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How the Left and Right are Destroying Churches in America

How the Left and Right are Destroying Churches in America

By David W. Virtue, DD
February 23, 2022

These two true stories tell the story of how the woke left and the Trump right are destroying the very spiritual foundations that have kept churches and this nation on an even keel for three centuries.

The first story concerns a husband-and-wife team, both holding doctorates in psychology, who started four churches in Philadelphia 25 years ago. The main thrust of their ministry was to reach young people for Christ. Most of these young people came from fundamentalist and evangelical backgrounds. They had lost their way spiritually, intellectually and culturally in the big city.

Through years of toil, the couple established four churches in various urban locations, including one in NJ. One of their sons became a pastor after graduating from Princeton Theological Seminary.

All was going well. The churches grew. They were truly diverse with various kids coming from differing backgrounds and nationalities. One such person was a young Arab American (first generation Egyptian) who came into one of their fellowships. Over time he got converted and showed promise as a future leader in the community. He expressed an interest in full-time ministry. They paid for a theological education and soon he was pastoring one of their churches.

Then one day he turned on his mentors. He told his congregation that they never loved him, never respected him and, because he was Arab, he accused them of racism. He was so persuasive that his mentors were forced to leave the church. They could no longer have fellowship or further active roles in the church. He so persuaded the other congregations, that all the families of his mentors had to go. The Princeton-trained son was forced out of his church (today he is a hospital chaplain) and the other three children were obliged to leave.

None of these anabaptist style churches could be described as middle class, white or staid. They were very relational, low-keyed in churchmanship, non-liturgical, showed a preference for the Arts in worship, very communal and not remotely oppressive or racist.

The couple, now in their Sixties, had become victims of the woke left, hounded from the very churches they had established. They were, in short, cancelled. Now they must start over and look for a church for themselves and their children.

THE SECOND story concerns an established evangelical church that had been around for over 50 years. The church had had a series of good pastors and the present pastor was solid doctrinally, compassionate and concerned for his people. He preached well, made pastoral visits, baptized the young, made hospital visits, counselled pre-marital couples and buried the dead. He was happily married with the requisite two children. His wife was a kindergarten teacher, and they were managing to save for their Disney vacation together as a family. What could go wrong?

Then Trump showed up and his world turned upside down. Almost overnight his congregation was divided between pro and anti-Trump forces. Over the coffee hour, exchanges became heated. Groups formed in different corners of the room; the situation became explosive. Voices were raised, the anger was palpable in the room. And it never stopped. Week in and week out the forces became more isolated and estranged. If you were not for Trump, you were labelled a Socialist. The rhetoric rose with each passing week. Lines were drawn.

His sermons were no longer cutting it. A half-hour sermon could not compete with hours of FOX news, social media disinformation and the steady politicization of the gospel. "America, love it or leave it," "America, right or wrong," MAGA hats appeared on heads, keep America white, buy a gun, be fearful, hate people who don't agree with you or look like you, America's most segregated hour was okay with them; above all don't trust anybody who doesn't agree with your interpretation of America. Freedom became a buzzword without meaning or definition. It was no longer freedom in Christ, but freedom defined by a secular constitution. The steady drumbeat of hate and division only increased.

It all became too much. The church was irretrievably divided. Because he refused to say where he stood on hot button issues, (except abortion and homosexuality) both sides distrusted him. He refused to become political. He told the congregation he wanted to keep politics out of the pulpit. The church became even more divided. It was too much. His relationship with his wife began to suffer. One night his wife laid down the law. Resign or else.

The message was loud and clear. He told the congregation he was resigning.

For half the congregation the relief was palpable, for the other half it was painful. Inevitably, the church itself divided and split. A dozen families left and looked for other churches or dopped out completely. The pastor resigned. Disillusioned by the ministry, he sought other work. He saved his marriage, but he will never set foot in another pulpit. The church had lost another good man.

This is America today. It is trench warfare with no winners. And it is not over, despite all the best efforts of renewalists and revivalists to stitch it up.

For issue-driven Episcopalians there is little argument. They have bought into nearly all the woke issues of our time ranging from critical race theory to LGBTQ sexualities and homosexual marriage. For orthodox Anglicans who maintain the centrality of the gospel, Trumpers and Never Trumpers live uneasily side by side. I have not heard of a single congregation splitting over Trump's MAGA worldview, but I could be wrong.

Sadly, though, it is not over. David French of The Dispatch writes that the seeds of political violence are being sown in church. The new insurrection is being organized, in a sanctuary near you, he says.

"If Christians know anything about the far right, they know it's vicious. Silence is the safe course. For all the (legitimate) talk of cancel culture from the left, many Christians self-censor out of fear of the right. So, they remain silent. They stay in their anti-left lane.

"The proper response to fear and fanaticism is reason and faith. It's demonstrating by word and deed that the response even to the worst forms of extremism on the left is not to stampede to extremism on the other side. But we have to know what we face, and what we face is a Christian subculture that is full of terrible religious purpose. The seeds of renewed political violence are being sown in churches across our land."


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