Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Non-Christian Values of Evangelicals

Evangelical leaders met privately with President Trump in the White House on October 29 and prayed with him. They marched away from the meeting in lockstep, espousing a unified message that the impeachment hearings are an attack on Christian values.

Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, explained this consensus on Fox Business on November 1. “Evangelicals understand that the effort to impeach President Trump is really an effort to impeach our own deeply-held faith values, and we’re not going to allow that to happen.” He went on to explain, “Never in the history of America have we had a president who was a stronger warrior for the Judeo-Christian principles upon which this nation was founded than in President Donald J. Trump.”

Jeffress went on to define those “Christian values” and “Judeo-Christian principles.” He said that Democrats “want to take away our right to religious liberty. They want to take away the right to bear arms. They want to take away the right to the most basic right of all, the right to life, by continuing this barbaric practice of abortion…. That’s why all of us who are Christians certainly see this is not a political skirmish. This is a battle between good and evil.”

The problem with Jeffress’ statement is that the three social issues that he mentioned are neither Christian nor biblical. Religious liberty cannot be found anywhere in the Bible. In fact the champions of the Old Testament are people like Elijah, who massacred the prophets of Baal and Asherah. It was not until the 17th century that the idea of religious freedom gained traction. Before then Christians were quite content to enforce their religion through the power of the state, often outlawing what they saw as religious heresies.

Furthermore what evangelicals really mean by religious liberty is the right of Christianity to maintain a position of religious dominance in our country by legislating its values, even if that infringes on the religious freedom of others. That would include having special access to the Oval Office and discriminating against those who do not share their sexual ethic.

Can you imagine if one day our nation elected a Muslim president who regularly invited Muslim clergy into the Oval Office to pray with him and who advocated legislation that enshrined Islamic values? You would hear a mighty outcry from the Christian pulpits of this land, decrying “Sharia Law!”

When it comes to bearing arms, Jesus was not a fan. He clearly advocated nonviolence. He told Peter to put away the sword, “For those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” When he was on trial for treason, he told the Roman governor Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight, but my kingdom is not of this world.”

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus even spoke against self-defense. He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” You won’t hear that slogan quoted at any NRA rally.

How about abortion? The topic is never mentioned in the Bible. The only passage that comes close is a law in Exodus 21, which appears soon after the Ten Commandments. It enacts the punishment of a fine for causing a woman to miscarry. But if the woman dies, it is a capital offense: “life for life.” An unborn child does not have the same standing under biblical law as a fully born child.

Regardless of where we stand on these three issues, it is dishonest to label them Christian. The first and second amendments are statements of American rights, not Christian values. They owe more to the Enlightenment than Christianity. Being anti-abortion is not even an American value, according to the Supreme Court. We can honestly hold such beliefs, but we need to be honest about their origin.

I believe in the first amendment, which necessarily includes the separation of church and state. I think the right to bear arms is important, but it was never intended to facilitate mass murders. I am pro-life, although I do not think we should criminalize abortion. I do not pretend these are Christian values. None of these are found in the Christian scriptures or in any historic Christian creed.

The values for which evangelicals are willing to unconditionally support Donald Trump are not Christian values. They are conservative values and nothing more.  Evangelical leaders are disingenuous in picturing them as part of a spiritual battle. They have nothing to do with God, the teachings of Jesus or the scriptures.  This is not a battle between good and evil. It is a political power play and nothing more, regardless of how Trumpvangelicals spin it.

1 comment:

Wcjm said...

The Democrat impeachment inquiry is an assault on Democracy and the rule of law.