The President, Code Words, Empty Progressive Christian Rhetoric, and the Truth 

One of the many issues that I take up on this blog is is the issue of truth.

Lies, misrepresentation, prevarication, are enemies of the Truth. In fact, Jesus himself said, as he stood before Pilate,

Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. (John 18:37, NET)

The one who is the Truth, said that those who rejected him did so because they were of the father of lies (John 8:34-47). Jesus’ ultimate standard was the revealed word of God, even though he was God. Everything that he said, every teaching that he uttered had its truth in, what we call, the Old Testament. Jesus didn’t just make stuff up; rather, every utterance was grounded in the truth of revelation.

But people have problems with the truth. When the facts do not fit the narrative, abandon the facts. Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable. In a culture that cannot stand to have its conscience pricked, truth hurts. What has amazed me over the past year is the ability of American President Donald Trump to manipulate people into fully exposing their ridiculous biases. He has played the mainstream American media like a cheap fiddle, constantly trolling and beating them to the punch. The Washington Post notes that,

Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed by the Pew Research Center in the fall said the media “tend to favor one side” compared with 53 percent who said so in 1985.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that I am biased towards a particular point of view (Conservative, Reformed, and Protestant) and I’ve not tried to hide this, in fact, if anything you have seen both consistency in some places and evolution in others. I defend people that I agree with and will criticize when I disagree. But, the most dishonest people will pretend to be unbiased and will often not back up their claims whenever they are pushed to do so, often resorting to knee-jerk labeling and name-calling. They can often smell a rat, but couldn’t describe one in a meaningful way, other than broad brushing those who do not agree with them through the use of coded language, like “hater”, transphobe, anti-immigration, etc.

No greater place in the culture is this seen than in so-called “Progressive Christianity”. Any time that you preface a definite term with an adjective, you run the risk of destroying the meaning of the term. Take the term “Progressive”. Politically it is usually used as a code word for what is ultimately a leftist, totalitarian ideology. However, when it is attached to a word like “Christianity” it usually refers to people who reject the authority of Scripture as the means to direct the life of the believer. It tries to come off as more spiritual than more conservative or classical, one could even say orthodox forms of the faith. They will often paint themselves as being more Christ-like, more compassionate, even though they reject the clear statements and instructions of Christ. One in particular, one that I have directly interacted with in the past, is John Pavlovitz. John says in the biography on his blog that he’s merely trying to “live out the red letters of Jesus”. Never mind that the “red letters” are merely a reading tool developed by book publishers and often are filled with quotations from the “black letters”, and that those red letters often require the black ones to make sense of what is being said, which means that both are authoritative. But that’s for another post.

So, what is John going on about this time?

Well, it seems that he has penned an open letter on his blog, titled “White Evangelicals, This is Why People are Through With You”.

Considering myself both white and evangelical, it caught my attention and figured that it was worth a read and even a response to some of his statements.

He begins,

I need to tell you something: People have had it with you.

They’re done.

They want nothing to do with you any longer, and here’s why:

They see your hypocrisy, your inconsistency, your incredibly selective mercy, and your thinly veiled supremacy.

All of those are mighty harsh charges to level. Let’s see if they can be substantiated.

He continues,

For eight years they watched you relentlessly demonize a black President; a man faithfully married for 26 years; a doting father and husband without a hint of moral scandal or the slightest whiff of infidelity.

There’s some who argued that it  wasn’t necessarily true that such was true, but this isn’t a place for rumor mongering.

They watched you deny his personal faith convictions, argue his birthplace, and assail his character—all without cause or evidence. They saw you brandish Scriptures to malign him and use the laziest of racial stereotypes in criticizing him.

Well, John, when someone claims to be a Christian and every political position that they take is opposed to clear, historical positions that Christian orthodoxy has taken, there is usually a reason to make such denials. There was, in fact, cause to ask questions because there’s this thing called “the law” and he had this thing called “history”, not to mention the fact that no one had actually heard of Barack Obama until his state senate run, but everyone knew Barry Soweto, a foreign student. As far as any “racial stereotypes” I never heard of any. But here’s the thing: there’s a lot of moderate and conservative people who believed that Barak Obama should never have been a candidate, much less president, and a few of them were black, such as columnist and radio host Larry Elder.

And through it all, White Evangelicals—you never once suggested that God placed him where he was,

you never publicly offered prayers for him and his family,

you never welcomed him to your Christian Universities,

you never gave him the benefit of the doubt in any instance,

you never spoke of offering him forgiveness or mercy,
your evangelists never publicly thanked God for his leadership,
your pastors never took to the pulpit to offer solidarity with him,

you never made any effort to affirm his humanity or show the love of Jesus to him in any quantifiable measure.

