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Make America First Meant the Gospel came in Second for Evangelicals

Make America First Meant the Gospel came in Second for Evangelicals
African Anglican Bishop berates evangelicals for selling out the gospel to American triumphalism

By David W. Virtue, DD
November 17, 2020

When the last bell has been wrung over this election and the powers that be have determined who won, the deeper truth is that the real loser in these turbulent political times in America was the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Make America First meant for evangelicals a triumph of nationalism, American exceptionalism, white supremacy, a continued undercurrent of racism, trickle-down economics and a 'me too' mentality that transcended everything else.

Evangelicals put their trust in a single man to save them, even though Scripture is clear that we should not put our trust in princes. Evangelicals did, and now they will pay a bitter price for their strange allegiance. The gospel requires no protection from a constitution, a flag, amendments, the NRA or guns. It needs nothing. God and the gospel can defend itself.

The net effect is that it is going to be an uphill battle to make new converts from here on out. It is my belief that it will take two generations to recover the gospel from the clutches of Donald Trump's America and evangelicals' alliance with right wing politics.

Most of the world has looked on at America with abject credulity, pity and some scorn at America's belief that our political system is the best promoter of evangelical Christianity when, in fact, the opposite might be true. China has 40 million Christians, 94 percent are evangelicals, six percent Catholic and the church is growing by leaps and bounds with no political protections, a police state with more technological monitoring than any country on earth, according to Rod Dreher in his new book "Live not by Lies." Yet despite continued persecution, the Church grows.
ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach recently wrote; "Archbishop Deng from the Province of South Sudan described the growth of the church in his worn-torn nation. He said (paraphrased) they murder our people and the church grows. They raided our villages and the church grows."

Nigeria is seeing a rapid growth of the gospel despite persecution from Fulani tribesmen and Boko Haram.

Nones are on the rise and they are the fastest growing body of nonbelievers in America, far outpacing evangelicals and Catholics. The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public -- and a third of adults under 30 -- are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).

Mainline denominations already on the edge of extinction will be pushed not so gently over the cliff into oblivion within a generation, destroyed by pansexuality and worldly compromise. Prosperity preachers will continue because they still believe God endows them with riches because God wills it and the stock market proves it. Paula White will hopefully disappear from the headlines with the disappearance of Trump.

Evangelicals blindly endorsed Trump, regarding Biden as a president who would lead America into Socialism and increased abortions. However, statistics show abortions in America have steadily declined since the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973.

It makes no more sense for evangelicals to blindly endorse a candidate whether it be Trump or Biden, because in both cases some of their policies align with an evangelical understanding of the gospel and some do not. In life as in politics, nothing is ever black and white. It is profoundly ironic that when evangelicals were asked in a poll what was the most important electoral issue, it was health care; abortion came in No.5. That is perfectly understandable when you consider the aging evangelical white population in America. We usually vote for what makes our own lives better, while we pay nodding and passing attention to anything else or the unborn. We are, after all, selfish.

The gospel was and is always much more than issues like homosexual rights or abortion. It demands rejection of all 'sins known and unknown'.

The following is a discussion I had with an African Anglican bishop. (To protect his identity his name has been deleted.)

VOL: Thank you for taking time out to talk with me. How do you read what is going on in the US right now?

BISHOP: What has happened to you American evangelicals? It seems to us in Africa that you made a pact with a president that his son said would save Christianity in your country. Do you really believe that?

VOL: I don't, but many evangelicals do.

BISHOP: What foolishness is this. It is nothing more than idolatry. The gospel does not need protecting by a president, a constitution, a second amendment, the NRA...or your love of guns.

VOL: You seem to be somewhat versed in all of this.

BISHOP: I studied at Princeton University for two years.

VOL: You have my attention.

BISHOP: You evangelicals have lost your minds. Do you really think the gospel needs to be wrapped it in a flag while you sing the star-spangled banner and that this pleases God? No African nation has a constitution that affords you the freedoms you crave so much. But we are bigger, stronger and more gospel proclaiming than you in America! We are over 450 million strong and growing. And let me tell you this, the gospel is growing the fastest in Nigeria where Christians are being slaughtered by Boko Haram and Fulani tribesmen. We have had a Christian president and an Islamic president and it makes no difference. The Anglican province there is the largest fastest growing in the Anglican Communion and you are dying. And Nigerian Christians suffer daily for their faith in ways you can't begin to imagine.

VOL: What's your point?

BISHOP: Suffering. You know "endure suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ!"

VOL: American evangelicals don't believe in suffering. When they think they are getting even a tiny bit persecuted, they invoke the Second Coming clause and that the Lord is about to return to rescue them. And they have a lot of so-called prophets who reinforce that.

BISHOP: May I remind you that Jesus said he did not know the time nor the hour, only the Father knew. The great apostle Paul wrote most of his epistles in jail and he had to have friends bring him his food. The Early Church was born in the Catacombs, got no help from Caesar and most of the early converts were women and children working for Roman rulers.

I am also saying that not only have the liberals lost sight of the gospel over endless talk of social justice issues without Jesus; you evangelicals are just as foolish, embracing things that defy the gospel, like denying healthcare for all, not helping the poorest get a leg up, but you give tax breaks to the rich. Where do you find that in the Bible? Yes, we read newspapers and watch the news and we have access to social media. How can evangelicals embrace all this and then say you believe in Jesus who had nowhere to lay his head? Right wing politics is not good for the gospel, and some of the left-wing issues like abortion and the public acceptance of homosexuality is just as bad. Trump will not save you. When I hear what white evangelicals say, I sadly conclude that many of you are racist and xenophobic. Deep down many of you hate black people. The South has never forgiven President Johnson for the Civil Rights Movement. And the South has all those Southern Baptists. You think this pleases the living God? What happened to loving the least of these?

VOL: So, what are you really trying to say bishop?

BISHOP. You have tied the gospel to a flag. I keep hearing 'God, flag and country'. That is civil religion not biblical faith. You think a single president can save Christianity? From our perspective that is sheer blasphemy and idolatry! For your sins you will pay the price because nobody is going to believe in Jesus for decades to come in your country. Those Nones will continue to grow in number. You might need us Africans to come to America to bring the gospel back to you. One day Trump is going to stand before God and when he repeats that he never needed to repent, what do you think is going to happen to him? If evangelicals keep talking up conspiracy theories who is going to believe you when you say Jesus is Lord?

VOL: I have no idea bishop.

BISHOP: Keep preaching the gospel. Ignore all the political talk, it will get you nowhere. Many of us in Africa have lost our respect for you and you need time to recover that respect. Jesus first, everything else is second.

VOL: Thank you, bishop.


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