I woke up Wednesday morning after 3 long hours of sleep to a variety of messages on social media. I noticed heavy mourning among some voters and also came across a barrage of celebratory posts from some friends. However, I was caught by surprise when I came across posts that read along the lines of "We (Christians) won", "Lock her up", "Thank you Jesus", "Revenge of the fallen", "Take that, Satan", etc. from fellow friends and believers.
As a Christian, part of me rejoices in the fact that the election of Donald Trump will put a dent or a halt to the progressive agenda. I rejoice because I believe this Republican platform pledged to focus on fighting issues like abortion, religious liberty (especially that of the persecuted church), political corruption, etc. But part of me also mourns this results because I feel a sense of decay in Christianity in America. I write this not because I intend to vilify the evangelical church of America, but because I try to preach this to myself every day.
The church in its various bodies, has been subjected to persecution ever since its humble beginnings. Persecution, throughout the Bible has been regarded as a nurturing process for the believer. There is plenty of scripture to support this but the one often quoted by a lot of us is Romans 8:35-37 in which apostle Paul assures that the earthly trouble that drowns the Christian, isn’t capable of separating us from the love of Jesus Christ. God has been faithful to His word because this has been the case in modern history as well. Puritans fled England, mainland Europe because of persecution and established churches in America that stood up for the authenticity of the gospel. Growth of the church in South and East Asia is another testament to the providence of God’s grace amidst opposition. The unity that was experienced in the American churches in recent times also showed how God brings together people of His own and gives them a fervor for His truth and righteousness. Timothy Keller, speaking of this says "Suffering, rightly met, creates rich community and fellowship". Although persecution means temporary sufferings, it's fair to say that the church Christ intended, has only grown stronger as a result of it.
However, on the other hand, the absence of persecution tends to allow what many call ‘Comfortable Christianity’ and I see that to be the case especially in the United States. This phenomenon is a result of self-righteousness, spiritual complacency and a life of luxury. Signs of this was eminent when liberal Christians resorted to abandoning core Christian teachings on the sanctity of life and marriage for the sake of “progress”. Likewise, signs of Comfortable Christianity also emerge in the wake of this Trump victory. Ironically, the sense of comfort that arises in the hope of a republican government, contributes to the negligence and abandonment of qualities that Christ expects in a follower.
Loving Your Neighbor.
I start with “Love your neighbor” because it was the second commandment given by Jesus. I also start with this because it lays the foundation for almost all my arguments that follow. Jesus said:“Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” I’m sure we’ve all read this in our Bibles, and are able to recite them off of our memories but rarely do we practice this commandment. Loving your neighbor doesn’t and shouldn’t stop at sharing cookies with friends at church, donating worn clothes to charity, allocating a portion of tithe towards the children of Africa or going on mission trips. These are all great exhibition of love. However, when Jesus spoke about loving your neighbor, He spoke about walking the extra mile, and reaching out to those out of our comfort zones, even amidst threats. So yes, this includes the Mexican immigrant that threatens to ‘take your job’. This includes the supposed 'terrorist' that’s fleeing her homeland because of violence she has no part in. This includes the gay gentleman immersed in sin. This includes the lady who doesn’t get equal pay because of her gender. This includes the African American man who is blamed for crimes he did not commit because of his skin colour. This includes the defenseless disabled boy who is bullied everyday. And this includes practically every single person Donald J Trump insulted on his way to presidency.
If we Christians are open to scrutiny as we should be, we wouldn’t spit out meaningless defenses like: “Oh, that’s the biased the media. Trump wasn’t hateful”, “But Hillary is pro-choice”. Rather, we would have chosen against obvious hate, even at the cost of our political affiliations. We would also continue to fight for the poor, meek and the needy regardless of their geographical origins. Not because they all deserve our fight, but because we owe it to God who saved us from all unrighteousness. Instead of shouting out “If you hate Trump, you should go back to Syria.”, we should love those we disagree with, because He loved us first. If we truly understand the abundance of grace God shown us through Jesus Christ while we were still in our rebellion, our choices and actions will transmit that love towards others who bear the same image of the creator God. How can we truly claim to love God, when in truth, we continue to ignore the cries and longings of our brethren? Is it not hypocrisy? We are called to be conduits of His love. Apostle John addressed this very well when he said: "Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister." If our actions don’t show love, we are indeed resounding gongs and clanging cymbals. Yes, this is the good old spiel but it’s important that we remind ourselves of the greatest commandments of all, because if we don’t, we would have gained nothing in our walk with Christ.
Conforming to the Pattern of this World
A main argument made in support of a Trump presidency is his vow to uphold the constitution, especially the second amendment. I understand the circumstances in which this amendment was instituted first but I don’t see the urgency at which “Bible believing” Christians seek to defend it. Sure, this is America. Sure, it is your right. Sure, I don’t understand what it means because I’m not American. However, I surely understand that this has become an idol among many evangelical Christians in this country. Bill of Rights ≠ Word of God. The bill of rights wasn’t divinely inspired; they were put together by sinful men like you and I who often got it wrong. Whatsmore, twisting of the Scripture to defend the addiction to assault rifles is a slippery slope that is most likely to lead one down a road that is broad and a gate that is wide.
