Much of the political conversation lately has been about people gathering in churches across the country. While it is an unfortunate fact that churches are not able to gather at this time, I, for one, am grateful that the church in general is being forced to stop and ask, “What is the church, and what does it look like?” The American church has been overdue for some self-reflection for a while now.
The message of the American evangelical church has changed greatly in the last 20 years. Many have lamented the loss of the millennials in the church and blame it on the culture, but I blame it on the church. The church has forgotten what they are here to do, and many of my dear friends, brothers, and sisters have been mortally wounded by misguided evangelicalism masquerading as patriotism.
The church is at a crossroads where they must choose whether to pledge allegiance to God, or to pledge allegiance to the United States. Do not misunderstand me. I am deeply patriotic and grateful to the men and women who gave their lives for our freedoms. I am proud to be an American. I believe we are a nation blessed by God, but the church has become confused about its allegiance. The evangelical church has stopped pursuing the Kingdom of God, and instead has pursued the power of America:
- We have replaced “Christ as Lord” with the Presidential Office (1 Peter 3:8-15).
- We have replaced “love your enemies” with “the right to bear arms.”(Matthew 5:44)
- The church speaks disparagingly about immigrants and refugees and forgets the welcoming of strangers. (Leviticus 19:33-34).
- The church has forgotten that the reason man was created is to care for the earth itself, its climate, and its animals (Gen 1:24-29).
- The church has forgotten that ALL life is sacred, not just the unborn (Matthew 5:21-22).
- The church has forgotten that Scripture is our primary authority, and the Bible and the Constitution are NOT the same - not even on the same level. The constitution is NOT Holy Scripture. (Mark 7:8-13)
- Racism and Nationalism are SIN (Galatians 3:28), and the secular culture (not the church) is calling for a repentance of those things, and the church treats it as politically misguided.
- We have forgotten the mandate to “pray for our enemies” (Matthew 5:44), and instead join in the mud-slinging at the liberal left. In fact, we have made the individuals who comprise the liberal left the enemy of the church…forgetting that our weapons are not “of flesh and blood.”(Ephesians 6:12)
It is false to think that religion will save America. It is false to think that Christianity will save America. Because Christianity doesn’t save nations. Christianity saves people. Christians have important obligations to do whatever they can (including through political means) to help our neighbors, but we have forgotten what the fight is really about. We have been fighting spiritual battles as though they are political ones, and completely forgetting that Christ eschewed politics. Many of the “political” problems we are facing today are a failure of the church to be the church.
The claims of Christianity transcend political order, and we have stooped to politics to solve eternal problems. Governments are transitory, political victories are transitory. Our fight needs to be for the eternal kingdom.
We are at an Impasse. Christianity is about declaring Christ as king, and is about submitting ourselves to God. Christianity in its truest nature is adverse to consumerism, since it demands surrender to God, but American culture is based on Consumerism. Christianity by definition goes against the culture, but we longer know where America ends and the church begins. We must decide where our loyalties lie. Do we want to be a Christian Nation? Or a Christian Church?
How we strategically and prayerfully respond to this will determine the “new normal” in our country. I’m not talking about how we move past the pandemic, or how we move past racism (although the church’s responses to those things are certainly indicative of our heart) I’m talking about how the church redefines itself as “the church”- the bearers of truth, the light in the darkness. The church needs to repent of the jingoism which is consuming it.
The church needs another Reformation, and America needs another Reawakening, but whether or not those things happen will depend on how much we are willing to sacrifice the temporal and transitory for the eternal and lasting. Love for the Kingdom of God must replace the love of the world. Are we willing to bow our knee in repentance to Christ, our first allegiance?
By: Mae Lewis