Back in May of 2016, I wrote a blog post that gained big attention in the small evangelical pond that I swim in. Why so much attention? Two main reasons: 1) My intentional and slightly inflammatory blog title acted very well in generating clicks of curiosity as to why an Army veteran turned pastor would say something so dramatic, and 2) Four and half years ago, as I sat at my desk, out here in the middle of a cornfield, I was challenging people to reconcile their Sunday theology with a quickly changing and turbulent political scene…And people have a love-hate relationship with being challenged, especially when it comes from a nerdy, no-name pastor in the middle of nowhere…Let me give to you a flashback of the scene in 2016…
Back on May 3, 2016, Senator Ted Cruz suspended his presidential campaign. Seeing no viable path to the presidency, he bowed out with dignity and grace. Then, without skipping a beat, my Facebook feed exploded with status updates and tweets ranging from sadness to anger over Cruz dropping out and the inevitable Trump VS. Clinton showdown that would happen in the fall of 2016. There were angry posts about the end of our country as we know it, cries concerning the fact that moral conservatism is dead, etc. And then, there were the usual posts articulating the moral degradation of our society, #NeverTrump, etc., etc.
I know A LOT has happened since May of 2016, but do you remember how dark and depressing that time period was, especially for us Bible-believing, Gospel-loving Christians? But those dark days almost seem like sunshine and rainbows in comparison to the true insanity that erupted in the years after the Election of 2016. Indeed, do I really need to bore you with the list of absolute craziness that we have endured these last four years, and especially in 2020? I think not. It’s. Been. Insane.
In fact, the divide between people is so thick in our country, I can’t help but think that some form of secession or Civil War is brewing (or has already erupted) in our cherished country. From the George Floyd riots to the Capital Hill riots (both awful and egregious, albeit in different ways and with different consequences) seem to point all of us towards a clear and scary path of outright war. And no, I don’t think I’m merely being reactionary or emotional in saying that. Indeed, many of you are feeling this with me, but are trying hard to distract yourself from such a grotesque reality by comforting yourselves with various forms of entertainment. But others of you, like a family watching a grandparent enter Hospice care, are already grieving the death of America and the fall of such a great titan of freedom and justice for all.
But may I courageously and consistently say what I said back in 2016? That is, who cares if America falls? I mean let that question unnerve you and upset you for a bit. Then, step back and realize who is asking you this question…An Army veteran, who deeply loves his country, and was willing to lay down his life for the principles of this country, BUT has a greater love and allegiance to the heavenly country and the King of that country. And my King is known by many names, “The Prince of Peace”, “Messiah”, but my favorite is the name given to him by his adoptive father, Joseph, that name being “Jesus…for He shall save His people from their sins.” So, yes, primarily because of my personal, grace-based relationship with King Jesus, let me say it louder…Who cares if America falls?
You know it seems to me that our true theology truly shines in moments of despair and disappointment. On Sundays, we’ll sing joyfully that Christ is our Redeemer and our gloriously returning King. But when Monday happens our true theology shines with: “Jesus is our returning King! But oh, we need President Trump in the meantime. Oh, he lost the election?! Oh, he just conceded?! Oh, what a mess we’re in!” Really?! Seems to me that a lot of our street level theology is failing us and leaving us, not with hope, but with despair. And side note…such theology of “Jesus on Sunday, But President Trump (or Whoever) Filling In Monday-Saturday” will always leave us in a state of disappointment, anger, and eventually bitter cynicism.
Again, who cares if America falls (morally or economically)? America is not ultimate and Jesus still reigns supreme. Now before you write me off, let me just state again: I love America! I certainly bleed red, white, and blue. I served this country in the U.S. Army from 2006-2010, twice deploying to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I love America. And my family (both biological and church) loves America. We want her to succeed, to thrive, to return back to morality and repentance toward God. But I (and hopefully you reading) also understand that America might fall…it just might be the end of social conservatism in America as we know it (or maybe not…time will tell), but that’s ok. Because America (as much as I love her) is not ultimate. Jesus is ultimate. The Gospel is ultimate. Heaven and Hell are certainly ultimate. But America is not, and historically speaking, is but a blip on the radar of time.
I mean truly, these are exciting times for the true Church of God! It would seem, with everything happening in our world (not just the storming of Capital Hill this week, but everything) that cultural Christianity is giving birth to true Christianity. In fact, I would say that covid did a fantastic job of thinning the herd, separating faithful Christians from unfaithful Christians. But still our churches are bloated with all kinds of people, professing to love Jesus and wanting to serve Jesus. But do they really? Well, if America is truly falling, and our freedoms are truly being stripped away, and persecution is truly coming…then we are to rejoice! Not only will our faith be tested, but the church will be purged, and what will be left is a more holy, passionate, and pure Church (just look to the book of Acts to see how suffering and persecution resulted in the true growth and purity of the Church and God’s great glory).
Also, if America falls and immortality and paganism run rampant, then what an opportunity to shine, evangelize, and glorify God! Think about it: It was Joseph who thrived, not in morally conservative Israel, but in the pagan Egyptian Empire. It was Jonah who thrived, not in morally safe Israel, but under the pagan Assyrian Empire. It was Jesus and His apostles who thrived, not under the loving conservatism of Israel, but under the pagan Roman Empire. Some of the greatest heroes of the faith and some of the greatest times of growth and blessing came, not under the Golden Age of Conservatism, but under the immorality and paganism of godless world empires.
But I think the bottom line is this: Christians have lost their focus. Things like staying missional (Matt. 28:19-20)…staying relational (John 13:34)…and staying spiritually strong (Eph. 6:10ff) are far from the average Christian’s gaze. We have bought into the Americanized version of Christianity that says the Great Commission is solidifying a true conservative Republican in the White House, not making disciples of Jesus Christ. We’ve bought into the false and egocentric notion that the heart of legalism has something to do with dress code, music styles, and Bible translations, instead of realizing that true legalism neglects the heart of the Law which is LOVE and MERCY. We’ve traded our source of strength from being “in the Lord” and bartered instead for a cheap bowl of soup, like four more years of President Trump. We’ve lost our focus. Our vision is too narrow. Our perspective too limited to the here and now.
My proposition (both in 2016 and now again in 2021): Let’s get back to 30,000 Feet Christianity and remind ourselves of some basic eternal realities: 1) What America needs is Jesus as Savior, not President Trump or any other social/political conservative as Savior; 2) What the true Church needs is a renewed commitment to the Great Commission-which is “make disciples”, not “ensure a Republican is in the White House”; and 3) Eventually we who are conservative Christians need to stop fighting our culture with outlandish emotionalism, but instead engage our culture with bright intellectualism rooted in unwavering faith in a sovereign God. And at the end of the day…so what if America falls? America is not ultimate and Jesus (my King) is returning and reigns supreme!