Being Reformed in my disposition, I did believe that God put him there…as a warning.

I heard many public prayers offered for them…for both their safety and their repentance.

Considering that universities aren’t obligated to allow anyone to speak at them, makes one wonder why this isn’t just being petty.

I gave him the benefit of the doubt…then watched him, as a “professing Christian” praise Islam, concede the God-defined boundaries of marriage, and argue that people with mental disorders are normal.

I do, however, seem to remember a lot of people calling for his repentance.

He would have had to have been a good leader to be thanked for , but his policies doubled our national debt and brought about greater racial division.

In order to take “solidarity” with a person, you have to have common ground and goals, but when there’s diametric opposition, it’s kinda hard.

Didn’t I say something about calling for his repentance? Yeah, thought I did.

You violently opposed him at every single turn—without offering a single ounce of the grace you claim as the heart of your faith tradition. You jettisoned Jesus as you dispensed damnation on him.

That seems to be what you’re supposed to do when your nation’s leader is proclaiming the blessings of God on an organization that kills some 300,000 babies a year.

And yet today, you openly give a “mulligan” to a white Republican man so riddled with depravity, so littered with extramarital affairs, so unapologetically vile, with such a vast resume of moral filth—that the mind boggles.

He’s referring to the alleged affair that President Trump had with a porn star. But let’s be clear here: Donald Trump has never painted himself as a paragon of moral virtue. In fact, he’s made great sport over his own various moral failings over the years. So, when the charges came pouring forth, no one was really surprised, much less concerned with something that happened a decade ago. It was met with a shrug. Trump has never denied being imperfect. He’s loud, brash, obnoxious, and rude, but he’s never pretentious. I guess the difference here is between a man who has claimed no moral authority to himself (Trump) and the other who has made himself the moral authority (Obama).

John accuses evangelicals, saying,

And the change in you is unmistakable. It has been an astonishing conversion to behold: a being born again.

Um, who is holding who up as a moral standard? If we’re comparing apples to apples: Obama superficially seems to be the moral ideal with a long, apparently faithful marriage, while Trump has long been known as a womanizer and adulterer. I’m forced to agree, on the surface. But since John counts himself as a “red letters” of Jesus, shouldn’t we look there?

Do not judge according to external appearance, but judge with proper judgment. (John 7:24, NET)

I’m pretty certain that is in “red letters”. And then there’s this one,

Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves. You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. (Matthew 7:15-17, NET)

I particularly am fond of the phrase, “you will recognize them by their fruit,” because it says so much about the message that Obama presented behind the facade: it was dangerous, even deadly. 

John waxes poetic again,

With him, you suddenly find religion.

With him, you’re now willing to offer full absolution.

With him, all is forgiven without repentance or admission.

With him you’re suddenly able to see some invisible, deeply buried heart.

With him, sin has become unimportant, compassion no longer a requirement.
With him, you see only Providence.

Never lost it.

Never offered it.

Always calling for it.

No, he pretty much wears everything out in the open for everyone to see.

Calling for one to repent is an act of compassion.

I’m Reformed, that’s all I see.

And White Evangelicals, all those people who have had it with you—they see it all clearly.

They recognize the toxic source of your duality.

He seems to be under the impression that he’s proven something.

They see that pigmentation and party are your sole deities.

They see that you aren’t interested in perpetuating the love of God or emulating the heart of Jesus.

They see that you aren’t burdened to love the least, or to be agents of compassion, or to care for your Muslim, gay, African, female, or poor neighbors as yourself.

They see that all you’re really interested in doing, is making a God in your own ivory image and demanding that the world bow down to it.
They recognize this all about white, Republican Jesus—not dark-skinned Jesus of Nazareth.

Someone needs to inform John that it was minorities that elected Trump, many of whom voted for a man asked a very simple question: name one thing that voting Democrat has actually done for you? More than that, many evangelicals were actually supporters of Ben Carson early on, especially after his national prayer breakfast speech. (Compare 2008 presidential election with the 2016 results.)

What does that mean? “Perpetuating the love of God”? “Emulating the heart of Jesus?”I hear these tossed about, but never hear anyone from the other side actually articulate what they mean by it.

You mean besides the soup kitchens, homeless and women’s shelters, clothing closets, food pantries, and the free and clear proclamation of the Gospel calling them to repentance and faith? John, give me a break.

