Sermon of the next two months

Erick Erickson:

I heard someone once say that eschatology, the study of the end times, is the only theological study framed by our present view of history. Eschatological theology in early twentieth-century Europe was pretty bleak but pretty optimistic in America. As World War II broke out, American eschatology turned dour, but books written after World War II were pretty upbeat about the end of days.

I have to remind myself of that now as we hear so much from around the world — volcanos, earthquakes, pestilence, wars, rumors of wars, and increasing Christian persecution, among other things happening worldwide. We’re seeing a decline in Christianity in America even as it grows elsewhere. It is particularly destabilizing in places like China, where there are now estimated to be more Christians quietly living their faith than there are Christians in America, if not Americans total. President Xi has begun a crackdown not just on Muslims in China, but is bulldozing churches and jailing Christians as quickly as he can find them. Like with the Romans, it is only making the church grow.

But something seems to be happening in the world today, and it seems to be picking up speed. The rise of transgenderism and the collapse of social norms clash more and more with basic facts, science, and logic. The atheist pro-science crowd is turning science rapidly in the religion of scientism that is foundationally pseudoscience. Crystal shops and mysticism are starting to rise again as Christianity fades in the west — very old paganism is returning, which will actually regress science because while Christianity is premised in an absolute truth, paganism is relative. The Enlightment could spring out of a Christian society in a way it cannot from a pagan society where crystals have healing powers.

The world just seems to be headed back into some sort of dark age — complete with reliance on the wind and sun for power.

And that gets me to the point that is bothering me and I admit going into this that some could say I run afoul of this too; therefore, this is hypocritical to write.

But I have always tried to be clear that I’m doing analysis, cultural color commentary, politics, and theology. I’ve actually evolved on some political issues as my faith has grown deeper.

The other thing I’ve concluded is that if you define yourself by your faith, you can’t really be a braying jackass all the time in politics. Christ is going to wield the sword, not you. The overarching desire to turn right-of-center politics into a politics of “owning the left” is descending into intellectual prostitution without conviction. We actually have to love our neighbor — like really love our neighbor, not just in theory, and we’re not given exceptions to that because we hate them, their gender identity, their politics, etc. The Bible does not say it will be easy.

Peter, headed towards his execution, was still telling Christians to pray for the Emperor — not against the Emperor. I cannot tell you how many people I know who, when I point that out, will shuffle their feet and say, “Well, I’m praying for the President to repent and change or otherwise leave me alone or die” or some variation. Sure, pray for his repentance, but Peter’s point was that we should pray the leaders of the nation are authentic instruments of God’s will. We should pray for their health and competent leadership. We should not be praying that they give us our way or die or anything like that.

Now, I see loud and growing voices on the right who claim to be of faith, but they ignore it in their statements. They seem to think what we do on Sunday is separate from the other six days of the week. But you can’t pray for your enemies on Sunday and decide to punch them on Monday because you’re pretty sure they’re going to punch you otherwise.

I have long been critical of the progressive Christians embracing the idea of weepy, huggy Jesus and turning that aspect of Christ into an idol. I’m more and more concerned that conservative Christians are turning wrathful Jesus into an idol. He’s going to come back and sort this stuff out for us. You’ve got to love your neighbor as yourself, do to others as you want them to do to you, and seek the welfare of your local community while praying for it and your civic leaders. A masculine Christianity cannot be a Christianity of gymbro jackasses willing to give the left swirlies. It’s got to be one of men taking responsibility for their families and raising a future generation to love the Lord — a quiet strength in humble living.

While all of this is going on, I’m really more and more concerned about how many Christian influencers who are involved in politics are really engaged in performance. They’re trying to build their following by, and excuse the language but it is the language of the internet that best captures what they’re doing, shitposting those they disagree with. They can’t disagree — they have to pick a fight and rally a mob. I expect this of the theological left, but I see it happening within orthodoxy as well now.

They are conforming their faith to their politics, and where the two diverge, they’re not willing to speak up about their faith lest they fall outside tribal politics. Because Christians in America haven’t had to lead the quiet existence that so much of historic Christianity had to lead and even now must in places like China and Iran, they’ve decided to be loud, proud, and belligerent in defense of their faith. Where’s the humbleness, the humility, and the grace?

Really, yes, where is the grace? The willingness of Christian influencers in politics to ostracize, alienate, shun, and condemn fellow Christians because of political disagreement, not theological disagreement, is growing.

These people are not calling others to Christ but to their political tribe. And therein lies the problem. And, again, I know I could be accused of doing it too and sometimes have to rein myself in. But I am mindful of it and try to rein myself in, albeit sometimes badly.

The bottom line is just this — if you’ve got a platform and you hold yourself out as a person of faith who seeks to be guided by faith in politics, then you need to remember Christ is more important than a political party and God’s kingdom is more important than your nation. You cannot reconcile the two, and if you have convinced yourself you can and that your party and your politics can be an accurate reflection of Christ, you’ve committed a pretty grievous sin. At some point, you have to be willing to recognize this too will pass and what will matter most is how many people you helped lead to Christ, not to a voting booth.

I more and more bothered by Christians performing on social media, sometimes myself included. Very often, it is not the way those on the left rail against. I’ll put something up and some atheist or theological progressive with one foot out the door of Christendom will tweet “very Christian of you.” You have to ignore those. The theological progressive walking out the door of the church is often more hostile to our faith than the atheist who has never known the faith.

But I’m telling you — the constant dragging of evangelicals by those suddenly ashamed of evangelicals over politics and who view themselves as more righteous while pretending to be more humble and the constant dragging of authentic, orthodox Christians by evangelicals who disagree with those authentic, orthodox Christians politically on issues is doing nothing but playing into Satan’s hand.

Too many Christians on social media are building themselves up by speaking out not against the world but against other Christians or against the politics of those they disagree with while trying to claim their politics is closer to Christ. Where is the grace? Where is the Christian love? Where is the agreement to disagree civilly?

I have concerns social media is turning Christians into performance artists and distracting a lot of us from our mission, just as the cycles and rhythms of this world suggest our time is running out to spread the gospel, love our neighbor, and prepare our families for what is coming.

 

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