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Is It Too Much to Ask for Prominent Christians to Stop Embarrassing the Rest of Us?

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 culture. 

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, writing,

“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.

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