The American Church Needs Revival

For the first time in forty years I voted for a Democrat in the US Presidential elections. I do not share many of the social and economic values of the Democratic Party. Had the Republicans nominated a mainstream Republican at their convention, I would have voted Republican. As Donald Trump gained support in the early Republican primaries, I increasingly spoke out against him and challenged Christian support for him. I was and am shocked that a person with no political experience, who denigrates the marginalized and disenfranchised and who boasts of sexually attacking and conquering women could be elected President of the United States.

Consider these comments from John Winthrop, one of the founders of the American colonies: “We shall be a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.” The passengers, Puritans from England, who joined Winthrop were determined to be a beacon for the rest of Europe, “a model of Christian charity,” in the words of the governor. Almost four hundred years later the United States has become the most influential nation in world history, and people from all over the world seek to come to her. Now, that so-called model is becoming a mockery, largely due to the influence of the evangelical church, which publically and overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump’s candidacy.

Many Trump supporters countered moral objections to his candidacy by claiming the United States was not electing a pastor. While, of course, that is true, character counts in any leadership position. I well remember the outrage against former President Clinton because of his sexual dalliances with Monica Lewinsky. Many Christian leaders supported his impeachment. Intuitively, any serious follower of Yeshua knows he or she should not condone moral and ethical failure.

Notwithstanding the above, I understand Trump’s popular support. Many in the United States are frustrated with a big and intrusive government. Many rightfully are concerned about rapid cultural change where almost any behavior is claimed as a constitutional right. Many blue collar workers have experienced stagnant or shrinking wages for three decades. All of these groups and more resent Wall Street and Washington, DC elites from imposing upon them a lifestyle they either reject or are not a part of. Thus, Donald Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” resonates with these people.

What makes America a great country is the power of the people to vote for change. We saw it in 2008 when Barak Obama was elected President, and we see it again this year. Consequently, everyone is free to vote for whom they wish without the need to justify it. As I have written before, what I find objectionable, however, is Christian leaders endorsing and publicly supporting candidates, as if that places God’s imprimatur upon those individuals. The worst example of this occurred this year with Christian support of a man who is the antithesis of a follower of Yeshua. Hear Yeshua’s words to his disciples, in part captured by Governor Winthrop above:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.”

We are called to be different, behave differently and speak differently, to showcase the God Whom we serve. Can you imagine Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney and Billy Graham, the three most prominent preachers from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, publicly supporting someone like Donald Trump? It’s laughable. Rather than endorsing political candidates, a religious leader should instruct his constituents to examine candidates’ characters, experience and policies and then seek the Lord for guidance as to how to vote. In this way, the leader avoids the natural association that the congregants make among the leader, God and the candidate the leader prefers. With the election over, let’s pray for the success of the new government just as we should have been praying for the old one. Nevertheless, the American church needs revival, where it once again becomes light and salt to those around about it. Sadly, publicly endorsing someone for President who flaunts ungodly behavior and speech undermined what little credibility it had left.