Opportunities for Positive Testimony October 24, 2016
The candidacy of Donald Trump, and his takeover of the Republican Party, has split the American evangelical world and is, I think, purging it. But it is creating opportunities for positive testimony as well. The Daily Beast, far from a religious right site, posted recently a story about the Christians of the ironically named town of Liberal, Kansas. When it turned out that three people from their town had plotted to blow up a mosque in nearby Garden City, most of the Christians of Liberal were distressed. The pastors affirmed that America is a land of religious liberty and that they hoped to see these Muslims come to Jesus, not kill them or interfere with their religious liberty until they did so. And, as for the Somalis settled in their town, the Christians believed in responding with kindness to the strangers among them. Now most of them might be voting for Donald Trump, on the ground that he is the ‘lesser evil’, or because the Supreme Court Justices he appoints might be less bad [of course remember how good the appointees of Reagan and the Bushes turned out! They were a mixed bag], or because Mike Pence is an OK dude. But that is a different thing from buying into Trump’s whole ethos. I wonder if God is now not so much saving America [He can do without America] as purging His remnant in America, dividing between the true Christians and the nominal evangelicals who are more motivated by white nationalism, or at least some kind of nationalism, who want to violate American principles by making migrants swear on the Nicene Creed, or something like that [how do you propose to screen Muslims out? Trump himself couldn’t honestly swear on the Nicene Creed any more than any Muslim].
Ross Douthat explains how large parts of the ‘religious right’ resisted Trumpism as long as they could, and that there are a few leaders who still won’t accept him as the ‘lesser evil’. The comment threads disagree with him; I can only say that the comment threads legitimately describe those whom God is using this crisis to purge and expose, and separate from His true church. In my own experience in the evangelical world, which does not extend to every part of it, ‘God and Country’ flag waving is not heard very much. What you do see is the missionary board, a map of the world with stick-pins showing where the missionaries they support are located, and a large number of their special events and speakers in their bulletin have to do with missionaries coming to raise support and tell stories of exotic foreign lands. Thus the evangelical church has, in its own way, actually been more world minded than Americans at large.
[OK, so most of these missionaries are white, and they might have had to work on not being too patronizing to the people they were ministering to, and on respecting the good elements of their culture; and OK we don’t need to be sending as many white missionaries any more, thanks largely to the success of their predecessors in presenting a reasonably positive witness to Christ! And the former mission field is now the center of the world Church. Prester John rides!]
Similar stories come from Mormons, who have their own missionary culture, and Orthodox Jews. Michael Barone writes about how Trump is less popular in those regions that have a high degree of social connectedness, not only Utah but Dutch Calvinist West Michigan.
We may have ‘lost the culture war’ [though life issues are still very much on the table with the younger generation] but the church in America, I believe, will survive its purging perhaps smaller, but stronger, than it has been in a long time.