To my Christian MAGA Friends
I love you.
I am a conservative. No matter what you may think of me or have heard of me, I believe in a smaller government (with the single exception being healthcare), in federalism, in eradicating our national debt and deficit, in a strong national defense, etc. I have had many spats with people that I love very dearly on the left over issues of transgenderism and abortion. They would never claim me as part of their camp, I promise.
I am a theological conservative. Steeped evangelicalism from my youth, I have read all the evangelical authors and watched the evangelical pastors that you have and agree with very much of their theology. I agree with every word of the Alliance Statement of Faith, our grand creeds and catechisms (except with the ones baptizing babies — that’s just off).
As a conservative evangelical pastor, my desire is to see every person worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That’s it. There is no other agenda.
We need to talk. But first I need to tell you about me.
I was raised in an era of conservative evangelicalism whose primary concern was threats from outside of the church. The focus was on Islam, atheism, new ageism, secular philosophy, and postmodernism. I was trained by the books and videos that I would watch and the conferences that I would attend on how to perceive threats to the faith that came from those sources. I dove into apologetics until I was neck deep in all the many defenses of the faith that we could offer written by the very finest minds in evangelicalism.
At the same time I was steeped in an understanding of politics which was us versus them in terms of conservative versus liberal. To be a conservative Evangelical meant necessarily to be a conservative politician. Rush Limbaugh was as respected in the church as Wayne Grudem. Political liberalism was viewed as as much of an outside threat as Islam or postmodernism in general. Indeed they were often all wrapped up together in a broad category called postmodernism.
I went to Duke University in part to know how to combat this broad threat called postmodernism. There I studied philosophy and political science for very little reason other than to defend the church and Christ.
While I was at Duke I encountered everything you called wokeism. I saw broad movements of secular culture that you had to adopt or feel outside of the main. There was a t-shirt movement “Gay? Fine by Me" that you really had to wear or else it meant you hated gay people. I even worked at the Duke women’s center, at the very epicenter of what might be called woke post-feminism. If Duke University is anything it is perpetually woke.
While I was there I also encountered a conservativism that was not born of biblical truth but of greed and anger. It was in part reactionary to the woke culture but also born of a desire for money above all. There were a good number of conservatives that were atheists at Duke and many of them only cared about conservativism because it meant paying less taxes and having more money.
Just a year after my college days I found myself in the very epicenter of conservativism in America. I was actually part of the meetings of the Wyrich Group.
(This was the group that was at the center of the movement against Bill Clinton. It was comprised of the most important and visible conservatives.)
I walked the halls of Congress, had meetings in the White House, and met people in the state department. I worked with mostly conservative Evangelical staffers on issues of religious freedom.
I found many people there who had the same sort of upbringing and education that I had. But at the same time we began all of us to feel the tension with the arrival of the new right media and the explosive growth of Fox News.
Fox News and the inheritors of Fox News, OANN and News Max among others, are profit-driven enterprises designed to foment anger for the purpose of increasing viewership. This profit driven is intermingled with a secular conservativism driven entirely by opposition to whatever liberals are perceived as doing. The point of these news sources is to incite frustration and anger so the people will keep watching.
As these new media arose I saw a change in American conservativism. Many of the people I had worked with who were steeped in evangelicalism were cast aside and replaced with angrier versions of themselves speaking the same language of Christianity without the love or concern for the cause of Christ at the core. Bipartisan prayer meetings that I had known went the way of the dodo. Anger was the only acceptable motivation. Hatred of the left was the only meaningful ethos. Destruction of the left was the only goal.
What happened in these last 15 years is a danger crept into the church that was always there to some extent but was not recognized or appreciated because we were never trained to look at the cultural dangers that can arise within the church. As prepared as we became to look out for postmodernism, we never knew to look for Christian nationalism.
Christian nationalism is essentially a neo-legalism. It is the belief that we can somehow sanctify a nation without first being sanctified people. Married with the anger of the new right media, Christian nationalism becomes a wanton desire to destroy the left and liberalism at all costs.
