BreakPoint Symposium: Where Do We Go From Here?

By Published on November 10, 2016

“What has the 2016 election revealed about the state of the Church and its place in American culture, and how ought we (the American Church) move forward from here?”

Jump to Response:
Bruce Ashford, Hunter Baker, Mindy Belz, Bill Brown, Rod DreherMaggie GallagherJeff Hunt, Peter Leithart, David Nammo, R.R. RenoWarren Cole Smith, Ed Stetzer, John StonestreetMark TooleyTrevin Wax

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Bruce Ashford: “Our Lord Reigns from a Tree”

The past year in American politics has caused evangelical Christians to realize the extent to which we have been de-centered, socially, culturally and politically. As painful as this de-centering has been, we should embrace the moment. We should accept the challenge to serve our nation from a position of weakness.

After all, our Lord reigns from a tree. His first coming did not take the form of an ascendant political movement to subvert the reigning powers and replace them with better rulers. Instead, it took the form of a humiliating and painful defeat. In fact, when the risen Jesus said to the apostles, “As the Father sent me, so I send you,” He held out His hands and side to them, affirming that their public witness would also be cruciform.

The way of the cross is prophetic; just as Jesus declared that he is Lord and Caesar is not, so we must challenge the cultus publicus of the American Empire. The way of the cross is sacrificial; just as Jesus ministered as a homeless itinerant teacher, we must be willing to serve our nation from a position of weakness rather than power, and in the face of disapproval instead of applause. The way of the cross is humbly confident; as dark as our political moment may seem, the realm of politics will one day be raised to life, made to bow in submission to the King. Since Jesus will gain victory and restore the earth, we remain confident. And since it will be His victory, we remain humble.

When He returns victorious, we will meet Him first and foremost as Christians. But we will also meet Him as Americans. Being American is not the most important aspect of our identity, but it is an inescapable aspect and one for which we will give account. For that reason, we owe it to our nation to follow the way of the cross, to minister from a tree just as our Lord now reigns from a tree and only later will reign visibly from a throne.

Bruce Ashford is the Provost and Dean of Faculty at Southeastern Baptist Theolical Seminary.

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Hunter Baker

The election has shown me that there are deep divisions among evangelicals as to how the church should conduct itself politically. I have been horrified at the lack of charity shown by some evangelicals toward others who reasoned their way to supporting a particular candidate. We vote in a largely binary system that naturally forces citizens to seriously consider “lesser evil” type options. In my mind, defensive voting was a legitimate choice in that context. Those who openly mocked or demeaned Christians who made such a choice built up a head of steam of self-righteousness that I found repellent. My own vote was not settled really until the moment I made it, but every time I nearly reached the point of voting third party in protest, I found myself newly offended by what seemed to me to be feverish argumentation.

It is my hope that people in the Church will find a way to respect the choices that Christian voters made as we struggled to be good stewards of the precious rights we have. There were good reasons available to make different determinations. To act as if those reasons did not exist or to speciously deny that there was anything to them can be deeply unfair.

That having been said, I want to underline that there were bad reasons for supporting a candidate. One of the tasks of the church is to help us develop discernment as we work through our process of advocacy and voting. But a lot of what I saw was not a joint process of developing discernment, but more like an unattractive moral preening. I hope the fog of ugliness that developed during this campaign will dissipate and that we can come back to the controversies in an attitude of learning and helping rather than judging and condemning.

Hunter Baker, J.D., Ph.D. serves as University Fellow at Union University. His most recent book is The System Has a Soul. He is also affiliated with the Acton Institute and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

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Mindy Belz

On the face of it, the two versions of America represented by Clinton and Trump left little ground for the American church. Yet four-fifths of those identifying as evangelicals voted for Trump, whose positions and character in many ways contradict Christian teaching.

Why? Because voters in general approached this election inside their own bubbles. It’s one reason for the rancor and open anger, even among friends and family: We’ve forgotten how to reason with our brothers, let alone the enemy in the gate.

