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Statement on Evangelical Christianity

C. Gourgey, Ph.D.


When it comes to theology, I disagree with well-known Reformed theologian John Piper on just about every key point. But I admire his integrity and courage in being an outspoken critic of Donald Trump within the Evangelical community. He has called Trump “morally unqualified” to be President.(1) He has criticized Trump’s cruelty towards women, disabled, sick and suffering people, and racial minorities.(2)

Piper’s views on Trump are atypical. Southern Baptist pastor and ardent Trump supporter Robert Jeffress has taken Piper to task, saying “John Piper should be ashamed of himself.”(3) According to Jeffress, “Evangelicals still believe in the commandment: Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star. However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him.”(4) He also added that forgiveness is available to anyone who asks.

But Trump never asked. At a 2015 Family Leadership Summit interview with Republican pollster Frank Luntz, when questioned whether he ever asked God for forgiveness, Trump answered: “I don’t think so,” “I don’t bring God into that picture,” “I don’t think in terms of that.”(5) But never mind. When asked what it would actually take to make him drop his support for Trump, Jeffress replied: “if he were found to be in an adulterous relationship now, that would cause many people a problem.” Why now? The incident with Stormy Daniels allegedly took place in 2006, one year after Trump married Melania, and Jeffress says that even if true it would make no difference. Why would an adulterous affair in 2018 matter more than one in 2006? Have conservative Evangelical supporters of Trump now added a statute of limitations to the Seventh Commandment?

Or are they just hypocritical?

(Note: While conservative Evangelical leaders speak of themselves as “Evangelicals,” making it seem like they own the term, I will use the qualifier “conservative” to distinguish them from those who may consider themselves “Evangelical” but who do not subscribe to their political views.)

Jeffress’s views are more typical of the white conservative Evangelical community than are John Piper’s. Donald Trump received over 80% of the white Evangelical vote,(6) and his support among that community remains at an all-time high.(7) More than any other voting bloc, white Evangelicals are responsible for keeping Trump’s approval rating at that seemingly impregnable 40% no matter how divisive and destructive he is or how manifestly unqualified for the job he holds.

Even leaving Trump’s sexual indiscretions aside, the white Evangelical community is supporting and enabling a President whose actions are both un-Christian and clearly immoral. As several articles on this web site have recorded, such actions include the persecution of undocumented immigrants, the criminalization of asylum seekers, the stigmatization of Muslims, enriching the wealthy while taking needed services away from the poor, a manifest contempt for women, and overt racism and unequal treatment of people who are nonwhite, gay, or transgender. Not only Christians but anyone with any sense of decency should be outraged by this. Yet the conservative Evangelical community receives Trump like a hero. Many even greet these policies enthusiastically.

The roots of this problem lie deep within the history of Evangelical Christianity. Before considering them, we need to clarify our terms. It is important to understand Evangelical Christianity, and especially its conservative form, because American Christianity has unfortunately become defined by it. (The term “Mainline” for more liberal Protestant denominations is an ironic anachronism; the Evangelical community is larger.) While it is by no means Christianity’s only expression, conservative Evangelical Christianity does claim to speak for Christianity as a whole and considers its theological assumptions binding on all Christians. However, the discussion can become confusing because people mean different things by “evangelical.” So I will define my use of the term, and if you call yourself Evangelical but the definitions presented here don’t fit, then I am not talking about you.

As to the question of race, white American Evangelicalism, which mixes Evangelicalism with white identity politics, is a particularly extreme and pernicious form. But the problems within Evangelicalism go far beyond American culture and are not restricted to any one race. Some nonwhite Evangelical churches also espouse exclusivist and intolerant theologies. Nevertheless, these trends became greatly exacerbated once Evangelical Christianity fused with white supremacy.

What Is Evangelical Christianity?

We need to acknowledge the difficulties in any use of the term “Evangelical.” There are signfiicant differences among communities that call themselves by that name. Some so-called Evangelical churches are quite liberal and engaged in social justice. And as we have noted, some Evangelical leaders do not support the excesses of the current Administration. Nevertheless, two things justify the use of “Evangelical” to denote a form of Christianity that is causing damage to the American social fabric: 1) the fact that 81% of white Evangelicals voted for Trump indicates a significant trend in that religion, and 2) even some of the more liberal Evangelical churches still embrace theologies containing elements potentially antagonistic to pluralism and religious tolerance (for example, the belief expressed by many Evangelicals that only Christians are saved, and the call to “evangelize” non-Christians to save their souls).