Christian nationalism really took hold as anti-Obamaism. People in the church HATED Obama and therefore enjoyed the news media which hated him most. The media and pastors and theologians gave free passes to that hatred. Christian nationalism soaked up that hatred and gave it an ouput.
Into this milieu stepped Donald Trump. He was not a traditional conservative by any stretch of the imagination but he hated who Christian nationalism hated. Because we had not recognized the threat in our own congregations that we could succumb to that kind of hatred on a broad scale we welcomed him with open arms. We were also conditioned to believe us versus them dualities which negated any option of not participating in politics or running a third-party candidate that was destined to lose. Some who were not Christian nationalists felt trapped and voted their conscience without actually supporting Donald Trump hoping that his policies would be good enough to overcome his character. For a while it seemed as though this would work for evangelicals. The pickup of three Supreme Court seats seemed sufficient trade.
Many people who voted single issue on abortion or who voted with the hope that policy would outweigh character were completely blinded to the rampant idolatry that many in our churches were taking up. That well may be you. I hope that you agree with me that the trade-off has not been worth it.
But this is not for those people. This is for you if you still believe that Donald Trump cares about you or about conservativism or is of any value in fighting the left. You may have made an idol of Donald Trump. You may have fallen for the anger of Christian nationalism thinking that it was the right response to a hatred of oncoming postmodernism. You might have seen him as the only hope of holding the line against liberalism that we have been told would destroy America and destroy the church.
What happened on Wednesday was the ultimate Revelation of this poison called Christian nationalism. Flags flying high bearing the cross entered the United States Capitol by force at the cost of lives. The people saying Christian worship songs as they occupied the Capitol building. Crosses were erected. People genuinely thought they were doing the will of God as they trampled democracy.
If your first instinct might be to defend Donald Trump or to say it was the liberals who trampled democracy first or in greater measure, I understand that impulse because I was raised in your culture. I probably agree with almost every criticism you have of leftism. You also want to point to the riots of the summer. Yes, those were terrible. But they cannot excuse Donald Trump And they cannot excuse Christian nationalism.
Donald Trump has not hurt the left. He hates the left so that you will love him but he had no cohesive strategy for fighting postmodernism or leftism. You might like that he has angered them but now they will have both houses of Congress and the presidency. Moreover, more people are now sympathetic to the cause of the left as a result of the anger that they have seen emanating from the church. Even if we ran a atheistic cost-benefit analysis of where Christian nationalism has left us, we would have to acknowledge that our churches have shrunk, our giving to missions has shrunk, and our public proclamation of the gospel has been replaced with public vitriol for those of whom we are afraid.
Donald Trump does not love you. Just because he gives feed to the fire of your anger does not mean he will be there when you are sick, will hold your hand when you are afraid, or will speak truth to you when it is hard to do so. The Bible teaches us “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Proverbs 27:6). Donald Trump and his people want power just like the Democrats want power. He will tell you he loves you so that you will vote for him, and he will say whatever is necessary to keep your support. But when you fail, he will not be there to pick you up. He will not bail you out of prison. He is not praying for you.
Supporting Donald Trump does nothing for the Kingdom of Jesus. Hated of the Left is not love of God. Hatred of Sin is an outcome of our love for God, so you should hate all sin. But loving a sinner who hates the particular sins you do not like (or have been trained to particularly abhor) is not love of God.
Donald Trump has betrayed conservativism itself. We are no more federalist in nature than we were in 2016. Our states have no more rights. Our government has taken on larger and larger budgets, including more money given to Planned Parenthood than ever before. Early indicators show that abortions rose in 2018 for the first time in two decades. We have a larger deficit than we have ever had. We had more socialism in the form of direct money sent to people across America than ever in the history of the United States. Nothing that conservatives value has come to pass except for judges and even those judges have repudiated Donald Trump over and over again. The only winners in this season of Republican rule come from the greedy end of conservativism: taxes are lower, and billionaires are richer.