The church has become the ultimate bubble culture. Many of us not only worship with our own kind, we carpool, home-school, and do yoga, gymnastics or target practice with them. We live in homogenized neighborhoods where we attend homogenized Bible studies. Goodness, even our short-term mission trips are organized affairs where most interaction ends up being intramural.

The cultural debates roiling beneath this election — what is a family? who is a person? a neighbor? — won’t go away with Trump’s victory. And the Christians who support Trump’s views were just delivered from victimhood. No longer the victims of cultural shifts, the “weaker brother” in the Pauline methodology, they will be seen as the stronger brother, and with that comes the obligation to the weak, to “welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.”

The American church needs to get out of Dodge. For some, that doesn’t have to mean leaving city limits. It means crossing the street to find out whether the new neighbors are Hispanic or Lebanese, to take them a meal and learn their story. It means examining our rhetoric more closely to see how it sounds in another’s cultural context. And it means having conversations with the enemy. For others it should mean crossing borders, to see the lost and needy and deeply impoverished world most people live in, so we no longer feel sorry for ourselves over stupid stuff. In short, it means doing the things Jesus did. The kingdom of God and of heaven will not look like most American churches. It’s time to stop being afraid of “the other,” and start getting to know them.

Mindy Belz is an editor and journalist for WORLD Magazine and author of the book They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East (Tyndale, 2016).

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Bill Brown

I don’t think we were prepared for all that the election revealed. Here are my top three:

1. Christians are a footnote to current culture.

The media attempted to make Evangelical support for Trump (or Clinton) a story. But nobody cared. Times have changed.

During the 1980s, Evangelicals dominated political discourse. In 1989, Jerry Falwell proclaimed at the end of the decade-long arc of the Moral Majority, “Our goal has been achieved. … The religious right is solidly in place.” For a moment, the correct candidates held office and all was “right” with the nation.

In retrospect, the enterprise was a pyrrhic victory.

American society saw the victors as power-seeking, narrow-minded moralists intent on restricting freedom of choice. Since then, the political and social significance of Evangelicals has faded.

We have not recovered. We are no longer a majority and we might even question our own morality.

When the Church and the State cozy up together, the Church always loses.

2. The moral high ground is occupied by a new set of moral activists.

The vertical conventions of morality have been replaced with horizontal practices of universal acceptance and liberated self-identification. The first wave of this tsunami of moral change has Christians trying to find a way to add their voice to the conversation (It is somewhere between the complete embrace of the new order and a drop-the-mic “You are all going to hell”).

But relinquishing the moral spotlight to others has never damaged the Church. Anytime Christians attempt to take the moral high ground we are exposed for what we are: self-seeking, hypocritical, arrogant sinners — like everyone else. Christians are much more effective as rebels with a cause, radically living grace and hope in a world of confusion and despair.

3. The Evangelical Church in America has not progressed beyond adolescence.

American Christians whine and complain, glom onto success, and occupy our time with diversions and distractions. We have lost the revolutionary and sacrificial distinctiveness of Christ-followers throughout history by allowing Christianity to become personally comfortable and socially acceptable.

As poet Anne Sexton wrote:

“They pounded nails into his hands.
After that, well, after that everyone wore hats.”

It’s time to grow up.

It won’t happen by accident. Treading the road to maturity will be both difficult and exhilarating. God is at work around the world in ways that are stunning. In many places, we are shamed by the perseverance and faith of our brothers and sisters. Christians in Syria and Iraq equip themselves and their children for persecution and death — for what are we equipping our families?

It is time to take our cues from God. Cultural withdrawal or assimilation are not options. God gives leaders who are responsible to “equip his people for works of service” resulting in maturity (Ephesians 4:12-13) — the kind of maturity producing people who are subversive in the world. We must live and speak in ways that are substantively different, to commend the Gospel to a spiritually starving world.

