Evangelical Christianity is losing the battle and most of the war, even as it believes it is prevailing. The short-term effects of its obsession with political power are obvious. This distraction brings disastrous long-term effects as well. We see them now, and they’re not pretty.
There is no scriptural imperative for evangelicals’ sell-out to partisan politics. The Bible provides warnings and reminders that should guide Christians in politics, as in every area of life (John 17:14–18, Philippians 3:20, Colossians 3:1–2), but they too have been lost in the flood of forgetting.
Politics demands an obsessive level of devotion, one that subsumes all other interests and values. Also worthy of mention is politics’ proclivity for considering everything, including Christian faith, as a means to an end rather than an end in itself, in opposition to the Gospel. It’s a trap for the naive.
Thus, as Christians have focused on partisan politics as a solution to society’s evils, they have assigned it the primacy they used to give to God. Politics have become an idol, and like all idols, the choice has its hazards.
Adopting political rage is an obvious one. Seeking to emulate Sean Hannity rather than Jesus Christ, Christians post the long and short of it on Facebook and Twitter.
Those who celebrate their proximity to political power more than their fidelity to Biblical standards are dangerous role models to those under their influence.
Because of a Supreme Court justice here, an executive order there and a proposed law over there, these Christian leaders and their followers feel like they are accomplishing God’s work through Caesar. So they rant on.
Far from fulfilling God’s mandate, they are instead forfeiting the moral and cultural independence of Christianity, sinking into the world and becoming of the world. The darkness they’ve adopted drives away those who seek the light that they have dimmed. The numbers bear this out.
Another consequence looms, however, and the rage is a symptom. The problem is not so much the future of doctrinal Christianity, which always endures despite the foolishness of its adherents, but of those partisan Christians who have allowed politics to poison their thinking and their spirit with heartbreaking results.
Regardless of the idol, it cannot take the place of God’s Holy Spirit. Those who obsess over politics will find their relationship with God weakening — or they would if they would stop and examine themselves.
Having declined rescue from the present age (Galatians 1:4) and embraced the rage, they have started to find themselves degenerating into a depression, with no clue of how it happened or how to combat it.
Facing this curious combination — if we have so much political influence, why do I feel so empty and angry? — they double down, much like Israel did with other nations’ gods when under God’s chastening. They focus more on politics, get angrier. They blame “the lefties,” the media, even fellow Christians who dare to maintain their independence from the obsession.
As a result, they continue to dwindle, both inside and out. The political anger drives away those seeking the meaningful answers only the Gospel can provide. These Christians, having abandoned those answers that they and others need, find themselves blaming the same roster of external enemies for the emptiness they themselves have created.
No one should take joy in the reaping of what has been sown. Partisan disagreement should never affect personal relationships, particularly among Christians, and my response at this happening is sorrow.
Others will eventually turn it around; historically God gives His people over to their own desires until the lesson has been learned. It’s sad when humans choose to learn the hard way, rather than the easy way through simple trust in God’s stated directives.
Restoring God’s principles rather than political philosophies as the foundational standard also restores the correct arrangement of faith and politics. Rather than using politics as the lens to focus faith, faith must be the lens to evaluate politics.
And rather than rant against those targeted by their political overlords, partisan Christians should wake up to a disturbing truth: they are the enemy to the Gospel right now. And a danger to themselves.
John Carvalho is currently a professor and associate director for journalism in the School of Communication and Journalism.