Politics is the most hated and inescapable thing. Every system has a god and a dominate religion, worldview. Therefore, everything that is theological is political, and everything that is political is theological. This is an inescapable fact. Culture is Religion externalized and it politically answers one simple question: by what standard? The culture war is ultimately between theonomy and autonomy, God’s Law versus man’s law. And no Christian should obey man above God.
Before we proceed any further, it must be stated that this admonishment should not be taken as a personal affront. I have tremendous respect for Evangelical leaders and pastors who would consider themselves #NeverTrump or #MAGA. They each have their favored political agendas and social reform priorities. A denial of this fact is a denial of reality itself.
It should also be made clear that #NeverTrump Evangelicalism is not the same movement as the Marxist Resistance. And #MAGA Evangelicalism is not even remotely synonymous with the racists of the alt-right. Any suggestion to the contrary is the definition of bearing false witness against brothers and sisters in Christ. And there’s an entirely different kind of admonishment for that kind of sin.
Now, with those acknowledgements of the #NeverTrump and #MAGA movements within Evangelical Christianity before us, I will proceed with what I believe to be the real weakness and sin of our current cultural engagements.
Evangelicals have lost sight of the theonomy of the Christian Right in its heyday of the 1980’s. It has been said by many Evangelical pastors that the Christian Right of the 1980’s is the beginning of the politicization of the Gospel. This is flat wrong and a gross slandering of the Christian Right. A truly biblical, theonomic understanding of God’s Law and cultural engagement marked the 1980’s Christian Right, generally. That’s not to suggest there weren’t mistakes. Those Christians were equally fallible sinners inconsistently striving to obey the commands of Jesus, just as we are today.
Evangelicals lost our way when we began affirming a neutrality myth and an autonomous moralism. It is autonomous because the standard isn’t actually Scripture, but our own feelings towards the thing we hate most. It is moralistic because it appeals only to the Scripture that fits our preferred political agenda. We became two-faced moralists lecturing against immorality and unrepentance of what we hate, but overlooking the unrepentance of people and narratives that seemingly support our favored political agenda.
Donald Trump and Martin Luther King, Jr. are modern-day personalities of this two-faced moralism.
#MAGA Christians admonish the elites and the swamp over their over taxation without representation (Exodus 20:15), the rule of law, and national borders determined by God (Acts 17:26) and the biblical assimilation Ruth modeled (Ruth 1:16). But they overlook the unrepentant sin of Donald Trump for the sake of their preferred political agenda.
#NeverTrump Christians are exactly the same way, but with their form of politics. They promote a welcoming immigration system focused only on the passages of caring for sojourners, and preach only the imago Dei on the sanctity of human life and racial harmony. However, they too overlook unrepentant sin, but of Martin Luther King, Jr., for the sake of their favored political agenda.
The problem with #MAGA or #NeverTrump is not the issues and reforms they prioritize. #MAGA preachers prioritize the concerns of the older generations of flyover country, while #NeverTrump prioritizes the concerns of younger urban generations. The Gospel and the whole theonomic counsel of God’s law-word applies to every legitimate concern.
Where #NeverTrump and #MAGA fall short, besides the glory of God, is their wild inconsistency in their application of God’s Law because of their neutrally autonomous moralism. And they are sanctimoniously unwilling to acknowledge their own partisanship, which is the idolatry of politics, as well as the other side’s equally important and biblically accurate positions.
Instead of having the humility to admit their cultural engagements are autonomously lame. They slap a Gospel-centered, Christ-centered, or Bible-believing label to their political agenda, while accusing the other of politics, nationalism, or Marxism. So congratulations, Church, you’ve become what you accuse the other of being.
Modern preaching has forgotten the three characteristics of the theonomic, plain preaching of the Puritans. Our pastors today, #NeverTrump and #MAGA, don’t boldly address the mind with biblical clarity, instead they muddle the waters with moralistic neutrality. They don’t confront the moral conscience in a distinct and pointed way, instead they insert confusion with scrambled definitions of sins and idols. And they most certainly do not woo the heart towards the Cross and the Gospel, instead they flatter the autonomous feelings of sinners.