My differences with conservative Evangelicals do not just concern their support of Donald Trump. I believe that Evangelicalism as outlined below represents a wrong turn in Christian theology, going back to Augustine and the early church councils, that has drawn Christianity away from the life and ministry of Christ with serious social and political repercussions throughout Christian history.

Now for the definitions. When I speak of Evangelical Christianity I mean the following. (Note: Some will find what follows controversial. Again, there are people who describe themselves as "Evangelical" who do not fit this definition. I do want to acknoweldge this diversity. I am not speaking of those forms of Evangelicalism, but rather the one I believe has become the dominant religious force in the United States, which I call "conservative Evangelicalism." Nevertheless, the latter is not an exclusively American invention but has roots in very early church theology, which must be mentioned to understand its significance fully.)

“Evangelical Christianity” is a form of Christianity that:

That is the long definition. Here is a shorter one:

“Evangelical” Christianity is Christianity that makes “evangelism” its highest priority. That is, the saving of souls by “evangelizing,” spreading the Gospel, making converts to Christianity. The ostensible scriptural basis for this is the so-called “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19-20): “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

It is noteworthy that Jesus did not talk about saving souls from hell. This is about obeying God’s commandments. But (especially conservative) Evangelical Christianity has turned it into something else. Very early on Christianity became less about following Jesus in his compassionate work to relieve suffering and bring people to experience love and thus a taste of God, and more about attaining individual salvation. The focus changed from service to self. This alteration of Christianity’s direction goes back through Luther and Calvin and at least to Augustine. They are the three key forerunners of conservative Evangelical Christianity as we know it today. (More detail about the history of this seismic shift in Christian theology can be found in my article “The Border Crisis and the Failure of the Christian Response.”)

While Augustine did not initiate these theological changes - they evolved gradually since the New Testament was written - he shaped and consolidated them in a pivotal way and had unequalled influence on those who followed him. Augustine went far beyond anything to be found in the New Testament (although many take biblical phrases out of context to make it sound like they support him). He emphasized that we are innately sinful and saved from the everlasting punishment we deserve only by the grace of God. This grace is not given on the basis of merit, and it is not given to all. Why God chooses only some or how God chooses cannot be explained; it is a mystery. But while to human sense this may seem arbitrary and unfair it is actually a demonstration of God’s love, for we all deserve eternal condemnation, and if God saves even just some, that is an act of great mercy. Those who are not so favored are still treated justly, since their unhappy fate is what we all deserve. (On the Predestination of the Saints, 11-16).

Certain consequences inevitably follow. Since God chooses to save not on the basis of merit, those whom God does choose must in some sense be predestined. And since merit has no value for salvation, it does not matter what kind of person one is; even a good person may still be condemned to hell. You can be Gandhi or the Dalai Lama; it does not matter. Without Christian faith there is no hope. And even with it there is no guarantee, for who knows whom God has predestined for salvation? Nevertheless that does not stop adherents of this doctrine, who always seem to find a way to define themselves as members of the in-group.

On this foundation Luther and Calvin built their theologies. Luther is well known for his lengthy exposition of Romans, which he interprets as saying we are “justified by faith alone” (sola fide); that God imputes righteousness to us only according to our faith, and that any good works we perform count for nothing, since we can never achieve righteousness through our own efforts. Calvin is famous for perfecting and formalizing the doctrine of predestination, going so far as to embrace a variant known as double predestination: that not only those who are saved are chosen in advance, but also those who are damned. Adherents of this doctrine are quick to point out that God does not make these condemned people evil. God simply does not perform the saving work of grace in them. So they are still treated justly, if not compassionately. (Evangelicals do vary in their views of predestination, though the belief in a dichotomous heaven/hell is very common.)