Some, maybe. But what about your idols, John?

Since all that you care about is his skin color, and not the fact that he’s the all-powerful creator and sustainer of the universe who is holy and just, I would just like to remind you that it now has the “appearance of burnished bronze” whose face “shines like the sun” (Revelation 1:16).

He says,

And I know you don’t realize it, but you’re digging your own grave in these days; the grave of your very faith tradition.

Traditions, at some point, must end.

Your willingness to align yourself with cruelty is a costly marriage. Yes, you’ve gained a Supreme Court seat, a few months with the Presidency as a mouthpiece, and the cheap high of temporary power—but you’ve lost a whole lot more.

Being a bit melodramatic, aren’t we John? That’s a pretty hard thing to say, without actually proving it. I mean, you’re just making assertions. I’m guessing that he’s one of those who thought that stormtroopers were going to start marching through the streets rounding up homeless people and homosexuals to take them to death camps. A little hyperbole is okay every once in a while, but this reeks of of absolute panic and desperation.

You’ve lost an audience with millions of wise, decent, good-hearted, faithful people with eyes to see this ugliness.
You’ve lost any moral high ground or spiritual authority with a generation.
You’ve lost any semblance of Christlikeness.

You’ve lost the plot.
And most of all you’ve lost your soul.

Actually, we haven’t. A recent study finds that,

…strong affiliation, very frequent practice, literalism, and evangelicalism—is persistent…

whereas,

…only moderate religion is on the decline in the United States.

The strong, conservative evangelicalism that you’re critical of calling us “hypocritical and inconsistent”, even though you cannot, and have not provided a coherent foundation to call us such, is doing a whole lot better than your wishy-washy progressivisticevanjellyfishism (yes, that is a word).

I agree with Dr. Michael Brown who, in his article on the issue argued that Christians who voted for Trump did so with eyes wide open and without being hypocritical or inconsistent, without losing any “high ground”, “Christlikeness”, or our “soul”, as John asserts. As Brown writes,

[…]Babies are being slaughtered by Planned Parenthood, and this flawed man is willing to help us stop the slaughter. Christians are being massacred by ISIS, and this flawed man is willing to help stop the bloodshed. Our religious liberties are being threatened, and this flawed man is willing to take a stand on our behalf.

Even more telling is Dennis Prager’s defense of evangelicals, especially considering the fact that the man is Jewish.

Some more of those “red letters” come to mind, like,

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. (Matthew 12:30, ESV)

As well as,

[The] one who is not against you is for you. (Luke 9:50, ESV)

Hmmm. What was that about being “hypocritical” again?

I know it’s likely you’ll dismiss these words. The fact that you’ve even made your bed with such malevolence, shows how far gone you are and how insulated you are from the reality in front of you.

For goodness sake, John, what is it with you and the melodrama? Is that all that you have? Accusing someone of having an ill will and proving it are two completelydifferent things. The fact is this, these “white evangelicals” aligned themselves with women, gays, blacks, and Hispanics to elect a man who didn’t engage in divisive identity politics that reduces them to an exploitable demographic, but spoke to them as Americans. He refused to cater, but called them to something greater. The only one who seems to be “insulated from reality” is the one seeing enemies where there are none and has to engage in name-calling rather than coherent argumentation.

But I had to at least try to reach you. It’s what Jesus would do.

What Jesus would do is actually name names and identify the issues in question, not engage in name calling or melodrama. It’s nice that you direct people to the words of Jesus that you think are relevant to the issue, but there’s some in particular that you need to focus on:

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:4-5, NIV)

Especially since the entire affair in question seems to have never happened. Oh, and you might want to check out the footnotes as well, paying particular attention to the Old Testament texts that Jesus cites or references.

It suffices to say that John wants to hold up some lofty ideal about Jesus and use that to lionize Obama and condemn Trump. The problem is that, and I believe that this can be demonstrated from Scripture, that neither are worthy of such honor. This response is not so much meant as an approval of Trump, to excuse him, as much as it is to say that, as a Christian—but not speaking for all Christians—and as a “white evangelical”—but not speaking for all of them either—that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

What gives me grounds to complain about anything that Trump says or does is that I participated in the election cycle, but I am under no illusion that Trump is a Christian, and since I am not convinced that he is a Christian, I am under no obligation to hold him to Christian standards. Obama claimed to be, therefore I could. The inconsistent and hypocritical thing to do then would be to hold him to that standard.

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