Perhaps your response would be that we had to do something because this election was stolen. At this point you may very well believe to your dying day that the election was stolen and I doubt there’s anything that I could say that would change your mind. But there’s a great many bad things that happen in this world and none of them can be solved with our anger or with our allegiance to wickedness. Continuing to support Donald Trump or participating in Christian nationalism will not undo this election or further unveil anything that you consider to be fraudulent. There is no answer for you in your anger except to give it to the Lord Jesus. None. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you because they want you to vote for them or give them money.
If you want to pursue conservative strategies and fight the left I am offering to sit down with you and strategize and talk about how to do politics to fight leftism. I understand theology and philosophy behind leftism. I also understand politics very well having both a degree and political science and having worked in politics. I would happily help you get engaged in politics and even run for public office. I would literally campaign for you if you want to run for office for conservative values. You can have a greater impact that you have ever had if you would open your eyes to the possibilities. As it is you are stewing in anger without an outlet. Therefore you are only hurting yourself.
I am begging you with a heart of love and literal tears in my eyes to turn off the television. Stop falling down the trails of conspiracy theories in madness. You are becoming more angry than you ever have in your life. You are allowing the isolation of these days to destroy your own soul. Your depression over the brokenness of the world is allowing you to step into idolatry and join a cult that only wants to take advantage of you
I love you. Your pastor loves you. Your church loves you. Donald Trump does not love you.
I want to help you change the world. Donald Trump does not want that for you. He only wants you to help him.
I would be at your door today if you ask for help. Donald Trump will not help you.
Donald Trump will not end leftism. Supporting Donald Trump will not end leftism, wokeism, CRT, or any of the other bad things the news media tells you to hate.
Your pastor will be the one to do your funeral, your weddings, your baptisms, and be there when you call. Donald Trump will not do any of these things.
The new right media only exists to make you angry. Please turn it off. Flee from conspiracies. If you are going to engage in politics then do so. Otherwise pull your head away from it entirely. Literally any other normal human activity will give more glory to the Lord than watching the news media for hours every day.
Please channel your energy into the glorious worship of the Lord Jesus and service in his kingdom and flee from this idol.
Some things cannot be true of the church moving forward, and I believe pastors will need to be more vigilant in looking inward rather than outward at the threats that are coming for the church. Christian nationalism is as much a threat as Islam or postmodernism. Indeed I believe it is more of a threat because we are more prone to believe it and succumb to our anger as we have. We are comfortable with our idols provided we get to choose them.
Here are lies no pastor or good Christian should tolerate any longer:
- “Reporters for the media are the enemy of the people.” This is the easy lie that allowed us to open the doors to the new right media and welcome their insidious lies. We saw liberal reporters pushing agendas supported by large corporations. Those large corporations and those over media companies may be postmodern in nature and have greed and power as their end, but the individual reporters who work for them are oftentimes not. They may be Christian people as well. In fact I know several reporters who are Christian people who love Jesus and are trying to do their best merely to report on the news. If you want to have distrust of corporations or of large powerful organizations then by all means do. But hatred of individuals or violence towards individual reporters is not christianly and more importantly is the kind of hatred that opens the door to other sorts of hatred. Reporters are not the enemy of the people.
- “We can save America.” We cannot save any country. I cannot even save my neighbor. I cannot save myself. Salvation is a gift of God given by the Holy Spirit received by faith. No law or set of laws can save a single soul from that nation and no right law will usher in the reign of God. Advocating for good policies is always good but has not saved a single soul. If you care about salvation then Jesus Christ is your only answer. If you care about good policy then engaging in politics is your only answer. This middle ground of thinking that policies will save America without actually doing anything to support good policy and actively advocating for a man who knows nothing about good policy and has in fact run from good policy many times does nothing except hurt your own soul.
- “Democrats are Evil.” Everyone is evil. Democrats believe and practice a set of policies that we may think are bad but those are human beings created in the image of God for whom Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross. If you disagree then talk. If you want to fight on the level of policy then get involved in politics. But condemning an entire people group to hell because you do not understand or hate their policies or their support of something like abortion does nothing for kingdom of Jesus.
- “yeah, but…” There is no yeah but when it comes to repentance and sin. We must look inward first, to our own house, to our own sins, and repent. There is no other way to God.