Of course this fine point makes the doctrine no less horrifying. Calvin admits this, but defends it anyway (Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.23.7). Following Augustine and Calvin, C.S. Lewis also claims to be repulsed by the doctrine of hell. He calls it “detestable,” “intolerable,” but still defends its morality (The Problem of Pain, chapter 8). This show of sensitivity is nice but ultimately useless. It does not occur to these great thinkers that if a belief so clearly violates the goodness of God then perhaps it should be questioned and ultimately discarded.

Whatever one may have been taught as a child is no excuse. To wish for, or even just to be OK with, unbearable endless suffering for anyone else, indeed to worship a Being who arbitrarily ordains such a fate, should be considered a sign of moral failure. This is a serious ethical problem even for those many Christians who do not subscribe to the doctrine of predestination exactly as worked out by Augustine and Calvin but who nonetheless accept everlasting torment as an appropriate fate for those who do not share their faith.

Jesus was not obsessed with hell as are some of today’s Evangelicals. He did use “hell” as a symbol for the reckoning those must face whose hearts are loveless. But conservative Evangelicalism takes that symbol literally and applies it to everyone but Evangelical Christians. Robert Jeffress, whom we have mentioned earlier, perhaps Trump’s most ardent Evangelical supporter, made the following statements:

“Islam is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of hell.”

“Mormonism is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of hell.”

“Judaism - you can’t be saved being a Jew. You know who said that, by the way? The three greatest Jews in the New Testament: Peter, Paul and Jesus Christ. They all said Judaism won’t do it. It’s faith in Jesus Christ.”

“Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism - not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in hell. Hell is going to be filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.”(8)

What a shame that such a prominent preacher does not even understand his own Bible. Here is what Jesus actually said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

Doing God’s will, not Christian belief, is paramount.

Yet conservative Evangelicalism assumes the authority to declare who makes it into heaven and who weeps and gnashes their teeth for eternity. That’s not what Jesus was about. Jesus’s mission was to bring people to God through serving others, and thus discover eternal life. Love, not salvation, was primary. But orthodox Christian teaching reversed this, making the procurement of one’s own personal salvation the ultimate concern. This led to imposing one’s religious beliefs on others, even at times by force, so that they too do not perish in hell. The Great Commission was flipped upside down.

The consequences of this flip were frequently unloving. The contentiousness, violence, persecution, and even wars instigated by conflicting views of salvation are well known and hardly require review. Not everyone wanted their souls saved according to the requirements of orthodox Christian doctrine. Jews, for example, believed they already had a religion that could bring them into relationship with God. They didn’t need a suffering Messiah to die on the cross for them because they already had a pathway to atonement and forgiveness. In fact, since Jews do not espouse a bifurcated eschatology with two simple, absolute, and universal alternatives of an everlasting heaven and hell, the Christian accusation against Judaism that it is a religion of “salvation through works” strikes Jews as more than simply wrong; it is nonsensical. The question itself imposes on Judaism a framework that does not apply. Jews do not obey God’s commandments to attain heaven and escape hell. That concept is foreign to Judaism. Neither nonobservant Jews nor non-Jews are consigned to “hell.” Jews observe the commandments not for such reasons but because they feel it brings them closer to the divine. The failure of Augustine and the Protestant Reformers to understand this led to a completely distorted reading of Paul, resulting in a doctrine of “justification by faith alone” that was never Paul’s intention and that is foreign to the Gospel.

In an appearance on “Fox and Friends,” when questioned about his intolerant comments concerning non-Christians, Jeffress replied that he was merely repeating Christian doctrine. “Historic Christianity for 2,000 years has taught that salvation is through faith in Christ alone.”(9) He is far from alone.

This is the problem. Conservative Evangelical Christianity assumes the right to speak in the name of Christianity as a whole, and to promote doctrines foreign to everything Jesus taught. And unfortunately it does have an ample theological tradition on which to rely: a tradition that has distorted Jesus’s life and teachings going back to Augustine and beyond. Jesus never taught that nonbelievers go to hell, that God arbitrarily chooses whom to save and whom to condemn, that we are born corrupt and deserving of eternal damnation, and that infants who die unbaptized will not be saved. Such theology is not just a bizarre substitute for true Christianity. It is a desecration of Jesus’s name.

