running to become the theologian in chief.
Evangelical Vote for a Sinner
We preferred to vote for a flawed man with the baggage of a past history of sexual sins. He was pledging to preserve religious liberty. Our concern was not for our salvation, but for the ability of our grandchildren to live openly as Christians. They may be saved by the blood of Jesus, but they may find themselves enjoying their spiritual freedom from the confines of a gulag.
It is Democrats who have made Christian business owners in blue states into second-class citizens. It is Democrats who have threatened Christian colleges and high schools with a loss of accreditation. It is Democrats who have forced the promotion of sin and forced our children to celebrate sexual sin in public schools. It is Democrats who have said that traditionalist Christians should not be allowed to hold public office. It is Democrats who have demonized any personality who has publicly lobbied for limits on abortion. It is Democrats who promote euthanasia. It is Democrats who pressed federal meddling into state and local bathrooms. It is Democrats who deny real data-based science about the climate. It is Democrats who deny the science of embryology as they promote abortion. It is Democrats who corrupted the social sciences and humanities with anti-Western and anti-Christian activism.
So, yes, we fear the Party of Death. They are anti-police, anti-law, anti-justice, anti-religious, anti-Christian and anti-American. They are the Party that booed God.
We did not elect Donald Trump because we see him as some kind of spiritual savior. We elected Donald Trump to postpone the day when the Left triumphs and dismantles Western Civilization. That will be a dark day for everyone, not just for Christians. Our concerns that led us to vote for Donald Trump were temporal, not eternal.
But they are very real and valid concerns. Though they are not spiritual fears, the fears are well-founded. That does not make us “fearful;” it means we have grave concerns that we express as “fears.” There is a big difference.
Conflating theological concerns with worldly concerns is a deliberate attack on weak-minded Christians, intended to sew confusion and doubt among believers. They impute to our support for our flawed champion a support of his past sins. They called us “immoral” for voting for “immoral Trump.”
They are not being honest, which is their habit. Leftists have always been liars.
Trust Jesus, and trust your instincts. You knew you could not vote for Hillary. However much they harangue you with President Trump’s personal faults, just remember that we are not putting our faith in President Trump for spiritual guidance. The trust we place in President Trump is strictly worldly. And he has proved to be surprisingly worthy of our trust, far exceeding our expectations. President Trump should be rewarded with our full support. He has worked hard to deliver on his campaign promises, rewarding our votes with a political delivery that is unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes.