Corruption is a strong word and I do not use it lightly. However, I feel that I must. I believe it is accurate, and I believe it is causing a crisis in the Church overall. For there is only one Body of Christ and when one part of that body is infected the entire body suffers. So it is in America today.
There are fewer and fewer believing and practicing Christians in America every year as a percentage of the population, and it’s not because of immigration or any other such trend. It is because Americans are turning away from the Church in droves because they do not like what they see in it and in those who call themselves Christians. Words frequently used to describe Christians by those estranged from the Church are “intolerant”, “bigoted”, “hateful”, “judgmental”, “extremist”, “hypocritical” and so on.
It breaks my heart to see the faith I love described in such horrible derogatory words, words which are anathema to the message of Christ himself, which can be characterized by words such as grace, hope, faith, love, forgiveness and service. Let’s leave aside for the moment whether the insults flung at Christians are angry and mean-spirited or not and do as Christ would. Let us look for the log in our own eye before we criticize the speck in someone else’s (Matt 7:5).
Why do people call us such horrible things? Well, ask them and they will probably be happy to tell you. It is because they do not see Christians acting in accord with the words and message of Christ. They do not see us living the love we have been taught.
Here is what they see. Christians obsessed with two issues, abortion and gay marriage, while completely ignoring everything Christ taught them. Two issues that between them, Christ said not a single word about, despite the fact both abortion and homosexuality were around at the time of his ministry. That is not to say where Christ would stand on either of these political issues. I don’t know where he would stand, although I’m pretty certain he would approach both with gentleness and love, rather than anger and judgment, as he did the woman accused of adultery (John 8:1-11). I have Christian friends whom I love and respect who stand on both sides of these issues, and my personal belief is that this is an issue on which Christians of good conscience may disagree, so long as they do so in a loving and respectful way.
So why have these two issues been elevated into the most important issues in the world for so many evangelical Christians? It certainly can’t be from reading the Bible, particularly the Gospels, which gives scant attention to homosexuality and none at all to abortion. Why don’t evangelical Christians instead emphasize the things Christ did preach about? Like lifting up the poor and disadvantaged in society, for example?
Perhaps the answer lies in politics. These are political issues as much as, and perhaps more than, they are religious or moral issues. The two dominant parties in the country have dramatically different views on both issues.
Christ himself was largely non-political during his ministry, despite attempts to draw him into the hottest political issue of his time in the land of his birth, the subjugation of the Jews to the Roman Empire. He was indeed a revolutionary in his teachings, but a spiritual one, not a political one. The scribes and pharisees were right to fear him, because he was coming to shake the foundations of their beliefs and practices, which had become corrupt, but the Romans and other civil authorities had nothing to fear. He wasn’t here to save the Jews from political tyranny. He was here for a higher purpose, transcending politics.
So why is the evangelical church so political now? And it is indeed deeply political. Evangelical leaders and pastors pass out voting guides and preach politics from the pulpit, telling their followers how a “good Christian” should vote. They not only take positions on issues such as abortion and gay marriage, but also on issues that have no moral element whatsoever, like taxes and the size of government, or guns, or defense spending, or racial justice. Because of agreement with a particular party on these two issues of questionable importance, they are influenced on all others. They have thrown in wholeheartedly with a single political party, and are under its sway. The evangelical church has been thoroughly corrupted by politics and now serves political masters.
If you don’t believe me, look at the last Presidential election. 80 percent of white evangelical voters supported Donald Trump in 2016. Donald Trump. A man who has been married three times and bragged about cheating on his wife during each one of those marriages. A man who belonged to no church before the election and attends none now, and who knows next to nothing about Christ. A man who bragged about sexually assaulting women. A man who bullies and insults people on a daily basis. A man with a long record of unethical and dishonest behavior in business. A man who lies habitually and refuses to correct those lies even when he is caught in them. A man who did not have a consistent record of even caring about the two issues they think so important. That man got 80% of their vote.
There is no way to explain that rationally except in terms of politics. For the evangelical church it is no longer a matter of their religion influencing their politics. It is obvious that it is their politics influencing their religion. Corrupting it.
And that corruption is visible to non-believers, seekers and the unchurched. And it doesn’t look pretty.