Priorities of Conservative Evangelicalism

Conservative Christians today are very quick to criticize other religions. And today the target of choice is Islam. We do have a right to be concerned about Islam, because conservative Islam can easily match conservative Christianity in intolerance. But there are other, inclusive forms of Islam, virtually invisible to Evangelicals, that we also must recognize. We have no right to demand the reform of another religion before conducting that reform in our own. “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). If we allow conservative, Evangelical Christianity to represent the Christian world, we forfeit any right to sit in judgment of anyone else’s religious excesses.

One may object and point to the violence committed in the name of the more extremist forms of Islam. Christianity is not like that, one might say. But in its past history Christianity was just as violent, and even today there has been a resurgence of violence from people who call themselves good Christians. And today conservative Christianity perpetrates violence of another sort, a kind of social and economic violence. Conservative Evangelicals currently support a regime that is trying hard to deprive poor people of essential services, and to take the money spent on them and enrich the wealthy. Republicans have targeted Social Security, Medicaid, and have made plans to reduce Medicare, all resulting in diminished services to the needy if they succeed. And they have nearly succeeded in destroying the health care network provided by the Affordable Care Act, spreading lies about it to scare people and making its demise a self-fulfilling prophecy. All this with not protest but tacit approval from conservative Evangelicals.

Very often the first thing many Evangelicals will say in response is “What about abortion? We are pro-life!” To use the abortion issue to justify support for Trump and his policies is both disingenuous and hypocritical. First, even if the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade it would produce little practical change. Abortion would not be outlawed; it would be thrown back to the states, and red states have already restricted abortions practically out of existence. But there is more.

If one is truly pro-life, one values the life of every child even after the child is born. It is hypocritical to call oneself “pro-life” and support a regime that refuses to take any measures to protect schoolchildren from gun violence. It is hypocritical to defend the unborn “child” while neglecting those already born. It is hypocritical to pretend to care about children while supporting a regime whose policies have thrown over a million children off the health care rolls.(10) To plug the big hole in the deficit that the Republican tax “reform” bill created, Trump wants to cut previously approved spending by $15 billion, the bulk of which would come from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which helps poor families afford health insurance for their children.(11) Again, not a peep from the “pro-life” conservative Evangelicals who supposedly care so much about children. Given these positions in addition to the conservative war on birth control, one might be forgiven for suspecting that the opposition to abortion is really more about controlling women’s sexuality than about protecting life.

We have still to consider the Trump regime’s cruelest policy of all: its persecution of immigrants. Other articles on this site have documented the sadistic policy of separating family members from each other, deporting parents who have lived and worked here for years and leaving children stranded, or sending children to designated locations under horrible living conditions far from their parents. Over 700 children (the number is steadily increasing) have been taken from the adults who brought them and sent to remote shelters, where they become isolated and traumatized and deprived of any contact with their families. Immigration officials claim they need to “verify the parental relationship,” but there is no firm process to carry that out once the child enters the shelter system.(12) The children may languish indefinitely, separated from the only people who love them, and with no reliable procedure in place to reunite them, ever.

Questioning the children’s parenthood is not really intended to promote the child’s welfare. It is a deliberate tactic to terrorize families and deter them from seeking asylum. It is the calculated use of cruelty as a political tool. The architect of this policy is Trump himself. He and his aides had been pushing this policy as a means of discouraging people from coming here.(13) And now they have for all practical purposes succeeded in criminalizing the asylum process.

This is what Trump had to say about these immigrants, including families seeking asylum:

“We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in - we’re stopping a lot of them,” Trump told his cabinet. “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.”...

“I know what you’re going through right now with families is very tough, but those are the bad laws that the Democrats gave us. We have to break up families. The Democrats gave us that law.”(14)

By “animals” was Trump just talking about gang members, as his defenders claim? He said this in the context of breaking up families! Trump’s anti-immigrant policy has treated many hardworking family members with the same harshness as if they were gang members; therefore the defense of his racist comment is either ignorant or dishonest. As far as Trump is concerned, any Spanish-speaking refugee who approaches the border is a “murderer” or a “rapist” (and even if “some” might be “good people” that still makes the majority subhuman). Either as a strategy or because it is how he really thinks, Trump tries to blur the distinction between criminals and ordinary people, because it pleases the prejudices of his base. We have to break up families. Of course, the Democrats made him do it. Or, somehow, it’s Obama’s fault (it’s always Obama’s fault). When cornered, Trump treats his public like idiots; the more fantastic the lie the better. And he manages to pull it off.