“All too often the church holds up a mirror reflecting back the society around it, rather than a window revealing a different way,” says Phillip Yancey. “We are a ‘peculiar’ people, wrote Bonhoeffer, which he defined as extraordinary, unusual, that which is not a matter of course. Jesus was not crucified for being a good citizen, for being just a little nicer than everyone else. The powers of his day correctly saw him and his followers as subversives because they took orders from a higher power than Rome or Jerusalem. What would a subversive church look like in the modern United States?”

Bill Brown is the National Director of the Colson Fellows.

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Rod Dreher

Like many fellow conservative Christians, I am relieved that a Republican president and a Republican Senate will likely make the Supreme Court more friendly to religious liberty. But I fear that the Christian right will learn exactly the wrong lessons from the stunning Trump victory. It doesn’t show that the Church is stronger than we thought. It rather shows the Church to be weaker than we imagined.

Here’s what I mean. Though Trump captured an overwhelming majority of Evangelical voters (81 percent) and a decisive majority of the Catholic vote (52 percent), Trump is neither religious nor a conservative. He is a prideful man of low morals and bad character. He may have been the lesser of two evils in the presidential race, but the lesser of two evils is still evil. Victory is not a moral disinfectant. A nation with a strong Church would not have had to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Conservative Christians’ love affair with political power has corrupted the Church’s judgment in many ways over the years. The worst has been to encourage the delusion that politics is a substitute for the deep and difficult work of cultural reform and religious conversion. The idea that all will be well if we Christians vote for Republicans who will, among other things, appoint good judges — that’s a lie, and it has a lot to do with why the Church is in so much trouble today.

The best we can hope for under a Trump presidency is that it buys us time to get ready for the worst ahead of us in this post-Christian era. The fundamental cultural trends towards godlessness, selfishness and hedonism that have been building for decades, even centuries, will not be arrested with a single election, and certainly not by a president who is not a contradiction of those trends, but a confirmation of them. The Church should use this grace period, if that’s what it is, for soul-searching, repentance and preparation. I fear, though, that in our worldliness, we will mistake this moment for one of triumph, and fail to read the signs of the times.

Rod Dreher is a senior writer at The American Conservative and author of The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (Sentinel, March 2017).

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Maggie Gallagher

Donald Trump was the first candidate in modern times to combine a promise to defend unborn life and Christians’ liberty with a populist economics — including protecting Social Security. He was the reverse of what the GOP donor class wanted, which was concentrating on a standard conservative tax message and ditching the social issues.

Trump’s victory, despite being outspent more than 2 to 1 by Hillary Clinton, shows two things: First, message still matters more than money. Second, the pathway to victory for Republicans lies in this combination of populist economic and social conservatism, hopefully shorn of the infidelity, vulgarity, insults and race-baiting Trump has engaged in.

White Evangelicals voted for Trump at an even higher level than George W. Bush, 81 percent. But black and Latino Evangelicals are not nearly as enthusiastic, and the fact that the racial divides in America are mirrored in our churches is a scandal to the Christian churches.

I think the future of Christian political engagement should be more issue-centered and less focused on finding a secular messiah to solve our problems. The problem was not that Christian voters chose Trump over Clinton. The problem was that in the process Christian leaders tried to “church him up,” as Heather Wilhelm put it, and to defend indefensible standards of conduct.

As it becomes clear we are a minority in America, traditional believers are going to have to do two things simultaneously: separate Christianity from American partisanship and get Christian citizens more engaged in effective political activity.

As citizens, not as a church, we need to develop more effective political engagement, focused on actual issues politics can advance, not “reclaiming America for Christ,” something politics cannot do. We need to spend far less money on pastor organizing and voter guides and more on putting money into data-driven strategies that actually help our leaders win key races in when attacked.

The single most shameful and distressing sign about this election is that almost no outside social conservative money flowed into North Carolina to help re-elect Pat McCrory, the one leader who has stood tall against the entire enormously well-funded Left attack machine. We will see Republicans reluctant to act across the country to defend religious liberty and wonder why.

