When the Church Falls Short

With the murder of several Asian women by a known churchgoer, many evangelicals are pointing fingers at where the blame lies. Is it the church’s patriarchal stance on women and squeamishness on sex that has degraded women into dangerous Jezebel’s, luring unsuspecting “mama’s boys” into the pit? Is it “white evangelicism,” which has essentially othered those of different ethnicities in centralising the church’s identity in whiteness? With so many public failings of the church lately, it’s easy to point fingers at the church and church culture. However, this finger pointing ignores some crucial truths of the nature of man.

The problem is sin. Not “white evangelicism” or the church’s “patriarchal teachings,” as I have seen some fingers pointing. The second problem, I would venture, is Biblical illiteracy. There are many people sitting in church pews today that are not saved and have no understanding of the Bible. This problem mainly falls at the feet of the church and the greater need of expository preaching and discipleship. It’s Biblical illiteracy that leads a young man (according to his statement, although race may yet be a factor) to kill women to purge himself of sexual sin, misunderstanding the command to “if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29). It is Biblical illiteracy that has led to people genuinely believing (even being told by pastors and those in leadership) that 2 Cor 6:14 “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” referred to the fact that people of different skin tones shouldn’t marry. It is Biblical illiteracy that has led to people believing that the “mark of Cain” (Genesis 4:15) was blackness. Or the curse of Ham (Gen 9:20-27) justified slavery. All come from a deeply topical misunderstanding of the Bible that have been perpetuated from some pulpits due to the nature of sin. However, there is the other side of Biblical illiteracy that states that “trans women ARE women and trans men ARE men,” ignoring completely God’s original design for men and women (Genesis 1:27). It is Biblical illiteracy that equates looting and burning to Jesus flipping over tables, ignoring the commands against theft (Exodus 20:15). It is Biblical illiteracy that has taken God’s command to “love one another” (John 13:34) to mean we must condone and even celebrate ungodly lifestyles, ignoring the truth of 1 Cor 6:19: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” We must love all sinners (as I am one too) without accepting their sin. We live in a time of Pharisaical Christians, but also in a time of Pagan Christians, of which Romans 1 says, “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” So I agree that there are some serious failings of some churches here, but I think we must admit when we have let ungodly influences infiltrate our understanding of Scripture and understand that what we see is a fallen world full of sin and sinners, attributable to all regardless of gender or ethnicity, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 6:23.

Rebutting the “Pro-Birth” Label

Increasingly, there has been a growing push to label the pro-life movement as merely “pro-birth.” Because many pro-lifers tend to support smaller government, oppose the welfare state, and may even support the death penalty, they cannot possibly be pro-life. They simply want to feel good about a baby being born and then couldn’t care less what happens after that. No quote epitomizes this accusation more than the quote by Sister Joan Chittister, which went viral in 2019. The quote states:

“I do not believe that just because you are opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, a child educated, a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

The argument has been broadened out by progressives into a variety of memes to demonstrate the “hypocrisy” of the pro-life movement. Any approval of limits on immigration or border protections, hesitance at the idea of universal healthcare, or desire to cut government spending all fall under the umbrella of “pro birth” or sometimes even “racist” or both.

This argument is simplistic and makes fallacious basic assumptions. First, it supposes that opposing the throwing of money at a problem is synonymous to bigotry and racism. Secondly, it completely separates itself from the realities of innocence and sin (or guilt, in secular society).

On the first hand, simply wanting restrictions on welfare does not a bigot make. The fact that welfare and minorities are constantly linked together in progressive talking points is in itself a racist and paternalistic way of looking at the situation. How on earth could minorities ever make it without guilt-ridden white people just throwing buckets of cash at them? This is most often seen in the push for reparations, which has become increasingly popular in progressive circles, despite its logistical difficulties.

Pro-lifers do not want people to starve. It’s rare to find one completely opposed to emergency food stamps, food pantries, shelters, or anything like that. The key word, however, is emergency. What started as a safety net has become a generational cycle of welfare-dependent families and sky-rocketing single mother households. The answer on the left has been to throw more money at the problem: increase the minimum wage, remove work requirements, widen eligibility. However, the evidence that welfare has helped significantly is mixed at best.