However one comes down on the issue of immigration, tearing children away from their parents and cutting off all contact with them is an atrocity. Trump does it both because of his personal hatred for these people and because he thinks public sentiment is on his side. If we truly claim to be followers of Christ, we cannot just sit silent. Yet the conservative Evangelical community organizes no protests and continues to support the President who perpetrates this dehumanization of the stranger. Is this really “pro-life”? How does decimating families promote “family values”? Perhaps the real values that “values voters” vote for are something else entirely.

Or perhaps a life has value only if it is a fetus and its mother is white.

The claim to be “pro-life” is clearly a hypocritical fraud. Then what are conservative Evangelicals really after in their support of Trump?

In spite of Jesus’s ministry to the poor, conservative Evangelicalism today cares little about social justice. In fact, “Social Gospel” has become a dirty phrase in that culture. Such people care little about welcoming the stranger. They care little about sustaining and protecting the lives of children after they are born. At least that’s the logical conclusion given what conservative Evangelicals tend to vote for, what they fail to protest, and what they support.

Conservative Evangelical Christianity has departed from Jesus by persecuting instead of loving the stranger, by cutting aid to the poor and infirm, by showing contempt towards those who are struggling, and by neglecting the ministry to “the least of these.” The following are much higher conservative priorities:

Conservative antipathy towards gays is no secret. Under the guise of “religious freedom” Mississippi passed a law allowing businesses and the government to discriminate against or refuse to serve LGBT people. In the name of “religious freedom” similar initiatives have been proposed all across the country.(15)

Ever since the Supreme Court decided in 1962 that school-sponsored prayer violates the First Amendment, a number of states have tried to find ways to get around it.(16) An effort is now being made to bring the issue back before the Supreme Court.(17)

On the pettier side of things, many have taken offense at the greeting “Happy Holidays,” thinking it symptomatic of a “War on Christmas.” Nobody is trying to suppress Christmas. “Happy Holidays” is just a way of recognizing and respecting the many people living here who are not Christian. That’s what seems to bother conservative Christians: too many non-Christians they have to respect.

To some white evangelicals, “Happy Holidays” is not as innocent as it sounds. Having to recognize the presence of nonwhites and non-Christians provokes a fear in some white Christian communities that they will soon cease to be the dominant influence in this country. In an interview with David Brody, one-time Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann expressed this fear rather eloquently:

Well, I don’t want to be melodramatic but I do want to be truthful. I believe without a shadow of a doubt this is the last election. This is it. This is the last election. And the reason why I say that David is because it’s a math problem. It’s a math problem of demographics and a changing United States. If you look at the numbers of people who vote and who lives in the country and who Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton want to bring in to the country, this is the last election when we even have a chance to vote for somebody who will stand up for godly moral principles. This is it....

All the “Never Trumpers,” all the establishment republicans that are out there saying, “we’ll just take our chances and four years from now we’ll have a better candidate, then we can take the White House.” It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen. Hillary Clinton will ensure it won’t happen because she’s going to change the demographics of the United States so that no Republican will ever win again.

God says to every nation for all of time, “I set before you life and death, what are you going to choose?” If you look at the book of Genesis, you don’t even have to get beyond Chapter 3 to see God gives us life. The first thing he gives mankind is life. What does man choose? Death. We choose rebellion and death. You go from Genesis all through the Bible to the book of Revelation; man stupidly makes the same decision over and over again by rejecting life and choosing death. What I’m telling you is that’s what we’re looking at now in this country.(18)

It’s all right there: fear and hatred of nonwhites, fear and hatred of immigrants, all dressed up in pious Christian language. A conservative Evangelical rationale for condoning racism and supporting white supremacy, as Christianity has often been used for in the past.(19) Only such a twisted way of thinking could lead one to believe that in the last election we chose “Godly moral principles.”

