Evangelical & Conscience Part II

And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will received a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him, much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. (Luke 12:47-48)

For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Peter 2:21)

Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. (John 9:41)

A couple of caveats must be noted from the very onset. They are

#1 God does not grade on a sliding scale, so there is only one standard; thus, all of God’s created beings are accountable before God, but God does hold individuals to higher levels of accountability contingent upon the amount of light God grants them. Given that most of the intellectual, economic and historical capital resides in the Caucasian wing of Evangelicalism in America, I submit their culpability is far greater than their African American counterpart.

#2 The toxicity of our present culture and the call for biblical unity demand the greatest amount of granting Christian charity and freedom regarding Christian liberty. Never ascribing the worst possible motive to others is most prudent to maintaining meaningful and edifying dialogue, especially across ethnic lines.

With that being said, let me state categorically I submit my Caucasian Evangelical brethren have a far more problematic choice, in the main, than their African American Evangelical brethren concerning their political engagement in America. I submit there is no question whatsoever no Evangelical, seeking to be faithful to the Word of God, can, in good conscience, align themselves with the Democratic Party, as presently constituted. I remain convinced unless there is radical repentance from the Democratic Party, as presently constituted, the Democratic Party is a Godless entity that no Evangelical should have any involvement whatsoever.

I come to this conclusion because African American Evangelicals almost exclusively support Democratic candidates (in national elections at a rate of 85% and higher). Despite the fact the national platforms of the Democratic Party are always Pro-Choice, Pro-Same-Sex Marriage, and Pro-Gender fluidity. All this being the case despite the clear and explicit prohibitions in Holy Scriptures. The quandary of whether to vote for a particular Republican candidate usually does not demand serious contemplation on whether the Evangelical seeking to be faithful to biblical integrity can align themselves politically with a Republican candidate.

Now, while no political party will ever be beyond scrutiny, I still acknowledge that an acceptable candidate is presented from the Republican Party in most elections. Thus, in most elections, there are acceptable candidates from the Republican Party that an Evangelical can align themselves politically in fidelity to the Word of God.

I truly came of age in my spiritual formation during the 1990s. If you remember the 1990s were the times of the William Jefferson Clinton presidency. The 1990s coincided with the vast influence of the Moral Morality and the Religious Right, especially with growing believers like me.

Please note the following from some of the influential Evangelical voices during that time:

  • We are facing a profound moral crisis,” James Dobson, a longtime Christian right activist and founder of Focus on the Family, said at the time [in relationship to the Clinton-Lewinsky controversy]. Dobson, who was part of Trump’s evangelical advisory council during his campaign, claimed in 1998 that “you can’t run a family, let alone a country, without [character]. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world!”
  • Franklin Graham, in a 1998 Wall Street Journal op-ed written in response to Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, skewered Americans for succumbing “to the notion that what a person does in private has little bearing on his public actions or job performance, even if he is the president of the United States.”
  • Franklin Graham: “Mr. Clinton’s extramarital sexual behavior now concerns him and the rest of the world. If he will lie to mislead his wife and daughter, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”
  • Gary Bauer, who is President of an organization called American Values that often promotes Trump’s policies, was President of the conservative Family Research Council during the Clinton impeachment. He chided Clinton for lying about the Lewinsky scandal: “Day after day, children hear adults saying that it doesn’t matter if the President lied.” Character, he preached, “is destiny.”
  • Ralph Reed, an evangelical Christian who is currently the chair of the Georgia Republican Party: “Character matters, and the American people are hungry for that message,” Reed said at a conference of the Christian Coalition, of which he previously served as the executive director, according to The New York Times. ”We care about the conduct of our leaders, and we will not rest until we have leaders of good moral character.”
  • A coalition of over 75 biblical scholars crafted a document entitled Declaration Concerning Religion, Ethics, and the Crisis in the Clinton Presidency (The entire declaration can be found at https://layman.org/news86fd/).

            I draw the reader to Tenet #3 from the Declaration:

            We are aware that certain moral qualities are central to the survival of our political system, among which are truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to the constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power. We reject the premise that violations of these ethical standards should be excused so long as a leader remains loyal to a particular political agenda and the nation is blessed by a strong economy. Elected leaders are accountable to the Constitution and to the people who elected them. By his own admission the President has departed from ethical standards by abusing his presidential office, by his ill use of women, and by his knowing manipulation of the truth for indefensible ends. We are particularly troubled about the debasing of the language of public discourse with the aim of avoiding responsibility for one’s actions.