In my few years of living in the United States, one thing that strikes out to me most regarding the Christianity practiced by many, is the prevailing reluctance to abandon warped ideological patriotism for the principles of the Scripture. Jesus’ response to Peter’s aggression when Judas Iscariot betrayed Him should not be something that we read every lent season and ignore the remainder of the year. When Jesus said “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." , He actually meant it. Killing in self-defense is as wrong as killing a baby in the uterus. If we claim to be pro-life, we ought to be practice it in all aspects of reality. No life is beyond redemption; not even the life of a predator who breaks into your house and tries to rape you. Dismissing this as ‘pacifism’, only shows one’s lack of understanding and acceptance of Jesus’ teachings. Apostle Paul insisted Christians to pursue the gospel without conforming to the world; and believe it or not, the United States of America is in the world. Also, the USA is not the Promised Land. God doesn’t favor any man-made nation and let’s please stop misinterpreting Scripture for the sake of our popularity. When God says ''my people'' in 2 Chronicles 7:14, He is not talking about Americans. He is talking about Christians who take up the cross and follow Him. We as Christians living in the America should recognize that we are first and foremost Christians; not Americans. Our nationalities shouldn’t determine our priorities in Christ. In fact, if our identity is truly in Christ and Christ alone, our sense of patriotism wouldn’t cloud our practicing of Christ’s teachings.
Reaping What We Sow
As indicated earlier, I am deeply saddened by some of the messages I've seen early Wednesday morning and ever since. The one stood out to me most was a message from a Lutheran pastor’s son that read “We (Christians) won!”. While I understand where he was coming from, I thought it was a mere glimpse of the state of insular Christianity in America. We should take responsibility for what we say and quit dismissing rhetoric such as this as “works of the flesh”. It is no secret that mainstream American evangelicals heavily supported a candidate just because he pledged to fight for the persecuted church, the unborn and against the liberal agenda. Centre for Disease Control reports a staggering 51.9million murders in the name of abortion between 1970-2012 and this is indeed a major worry that I, along with many American Christians share. God does value every single human life that He gave His only begotten Son to die in our place. Bible says that God hears the blood of the innocent, as in the case of Abel's and the sanctity of Life is something all Christians should fight for regardless of where we live in the globe. But can we justify this fight while neglecting equally serious issues like xenophobia, racism, misogyny that surround us? As Christians we should stand up for all that's wrong in the country, not just some. We as Christians often don't practice what we preach. Our selective application of Christianity is sometimes more harmful than good as A.W. Tozer succinctly nails it in The Root of the Righteous. Tozer says: "There is an evil which I have seen under the sun and which in its effect upon the Christian religion may be more destructive than Communism, Romanism and Liberalism combined. It is the glaring disparity between theology and practice among professing Christians." On point indeed.
It is beyond reproach that there has been an outpouring of racism and public disruption post-election from both sides. However, it is thoroughly disappointing to see the convenient overlooking of racism by many evangelical Christians. When I shared actual incidents that took place post-election with a close friend, he defended these acts of racism with statements: "Can you not see the evil that was prevented (by electing Trump) last night?" "Where is the proof?" "People can't see past the propaganda against Trump". "Buy a gun, if someone tries to grab your [genitals], shoot them. Don't play the victim". His selective attention to detail, and that of many others are an indication of the insular state of many evangelical churches in America. This inclines me to believe that the president-elect is indeed a wake up call to the church in America. This leads me to believe that, against popular belief of many evangelicals, Donald J Trump is rather a chastisement from God than a blessing. Truly am I incapable of understanding God's plans through all of this for no man can fully comprehend Him. However, I am reminded of the time in which God deliberately gave the Israelites into the hands of the cruel Babylonians for their purification. I agree with John Calvin when he infamously said that "those who rule unjustly and incompetently have been raised up by God to punish the wickedness of the people". [Hosea. 13:11; Isaiah. 3:4; ; Deut.28:29]. (Please note that I’m not singling out Trump here. Obama, in some sense was very similar and Clinton couldn’t have been any different). God of the Old Testament is still the overseer of all nations and He has every right to condemn us for our unrighteousness. I'm sincerely scared of the state of Christianity in this country but I firmly believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Though the Fig Tree does not Bud.
Habakkuk is one of my favourite books in the canon. Not because of it’s small size, but because it redefined my world view as a Christian. I highly recommend we read and revisit this book because I firmly believe that the truths Habakkuk learned in this prophetic oracle is very applicable in this current times of comfortable Christianity. Habakkuk was surprised when he heard of God's plan to deliver justice at hands of the Babylonians. Yet, he waited patiently for the day of calamity because he believed that God will deliver justice in unique ways that are sometimes very incomprehensible. This enabled Habakkuk to wait upon the Lord for happiness amidst darkness.
While I struggle to find the kind of peace Habakkuk found, in this time of trouble, I can continue to rejoice in the Lord my Savior because His ways are always right. I pray that as the church, we humbly seek God’s forgiveness, because without His favor, all our efforts to 'right the wrongs' will be fruitless. Because He alone can fix our problems. In Christ there is hope for a sinner like you and I because God assures us that "..if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." George Washington prayed: "Bless O Lord the whole race of mankind, and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy Son, Jesus Christ" and we ought to pray the same way. Maybe if we fall on our knees and beg God for forgiveness for our collective negligence, we will one day be able able to sing like Habakkuk did. But now is the time to mourn and reflect.