With the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the United States Supreme Court, evangelical cultural warriors are rejoicing, even gloating, over this political victory. And make no mistake, this is a political victory made possible by the support of evangelicals for a corrupt president Donald Trump, who made three appointments to the Court. Trump was aided by his allies in the Senate, allies, like Mitch McConnell, who denied a hearing for Obama appointee Garland and expedited the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett. All of this was done with the applause of Trump supporters, who turned a blind eye to the corruption of the 45th president along with his literal attempt to overthrow the will of the American people by inciting the January 6th insurrection.
Now, those who supported Trump are finding confirmation of their decision, celebrating that this “means” did indeed justify these “ends.”
But what remains in question here is this: “what exactly do American evangelicals want?” It seems that many want an actual theocracy: a system of government where religious leaders rule in the name of God. But given the diversity of theological thought, freedom of religion, and tradition of “Separation of Church and State,” that our nation has enjoyed since its founding, it is scary to imagine what this would look like in reality.
Yet, because Christianity in America has been weaponized and reduced to a voting constituency, we have arrived at a moment in our history when decisions are being made based upon what people think Christianity is rather than what it actually is: a nonviolent movement committed to loving others in the light of the transforming power of the gospel of Christ. Instead, American Christianity has now been transformed into a political movement committed to imposing morality on others via the ballot box and (given the events of January 6th and an unusual devotion to assault weapons) the ammunition box if necessary.
This kind of thinking is antithetical to the disposition of the poor, peasant, marginalized preacher from Galilee. Jesus did not impose morality on anyone; rather He freely dispensed love and grace to everyone that He met. This “antichrist” that is now embraced by many evangelicals in America bears no resemblance to Jesus. And while they gloat over their victory in the culture wars, they continue to lose sight of the bigger picture of actually serving others and representing a Kingdom based in love and not in power.
But it is evident that this Americanized version of Christianity continues to be based, not on the example of its First Century founder, but rather on its need to justify, protect, and perpetuate its own existence. Were it really about issues of true Christian morality, then we should expect that white American pastors preaching against the evils of lynching, segregation, voter suppression, and other manifestations of white supremacy would have been commonplace in the history of the United States. But the sad reality is that the exact opposite is true. American Christianity most often finds itself allied with the oppressors over those being oppressed. To this day we continue to hear sermons against abortion and gay marriage, but rarely, if ever, do we hear sermons lamenting the idolatry of guns or the economic exploitation and inequalities that exist in our nation.
Sadly, the reason that so many Christian pastors are unwilling to speak against any issues that might actually challenge their congregants to think and act differently is summed up by Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement. In an article for the National Catholic Register, she said “I feel that over and over again in the history the church has become so corrupt it just cries out to heaven for vengeance…I think it’s a result of the corruption in the institutional church, through money and through their acceptance of this lousy, rotten system.”
It is clear to me that too many Christians in America missed the part, where in essence, Jesus said “If you love me, you will hate money” (Matthew 6:24). Because so much of what is preached and what we do as American Christians is based on the preservation of this system that promotes the root of all evil, which is the love of money. Pastors risk losing their position and their pay, as do many Christian leaders if they preach or advocate too strongly against the evil of a system that creates the need for the protection of abortion. They find it easier to call out fruits of inequality instead of actually being like Jesus and applying the “ax to the root?” (Matthew 3:10)
Jesus once told an Apocalyptic story about the separation of the “Sheep and the goats” ; the only difference between the two was demonstrated by their actions. The sheep found a way to actually make the lives of others better, while the goats did not. The story is recorded in Matthew 25:31-46 and in part reads like this: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Jesus goes on to point out that when they did it “To the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.”
Notice that all of the actions that the sheep took were based on meeting the economic and practical needs of those who were deprived. He also highlighted the commitment of the sheep to visit the incarcerated and care for the sick. In essence, Jesus said that one of the characteristics of the sheep was to provide adequate healthcare for those who needed it. Contrast this with the inaction of the goats, and by extension “the gloats” that perpetuate social media feeds celebrating that this SCOTUS ruling results in one aspect of health care for women has now been removed and in some cases even criminalized. While at the same time, many of these same people were just celebrating the recent ruling allowing people to exercise their individual choice in openly carrying guns. Guns, it seems, have more rights than women, in 21st Century America.
Now more than ever, judging by the response of evangelicals on social media alone, it is obvious that they aren’t really interested in saving the unborn. But rather they are adamant about consolidating and preserving their own political power. Too many American Christians are living on borrowed faith, for them Christianity is only about attending church, checking the box on certain beliefs, and voting in alliance with their fears. They want to be married in a church, buried beside a church and have their lives endorsed by a cultural religion that has replaced authentic Christianity with their misinformed notions of family, work, hobbies, or in this case, Republican politics. This is the reality of the day in which we live in America. Too many have confused the voice of God with the voice of their church. They aren’t the same.
Were we really serious about our faith, gloating online about a political victory would not be the priority -but repentance for our lack of inaction would be. Resulting in increased giving to the poor while voting and advocating for politicians and policies that actually did some good instead of perpetuating these egregious harms.