I strongly affirm the axiom All truth is God’s Truth, and I am confident all Evangelicals who hold a high view of Scripture and of God affirm the same. So although I carry no water whatsoever for Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of Indianapolis and 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate, and strongly oppose his radical sexual worldview, I believe he is nonetheless 100% spot-on in his analysis when he said,

            It’s something that really frustrates me because the [hypocrisy]is unbelievable,” the South Bend, Indiana mayor said in an interview with NBC News Meet the Press. “Even on the version of Christianity that you hear from the religious right, which is about sexual ethics, I can’t believe that somebody who was caught writing hush-money checks to adult-film actresses is somebody they should be lifting up as the kind of person you want to be leading this nation,” he said.

Who would have thought a person living in stark rebellion to the revealed will of God like Buttigieg would be the person who spoke most consistently to biblical fidelity regarding the candidacy of Donald Trump.

My dilemma is this: I believe Dobson, Graham, Bauer, Reed, and the signers of the Declaration Concerning Religion, Ethics, and the Crisis in the Clinton Presidency were 100 % correct in their assessment of the legitimacy of a William Jefferson Clinton presidency.

That is why I highlighted Buttigieg’s use of the term hypocrisy. Really, what else could one call it other than hypocrisy?

Case in point: Franklin Graham, remember him, he said, “Mr. Clinton’s extramarital sexual behavior now concerns him and the rest of the world. If he will lie to mislead his wife and daughter, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”

Yet, when the issue concerned Donald Trump, Graham’s response was categorically different:

I think some of these things—that’s for him and his wife to deal with… and I think the same with Stormy Daniels and so forth is nobody’s business.

Who heads most of the influential Evangelical institutions in America?

Who controls most of the narrative in the Evangelical Church in America?

Who has an outsized influence in training the next generation of Christian thinkers, pastors, and social influencers?

Who has a stark impact on how Evangelical resources are allocated in America and globally?

In all enumerated cases and any imaginable other cases, the answer is obvious: Caucasian Evangelicals

I close by drawing the reader back to Luke 12:48: Everyone to whom much was given, of him, much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

Both African American and Caucasian Evangelicals will be held accountable for their missing the mark, and I acknowledge I am making a very general charge, but I do so to make a general point. I believe my Caucasian brethren, who repudiated the candidacy of William Clinton (which was consistent with biblical fidelity) while excusing the similar moral failing of Donald Trump (which I submit was not consistent with biblical fidelity, were at best practicing pragmatism and at worst practicing hypocrisy.

The mere fact Evangelicals believed that Trump would appoint the proper Supreme Court Justice, take the correct position on abortion and marriage and hold other political policies consistent with the biblical revelation does not justify political alliance if the candidate has a severe character flaw.

If this is just my view then cast it off as a rumbling from a nobody but remember the words from of the leading voices in the Evangelical community:

  • Reed: ”We care about the conduct of our leaders, and we will not rest until we have leaders of good moral character.”
  • Bauer: Character, he preached, “is destiny.”
  • Dobson: you can’t run a family, let alone a country, without [character]. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world!”
  • Graham skewered Americans for succumbingto the notion that what a person does in private has little bearing on his public actions or job performance, even if he is the president of the United States.”

Whether the final verdict is pragmatism or hypocrisy, I will leave to God Almighty, but I will submit to you something is amiss when followers of Jesus Christ who He commissions to be the Pillars of the Truth can condemn their political opponents while giving cover to their political ally is not consistent with orthodox Evangelicalism.

I acknowledge I can be easily off base with this assessment. If you feel differently, please help me think through these weighty matters. I have tried to be as charitable as I can by acknowledging how difficult it is to engage properly when we live in a flawed political environment. For me, not aligning with Democratic candidates is low-hanging fruit. That is easy! While whether to vote for the Republican candidate can be problematic from time to time.

I give full transparency by acknowledging I did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016, while I did vote for him in 2020. Honestly, I do not know if I was right or wrong in either case. Eternity awaits and only eternity, for Jesus Christ to set me straight. I am pretty confident I have the mind of God concerning aligning myself with Democratic candidates, but I admit I struggled mightily with the candidacy of Donald Trump. Yet, employing the methodology of the Religious Right and the Moral Morality of the 1990s, I can easily make the case that what was good for William Jefferson Clinton was good and right for Donald J. Trump in 2016 & 2020.

Again, ironically and I believe regrettably, the words of Pete Buttigieg rule the day:

            It’s something that really frustrates me because the [hypocrisy]is unbelievable,” the South Bend, Indiana mayor said in an interview with NBC News Meet the Press. “Even on the version of Christianity that you hear from the religious right, which is about sexual ethics, I can’t believe that somebody who was caught writing hush-money checks to adult-film actresses is somebody they should be lifting up as the kind of person you want to be leading this nation,” he said.

One of Jesus Christ’s strongest rebukes was for the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, so a charge of hypocrisy if warranted, is no small pedantic consequence. May this charge never be rightly leveled at us.

Let me know what you think. Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.