Of course, not all Evangelical Christians are racists. But as a community and as a religious ideology, white conservative Evangelicalism overwhelmingly supports and enables racism. Trump voters bristle at hearing that, but there is evidence. Race was a dominant factor in the election of Donald Trump.(20)

Evangelical Christianity in America today is not about Christ. It is impossible to think that Christ would have supported enabling the forced separation of children from parents, taking healthcare away from poor families and children, the unrestricted proliferation of firearms among the population, the abdication of the stewardship of our environment regardless of the impact on future generations, deliberately turning people against each other, and habitual, constant, unrepentant lying. What conservative Evangelical Christianity, and especially white conservative Evangelical Christianity, is really all about is power. Power to impose one’s beliefs and practices on others, power to decide whom to serve and whom to neglect, power to decide who is socially acceptable and who is not. This is called making America a “Christian Nation.”

And here we find the real agenda of conservative white Evangelical Christianity. It is power, in the form of Christian nationalism. Many have wondered how Evangelicals could so strongly condemn Bill Clinton for his adulterous behavior but still excuse Trump for behavior far more extensive and egregious. A recent study by the Association for the Sociology of Religion explains it:

Many voters believed, and presumably still believe, that regardless of his personal piety (or lack thereof), Trump would defend what they saw as the country’s Christian heritage - and would help move the nation toward a distinctly Christian future. Ironically, Christian nationalism is focused on preserving a perceived Christian identity for America irrespective of the means by which such a project would be achieved.

Hence, many white Christians believe Trump may be an effective instrument in God’s plan for America, even if he is not particularly religious himself.(21)

Here is a quotation from the actual study:

The current study establishes that... voting for Trump was, at least for many Americans, a symbolic defense of the United States’ perceived Christian heritage. Data from a national probability sample of Americans surveyed soon after the 2016 election shows that greater adherence to Christian nationalist ideology was a robust predictor of voting for Trump, even after controlling for economic dissatisfaction, sexism, anti-black prejudice, anti-Muslim refugee attitudes, and anti-immigrant sentiment, as well as measures of religion, sociodemographics, and political identity more generally.(22)

In other words, the prime motivator was not Christly “values” but Christian political power. The power to mold this nation into the image of conservative Evangelicalism. To make it a “Christian nation” in which non-Christians are subordinate and even unwelcome. It almost goes without saying that the intent is also to make this country a white Christian nation.

The whole idea of a “Christian nation,” in which by definition Christians hold a position of privilege, stands against the principle in our Declaration of Independence that all are created equal. We are not a nation of Christians only, but also Jews, Muslims, members of other religions, atheists, and none of the above. In this country conservative Evangelicalism has shown a fear of diversity and a desire to suppress it, but diversity is not a weakness; it is our strength.

A Look Inward

This is how far we have come from Jesus Christ, what he taught, what he stood for, and what he died for. He did not die so that Christians could control other people and make them conform to their own ideas of what Christianity should be, including the imposition of theological doctrines that Jesus never knew. Jesus lived and died to show us the presence of God in love expressed as service to others. The policies conservative Evangelical Christians now support, with their voices and with their votes, show neither love nor service. They do give strength to cruelty, mendacity, and economic exploitation of the poor. Therefore something must be said, even if there are risks in saying it.

And what must be said is this: It is not surprising that conservative Evangelical Christianity has become an enabler of cruelty, instead of the loving service to the poor and marginalized that Jesus taught and practiced. Conservative Evangelical Christianity abandonded the values of Christ long ago. By its “faith alone” theology that quality of character doesn’t matter, and that works of charity count for nothing in the sight of God, and that the only true ultimate concern is one’s personal fate in heaven, conservative Evangelical Christianity has abicated its responsibility as preserver of the legacy of Christ. By its espousal of a monstrous God who approves of the eternal suffering of many good people, conservative Evangelical Christianity has given cruelty divine sanction. So we should not be surprised to hear so many conservative Evangelicals speak of Trump in messianic terms, as the “chosen one” whom God has anointed. While Trump’s values are antithetical to Christ, they are consistent with conservative Evangelicalism.

As mentioned earlier, we must clean out our own house before we ask others to clean out theirs. If we object to intolerance in other religions, we must first root it out of our own. For too long we have allowed Christianity’s primary focus to be individual salvation rather than service. Salvation cannot be its own end, and it does not come simply through confessing Christ as Lord and Savior, as we have already seen. Christianity has reformed, but its reformation is not complete. It is still weighted down by the distortions of Christ’s teachings in Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. If this sounds radical, consider whether Jesus would have countenanced doctrines like the damnation of unbaptized infants, predestination of people for hell regardless of their character, creed over service, and endless misery with no escape sanctioned by a God of “forgiveness.”

