When radicalized Trump supporters, incited by the Presidents ongoing lies and toxic twitter, stormed the capitol yesterday and desecrated the temple of our democracy, many churches called an emergency prayer meeting last night. We called a parking lot prayer meeting as well, and I issued a pastoral letter in response to the day’s disturbing events.
A friend who attended our prayer meeting said, “These times really call for prayer.” I wholeheartedly agree with him, but from a deep place of conviction I added, “Yes, and the past four years have called for discipleship, and many churches have clearly failed.” This day could have been avoided if millions of Christians had been following Jesus’ teachings rather than of aiding and abetting a corrupt president whose behavior and rhetoric led us to this dark, desperate and humiliating day for our country.
Four years ago, millions of Christians voted Trump into office as the “lesser of two evils” and I respected that.
A couple years into his administration, millions of Christians were still justifying his offensive behavior by pointing to certain policies and Supreme Court nominations, and I could understand that.
The past year I’ve watched something far darker and disturbing unfold. I’ve been watching millions of Christians not just looking the other way, holding their nose to vote, or quietly supporting his policies while disgusted by his antics. No, I’ve watched countless Christians enthusiastically and vocally support and rally behind this psychologically unbalanced narcissus even as he threatens our democracy, incites mob violence, and continues spreading baseless claims and conspiracy theories about election fraud.
Yesterday we witnessed the violent flowering of the seeds of division Trump has been sowing for months among his loyal followers. Enough is enough! We would never excuse a child molester or spouse abuser in political office saying, “Yeah, I don’t like some of that behavior but look at some of the good legislation he has passed.”
We can blame social media and conservative and liberal cable news outlets for the great chasm in our country. We can blame the politicians for hunkering down in their ideological bunkers and refuse to give an inch and work toward a compromise. There’s a lot of blame to go around, no doubt.
But I want to place some of the blame at the feet of pastors who have been too afraid to speak prophetically to their congregants about social and political matters the past four years because they don’t want to lose their job and they value the appearance of unity more than they value calling people to repentance, teaching the upside-down Kingdom and making disciples worthy of Jesus’ name.
Likewise, I blame the millions of Christians in America who hold the words of their favorite political pundits (with no formal Bible training) in higher esteem than their own pastor whom God placed in their life to help them think biblically about the defining issues. I blame the millions of well-intentioned Christians being discipled more by the dozens of hours of cable news they consume each week compared to the 30 minutes of teaching they glean from their church.
Look, we are no longer dealing with good natured political sparring between leftism and conservatism, Republicans and Democrats. Yesterday should have made clear that the lines being drawn today are between truth and lies, democracy and anarchy, civility and mob violence. For Christians (and now I’m looking Trump supporters in the eye) we are talking about Jesus vs. political idolatry, the Kingdom of God vs. Christian nationalism. We are talking about faithful witness to Jesus vs. waving Jesus flags at a Proud Boys rally. Listen:
“Don’t let anyone deceive you. Associating with bad people will ruin decent people” (1 Cor. 15:33).
The Scriptures urge Christians to “Test all ideas, and hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thes 5:21), not gobble up every conspiracy theory mindlessly because it keeps getting repeated and appeals to our reptilian nature. (The algorithms of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. amplify the most extreme stories for the sake of more clicks for the sake of more money; stop clicking!)
While days like yesterday certainly call for emergency prayer meetings; let every single day of the year call pastors and Christians to deeper, more faithful discipleship. Let us call people to repent of Christian nationalism and all forms of political idolatry, and call Christians of all political stripes to follow the teachings of Jesus and learn the politics of the Kingdom he’s tasked the church with proclaiming, embodying and advancing.
Friends, you don’t need to be a liberal Democrat to say, “Enough is enough; he has gone too far, and I can’t support him anymore.” We saw some Republican senators finally…maybe…possibly… doing some of that last night. Good people of faith who take Jesus’ sacred name on their lips: It’s time to disavow your support for Donald J. Trump. And please denounce him as publicly as you have supported him.
Choose your King and choose your Kingdom. And choose wisely. For we will all be held accountable someday for our words, our actions, and our affiliations — not to mention our silence and inaction. Jesus is gracious and welcomes all into his big tent, and both a political zealots and Roman establishment tax-collectors were found in his entourage. But he called both the zealot and the tax-collector to repent of their former politics and embrace the politics of his upside-down Kingdom. Let us go and do likewise!