As I write, that race is still undecided. A few thousand votes more would have made the difference. American Principles PAC raised around $200,000 to identify 583,000 soft Democrats and independents who data tests show could be flipped to vote against Roy Cooper on the transgender showers and bathrooms issue. But they needed to raise $1 million to communicate our message to these voters with certainty.

The C3 money for pastor organizing and voters’ guides that can never be shown to help win elections was there. The hard money to engage in real politics? Not yet.

Maggie Gallagher is Senior Fellow at the American Principles Project.

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Jeff Hunt

After eight years of being vilified and bullied by secular liberals, Evangelicals turned out in strong numbers to elect Donald Trump President. The attacks against the religious liberty of business owners, pastors and Christian colleges are well known within Evangelical circles. Furthermore, Secretary Clinton’s commitment to the most pro-abortion policy platform in history, and the likelihood she would appoint four Supreme Court Justices, energized Evangelicals and Catholics to oppose her candidacy.

Before the election results were in, I’m sure many press outlets had stories ready to send out about the death of the religious right. In the words of Mark Twain, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Religious conservatives formed a coalition with the working class to elect Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

The mission for the Church in engaging with a Trump/Pence Presidency is to roll back restrictions on religious freedom, strengthen international religious liberty, defund Planned Parenthood and continue to restrict abortion, stop the growth of doctor-assisted suicide, promote marriage as between one man and one woman, reinforce marriage as a cultural good, promote racial reconciliation and respect for law enforcement, enhance education reform and school choice, stop drug legalization, create opportunity to reduce poverty, promote creation stewardship, provide foreign aid, enhance civil society while reducing government and much more.

The Church has a great moment to advance policies that will improve the lives of Americans. Moreover, the Church has an opportunity to demonstrate that civil society is better equipped at caring for our neighbors than government. We can demonstrate to the iPhone generation that post office solutions to society’s problems are not the answer. Innovation for reducing poverty and improving education, for instance, comes best from local organizations rooted in the community, not bureaucratic government institutions. Bottom line, the Church has a historic opportunity to improve public policy and demonstrate that the government is not the solution to all our problems; loving your neighbor is far more effective.

Jeff Hunt is the director of the Centennial Institute and vice president of public policy for Colorado Christian University.

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Peter Leithart: “Sing!”

Trump shattered America. The Clintons are history. Bushian adventurism was thrashed. Obamacare is in trouble, trade treaties on the ropes, and immigration reform on the front burner. The commentariat is speechless, the taboos of political correctness transgressed.

The shock is that so much crumbled so easily. Who knew the establishment was as brittle as it was smug?

Trump won with 80 percent of the white evangelical vote, and he won’t forget that. With Mike Pence at his shoulder, President Trump will give Christians four years of freedom to run schools, plant churches and start orphanages without having to worry about gender-inclusive bathrooms. We should be very grateful for the reprieve from sexual fascism.

On abortion and marriage, 2016 is a setback. For the first time in decades, the GOP offered a candidate whose pro-life convictions are wobbly and whose commitment to traditional marriage is non-existent. Four years from now, Roe and Obergefell will be untouched.

Trump did not call for national repentance. He electrified crowds with identity politics, scapegoating and bread-and-butter talk about trade, jobs, security.

For a generation, we fooled ourselves into thinking a majority of Americans share our morals. It’s past time to get real.

What to do? Take Solomon’s counsel. In a world where everything solid melts into vapor, “there is nothing better than to eat, drink and be merry.”

Eat and drink at the Lord’s table. Sing Psalms.

Singing puts the election in its proper, subordinate place. When the world is crooked, we call the Judge to straighten it out. Ruled by fools or thugs, we lift the high King on our praises so He will scatter our enemies. Under pressures and threats, we sing to steel ourselves for martyrdom.

