Dana Hall McCain is right about what evangelicals have become. But words aren’t actions, and “Christians” have much to atone for.
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? – Mark 8:36
Dana Hall McCain is a self-professed “woman who loves Jesus more each day.” A few days ago, in the Dothan Eagle, she published a piece entitled “The Great Lie We’ve Believed,” in which she rightly acknowledges how conservative Christians have sold their souls (my words, not hers) in a blind quest for political power.
We ought to applaud her insight into the mess Christians have become, but should we simply accept this fairly banal acknowledgment of reality as sufficient? Or should we demand more – much more – of McCain and the millions of others who have so willingly lost their way?
Note her despair at what she has become. But note how she stops short of suggesting actually doing anything about it. She offers no plan – remarkably, since her every word makes clear what the right path is – and in the most obvious case any true follower of Christ could possibly imagine, seems unable to endorse the opponent of a pedophile. I imagine myself having this exchange with her:
HER: We’ve become so obsessed with political power that voting for pussy grabbers and child molesters seems like the only choice.
ME: Well, you could vote AGAINST them.
HER: The very thought makes me want to gouge out my eyeballs.
Yes, she says the thought of voting for Roy Moore makes her want to gouge out her eyeballs, too. But I don’t see an endorsement of his opponent. I don’t even hear her telling her fellow “Christians” to sit this one out.
McCain’s diagnosis of the church/politics issue is on the money, though.
The hyper-focus on conservative politics in the church has convinced many in our midst that achieving and maintaining political power is our first calling, and that political success is the primary way we impact our culture for Christ. Not evangelism. Not service. Not serious reflection on our own sins and subsequent repentance. Not the cumulative effect of many hearts brought to Christ and lives subsequently transformed, resulting in a more Christ-like culture. Just win on election night…at all costs.
I remember when we said, and said often, that the good character of a leader was an absolute essential. Then 2016 happened. Suddenly, the bar had to be lowered because we couldn’t possibly be faithful to God when the stakes were so high, right? God surely didn’t expect us to trust him and refuse to align with those whose lives are in direct conflict with much of his word in times like these, did he? Because our God absolutely has to have the House, the Senate, and the White House to accomplish his purposes, right?
So we held our noses, walked into the voting booth, and did the dirty deed. We told ourselves that this was a special (read: horrific), once in a lifetime circumstance, and that we’d never have to stoop this low again. This election was our own Sophie’s Choice. Do it just this once.
One of the most nefarious things about a sin is that once you’ve broken the seal and done it, it’s easier the second time.
Exactly. And at the end, McCain finally realizes what many have been saying about Christianity in America since the 1980s:
Here’s where we are: the GOP has come to understand that Evangelicals are trained seals. We show up and clap for any clown you can slap a Republican jersey on. It doesn’t even have to be a godly or wise person. Our votes are a sure thing, and we’ll turn out and vote for problematic or corrupt GOP candidates far more consistently than non-religious conservatives. So come to terms with the fact that the church isn’t influencing diddly squat, not even in our favorite party. To the contrary, the church is the one being influenced — and our credibility before a lost and dying world destroyed — because we have believed the great lie about political engagement.
We have all the power in the world, but we lack the faith to exercise it. They own us, because we don’t trust God enough to call the bluff.
I suppose there are two ways to read McCain. The charitable take would say she’s shining a light on the problem and, especially in that last sentence, offering up a fairly pointed hint at what the solution looks like.
A more critical reading might argue that this isn’t something that was done to Christians, it was a path Christians chose, that they chose willingly and gleefully and that, most importantly, they’re still choosing. Pay attention to the results of the upcoming special election in Alabama if you need evidence.
A more critical reading might wonder why she soft-pedals the conclusion. Does the case she lays out not justify a pretty clear call to action?
A more critical reading might point out that something has gone terribly wrong if any of this even needs saying, because people truly familiar with the word of God would never have abandoned their souls so willingly to begin with.
A more critical reading might draw a line in the sand and say no, you get no points for figuring out in 2017 what was brutally obvious in 1984, if not earlier.
A more critical reading might say fine – show me. You have much to atone for. If you want me to believe you’re a Christian, you need to spend a few decades showing me you’re a Christian. Start with Roy Moore. Then next year show the GOP you aren’t trained seals and vote for candidates whose policies are consistent with the values taught by Jesus Christ. Get out your Bibles, flip to the New Testament, and read those red letter passages. Do you not believe Jesus Christ MEANT what he said?!
Then, come 2020, if you support Donald Trump again, you can shut up forever. You do not know Christ, and come Judgment Day He will not know you.
In the end, a lament over what “Christians” have become is not the same as a call to change. And Matthew 7:16 is not ambiguous: “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”
Your words no longer matter, fake Christians, and unless you get serious about atoning with your actions, your name will not be found written in the Book of Life.