Pro-lifers will typically look at the causes of abortion and align themselves with policies aimed at alleviating those issues. Poverty and financial concerns are one of the key factors in the decision to abort. One way of alleviating poverty that conservatives favor is in the focus on education and failing public schools in low income neighborhoods. This has grown into the push for school choice, something that progressives vehemently oppose and would consider “pro birth” for not wanting to spend more money on the public education system.

Many children are forced into failing schools simply by their zip code, and poor families don’t have the funds to send their children to private schools. The general gist of school choice is that the government should allow a parent’s tax dollars to fund the school option of their choice. This could be their local charter school, magnet school, private school, or homeschooling. It would give students the chance to succeed and graduate from a school that meets their needs. Not only is this very pro-life, it is pro quality of life. A pro-lifer doesn’t want a family in poverty to remain trapped in the cycle of continuous poverty, and a good education is a key way in breaking that cycle.

Another issue that keeps pro-lifers from supporting more money into welfare programs is the sky-rocketing number of single mother households since the implementation of the “war on poverty.” Some, like Thomas Sowell, even argue that welfare has propelled the breakdown of families, particularly black families, by creating families where “the government is daddy.” The share of single mother households has more than tripled since the sixties, creating multiple societal and cultural problems.

This issue is probably the most significant to a pro-lifer, as 85 percent of all abortions are by unwed mothers. The solution, too, is not so easily legislated as it would require more of a cultural shift, such as a focus on abstinence rather than sex education and a return to looking at marriage as a societal good and divorce as a last option.

There are some legislative possibilities that a pro-lifer would support, such as lowering certain regulations on daycare requirements, which would lower costs to some degree, increasing deductions for childcare, and increasing tax cuts for married couples. Donald Trump’s policies even created a branch of conservatives that were even willing to consider things like paid leave and childcare subsidies. Of course, such moves have the same potential downfalls as current welfare programs, and because pro-lifers call for caution on just jumping in and giving money to everything, they are once again labeled “pro-birth.”

In all honesty, the issue of childcare and supporting single parents so they can work and stay out of poverty requires much more bipartisan discussion, which is very difficult in the current political climate. The fact is, however, that even if pro-lifers were to say yes to 100% free childcare in exchange for abortion restrictions, it is highly unlikely that pro-choice activists would agree, as even restrictions on third trimester abortions are scoffed at and the Born Alive Act was struck down. It’s hard to imagine the Democratic party making any concessions with their push to have abortion labeled “healthcare.”

Another issue that causes a great deal of derision and criticism from progressives is the pro-life individual that supports the death penalty. Although it is hard to find the exact percentages of how many people whom consider themselves pro-life also support the death penalty, it certainly isn’t uncommon.

Much of this overlap stems from the correlation of religious beliefs and pro-life support. Verses, such as Genesis 9:6 have been used to support the idea of capital punishment. Whereas an evangelical pro-lifer would see an unborn as an innocent life being needlessly taken, capital punishment is viewed as justice being served and protection of society at large. While there is a swathe of opinions of when the death penalty is acceptable, for which types of crimes, and how it ought to be carried out, the underlying agreement is that an unborn baby is an innocent who is killed without a trial or any ability to make a defense for himself. A more in depth look at being pro life and in favor of the death penalty in some circumstances can be found at Focus on the Family. There aren’t many pro-lifers that would make the case for a liberal application of the death penalty. In fact, most pro-lifers would even say that capital punishment should be “safe, legal, and rare.” However, there hasn’t been a push to make capital punishment some sort of inalienable right or to codify it into the Constitution.

There are many other considerations of the pro-life conservative that concern themselves just as much with what happens after birth as progressives. Much of these considerations focus on quality of life, beyond just having everything provided to the individual. There are certainly some areas of economic and domestic policy that could be explored and discussed by the two sides, but the protection of innocent life itself is certainly not one of them that should be open to debate.

Is “Christian Nationalism” the cultural marxists’ latest scapegoat?

With the events of the Capitol still reeling in the minds of many Americans,  Christians in particular are trying to figure out the best way to distance themselves from the ungodly acts of violence that unfolded.

