I am not American. Not in any way or form. I am, however, Evangelical. Our churches in Lebanon have organic connections to the church in the US. I also happen to live in a place where the US is actively involved, for good or bad. So as an invested outsider, allow me to ask the question: Will the American church survive the presidential elections?
The rhetoric from both major candidates is clear in its attempt to woo the church. A considerable portion of American Christians claim that Trump stands for God, and is good for the church. An opposing section, growing in size, claims that opposing Trump at all costs is the Christian way forward. Naturally I have a strong opinion in this debate, but I will refrain from sharing it in this post. I do note here on the side, for my brothers and sisters in the US, that American foreign policy has not been kind to the church in the Middle East on various occasions and with people in power from both parties.
On one hand the damage has already been done. Churches are aligning themselves with a certain political party. We have even seen major Christian figures turn into spokespersons for Trump. Across scriptures the relationship between the people of God and authorities ranges between tense peace (e.g. Paul in Romans 13 asking the church to respect the authorities and do their own thing) to outright rebellion (e.g. Daniel and his friends in Babylon; Elijah and king Ahab…etc.). See my take on the spectrum of reactions to authority in the New Testament. But we never see the people of God totally in sync with the authorities. Even at the height of Israel’s godly monarchy, when David, the beloved of God, sat on the throne, and Israel was very much a “Christian nation,” we see the prophet Nathan call out David on his sin.
As churches across the US tie their fate to a political party, the damage has already been done. They have lost their prophetic voice – their ability to speak truth to power, and have become defenders of all actions of their political allegiance. More dangerously yet, they have lost the singular allegiance of the church to the Kingdom of God. Unfortunately, I observe that many of my fellow Jesus followers in the US are focused on defending their version of the kingdom of the USA rather than the Kingdom of God.
I note here that the post is not call for Jesus followers to withdraw from politics. I am personally very much involved in our local politics over here. This is a call to do politics with grace, and to keep our primary allegiance to our Lord, Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, no damage can ever be substantial. Come November, whoever wins of the two candidates, the church will be fine. For you see, the church is, in its essence, a group of broken people gathered around the table of a messiah broken for them. The church is, in its essence, a group of self-sacrificial people reaching out into a broken world to heal their neighbors, enemies and friends.
That church flourished in the catacombs of Rome while Jesus followers were being killed every day. The church flourished in the streets of Rome, even when corrupt church leaders kissed the hands of power. The church flourishes today in Iran, KSA, China, Middle East, East and West, and North and South under severe persecution and in great freedom of worship. The church will live on in the US beyond the squabbles of this political era. For you see, the Spirit of God always finds a way to breathe life into His people and God’s Kingdom.
Let us stand in prayer
Bring us around
Both strong and weak,