At the Lord’s table, we consume the Crucified to share His cross. We proclaim the Lord’s triumphant death to powers and principalities. We feast in defiant joy because our Good Shepherd prepares a table in the midst of enemies.

Eating, drinking and singing isn’t an Epicurean retreat. It’s not a white flag. It’s the fundamental shape of Christian politics, and always has been.

Peter Leithart is the President of the Theopolis Institute for Biblical, Liturgical, & Cultural Studies.

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David Nammo

The love of money may be the root of all evil, but the reliance on earthly power to advance the Lord’s goals may be a close second.

Trump won. And what does the high Evangelical turnout for Trump, who was a controversial candidate, look like to those who do not know Jesus, but only know His followers?

We should remember that although the gates of hell may not prevail against the Church of Jesus Christ, the political powers in Washington, D.C., may have no problem defeating us here on earth. There will always be another election — with winners and losers from across the spectrum of political and religious beliefs. And the Church should remember not to cling to power and the trappings of this world.

The Church’s strength, power and hope is all centered around the living person of Jesus Christ. The change He brought into our individual lives does not have to be secluded in a quiet pew, a closed church or just in our minds. The redeeming value of Jesus and the people he calls by His name must be shared outside the church. How can we truly “love our neighbors” and watch them follow a path of destruction — individually or corporately? We cannot. The Church pulls babies off the cliffs in Greece, it establishes hospitals around the globe, it works to stop the slave trade, to empower the individual to succeed, and to overcome cultural biases with the love of Jesus Christ. We are to be engaged, even politically, but we are not to place our hope in the world.

America does not need a moral majority, it needs a faithful remnant — who are willing to put their needs, desires and successes behind the person of Jesus. The win on Tuesday may have given us four years to shore up religious liberty in America, but what the country really needs is a revival if the Church is to be His hands and feet in this culture and for future generations.

I think those who do not know Jesus are watching. And I think where we go from here matters.

David Nammo is Executive Director and CEO of the Christian Legal Society.

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R.R. Reno

Trump’s victory shocked nearly all the political professionals. That’s a sign of the times. The political and cultural terrain of our country is changing. That disorients us, which is why we’re unable to predict electoral outcomes. It’s also why we’re feeling anxious about the future.

In the short term, there’s relief. Trump’s victory makes it very likely that the immediate threats to religious liberty will recede. A settled, sane respect for the freedom of religiously inspired educational institutions and social service agencies may supplant the current ideological attacks.

And then there’s the Supreme Court.

But the deeper trends that give rise to the discontent that fueled his victory aren’t going away: multiculturalism, economic vulnerability and a demoralized culture. We have work to do.

Multiculturalism and identity politics have failed to promote solidarity, sowing instead discontent and disunity. Trump’s election will not miraculously alter this divisive dynamic. To some degree he exploited it to get elected. Thus the task falls on us. Our faith communities need to bear witness to the possibility of a vital, living solidarity ordered toward a common love.

Nobody knows what to do about economic globalization. But as Christians we must speak for those left behind. We also need to resist imprisonment in a technocratic system that tells us we have no alternatives.

The discontent that elected Trump comes from the fact that life isn’t going well for more and more Americans, especially white working class Americans. As I explain in my recent book, Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society, this dysfunction results from the moral deregulation of our society.

The deregulation has been driven by cultural progressives, who also happen to be rich people living in increasingly isolated and well-protected communities. Our society has normalized pornography, legalized marijuana and celebrated “alternative lifestyles.” This has severely disfigured and damaged the lives and communities of poor and struggling Americans.

Donald Trump’s reality TV personality will not restore our moral health. That’s going to require our concerted, sustained efforts. There’s no better place to begin than with the message of Christ. A healthy politics requires a healthy culture — and the foundation of culture is religion.

R.R. Reno is Editor of First Things.

