Link List: The Tumult of Evangelicalism
I'm catching up this week after a tussle with some poison ivy. Nature's ever-ready reminder that it is more than we.
Really enjoying the Atlantic lately. Peter Wehner:
The conservative evangelical David French has reminded us that in 1998, during the Bill Clinton–Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a “Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials” declaring that it was wrong to “excuse or overlook immoral or illegal conduct by unrepentant public officials so long as economic prosperity prevails,” because “tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment.”
For starters, by overlooking and excusing the president’s staggering array of personal and public corruptions, Trump’s evangelical supporters have forfeited the right to ever again argue that character counts in America’s political leaders. They might try, but if they do they will be met with belly laughs. It’s not that their argument is invalidated; it is that because of their glaring hypocrisy, they have sabotaged their credibility in making the argument.
More and more, thoughtful (mainly young) Christians say to me, “I’m pro-life, I believe in religious freedom and free speech, I think we should welcome immigrants and refugees, and I desperately want racial reconciliation. Where do I fit in?” The answer is clear. Nowhere.
So Christians are pushed toward two main options. One is to withdraw and try to be apolitical. The second is to assimilate and fully adopt one party’s whole package in order to have your place at the table. Neither of these options is valid. In the Good Samaritan parable told in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus points us to a man risking his life to give material help to someone of a different race and religion. Jesus forbids us to withhold help from our neighbors, and this will inevitably require that we participate in political processes. If we experience exclusion and even persecution for doing so, we are assured that God is with us (Matthew 5:10-11) and that some will still see our “good deeds and glorify God” (1 Peter 2:11-12). If we are only offensive or only attractive to the world and not both, we can be sure we are failing to live as we ought.
The Gospel gives us the resources to love people who reject both our beliefs and us personally. Christians should think of how God rescued them. He did it not by taking power but by coming to earth, losing glory and power, serving and dying on a cross. How did Jesus save? Not with a sword but with nails in his hands.
Rich Villodas tweeted recently:
The Church is not to be found at the “center” of a left/right political world.— Rich Villodas (@richvillodas) October 11, 2020
The Church is to be a species of its own kind, confounding left, right, and middle, and finding its identity from the “center” of God’s life.#todayssermon
It's more difficult, it's filled with tension. It is where we belong.
Let's wrap this up with a wonderful article from Tish Harrison Warren:
In one third-century text, an early Christian describes followers of Jesus as those who
dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. ... They have a common table, but not a common bed. ... They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They ... are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor.
To be a political alternative, we like the early church must confuse calcified cultural categories. Those early Christians were cultural misfits: radically pro-life, sexually chaste, committed to the poor and marginalized, and devoted to racial and ethnic justice and reconciliation. We are called to the same. These convictions don’t place us neatly in one political party. But our current emaciated political theology has formed us into what Tim Keller calls red evangelicals or blue evangelicals who ignore or denigrate parts of Scripture and tradition that don’t fit into our prior partisan commitments.
Yet the reconstruction of a Christian vision of politics is more comprehensive than merely holding nonpartisan political views. A robustly Christian political theology requires that Christians become a different kind of people whose lives bear witness to Jesus in ways that the world finds astonishing, perplexing, and unrecognizable.