Unfortunately, when situations like this arise, Christians oftentimes overcompensate by allowing dishonest distortions to dominate the narrative. This is becoming incredibly prevalent in the numerous discussions and articles that are appearing online in discussing this idea of “Christian Nationalism.”

Whereas “nationalism” initially was more a synonym for “patriotism,” the cultural marxist’s twisting of terms has turned it into more a synonym of white supremacy and racism. So when “Christian Nationalism” is being discussed, it is inextricably interwoven with the ideas of whiteness and American Christianity’s supposed inherent racism.

From the New Yorker, to the Atlantic, to the Washington Post, articles are showing up everywhere to discuss this problematic fusion of “Trumpism” and conservative Christian values. But what does Christian Nationalism actually mean? And what do the cultural marxists mean by Christian Nationalism?

Before diving in deep, it must be noted that political violence should be denounced by all Christians, regardless of which side committed the violence. A riot at the Capitol is no more acceptable than a BLM rally that devolves into a riot. The oft miscontextualized quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., that riots are “the voice of the unheard,” need not apply in any case.

With that said, what is Christian Nationalism actually? Pastor Jeremie Beller states, “Christian nationalism is the intertwining of the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms of men. In the American context, it is often displayed by describing America through language reserved for the Kingdom of God. … The marriage between patriotism and righteousness further blurs the line between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world.”

The concept of Christian Nationalism certainly deserves some criticism. Oftentimes, Christians can become so invested in a particular political candidate, that they often speak of the candidate as having some sort of special anointing. This has been true of Trump in some Christian circles, although the Bible clearly states that all people in authority have been put there by God’s ordaining (Romans 13:1). Throughout Israel’s history, God allowed obedient and disobedient kings to rule. Nebuchadnezzar and Pharoah are also prime examples of rulers that did not recognize God, but were used for God’s glory. So the tendency of some evangelicals to despair when their party loses does lose sight of God’s providence regardless of who is in charge.

John Cooper had some additional poignant criticisms of Christian Nationalism on his podcast. In addition to conflating certain leaders as the only way God’s will can be brought to America, seeing America as the same as Israel,  God’s chosen people, has no Biblical basis. As Cooper points out, America is a vehicle for good and certainly was inspired by Christian principles (many of the founders were Deists and Christians) but that does not make it necessarily the vehicle of bringing God’s salvation to the world. That is the job of the church, and the church is the individual men and women within it (1 Cor 12:27).

So keeping in mind that there are genuine criticisms against Christian Nationalism, this isn’t to say that Christians can’t be patriotic. John Piper has an excellent discussion of this on Desiring God. The key point is that as Christians, “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). Our allegiance to God and heaven should inform our allegiance to our earthly home. We should vote for politicians and laws that support our values, but we must remember that our hope is in Christ first, regardless. We must also pray for “the other guy” as we are called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). So long as our patriotism does not overshadow our true allegiance, there is no harm in the idea of a “patriotic Christian,” or even a Christian who seeks to bring about Christian policies in our nation, such as pro-life legislation.

However, when cultural marxists critique concepts, the words they use do not mean what they traditionally mean. This is called “semantic overload” and it is often used to silence or limit discourse on certain topics. An example would be the phrase “black lives matter,” which on its face is absolutely true but carries with it the undertones of that particular organization and its messaging.

So when cultural marxists write about Christian Nationalism, they are implying that it embodies ideas of racism (patriotism to America automatically embraces the past history of slavery and Jim Crow) and xenophobia (nationalism now means keeping the country pure which means white). So a Christian Nationalist, per a cultural marxist, is anyone who denies or questions “systemic racism” or waits for details of police shootings, or someone who has any issue with illegal immigration.

Why then is Christian Nationalism being so widely discussed all of a sudden? The intention is to lump in conservative Christians with an incredibly small minority of people that attacked the Capitol, thinking they were somehow performing the will of God in their actions. This lumping in is patently untrue, but because of the loaded nature of the term “Christian Nationalism,” the ability to discuss it is so incredibly weighed down. In writing this, a great deal of time had to be spent simply in defining terms and this is nowhere near an exhaustive list of what  is behind each term. So because there are certain parts of Christian Nationalism that ought to be criticized, one is expected to deny everything outright, including any sort of patriotism, agreement with conservative policies, or Biblical principles that don’t fall into progressive Christian’s definitions.