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Warren Cole Smith: “Evangelicals and the Political Illusion

It is impossible to know what the 2016 election revealed about the Church, because the question assumes the Church played a role in the outcome, or that the Church voted with one accord. Both assumptions remain, at best, unproven. A Washington Post article says 81 percent of “white evangelicals” voted for Trump. However, Evangelicals are not identified by our whiteness, but by our evangelical theology, and we come in all colors. Indeed, because the article doesn’t define what an “evangelical” is, it is impossible to say who the survey measured. Going to church semi-regularly and getting tears in your eyes when Lee Greenwood sings “God Bless the U.S.A.” does not make you an evangelical.

So unless someone does a lot more research into what that 81 percent actually believe, it is impossible to say what impact the “American church” really had on the election or, conversely, what the election says about the Church. The WaPo article is worse than unhelpful. It is a slander against Evangelicals that will probably become part of the false narrative of this election.

However, the second part of that question — “how ought we … move forward from here?” — allows us real opportunity. The mission of the Church did not change on Nov. 8, 2016. We are called to the same work to which Jesus called first-century believers: Go and make disciples. Teach all things God commanded us. Love God. Love your neighbor. Look after widows and orphans. Care for the poor.

These are the duties of both individual Christians, and the Church at large.

These are not new duties, of course, but what I hope is new now that the election is behind us is the awareness that we Christians have too readily neglected our duty in favor of what philosopher Jacques Ellul called “The Political Illusion”: the false notion that all our problems are political, so all our solutions are therefore political.

They are not. And whether you were a Trump supporter or not, you are about to discover that he is human, and he will — inevitably — disappoint, as all politicians do. We will also discover anew that who we elect as president does not solve the deep spiritual problems of our national character, and that our participation in the political process — while important — should also not distract us from the work of the Gospel.

Chuck Colson was fond of saying, “Remain at your posts and do your duty.” Chuck is no longer with us, but his advice was sound when he first offered it, and it remains sound today.

Warren Cole Smith is Vice-President for Ministry Advancement at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

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Ed Stetzer

As the dust settles, we ask ourselves, what do we do next? Here are six thoughts to consider after this election:

1. Accept the outcome and what it means. One thing we saw Tuesday night is that the ideological chasm between rural and urban America is wider than we ever realized. For a long time, we’ve been saying that the cities are the cultural centers, but we must remember that there are people all over this nation and they have used their voices. Those who had a different view should hear and seek to understand.

2. Stay in the game. Don’t cast off issues that came to the surface in this election. Just because we aren’t talking about debate questions or party platforms on Facebook doesn’t mean we stop standing up for the unborn, raising our voices for religious liberty, caring for refugees, pursuing racial reconciliation and more.

3. Avoid the temptation of further division. In fact, we should be doing the exact opposite, by working proactively to mend fences and unite. This isn’t the time to point fingers and say “I told you so,” or to assign blame. We need each other more than ever, and the lines that divided us over these last few months cannot be allowed to grow deeper. It is time to heal, and remember that we are called to forgive even the deepest slights. President Trump will be president for all of us, just as President Obama was. We need to listen to those who voted for him, and pray for him to be a good leader. I’m not forgetting what he has said or done, but I am looking for better moving forward. We can be prophetic and still seek to pull this divided country together.

4. Don’t give up on character. Now that Donald Trump is President-Elect, we need to demand greater character. Donald Trump’s actions, comments and attitudes were shocking, and it’s shocking to us that Evangelicals have so drastically changed their views about character. Now, this does not necessarily mean everyone who voted for Donald Trump changed their views about character. But statistically we saw a sharp swing in the willingness to accept and defend behavior that was egregious. I recently shared data showing that the people of God, who are called to hold to the highest standard of morals and ethics, now rank as the highest group percentage-wise of those who say that these things don’t necessarily matter. There are many Evangelicals who voted for Trump, and many Evangelicals who advised him. It’s time to advise him now that immigrants are made in the image of God, women are not tools and toys, racial and religious prejudice must be confronted, and so much more. The answer is not for us to change our views on character, it’s to help a flawed candidate become a President of character. I don’t regret speaking up for immigrantsagainst heinous comments about women, and many more. And just as I have done during the Obama administration, I’ll keep speaking for issues that matter to Christians when needed. But President Trump will be a uniquely evangelical creation. As such, Evangelicals will have a unique responsibility — to speak truth to power. Evangelicals made Trump’s candidacy; now they owe it to the world to help remake his presidency.

