Conservative Evangelicalism Brings Christianity to Ruins

That some Christians struggle with desiring and attempting to attain political and religious power is no secret -- nor is this a new phenomenon. Nearly two millennia before the formation of Jerry Falwell's Religious Right (Moral Majority) movement, and the evolution of that group in the Christian Coalition as advocated by the likes of the spiritually-politically-compromised Franklin Graham, members of the church at Corinth perceived of themselves as more spiritual than others and, conceived as such, presumed authority (power) over others. But St Paul wrote to them in order to correct their error.

The message of the apostle falls on deaf ears today, sadly, as evangelicals still vie to attain for themselves political power and influence. Modern evangelicals like Jerry Falwell, Jr., Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Ben Carson, Robert Jeffress, David Barton and, tragically, a host of others are compromised and corrupt. These leaders have led the evangelical church away from the path established by biblical authors like St Paul, to say nothing of James, as well as Christ Himself. While these men work hard to secure our "religious freedom," a notion that none of the New Testament authors could have even dreamed, they follow in the footsteps of the Puritans before them, imagining themselves as a persecuted minority, believing that the Gospel is at stake. But that is a blatant lie.

Allow me this irony first. The Calvinist Puritans of England fled their homeland because they could not gain favor from the State or the Church: in other words, they couldn't get their way, and fled in a proverbial temper tantrum, while they eventually took land in the New World that did not belong to them, exiled the original landowners, and murdered many of them. These are called Christians? By what standards are they even remotely Christian? They were not content with religious freedom in England, as they were actually allowed to worship in their own segregated churches, but they fawned a persecuted complex that motivated them to the New World. So they fled England for the New World, established their own churches and government, and then vied for the same manner of control as that from which they fled. They fled the State-Church framework, complained of tyranny and persecution, only to establish for themselves the exact same State-Church framework from which they fled.

The church has always flourished under real persecution (by which people actually lose their homes, their land, or their lives) -- not mere ideological objection or opposition as in this country -- and certainly not under the practical banner of "religious freedom." But, I beg you, do not be fooled by the likes of Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and James Dobson. What these men intend is not so much to secure your religious freedom as to ensure themselves the security to discriminate against anyone whose views contradict their own; and their current enemies are the LGBTQ community, atheists, and Muslims. Their enemies used to be people of color: the Religious Right movement was founded not upon religious freedom, nor protecting the rights of the unborn, but to discriminate against black folk. (link) The Religious Right, then, originated from a lie. Racism was at the heart of the Religious Right.

Overt racism may not be a noticeable underlying disposition of many modern evangelicals, but direct opposition to LGBTQ people, atheists and Muslims tops their daily agenda. So evangelicals have, seemingly, replaced racism with homophobia (fear of LGBTQ people and their "agenda"), xenophobia (fear of foreigners), and allodoxaphobia (fear of opposing views). While evangelicals lament the "agenda" of LGBTQ people, they conveniently neglect to publicly admit their own "agenda," and promote an embarrassing double standard. Worse, however, is that their culture wars are not advocated by the New Testament. Many evangelicals laud "a return to the New Testament," and in being "a New Testament church," yet betray the New Testament by gaining cultural influence and political power.



If you will: modern evangelicalism has become the anti-church. Commenting on the failure of the Moral Majority, former Religious Right advocate and political pundit Cal Thomas writes, "Two decades after conservative Christians charged into the political arena, bringing new voters and millions of dollars with them in hopes of transforming the culture through political power," which is exactly what Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Robert Jeffress and their ilk still attempt, "it must now be acknowledged that we have failed . . . We failed because we were unable to redirect a nation from the top down. Real change must come from the bottom up or, better yet, from the inside out."1 What modern evangelicals like Franklin Graham are guilty of is an attempt at usurping the Holy Spirit, whose ministry is to "prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:8). Only the Spirit can change hearts; only the Spirit can conform people to the likeness of Christ.

This is not a Christian nation and frauds like Franklin Graham who are still attempting to transform this country into a Christian nation forsake the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our mission, as stated by the savior Himself, is to make disciples of believers (Matt. 28:19), not to make converts, and certainly not to make converts through political means and writing new laws. Have he and his kind forgotten that laws do not change the heart and command a willing inner obedience to holiness? Again, Cal Thomas confesses, "In perhaps the biggest and costliest battle waged by conservative Christians, twenty years of fighting has won nothing."2 Sadly though, due to their seeking political power, much was lost.

Former Religious Right advocate Ed Dobson (not to be confused with James Dobson) confesses: "Even a casual observation of the current moral climate suggests that despite all the time, money, and energy -- despite the political power -- we failed. Things have not gotten better; they have gotten worse."3 Still, the Religious Right forge onward, treading the same failed path. Dobson states: "We are all so quick to believe that 'God is on our side' that we tend to see our political opponents as God-hating, Christ-denying hypocrites."4 This is exactly the rhetoric used by Franklin Graham and his cronies. (link)

I need you to realize that, when I suggest that the likes of Franklin Graham are compromised and corrupt, I am not merely lashing out in anger. I want to warn people that these evangelicals are actually working against the kingdom of God. Again, Cal Thomas argues, "You can't apply the principles of a kingdom not of this world to a kingdom of this world. The purists want to apply the principles of a kingdom that knows no compromise to a kingdom that is all about compromise."5 He concludes, stating that, "where politics is about power, the Christian faith is about truth. Whenever you try to mix the two, power usually wins, at least for the short haul."6 If power wins, the Christian faith loses, and that is exactly what has happened in this country since the origins of the Religious Right nearly forty years ago. Evangelicals have fought what they perceive as "liberalism" for over four decades; but what brought about the ruination of Christianity in this country was conservative evangelicalism.

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1 Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 23. The answer to the question in the subtitle is obvious: No. Yet conservative evangelicals still attempt to gain political power and are, thus, compromised and corrupt.

2 Ibid., 24.

3 Ibid., 42.

4 Ibid., 45.

5 Ibid., 49.

6 Ibid.

ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.