The Problem is Power-Control

The problem with evangelical leaders who threaten those who dissent from their socio-politico-theologico views (think Eugene Peterson, World Vision, InterVarsity, Rob Bell, Russell Moore, Rachel Held Evans) is a need for power and control. Whomever evangelical leaders cannot control, they scandalously demonize (in Jesus' name), and widely publicize just how "unbiblical" the "liberal" or "culture-pleasing" or "worldly" views are of the individual or organization. They must control your cognitive faculties.

This has already been confessed to by two former Religious Right (and current evangelical) advocates, Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, who affirm that conservative evangelicals are now "part of the political landscape, but [that] there is still mistrust of them and their agenda in the secular corridors of power and influence"1 (emphasis added); and that is because the likes of the late Jerry Falwell, son Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham, James Dobson and a host of others sadly too numerous to list have sold their souls to the god of politics in order to gain power, influence, and control.

But have you ever stopped to think about why these evangelical leaders are so power-hungry, so manipulative, so desperate to control what you think and believe? My opinion is that they behave in this insecure, conspiratorial, and ever-threatened manner for a two-fold purpose: 1) so that they can maintain a self-assured sense of "rightness"; and 2) to support the notion that might makes right, which is an anti-Christian sentiment, and actually belongs to evolutionary philosophy proper.

Again, former Religious Right advocates Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson explore the manipulative tactics of many evangelical leaders, writing: "Registering people to vote and persuading them to vote a certain way on issues and for certain candidates is one way power can be used to manipulate."2 (emphasis added) Our authors inconveniently note that, during an election season, "preachers start talking about politics, they begin using the power of their position to legitimize political issues."3 These are not mere methods of influence; these are manipulation and power-control tactics wrapped in the language of all that is absolutely "biblical" from the political-theological views of the evangelical leader.

The late Jerry Falwell even admitted to manipulating evangelicals in this manner: "get them saved; get them baptized; get them registered to vote [Republican]."4 (link) Because, for Jerry Falwell, "saved" and "Republican" were synonyms! The Republican party was the Christian party; and there are Christians today who still believe this lie: I was told so only last year. Jerry Huntsinger, expounding on the evangelical manipulation method, writes: "Fund-raising letters too often focus on people's fears; they identify the enemy. . . . But one must constantly have enemies, conspiracies, and opponents as well as play the role of righteous victim in order to get people to send in money."5 (emphasis added) Note the motive.

What is appalling about modern evangelicals like Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress and the like, is how they tout themselves and their political-theological ilk as the party for "family" or "traditional values," the party of "true biblical morality," and yet they supported and continue to support one of the most overtly and unashamedly perverse political candidates known to the history of this blessed nation -- a man who demonstrates by far the majority of elements belonging to a cult leader than either an evangelical Christian or a traditional Republican.


But when power, influence and control are the driving forces of your political-religious agenda, even professing Christians like Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson's legal protégé, Jay Sekulow, Trump's personal lawyer, cannot escape the gravity of corrupting persuasions by means of nefarious tactics and lies to protect their primary agenda. The Religious Right and many evangelical leaders have been seduced by power, influence, and control. Yet, as Henri Nouwen suggests, "power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love."6 Exercising power and control over someone is far easier than actually loving the individual.

Cal Thomas rightly notes: "Whenever the church cozies up to political power, it loses sight of its all-important mission to change the world from the inside-out."7 Jesus, on earth, is God in the flesh; all power and authority belongs to Him [Matt. 28:18]. Yet, "Jesus emptied himself of power that was rightfully his [Phil. 2:6-11]. We try to fill ourselves with power that belongs to the world and seek to usher in a kingdom not of this world [John 18:36] by using tools that are of this world."8 But Jesus commands us the very opposite. (Matt. 20:25; cf. 1 Pet. 5:3)

Though evangelical-leader bullies attempt to control you, to control the religious narrative and to mold you in their image, Jesus has not granted them authority to do so. If the Southern Baptist convention and Lifeway bookstore refuses to sell your book(s), or demands that you adopt their gender-specific GospelTM, then so be it; trust in Christ to supply your needs, not Lifeway, not Southern Baptists. Evangelicals have, largely, corrupted themselves politically and, hence, theologically and spiritually by aligning their faith with their partisan politics. Why, then, should you be bullied by or fearful of such people? Be encouraged by the words of Jesus: "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28)

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1 Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 29-30. The answer the authors assume by the question in the subtitle is a loud and resounding no. As far as Episcopalians are concerned, Jesus is our only Savior.

2 Ibid., 53.

3 Ibid., 45.

4 Falwell insists: "We inform them, but we don't tell them for whom to vote. We tell them that if you've been preaching correctly, they'll know whom to vote for." (267) In other words, if they are "biblical," then they will vote Republican. This is idolatry -- equating a political party with the saving faith and with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

5 Ibid., 54-55.

6 Ibid., 53.

7 Ibid., 59.

8 Ibid., 60.

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.