I remember well the fallout from Televangelist Pat
Robertson’s 2005 call to assassinate Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
I was doing a radio show at the time and faced the obligatory, if not
annoyingly generalized, accusations from listeners:
“So political assassination is now a Christian virtue, is that right?”
No, it wasn’t right.
It isn’t right. It was the
ramblings of one guy who has a history of saying bizarre, outlandish
things. But given the undeniable fact
that Robertson had marketed himself for a decade as a – if not the – voice of the so-called religious
right, it was a metaphysical certitude that those who oppose social
conservative politics were going to extrapolate Robertson’s craziness outward
to encompass all Christendom.
Thankfully, Pat’s preeminence has dulled, and though the 700
Club still has a faithful following, those of us who try tirelessly to force
our politics to submit to our faith rather than vice versa are rarely forced to
distance ourselves from his latest controversy.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that as Robertson’s influence has faded, there are other
notable Christians on the political left and right who seem eager to take his
place. And the advent of social media
has only amplified their ability to create messes for Christians in the
From the left there’s Gospel Coalition writer and council
member Thabiti Anyabwile who recently used the platform God gave him to advocate for undermining our democratic process:
“If I were the head of state for an American ally, I would be working to convince other American allies to work together to hack the next election to choose for the US a normal president so we could return things to normal. The world can’t afford more of this.”
Actually, Mr. Thabiti, no matter how much you loathe President Trump, the world has been enduring butchering, murderous, tyrannical heads of state far worse than this American presidency for millennia. What the world truly can’t afford is for the singular voice of hope and deliverance – the testimony of Christ’s church – to be divided, splintered, fractured, and diluted by man-centered political sniping. What it can’t afford is for the witnesses of salvation through Christ alone to embitter and alienate others by dragging their higher calling and message into the cesspool of man’s futile pursuit of power.
You would think a prominent minister of the transforming
power of Jesus Christ would know that.
But Anyabwile not only failed to think better of his ill-advised
tweet. He doubled down when rebuked,
“I guess you could call spy craft “cheating.” But it’s the kind of cheating all countries do, even ancient Israel had spies who spied out the land.”
“It is cheating, but the kind of cheating that’s ‘fair in love and war’ between nation states. The entire history of the world is filled with rival countries influencing elections and politics in other countries. We tend to think it’s cheating when it happens to us vs by us.”
Is this the reasoned voice of Christianity in our
culture? Are these the kind of views
that the Gospel Coalition is willing to associate itself with? Anyabwile argues Trump’s presidency is illegitimate
because it involved foreign meddling in elections, all while advocating the
solution to be foreign meddling in elections.
Then, just as Christians are reeling from that nonsense,
they stumble into this headline:
“Evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress defends Trump’s border wall: ‘Heaven itself is going to have a wall around it.’”
As much as I’d like to simply excuse this as an anecdotal
attempt at humor, there was nothing about Jeffress’ context to suggest this was
anything but a shockingly poor understanding of Scripture being offered as
justification for a manmade policy preference.
The walls around the New Jerusalem John writes about in Revelation are
not for security. They remain wide open
so that the redeemed living in paradise can enter and exit the capital city
freely. They are walls full of symbolism
and glory, highlighting the magnificence of God and His eternal dominion.
To sully such magnificence for the sake of advocating a
series of tall steel pipes between Texas and Mexico is humiliating. But given that this is the same Jeffress
whose church choir sang the patriotic anthem “Make America Great Again,” and who himself recently suggested that Democrats opposed to the border wall are morally responsible for women
being raped at the border, that seems to be par for the course.
Christians are free to engage in political debates,
obviously. I do quite a bit of it
myself. But is it too much to ask that
we remember ours is a higher calling?
Our citizenship is in another place, our hope is for another time. Our testimony is to transcend the sniping and
offer something far more than short-term posturing for power.
And particularly for those believers whom God has blessed
with positions of influence, believers like Anyabwile and Jeffress, the rest of
us need you to do better.