American evangelicals have harmed Evangelicalism

“Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth.” (Psalm 2:7)

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Eleven months ago a good friend sat on the lounge in my home and told me that the Presidential race would be between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump…and that Trump would win!

I looked at him as though he had had a lobotomy. But over the course of the year my friend’s projection has been rattling in the deep recesses of my mind where I try to leave all the crazy thoughts.

Like the majority of Australians I feel as though I’m floating in a hypnagogic state. How many of us really thought that Trump would trump America?!

According to the latest figures, it appears the main reason for Hillary Clinton’s loss is because Democrats stayed home: 5 million fewer democrats voted yesterday than in 2012; that’s a lot of people. The Republican turn out was also slightly down, which is unsurprising given the candidate.

I have no doubt that there are numerous reasons behind Trump’s win, and I am no expert to decode all these, and neither is it my purpose to explore them here.

After surveying this morning’s twitter sphere, it revealed though how mainstream media, Hollywood, and the self acclaimed intelligentsia still don’t get it; the progressive moral and social agenda is repugnant to many Americans, and also to many Australians.

More concerning, American “evangelicals” don’t get it. I am hearing reports suggesting that as many as 85% of “evangelicals” voted for Donald Trump. Whatever the actual number, it will be a substantial percentage. I appreciate why Christians could not vote for Hillary Clinton; for example, her position toward unborn children is paramount to evil, but so is Trump’s posture toward women and refugees.

I want to reiterate a concern that I have raised in recent weeks, and that is how the evangelical cause will be weakened as a result of a Trump Presidency. The reason is obvious, “evangelicals” have so closely aligned themselves with Donald Trump that in the public eye the two have been aligned.

While there were multiple groups investing in the campaign, “Evangelicals” are at least partly responsible for Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the American Presidency. That’s right, without their endorsements, the Republican nominee may well have been a Jed Bush or Marco Rubio.

You will notice my proclivity to use the inverted comma when referring to evangelicals, and that’s because the word has been regularly misappropriated by not only political pundits but also by Americans themselves. True evangelicalism has little to do with the political aspirations of right wing America, and everything to do with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Authentic evangelicalism is defined by this Gospel as presented in the Bible, not by the political right or left, not with Democrats or Republicans, and for the Australian context, neither Liberal nor Labor.

While never wishing for a Clinton victory, I do think that scenario would have at least given “evangelicals” an opportunity to break with Donald Trump and start afresh, to repent of foolish associations and  to rethink how Christians should engage in the political space. Unfortunately, “evangelical” America supported the winner, and have been tarnished for doing so. I cannot see how this association will advance the cause of Jesus Christ. If anything, the word may become irretrievably immeshed in a cause that is not the Gospel.

I am thankful for the many evangelicals who have stood up to Donald Trump and have copped flack for doing so: Ed Stetzer, Russell Moore, and Al Mohler among them. In Australia, the general public will not be informed of these voices, and instead Australians will time and time again hear how “evangelicals” assisted Donald Trump to the White House. At least in the Australian public square, the 2016 Presidential election will tarnish Christian witness and further perpetrate myths about Christianity. It is for this reason I am calling on my American friends to return to their evangelical roots and think carefully about how they associate politically.

It is one thing to be part of a Presidential win, but it is quite another to one day stand before the Judge of the earth and give an account of how or lives have adorned or maligned the Gospel of Christ.

This final point is not only true for American Christians but also Australian Christians, when will Christians learn not to place undue hope in Government? The election has exposed a messed up eschatology and misplaced soteriology, which will not only disappoint, but will prevent people from seeing Christ. How ever Donald Trump decides to build his wall along the Mexican border, it is nothing compared to the wall evangelicals have built in this election that will block out the wonder of the Gospel. How will true Evangelicals work to dismantle this false gospel? What will we do publicly and in our Churches to redress the damage caused by this political misalignment?

We need much prayer. We need much repentance.

As the political shape of America turns, may Christians return to our true hope:

“For to us a child is born,

    to us a son is given,

    and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 Of the greatness of his government and peace

    there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

    and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

    with justice and righteousness

    from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty

    will accomplish this.”

(Isaiah 9:5-7)

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5 thoughts on “American evangelicals have harmed Evangelicalism

  1. I appreciate the comments above Murray but the term evangelical has become so maligned that it is no longer possible to use evangelical in its historic Biblical sense. Not when there are “progressive evangelicals” and liberals who use the term who pastor gay churches. Like the word gay, evangelical has been hijacked. Many of the political evangelicals you refer to above may wear a Christian label but have done so without watering the gospel as outlined in Isaiah.

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  2. This piece in today’s The Guardian sadly reinforces the concerns I have expressed above. Both the author and the ‘evangelicals’ the describe both fail to understand the nature of evangelicalism. We can continue to hide this fact and pretend there is no fundamental problem in American evangelicalism (and even Australian, although the sociological phenomena is far less apparent), and we can do something about it

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/11/white-evangelical-christians-america-trump

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