Motion to make this the official statement of the 2016 election season…do I have a second? I see that hand.
In what will go down as one of the most contentious and depressing elections of our lifetime, one of these “esteemed” choices will occupy the Oval Office. I’ll give you a moment to either accept that reality, or find a corner to ugly cry in… … …
The 2016 election will go down as historic. Not because of the fact that a major party nominated a woman for the first time in history (although as the father of daughters, that does encourage me). Not because we nominated a career businessman who has never been served one second in public office of any kind before seeking the nomination. This will be an historical election, because no matter who wins, they will measurably be the most unpopular president-elect in the history of our country. November 9th will be marked with much more sighs than celebrations.
As contentious and painful the election has been for the country, it has proven to be more problematic for those who would say that they were followers of Jesus. In many ways, the nomination of Donald Trump has created an existential crisis as committed followers of Jesus try to determine on what to do with their sacred vote. With this crisis, there has been no shortage of opinions on what to do. The rhetoric surrounding these opinions has intensified, and the average Christian voter is caught in the crossfire.
Flashback a couple of weeks ago on a fateful Friday as the infamous Donald Trump video is released to the world. The political world had been turned upside down and inside out, and people were scrambling to figure out what the implications were. Republican leaders like Paul Ryan and others, were seeking the nearest escape hatch. They were looking to distance themselves from the candidate, as he suddenly turned radioactive.
Because of that, we are seeing that evangelical voters are struggling with the decision they are facing within the voting booth. Of all the voting blocs, polling has revealed that the largest bloc of voters who are undecided are evangelicals. This election is proving itself to be a monumental struggle for many of our brothers and sisters. The actions of the candidate and the actions of those who would call themselves leaders within the evangelical community are not making the decision any easier.
As the dust settled that weekend, there was a tweet from a reporter that stuck out like a sore thumb.
“Amazing that almost only statements of re-affirmation of support for @realDonaldTrump today are from religious conservative leaders.” -@MarkHalperin 10/8/16
The day after the video broke, and as lifelong republicans were looking for safe harbor away from Hurricane Trump, it was the evangelical leaders that doubled down on their support for the nominee. Evangelical leaders shrugged off the language in that video is either “macho” or “locker room talk”. Whether or not they know it, but their supporting and dismissing Trump’s actions did not serve the gospel well as they projected the moral bankruptcy and misogyny on to Jesus. What further complicates the matter is when these leaders were called out, they dismissed those voicing concern as being sanctimonious.
There are those who will read this article and say: “yeah, what about Hillary”. If evangelical leaders were flocking to Hillary in the same number and fervor as they were flocking to Donald Trump, then that would be a valid argument worth having. The truth is, evangelical leaders are attempting to sanctify a candidate that has not shown a desire to even seek sanctification, and are doing so with the hopes that if their support results in the electoral outcome that they hope for, evangelical leaders will find themselves “in the room”. In other words, they are making Trump into something he is not, with the hopes that if they were to “call him a Christian”, that he would simply “call them”. Hillary is an untenable choice for a Christ follower. Hillary may be a liar, but with Trump, the Religious Right political establishment is lying to themselves.
To quote Russell Moore: “if we define the Religious Right political establishment as the gatekeepers of political activism, then the Religious Right political establishment is one big Wittenberg door with an expanding target where a nail should be.”
Just as the church was in desperate need of reformation for Martin Luther’s time, we are in need for reformation in the modern American church. We continue to base whether or not God is pleased with the country or not based on who our leaders are, as if God’s omnipotence is dependent on votes cast. The American Church, and the American Church’s leaders, need a reformation of priorities as we commit to preach the Good News news. We preach the Good News in a way where we do not corrupt the gospel with the misdeeds of unrepentant politicians. If the legacy of the 2016 election for the church is tantamount to a Wittenberg door moment, what a legacy that would be!
Every generation has a seminal moment in which an opportunity to lead presents itself. If you are a follower of Jesus, and are still drawing breath, it means that God still has something for you to do. As we sort through the rubble that is the divisiveness and destruction of the 2016 election, the church is going to need leaders that forsake all else and point to Jesus. Now is the time for new heroes of the gospel as we unashamedly and unabashedly present an untarnished version of the gospel.
— Phillip L
Photo by Alex E. Proimos – http://www.flickr.com/photos/proimos/4199675334/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22535544