I recently read Russell Moore’s book Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel. I highly recommend it. In the book, Moore focuses on how Christians can move forward in a culture that is increasingly hostile toward its faith without compromising on the tenets of that faith.
Now, if you’re someone who has been paying attention to the recent phenomenon of the American “culture wars,” you might expect Onward to be another roaring declaration against the secularization (and therefore downfall) of the United States. While Moore says in his book and elsewhere that this process of secularization, in fact, has started to affect the transformation of even the Bible-Belt culture, he does not wail, mourn, or gnash his teeth. Instead, he says “let it fall.”
Such a declaration from a prominent Evangelical Christian would surprise numerous people. Yet, he proclaims this boldly, not from a perspective of fear or defeatism but with a tenor of confidence and excitement.
Underlying his reasoning is the argument that, during the rise of the “moral majority,” many prominent Christian leaders began to idolize the power that accompanied their burgeoning cultural influence. Rather than use that influence to propagate a life and community transforming Gospel, many used it to garner more and more followers and increase their platforms. Unfortunately, these platforms developed into tiny Kingdoms of Self rather than becoming embassies of the coming Kingdom of God.
Even more unfortunately, these little kingdoms manifested into quests for political power, specifically by becoming aligned with the Republican Party. Precisely how and why this implicit compact took place, I’m not about to discuss, but this marriage has had numerous unintended consequences.
First, many who may have been amiable toward the Gospel have been turned off by the Church because their political views lean more toward the Left. As an example, I recently saw one of my previous, liberal/atheist professors post something on social media about how there was nothing he hated more than “Southern Baptists and Republicans.” Now, I happen to be both a Southern Baptist and a Republican, but I hate the thought that those two things might be considered one and the same. The fact is that I would abandon the Republican Party, indeed even my denominational affiliation, if I felt that either began to cut itself off from the truth and justice embodied in the person of Jesus Christ.
Second, what is the Christian to do when the political party her faith has generally aligned itself with starts to stray from the Law of Christ? For those outside the faith, it is understandable and even permissible that they might mistake Christianity for Republicanism. The danger for the Church in aligning with one political party or the other is that the faithful themselves will become confused as to how they are to distinguish between their allegiance to Christ and their allegiance to Caesar.
The result of tying the church to a political party is that, in advocating for the right of religious liberty, Christians might create an idolatrous, political spectacle. Then, what happens when a justice issue crops up that doesn’t fit the political narrative? Unfortunately, many Christians will likely remain silent for fear of looking like a Leftist.
When was the last time you heard a prominent Christian denigrate poverty and racial injustice or advocate caring for women and the humanity of the LGBT community? If you were to bring these issues up to one of these more visible Christians, no doubt the majority of them would say something like “well that all goes without saying.” And so, it goes unsaid.
To our credit, Christians do a much better job of actually ministering in these various situations than our critics notice. Christians also can only control what they say and do, not what others perceive about them. But if most Christians have enough trouble standing up in the face of opposition from those outside the camp, then the thought of bringing up issues that don’t fit the supposed “Christian” cultural platform would certainly never even cross their minds.
In a political atmosphere where the RNC is producing the likes of Donald Trump, conservative Christians will have some serious pondering (not pandering) to do. Many Christian leaders appear to have tried to control culture via the Republican Party, but that tactic has led to a dangerous outcome. The church could be hijacked by politicians.
And all of this could take place for the fear of looking Left.