Culture/Ideas

Evangelicalism’s Big Trap

My teacher Scot McKnight just published a piece at Jesus Creed, now hosted at Christianity Today online, warning Evangelicals of the trap of “statism” running amok in Christian circles. This statism was on full display in the reactions to Mark Galli’s editorial piece on Trump a few weeks back. Here’s a couple paragraphs, but you need to read the entire piece following the link below:

The church, John Locke once said, is more likely to be influenced by the government than the government by the church. This could be called “Locke’s trap.” I read this statement about Locke in Robert Louis Wilken’s wondrous account called Liberty in the Things of God. Statism, a more-than-occasional reality of Locke’s trap for the church, has become, especially since the days of Reagan, evangelicalism’s trap. Randall Balmer was right: Christianity operates best from the margins of power, not in its center. Too many today think the solutions to our problems are anchored to the one leading the White House. (I write about this in Kingdom Conspiracy and in Pastor Paul.)

The recent dustup over CT’s former Editor-in-Chief illustrates the point. The essay drew evangelicals out of their churches into the city square. Wayne Grudem defended Trump and some 170 pastors wrote a letter defending Trump. Jim Wallis defended the editorial and then so did The Bonhoeffer Society and then a large number of African American pastors.

Who is on the Lord’s side? became the question, but the answer was almost unequivocally “Who does or does not support Trump?” The question and the answers are Locke’s trap …

Statism is the story many tell; it’s the story even more indwell; it’s the only narrative some 24-7 TV news shows tell, and 24-7 TV and news and social media make statism omnipresent. Statism has become America’s narrative. Don’t make the mistake of accusing others of the statism narrative: it’s as much the story of Conservatives and Republicans as Progressives and Democrats, or Social Democrats, as well as of the hold-out Independents. The Tea Party that loved to pat itself on the back for small government was just as deeply committed to statism. Put more bluntly, the vitriol spewed today about President Trump is the vitriol of those who want control, who would then generate vitriol from the other side if control switched. Public vitriol demonstrates statism. Here’s how one can see the statism at work in the so-called prophetic criticisms of our day: If someone offers a criticism of the current administration it inevitably comes off as support for the other side of the political spectrum. When it is one or the other it is statism. Is there an alternative?

Those who think the CT editorial meant support for the other party are statists. Those who think it meant support for their party are statists. Neither was the case. It was a moral judgment.

Our political narrative is not the Bible’s narrative, but human beings are inescapably storytellers, and it is their stories that make sense of life for them. Is there an alternative? Yes, but it is dying and only pastors can resurrect the alternative.

Read the full piece called “Christianity Tomorrow” here.

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