Jesus would not recognize Christianity in the United States today. Fortunately Christianity has progressed, and exists in many diverse forms. But its most conservative and anachronistic form still dominates, at least in this country. We need the courage to question what we have been taught. And we need to reconnect Christianity to its Jewish roots, recognizing the continuity between Jesus and prophetic Judaism, between the “Original Covenant” and the “Extended Covenant.” Jesus took Hebrew prophecy, especially that of Isaiah, and brought it to its ultimate conclusion. If we realize that, we will know that social justice is inseparable from the Gospel, and that a person’s heart counts for far more than what a person professes.

Notes

(1) John Piper, “How to Live Under an Unqualified President,” DesiringGod.org, January 20, 2017.

(2) John Piper, “Letís Rise to Love Those Left in Fear,” DesiringGod.org, November 11, 2016.

(3) Steve Johrdahl, “Jeffress: Shame on Piper for Trump Swipe,” OneNewsNow.com, December 6, 2017.

(4) Tom Steele, “First Baptist Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress: Evangelicals Don't Care if Trump Had Sex with Porn Star,” Dallas Morning News, March 13, 2018.

(5) “Donald Trump Said He Never Asked God for Forgiveness.” (YouTube)

(6) Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “White Evangelicals Voted Overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, Exit Polls Show,” Washington Post, November 9, 2016.

(7) Tara Isabella Burton, “Poll: White Evangelical Support for Trump Is at an All-Time High,” Washington Post, April 20, 2018.

(8) Matthew Haag, “Pastor Who Said Jews Are Going to Hell Led Prayer at Jerusalem Embassy Opening,” New York Times,May 14, 2018.

(9) Tom Gjelten, “Religion a Large Presence as U.S. Embassy Opens in Jerusalem,” National Public Radio,May 14, 2018.

(10) PBS News Hour, “Behind the Troubling Rise of Uninsured American Kids, pbs.org, December 23, 2019.

(11) Damian Paletta and Erica Werner, “Trump Calls on Congress to Pull Back $15 Billion in Spending, Including on Childrenís Health Insurance Program,” Washington Post,May 7, 2018.

(12) Caitlin Dickerson, “Hundreds of Immigrant Children Have Been Taken from Parents at U.S. Border,” New York Times,April 21, 2018.

(13) Michael D. Shear and Nicole Perlroth, “Kirstjen Nielsen, Chief of Homeland Security, Almost Resigned After Trump Tirade,” New York Times, May 11, 2018.

(14) Julie Hirschfeld Davis, “Trump Calls Some Unauthorized Immigrants ‘Animals’ in Rant,” New York Times, May 11, 2018.

(15) Legislation Affecting LGBT Rights Across the Country,” American Civil Liberties Union, May, 2018.

(16) Alan Greenblatt, “Some States Seek to Bless Prayer in Public Schools : NPR,” National Public Radio, April 2, 2014.

(17) Allen Worrell, “Carroll Manís Petition to Put Prayer Back in Schools on Way to Supreme Court,” The Carroll News, May 4, 2018.

(18) David Brody, “Exclusive: Michele Bachmann: This Will Be 'Last Election' if Hillary Wins Presidency,” CBN News,September 1, 2016.

(19) Kelly Brown Douglas, “How Evangelicals Became White,” Soujourners, April 2018.

(20) Michael Tesler, “Views About Race Mattered More in Electing Trump Than in Electing Obama,” Washington Post,November 22, 2016.

(21) Andrew L. Whitehead, Joseph O. Baker and Samuel L. Perry, “Despite Porn Stars and Playboy Models, White Evangelicals Arenít Rejecting Trump. This is Why,” Washington Post,March 26, 2018.

(22) Andrew L. Whitehead, Samuel L. Perry, and Joseph O. Baker, “Make America Christian Again: Christian Nationalism and Voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election,” Sociology of Religion,January 25, 2018.

May 2018