An Evangelical Culture of Disobedience

Attempting to explain evangelical support for President Trump, Brit Hume of Fox News wrote the following:

Hume has rightly identified the deception to which evangelicals have fallen captive: they regard their place in the wider culture in terms of combat. Their twin error is that they imagine that they have human enemies and that they must fight them, which leads them to believe that President Trump is fighting alongside them in the culture war.

This is why I believe that evangelicalism—the culture of evangelicals—is a worldly political culture seduced into adopting anti-Christ political attitudes and practices. It has become a movement oriented by disobedience to the Lord Jesus.

I say this because fighting against enemies is something explicitly forbidden by the Lord of the church. The church’s political orientation is toward enemy-love. Jesus told his disciples to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). If we ever identify enemies, our posture toward them involves creative hospitality, fearless peace-making and consistent service, not combat.

The Apostle Paul informed churches that their warfare is not against earthly entities or other people (Eph 6:12). The church’s struggle is one of resistance against the hostile cosmic powers that seduce us into imagining that we have earthly enemies or that we have a cause to advance against other groups of people.

For over a century now, fundamentalist and evangelical leaders have identified cultural foes for their followers and have called Christians to fight against them. From Billy Sunday through Billy Graham, Francis Schaeffer and Jerry Falwell, to James Dobson, Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr., enemies have been identified, demonized and blasted: intellectuals, New Dealers, Communists, Civil Rights leaders, secularists, liberals, Democrats, and the list goes on.

This has fostered an evangelicalism with the deeply-felt sense that because the present cultural crisis is so intense and the stakes are so high, biblical commands for how to treat others must be relegated to a private realm of spirituality or limited to the sphere of one’s intimate circle of friends.

We feel that so much is at stake because we think we have been called by God to control the culture, to seize the levers of power in order to establish a Christian nation. This leads us to believe that any means to these ends are permissible.

This is tragically misguided, and such a Christian nationalist vision is an idolatrous lie, driving us to become a disobedient people. We end up seeing Jesus’ teaching about enemy-love as “impractical” and “naïve.” So we set it aside, along with Paul’s instruction about the church’s struggle. In a tragic irony, we betray Christian Scripture and disobey the Lord of the church by seeing our mission as fighting to defend them.

Evangelicalism has become a culture of anger and resentment against supposed “elites,” liberals and a variety of other groups, seemingly unaware of James’s warning that “human anger does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).

Following their high-profile leaders in thinking the worst of those they see as enemies, evangelicals are quick to denounce others, speak dismissively and sarcastically, repeating slanderous accusations. They ignore biblical commands to refrain from evil talk, thereby grieving the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:29-30).

The uniqueness of the church in Scripture—its holiness—is that it is thoroughly shaped by the cross. It surrenders earthly political power now out of confidence that it will inherit the earth when the kingdom comes in its fullness.

Tragically, evangelicals have been seduced by the promises of this-worldly political power and access and have compromised themselves utterly. Because of this, evangelicalism has become just another earthly social entity that can be quantified and analyzed by demographers.

My great fear is that because evangelicals seek for earthly power now in an effort to fight their enemies, they surrender any place in the coming kingdom of God.

8 thoughts on “An Evangelical Culture of Disobedience

  1. forsheeb

    I appreciate your insights here. It puts some flesh to what’s been rolling around in my mind. Seems this mindset is bundled in a blanket of fear of losing power and control. Fear was the first thing I noticed and heard in the voices of Americans after living abroad among communists. 🙃 what you shared explains the fear and also what I haven’t been able to understand about the church here upon returning.

      1. TDetwiler

        Tim… interesting analysis. Could not this claim be made for any human social organization? (political, theological, economical) How does one locate the ideal faith community? Political party? Employer?


  2. Ryan

    Oh, all this time I thought evangelicals supported Trump because they did not support the bad policies and heinous ideology of the other political options. I had no idea that evangelicals were supporting Trump because they saw the other political options as enemies whom they must combat. I had no idea that supporting the many positive things that have occurred during Trump’s time in office meant that evangelicals were being disobedient to Christ.

    I thought evangelicals could show “creative hospitality, fearless peace-making and consistent service” while at the same time promoting principles that promote life, freedom and liberty and supporting those in leadership that value such principles. I was unaware that “evangelicalism has has become a culture of anger and resentment against supposed “elites,” liberals and a variety of other groups” because in the cities that I have spent a significant amount of time, it is the people covered in black attire (Antifa and other groups… which leftist refuse to condemn) who have taken over the cities with a culture of anger. I had know idea that evangelicals speaking against and standing up against such groups and those that support their ideology meant that they were promoting a culture of anger.

    I had no idea that evangelicals supporting a president who values religious liberty as opposed to candidates who would strip religious institutions of their non-profit status if they did not conform to a certain ideology meant that evangelicals were grabbing for power and control.

    I did not know that “evangelicalism has become just another earthly social entity that can be quantified and analyzed by demographers.” Good to know, because I thought that regardless of who evangelicals politically support, evangelicalism was still committed to speaking to the problem of sin and calling people to repentance and to the promise of forgiveness and of freedom from their sins through Christ’s redeeming sacrifice. I can’t believe that this is “just another earthly social entity.” I’m shocked.

  3. Jonathan Greer

    Wow, great stuff, Tim. I brought in some of what you say below, citing you, in one of my talks here about different kingdom ideologies—thanks for this post! Greetings from Jerusalem, and looking forward to seeing you soon, Jonathan ____________________________ Jonathan S. Greer Associate Professor of Old Testament Director, Hesse Memorial Archaeological Laboratory Grand Rapids Theological Seminary l Cornerstone University 1001 E. Beltline Ave NE l Grand Rapids, MI 49525 616-949-5300 l Ancient World of the Bible Study Tour: Hesse Archaeology Lab: Tel Dan Excavation:


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