Thursday, November 17, 2016

DOES UNITY TRUMP TRUTH?


Most articles I read in Evangelical Christian magazines and websites since the recent presidential election are attempts at being irenic.  There are pleas for unity and sometimes gentle rebukes to those who are upset.  Politics we are told, should not divide the church.  Those who voted for the losing side are warned that they may have put their hope in a particular candidate rather than the Lord.  This is a time for Christian unity.  (I must confess that often I begin reading these articles, but don't finish.)  Then there are the Facebook posts reprimanding those who protest, often accompanied with a few Scripture verses on submission to human government.

Unity and submission; that sums it all up.  Your side lost; get over it!  Quit being a crybaby!

However, as I think back on the history of the church, and as I ponder the Christian heroes of the last two millennia, I am often struck by the fact that these heroes were not submissive and they didn't strive for unity at all costs.  In fact, they often were the focal points of great division.  They were men and women who dared to speak truths that were contrary to contemporary church thinking.

There was John Huss (or Jan Hus) who dared to speak out against the medieval church in Bohemia and who was executed for his words and actions.  John Wycliffe who dared to translate the Bible into the English language, followed by William Tyndale who did the same, called by some God's Outlaw, who was also executed for his "crime."  And, of course, there was  Martin Luther who split the German church by his insistence on preaching righteousness by faith.  We who call ourselves Protestants celebrate these men as our heroes.

And, of course, there were many more - Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams, both banished by the Puritan Church of New England for preaching and teaching a Christianity that was not tied to the colonial government.

Dietrich Bonhoffer, who stood against the evils of Naziism and was put to death for his efforts.  Martin Niemoller who did the same, was imprisoned for his stand and somehow survived.

We tend to forget that among other things, the Civil Rights' movement was essentially a religious movement, primarily led by Christians - even preachers, especially Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., another martyr.  Many (most?) of his opponents were members of southern white churches.

In all of these cases, those we consider heroes were bucking an established church, one that had a too cozy relationship with the government.  And they were condemned for, among other things, their divisiveness and refusals to submit.

We need not stop there; we could go back to the prophets of ancient Israel, who spoke against the apostasy of their nation, the only nation that could lay claim to be a nation chosen by God.  Just looking into one book of the Bible - 1 Kings - we find Elijah, whom King Ahab called "the troubler of Israel" (18:17) and Micaiah of whom the same king said, "I hate him because he doesn't prophesy good concerning me, but evil" (22:8).  And there were many, many more, some who died for their stand.

And dare we forget the One who is at the center of our faith - Jesus?  He did not come to bring unity within the "church" of His day - the Jewish leaders who were only too cozy with their Roman conquerors.  He even made the following troubling claim:  "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a person's enemies will be those of his own household" (Matthew 10:34-36).  Not much unity and submission here!

I believe that a great segment of the Church of Jesus Christ has lost its witness through its allegiance to one political party, to the point that the candidates and the pronouncements of that party have taken precedence over the principles of Christianity.

America has elected as their president one who has preached an America that is in contradiction to the morals and teachings of Jesus.  I will not elaborate on his pronouncements here (see previous post); anyone who has seen and heard him on television news should know what he stands for.  Of course, there are some who will tell us (as I have been told), "America is not the church!"  And they are correct; we live in a secular nation that has to quite an extent, abandoned its Christian background.

But this man was endorsed by many prominent (mostly white) Christians who are considered spokespersons for the Christian community.  And the statistics tell us that 4 out of 5 evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump.  It looks to me as though the church has once again crawled in bed with the enemy.

As I have said before, I fear for my nation, but I fear more for my church.  And I make no apologies for the position I have taken.

It may be that the time will come when we will have to say with Martin Luther, "I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen!"

2 comments:

Sherry B said...

Thanks for the reminders from history that we are to stand against oppression and oppressors.

I'll gladly stand with them.

Anne G. Lynch said...

It is best to remember that the evangelical movement is one of the products of the anti-rational late eighteenth century. The secular version is Romanticism, aka populism, which dominates much of American politics on both the right and left today. Neither of these movements is capable of giving a reason for disagreement that understands it as either a natural or positive force. Beyond that, the evangelical movement tends to find its moral code among the Puritans, who opposed freedom of religion -- often violently.

A big problem today is the failure of historic Christian churches to get involved in the public dialogue. I haven't seen a tally yet, but I suspect that a majority of Christians voted against Trump. He just looks like a fool when one day he incites internecine strife and the next he calls for unity!