This can be the best time for the church – in spite of Trump

I am more fearful for the American church during Trump’s presidency than I ever was during Obama’s.

The American church panicked as Obama legalized gay marriage, which many evangelicals saw as a direct violation of the Christian scriptures and their own religious beliefs. Many Christians also took issue with Obama’s approach to health care, foreign policy, the environment, and federal spending.

Many Christians railed against these policies, maligned Obama, and feared for the future of the nation. However, many of them also grappled more deeply with their understanding of biblical sexuality, prayed more strongly for our country, and remembered more fully what it means to be the Church in a somewhat oppositional culture.

With Trump now threatening to totally destroy the Johnson amendment that prohibits churches from remaining tax-exempt while engaging in political activity, I am much more afraid for the future of Christianity in America. The church is at its best when it is the underdog. It thrives when it is forced to focus on the heavenly kingdom instead of earthly power. It becomes impotent, ineffective, and inappropriate when its strength is linked to the state.

Trump seems to forget that neither Jesus nor the early church leaders spent much time currying the favor of politicians, rousing the church to political action, or trying to pass legislation. They were a lot more concerned about who believers were becoming and how the Church was bearing witness to Christ, regardless of what was happening in the capitol. If churches are able to remain tax-exempt while advocating political positions, we will have to rely on pastors to have the spiritual maturity to focus on Jesus’ priorities instead of Washington’s. My association with the evangelical church over the last forty years does not give me great hope that they will rise to this challenge.

“My administration will do everything in its power to defend religious liberty,” Trump said. “We have to feel safe and secure.”

These days are a great opportunity for Christians. Not to finally get the laws passed that we’ve been waiting for, not to “be heard,” not to “restore biblical values” to the country. Not to strike a blow to the previous administration. Certainly not to feel safe because we’re winning or secure because the doors to our country are locked tight. It is a great opportunity to demonstrate the central truths of our faith: that we are strong when we are weak, that we find life by dying to our own selfishness, that the least shall be first, that peace comes from Christ and not from temporary comfort.

Trump is pandering to the American church at its worst. I am praying that we will somehow find our way back to what Jesus says is best.

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