In America’s Gilded Age, slaveholder religion went national, blessing an alliance between industrial capital and white nationalism. “One Nation Under God” promised to save America from the “immorality” of the New Deal, Communism and the Civil Rights movement. Writing in the 19th century, when slaveholder religion was still taking root in white Americans’ consciousness, Frederick Douglass said, “Between the Christianity of the slaveholder and the Christianity of Christ, I see the widest possible difference.” People of faith have a choice to make.
Racial discrimination? Check. Gender inequality? Check. Class warfare? Check. Prejudice based on physical ability and differences? Check. The choice between family values and power? Check. The undying pursuit of the American dream at all costs? Check. The Greatest Showman is an allegory about what the church should be. If we don’t address the fissure currently dividing the church now, we will never put out the fire currently raging through our halls and hearts. Like Barnum, we have forgotten to love. To love people who look, sound, think and feel differently to us. To love other Christians who didn’t vote the same way we did.
Christ has no body now but yours,
no hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which He sees,
Yours are the feet with which He walks,
Yours are the hands with which
He blesses all the world:
Yours are the hands.
In June 2017, musicians, pastors, writers, and scholars from around the country gathered together in NYC to collaborate on a series of worship songs for a new worship record themed around faith and vocation. The lyrics are from a prayer by Teresa of Avila circa 1571. Music by David Ogden and published by The Royal School of Church Music (admin. by GIA Publications, Inc.). Used by permission. Filmed, recorded, and mixed by Mason Jar Music.0
Oh great mammon of form and function; careless consumerist consumption; dangerous dysfunction, disguised as expensive taste. I’m a people disgraced by what I claim I need and what I want to waste. I take no account for nothing if it’s not mine. It’s a misappropriation of funds; protect my ninety percent with my guns. Whose side am I on? Well who’s winning?
My kingdom’s built with the blood of slaves, orphans, widows, and homeless graves. I sold their souls just to build my private mansion. Some people say that my time is coming: Kingdom come is the justice running down, down, down on me. I’m a poor child, I’m a lost son; I refuse to give my love to anyone, fight for the truth, or help the weaker ones, because I love my Babylon. I am a slave, I was never free. I betrayed you for blood money. Oh I bought the world, all its vanity. Oh my Lord I’m your enemy.—Josh Garrels, Zion & Babylon
Josh Garrels has spent more than a decade crafting music that cuts clean through. Resting in the space between accessibility and honesty, Garrels’ songs wrestle with and celebrate the mystery of faith with authenticity and heart. Cultivating a genre-blending mix of folk and hip hop, Garrels’ music explores themes of compassion, hope, longing, and liberation.0
Questioning the validity of orthodoxy is anything but spiritual error because Scripture calls us to test such things. Church authorities are the ones fighting opposition, refusing to allow there to be diversity among their lambs. We who are committed to the testing all things are not forsaking the LORD. Our desire to test theology, whether it is strange or not, reinforces our reverence toward God. I cannot imagine a scenario beyond one in which Jesus succeeds in drawing everyone to himself.
Christian Universalism is anything but heretical because it is built on a solid foundation—the unfailing love of God.
Christian nationalism is the false belief that America is a Christian nation, a belief supported by Dominion theology. It is a radical right wing movement composed of Christian extremists that want to rewrite American history, and replace the secular values upon which this nation was founded with a Christian theocracy.
“I can’t look into the president’s heart to know if he really personally believes these positions he’s advocating, or whether he thinks it’s smart politics to embrace them because of the strong evangelical influence in the country. But frankly, I don’t care. As a Christian, I’m seeing these policies embraced and enacted, and he’s doing that.”—Robert Jeffress
Robert Jeffress is a Texas megachurch pastor and one of President Trump’s evangelical advisers.0
“His own comments expose him. They were elitist and blatantly racist.” Trump’s comments honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. “added insult to injury.”
A.R. Bernard is a black pastor of a 40,000-member church in New York City. He resigned from the evangelical council in August 2017 after Trump blamed “both sides” for deadly violence in Charlottesville.0
Poor people, clergy and activists in the Poor People’s Campaign plan to deliver letters to politicians in state Capitol buildings demanding that leaders confront what they call systemic racism evidenced in voter suppression laws and poverty rates. “Our faith traditions and state and federal constitutions all testify to the immorality of an economy that leaves out the poor, yet our political discourse consistently ignores the 140 million poor and low-income people in America,” the letter states.