5. Repent and forgive where needed. This election has held up a mirror to our nation, and what we saw wasn’t pretty. It brought out the worst in us, but remember, the worst was already there — out of the mouth the heart speaks. We saw the ugliest versions of our collective self, and if we don’t admit it we will never be better than we were at our lowest point. It’s time for us to repent.

6. Hope. Is it too much to ask to hope that Donald Trump will be a better president than he has been a person? Perhaps it is, but at this point, that’s what we can hope and pray.

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He is co-host of BreakPoint This Week. This article excerpted from “Trumped: American Politics Turned Upside Down” at Ed’s Exchange blog at Christianitytoday.com.

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John Stonestreet

For most Americans, the results of Tuesday’s presidential elections came as a shock, even a surprise, and for many, a bit of a relief.

That feeling of relief is understandable. While there’s no way to be sure what will happen over the next four years, Christians may very well have gained a reprieve in areas such as religious freedom and attempts to impose the new sexual orthodoxy and gender ideology on our schools.

So relief? Yes. But I’d caution against elation, because what happened on Tuesday was more of a reprieve than a vindication. A close read of Tuesday’s results, beyond the presidential race, shows that the cultural trends we’ve been talking about on BreakPoint for years continue unimpeded.

The saddest example is Colorado voters’ approval of doctor-assisted suicide by a two-to-one margin. I warned on this broadcast that so-called “right to die” invariably becomes a duty to die. I reminded my fellow Coloradans that in a state currently in the midst of an epidemic of teen suicide, approving doctor-assisted suicide sends the wrong message.

But it didn’t matter. The siren song of unlimited personal autonomy and self-definition proved irresistible to a large majority of Coloradans.

And a similar dynamic was at work in the various ballot initiatives concerning marijuana. Voters in California, Massachusetts and Nevada joined Colorado and Washington in legalizing marijuana outright. As of this writing, the result in Maine is too close to call, although supporters of legalization have already declared victory.

Meanwhile, voters in Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota approved so-called “medical marijuana” use. I say “so-called” because if history is any indication, these laws amount to legalization by just another name.

Only Arizona, thanks largely to the efforts of the Council for Arizona Policy, bucked the trend for legalized weed.

So, all in all this was a bad night for the idea that human good involves something other than unlimited personal freedom and pleasure.

And no matter how much relief we feel over the defeat of what would certainly have been a radically pro-choice, anti-religious freedom Clinton administration, the serious moral concerns about the man who was just elected president remain, as do the serious moral concerns about the nation that elected him, and those evangelical leaders who went on record saying that character no longer matters in a leader.

So where does all this leave us today? How will we use this reprieve? Well first of all, we should, as the Bible instructs us, pray for those in authority. We should also pray for President-Elect Trump to surround himself with wise and godly counselors, and to act justly, wisely and rightly.

Beyond that we should support any of his policies that promote the common good. We should urge him to protect the unborn, as well as those who believe in traditional marriage, and to safeguard religious freedom.

But what we can’t do is fall prey to the political illusion. As Chuck Colson liked to say, the Kingdom of God never arrives on Air Force One. Too often Christians lose sight of this basic truth and have allowed themselves to become court preachers instead of prophets.

John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Excerpted from his BreakPoint Commentary “The Election, the Culture, and the Church”.

