elcome to 2017 America, where the melting pot on which it was founded burns blood black and boils over with vitriol.
When James Madison, a controversially devout Episcopalian, drafted the First Amendment in 1789, he, along with his various Presbyterian and Congregationalist counterparts, was very specific about the free exercise of religion. Any religion. All religions. The Constitution of the United States of America makes no mention of ‘God’, ‘Christian’, or ‘Christianity’, nor does it assign relations between religion and government. Instead, it declares the exact opposite: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” It distinctly distances itself from religion. Apparently, not everyone derived this conclusion from the original document, so Thomas Jefferson, Episcopal deist that he was, drove home the point of ‘separation of church and state’ as the intent and function of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. In other words, people can believe in whatever they want and worship however they want, and the government will stay out of it.
It is impossible for the government to stay out of religion when the Evangelical Christian Right has its roots firmly planted in White House soil. Roots so forcefully buried that their ends are splitting and the plants above are withering and dying. Roots that began with an unquestionable foundation in dogmatic fundamentalism by forcibly hoisting faux-Biblical agendas on the American people. Agendas from the Moral Majority that prophesied the collapse of White schools after Brown v. Board of Education, revolted against Roe v. Wade, tried to force Christian prayer in public schools, and, most recently, xenophobically cried out against same-sex marriage and equal rights for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Reliance on fabricated principles can only last for so long before people catch on.
Well, people have caught on. The 2016 election should not have been about religion at all, but, because of conservative Evangelical self-injection, it was at the forefront. There was little room to authentically justify the moral fortitude of either of the two major candidates. Most people knew that. And, predictably, there was no uprising from progressive Christians or Methodists to vehemently prove to Evangelicals that Hillary Clinton was Jesus-saved and born again. As well there shouldn’t have been. There was no need to do so. The progressive left has not bedded the Democratic party because there is no benefit either way — one does not have to convince the other to gain their support.
Conversely, the GOP would be nowhere without Evangelical support, and they both know it. They need each other to survive. They rely on Super PACs to bolster handpicked candidates. And when those alliances fail, they are left with their pants down to pick up the pieces. They are forced to support Republican candidates because of their apeish agendas on abortion and social inequality. To the staunch Religious Right, these are the only two issues of any tangible importance, and they are the driving forces behind their collective regimes.
And it is their own fault.
Because of their insistence on being part of a government that wanted no business with them in the first place, conservative Evangelicals are now on the cusp of destroying the entire GOP. Yes, some formidable faces, like Beth Moore and Max Lucado, rejected their nominee, but most voluntarily tried to save face by defending the undefendable. And, in the process, committed the ultimate act of hypocrisy in both politics and faith.
Pat Robertson is on record calling content in the infamous ‘Trump Tape’ “macho” guy talk. Jerry Falwell Jr. is on record unequivocally supporting the Republican candidate, regardless of whether or not the sexual allegations against him are true, because he is a “changed man” and is pro-life. (Never mind the upheaval of and revolt from his own student body at Liberty University.) And James Dobson is on record calling the Republican candidate a “baby Christian”, justifying his past with the pedestrian “let he without sin cast the first stone” before immediately lambasting Bill Clinton’s past as some sort of pre-pubescent deflection in the quintessential pot-calling-the-kettle-black. Their blatant hypocrisy and acid-washed theology are as flimsy as the pages in their Bibles.
Conservative Evangelicals have made a mockery of Jesus by defending a political party over the fundamentals of their faith. They are largely responsible for the GOP rise over the last forty years, but they are solely responsible for its current division.
The current Republican president-elect is a direct by-product of the power-obsessed, arrogant, white privileged rhetoric that conservative Evangelicals have been preaching about for decades. It’s fruition of the inevitable. But what’s more, it casts an opaque shadow on the Christian faith for the rest of the world, a Christian faith that is most certainly not predicated on the spyglass factions of the Religious Right.
It is not the job of Christians to force-feed ambiguous, needlepoint scripture down the throats of society through political activism. Nor is it the job of Christians to judge and condemn those who disagree with their own understanding of the Bible. And it is certainly not the job of Christians to choke secularists with mind control over what is right and wrong, moral and immoral, ethical and unethical, or just and unjust when the flame is already turned and fanned at them. For a political assembly built on the premise of limited government, the Republican Party, through pressure from the Religious Right, seeks to do exactly the opposite by intruding on social and civil liberties of an entire nation.
There are far better ways to enact Biblical principles than riding the back of the federal government. There is no worse way to minister the Gospel than to mandate misinterpretations of it through national law. Stagnation in an increasingly progressive world leads to demise.
Even the fundamentalist Founding Fathers knew that.
So instead of right-wing Christians singling out controversial issues like abortion and gender inequality, perhaps they should put more stock and prayer into the crucifixion and beheadings of Christian missionaries in Syria. Instead of backpedaling and trying to justify the egregious sins of others, perhaps they should trailblaze and actually comfort and pray for the oppressed. Instead of calling for law and order, perhaps they should go into communities distraught by violence and walk alongside them as Jesus would have done. And instead of using government to impose their will on the people, perhaps they should use the people to impose their will for the Greater Good.
The Gospel of Jesus does not discriminate. It is found in humanity’s heartbreaks and triumphs, not in political ideology. It comes from above and lives within. Government does not save; Jesus does. It is merely man made discourse for a body of people in certain place and time. Blending religion with government sequesters those who suffer from its demagoguery.
Jesus sets them free.