Many evangelical Christians today face an identity crisis. Evangelicals have a storied history in American public life. They figured prominently in the movement to end slavery. Evangelicals are now an increasingly familiar presence in American intellectual life, having shed the anti-intellectualism of the early 20th century. I believe that Christianity is self-correcting. And because evangelicalism is a faithful understanding of Christianity’s essence, I believe it is self-correcting, too.
The choice is stark, unsettling and serious: between what Christians call the “Great Commission” and President’s Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again” (MAGA). The Great Commission is racially and radically inclusive, while MAGA, as a matter of rhetoric and reality, is racially exclusive and divisive. Jesus praised a foreigner, an ethnic outcast, and religiously unpopular “good Samaritan” as an example of great compassion.—Cornell Brooks
Trump and his core supporters see any criticism as betrayal. When the president is thin-skinned and lacks core convictions, there are Christians who are concerned that criticism will cause Trump to dump their issues. An enormous number of Christians — especially Christians in politics — suffer from a lack of faith [and] view the Left as presenting an existential threat to Christian faith. Trump has done a remarkable job at convincing conservative Christians that he’s the lesser evil compared to his enemies in the media and on the radical Left so they’ll find ways to rationalize their support for Trump.
Personal responsibility and hard work are not bad values. However, these values tend to move charity to a subtle form of social control where the poor are offered assistance based on merit or adherence to conservative standards, rather than on the basis of generosity and a commitment to a more equitable society. Pulling oneself up by the bootstraps has become American gospel. Jesus implores people not to simply be more generous, but to overturn oppressive systems that create inequality in the first place. True community justice requires that all American Christians ― conservatives and liberals alike ― set aside political agendas and values and seek equity.
Churches are in serious decline. This fundamental shift away from churches is [caused by] the death of “cultural Christianity.” As the pressure to associate with a local church diminished in society, “cultural Christians” have integrated back into a church-less culture. Church attendance became the spiritual crutch for many cultural Christians; many churches lost their focus; [and] it has presented them with a clear choice: refocus or perish. The atmosphere of “cultural Christianity” actually discouraged honesty about your spiritual state and encouraged people to “blend in” to the cultural norms of religion.
Donald Trump has been a sort of fault line, with a large percentage of his ardent supporters who claim to be “evangelicals” being older and barely attending church, while many of those who oppose him are younger and more devout in their faith. This election, as terrible and divisive as it’s been, has caused Christians to think more deeply about what is important and it’s made very evident the fact that some are more interested in building the kingdom of man than the kingdom of God.
We’re tired of the way so many Boomers seemed to bully through culture with very little regard for what was before or after them. For people of my generation and younger, we simply don’t trust the right-wing religious establishment any more. We saw one disaster after another emerge from the conservative religious right. Over time, moral duplicity began to define right-wing fervor for many of us. When we see someone crusading hard for legislated morality, red flags go up instinctively. It’s not that Gen-Xers are ungracious with sin. We know that everyone needs grace, and we are willing to extend that to the broken. But Boomer Conservatives tend to appeal to moral superiority when they ask for our political allegiance. This appeal means little to Gen-Xers. Some of the most disturbing, perverse, abusive stories we have heard have come from the religious right. When Jerry Fallwell Jr. tries to convince us that Trump is a good man, that spooks us. If a right-wing politician commits a foul deed, it seems like conservative leaders tend [to] minimize that fault while nailing a left-winger for the same exact wrong done. When we say that we are tired of the religious right, we are talking about a political movement that has adopted religious robes to promote its own causes. X-ers shoot straight, see. That’s how we roll.
A belief in the connection between personal morality and fitness for office used to be a bedrock of Republican politics. Donald Trump has changed all that. Today, white evangelical Protestants are the least moralistic cohort of voters. Trump has cured what used to be called “the Moral Majority” of its moralism.
Character matters for elected officials. At least that’s what Evangelicals used to think. When your ethics change based on wanting something to be one way or another (or one person to win or not), that’s the definition of selling your soul.
It would be one thing if those individuals said, “Integrity still matters, but, man, we are stuck with two people who have integrity problems, and I am going with ________ in spite of my integrity concerns.” That would be making a hard choice while keeping your beliefs. But that’s not what happened.
This is not about Donald Trump’s character or transgressions—now or prior—but about the character and transgressions of Evangelicals who change their views to suit the moment. If you find that you have overlooked or dismissed many of the morals and values that you have held dear in the past, then it just may be that your character has been Trumped.