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Mark Tooley: “Evangelicals & Theology of the Public Good”

White evangelicals made up nearly half of Trump’s voters, apparently voting for him at a higher level than they did for Republicans in 2004-2008-2012, and who were as big or bigger a percentage of voters as they were during those three elections. They did so despite the critiques of Trump by many evangelical elites and despite a lack of support from many young evangelicals. In many ways evangelicals are responsible for Trump and will own the consequences of his administration.

The similarly central role of evangelicals in George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection often prompted histrionic fears from the secular and religious left over the supposed threat of theocracy. Obama’s victories despite overwhelming evangelical opposition, followed by the imposition of same-sex marriage, had squashed the theocracy talk. Since Trump, unlike Bush, is not evangelical or publicly religious, his ascent is unlikely to ignite similar warnings of Puritan hegemony.

But clearly the many claims that the religious right was dead were highly premature, as were widespread dismissive assumptions about white evangelicals as a fading, spent force with a limited demographic shelf life. Evangelicalism, as a cultural force, apparently remains as politically potent as ever. More than the Left, it might be some conservative evangelical elites who now agonize over their constituency’s voting habits.

Clearly much, if not most, evangelical support for Trump was fueled not by enthusiasm for him but fear of Hillary Clinton, especially on religious liberty and abortion. A major development is the new evangelical indifference to morals and character in a candidate, which either represents an emerging worldly sophistication or a compromise of evangelical integrity. It’s not clear to what extent evangelicals have absorbed Trump’s professed differences with conservative orthodoxy on foreign policy and economics.

The often fierce opposition by many young conservative evangelicals to Trump is a special challenge. Will they and other evangelical Trump opponents disengage from politics and national life? Turning spiritually inward away from societal duties is always a Christian temptation. Modern evangelicalism is not strong on political theology. But evangelicals urgently need an articulate and rooted theology of the public good, stressing that Christians always and everywhere are called to be good citizens in every society.

Mark Tooley is the President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

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Wax

Trevin Wax

First, the Church’s political witness has fractured along many of the same fault lines we see in the wider culture, where one’s vote is more likely to be influenced by generation, race or political affiliation than by religious conviction.

Secondly, the Church’s political passions have, like the wider culture, been fueled by self-selected social media and news organizations that do more to affirm the rightness of preexisting views than to inform and challenge with truth instead of spin.

Third, the Church’s political posture has degenerated into a despairing defensiveness, proving we are just as susceptible as the rest of society to apocalyptic rhetoric and demagoguery from both the right and the left.

Overall, the 2016 election has shown how the Church’s political engagement is shot through with ressentiment — the Nietzschean concept warned about by James Davison Hunter, in which we ground ourselves “in a narrative of injury … a strong belief that one has been or is being wronged.” Surveying our political landscape driven by rights, wrongs and a mindset of entitlement, the Church has adopted the same posture as other groups, and has embraced fear as the primary motivator for political involvement.

Moving forward, the Church must look for ways to reclaim and embody the Christian virtue of hope — the only sword sharp enough to cut through the marrow of ressentiment. Society often reduces hope to a wish, a human longing for a future that may or may not be certain. The Christian sees hope as rooted in God and his promises. Hope challenges the Church’s fear of injustice going unnoticed by reminding us of the future when God will right all wrongs. We trust not in our own efforts to bring about a particular vision of the future, but in God to restore his creation and make everything right again.

Further, hope challenges ressentiment with cheerful courage in the face of opposition. Hope calls us to replace bitterness and grievances with confidence in God’s good purposes for the world, and love for the people who may injure us.

Hope also calls us to personal repentance and relational restoration. In hope, we extend the hand of fellowship to believers who have wounded or disappointed us. In hope, we apologize for our own harshness and hard-heartedness. In hope, we recommit to one another as an act of faith: a sign that communities matter, that people matter more than politics, and that mediating institutions (like the Church) are indispensable to the common good.

Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher for LifeWay Christian Resources and the author of multiple books, including This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel (B&H, 2017).

 

Originally published on Breakpoint.org.
Re-published with permission of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

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