What, then, is the response?

Knowledge is key. Knowledge in knowing what these terms have historically meant and what the writers of these articles and Twitter posts. We also must always start back at the Bible. Romans 13 is a great chapter about Biblical authority. The book of Phillipians 3 also deals a great deal of the idea of looking heavenward. We must not paint with the broad strokes of cultural marxists either. Oftentimes, cultural marxists insist on throwing out the baby with the bath water. There are certainly things in America’s history that are abhorrent such as slavery and Jim Crow. However, acknowledging these problems does not automatically mean throwing out the entire American system in pursuit of a more equitable system that rights all history’s wrongs.

Christians must stand firm in speaking the truth, regardless of the cultural points lost or gained. Our allegiance is to Christ first, but we must not be blind in this attempt to silence Christians from the political realm completely in fear of being called a Trumpist or a Chritian Nationalist. Truth remains truth, so we must not back down from what policies we want to see enacted, while at the same time speaking out when certain people warp the Bible, statistics, or history to suit their needs. So do not flee from a love of country, speak truth as an ambassador of the One who loves the people of this country and wants them to hear the truth.

Where is the Church?

It would be an understatement to say that 2020 was a challenging year for everyone. And, unfortunately, so far 2021 is looking to be very similar. The Church has found itself particularly hit by all the challenges as congregations must battle with establishing in-person or online services, making all their congregants comfortable, while at the same time remaining apolitical.

As I watched the news unfold in 2020, I oftentimes found myself asking, “Where is the Church?” The fact of the matter is, by watering down its theology to be more “seeker friendly” or “justice oriented,” the Church has allowed itself to become more and more culturally irrelevant. The truth of the Gospel has been lost in the competing voices of social justice messaging, climate consciousness, and correcting historical failures. Not that there isn’t a time and place for those discussions. But the Church has lost its starting point in the person of Jesus Christ and the truth of the Bible.

That is where I believe the importance of the lay person comes in. Unfortunately, many lay people attend church without a full grasp of what the Bible teaches or how to implement those truths in a culture determined to choke them out. That is as much a failure of church leadership as the individual.

Matthew 5:14-16 says, “‘You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.'” (NKJV).

As lay people, we are called to be the light ourselves, and not just rely on our pastors or church leadership to do it for us. In fact, the recent scandals with Carl Lentz and Ravi Zacharias have shown a serious failure in our Christian leadership. As an aside, the allegations against Ravi Zacharias have been especially devastating to me, and I highly recommend Alisa Childers’ YouTube video for anyone struggling with their implications.

That being said, where do lay people start? If social media has taught us anything, it certainly pays to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). But the silence of lay people has also opened up a huge vacuum for other voices to fill it with ungodly principles that need to be addressed, whether they are in your local church, school, or government.

It sounds cliché to say, but we first must start with the Bible. We can’t speak truth if we don’t know the truth ourselves. Speak to your pastor about being discipled or taught how to read your Bible. Buy a study Bible with commentaries. Join a true Bible-believing church. I plan to post a blog about what I, personally, believe are the most important tenets of a Bible-believing church and what to look for in a church’s mission statement and statement of faith.

After the Bible, get deep into apologetics. If you’re not familiar with that word, it is most simply understood as reasoned arguments for the infallibility of Scripture. I will post a list of some sources I recommend, but off the top of my head I would definitely look at Neil Shenvi and Answers in Genesis. Believe me, once you start down that rabbit hole, it is very hard to get out!

It is also important to surround yourself with other like-minded believers. This isn’t to say you should cut yourself off from the world completely, but, “As iron sharpens iron,
so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” (Proverbs 27:17). It is especially important to find older believers to fellowship with. Our current culture places little value on the previous generation, usually looking at them as “out of touch” or “old-fashioned,” but you will find many beautiful believers in Christ by seeking out those who have been through the storms you are going through.

So, where is the church?

It’s here. It’s you. It’s time to start acting like it.