Trumpism is a current day Jezebel luring many Evangelical Christians in America into a bed of political idolatry. ‘Christian nationalism’—the marriage of Christianity with certain American values that are foreign to the teachings of Jesus—is a huge obstacle preventing many American Christians from grasping and living into Jesus’ Kingdom vision for the church and its mission to the world. Many Christians in the U.S. are more concerned with making American great than making the Great Kingdom of Jesus known.
For example, in a recent speech, Vice President Mike Pence displayed a grotesque example of unashamed Christian nationalism when he substituted the American flag for Jesus in quoting from Hebrews 12: “Let us run the race set before us, fixing our eyes on old glory” (substituted for “Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith”). Again, Jeremiah’s warning again rings true: “The prophets prophesy lies…and my people love it this way.”
I was given a dream recently—not a normal dream, but something more than a dream: a message of sorts. This has only happened one other time in my life over a decade ago. We were having dinner in a restaurant next to some railroad tracks with extended family. While the adults chatted and waited for our food to arrive, the kids were playing around outside on the railroad tracks. Suddenly a train approached and the kids scattered, except for one nephew who tripped and fell. He managed to roll his body off the tracks just in the nick of time, except for the one arm that was cut clean off at the shoulder by the passing train.
The kids rushed into the restaurant in a panic, and the one nephew came walking in last in quiet shock as blood ran out of his dismembered shoulder and holding his arm in his other hand. What happened next is the strange, surreal but important part. The family sat calmly and treated this situation like a small scratch or skinned knee. They said, “Ooh, here’s a napkin—just dab this on the shoulder. You’ll be fine. Our food is almost here.”
His mom calmly set the dismembered arm down in the booth behind us, and they all continued with casual conversation. I alone watched on in horror, and stood up and pleaded with the entire family saying, “Hey, this is really serious! We need to get him to the hospital immediately! He’s bleeding to death!” They all ignored me, and said I was overreacting. Deep denial of the severity of the situation. A body has just been torn apart, and they’re sipping coffee and pretending everything is fine. Then I read Jeremiah’s words:
“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious.‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace…“
But it is serious. And so is this present moment for the reputation and faithful witness of the church in America.
I have watched in horror the past 4 plus years (and longer) as the Body of Christ in America has been ripped apart by partisan politics. Christ’s Body is bleeding. I see the severity of it, but often feel like others are in deep denial or have completely embraced a “Trumped up” version of Christianity full of well-meaning zeal but lacking the spirit of Jesus. This weighs on my soul heavily.
King Jesus’ clarion call to the church was to “seek first the Kingdom of God” and his cross-shaped justice (Matt 6:33), and he warned his disciples saying, “You cannot serve two masters; you will end up loving one and hating the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matt 6:24). Many Christians in America are trying to serve both the Cross and flag, and I’m afraid some who wave the latter are unknowingly coming to despise the critique of the former.
This fall we are doing a survey of the entire Old Testament on Sunday nights. My main concern is that this class would remain merely academic and dry, and fail to help us as a church navigate our current cultural and political moment. So, one of my aims is to help connect God’s Story to our current situation as much as possible. Here is my invitation that went out to our church this week as we begin the class:
“Many Christians in America today have forgotten where they came from. They have swapped out their true spiritual origins story as God’s holy people found in the Hebrew Scriptures, and embraced a nationalistic origins story as Americans tracing their lineage back to the 18th century Founding Fathers. Many are more passionate about the U.S. Constitution than the Law of Moses and the Sermon on the Mount. We’re zealous to advance current day political agendas and values, but lukewarm or foggy about Jesus’ Kingdom agenda and values. This Fall we’re inviting MainStreeters to immerse themselves in the ancient Story of God and detach themselves from the toxic and divisive political narratives that are vying for their allegiance and leading them away from God. Will you join us?”
So, I am with Jeremiah the weeping prophet, called to lead a small community of God’s people through this chaotic moment of spiritual apostasy and political toxicity. I have slipped into deeper and darker emotional valleys than normal the past few years. I could blame it on a chemical imbalance. I could blame it on ministry fatigue and pastoral burnout. I could blame it on my personality and temperament. And I am sure all of these are at play.
Yet, a significant reason for my burden and recurring exhaustion is my deep sense of calling and weighty responsibility to speak truth into a historical moment where God’s people on both sides of the political aisle are in need of repentance and reformation. I suffer under the weight of a prophetic burden. I feel like a voice calling out in the wilderness, and few are listening. I feel like Lady Wisdom taking her stand in the hustle and bustle of Main Street and trying to get a hearing but being drowned out by the noise on social media and cable news.
Jesus critiqued both the Pharisees and the Sadducees — two competing ideological factions of his day — and was rejected by both. Both were committed to their party’s platform and closed their ears and hardened their hearts to the prophetic voice calling them both to something new and unexpected.
The Scripture I have been inhabiting for the past year or so is from Jeremiah 6:16-19. I believe this is a word from God for MainStreet and the broader church in American at this critical moment.
This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’I appointed watchmen over you and said, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But you said, ‘We will not listen. ’Therefore hear, you nations; you who are witnesses, observe what will happen to them.Hear, you earth: I am bringing disaster on this people, the fruit of their schemes, because they have not listened to my words and have rejected my law. Jeremiah 6:16-19
We stand at a crossroads as a nation and as a church in America. Will Christ followers open the ancient Scriptures, become familiar with our ancient ancestors, recover our ancient vocation as God’s people, and follow Jesus “where the good way is” and find “rest for our souls”?
Will God’s watchmen and spokesperson’s stand up and boldly call the church to repent of its complicity in partisan agendas and call us back to allegiance to the politics and character of Jesus’ Kingdom?
Will we heed the trumpet blast? Or be animated instead by Trump’s twitter blasts?
Will Christians be guided by Jesus’ teachings and the Sermon on the Mount? Or will we persist in our political idolatry and continue to let cable news and social media speak louder than God’s Word and His prophetic spokespersons?
I have been shuddering at the tragic response of the people when Jeremiah first invited God’s people to walk the “good way”:
“But you said, “We will not walk in it.” Jeremiah pleaded, “Listen to the sound of the trumpet,” but you said, “We will not listen.”
Yes, church of Jesus in America, “a horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land” of the free: “The prophets prophesy lies…and my people love it this way.” Will God spare us from the “fruit of our schemes” if we fail to listen to His words, and persist in rejecting the Law of Christ?
Let all who have ears to hear, listen and follow Jesus.