Hey Dr Dobson, It’s Time to Focus on Jesus

I have been critical in the past over celebrity evangelical figures who have  blinked first and allowed the sexual ethics of progressivism to blind them to the reality of the biblical framework on sexuality and Christ’s gospel call to purity. The desire for cultural and social power, and a seat at the table in the coming secular kingdom has proven, and continues to prove to be, too much for many.

But lest I hear “rah-rah’s” and “harrumphs” from conservative Christians, a brilliant, but sobering, article in the New York Times yesterday nails evangelicals from the Right for exactly the same thing.

Left and Right think they have opposing agendas, but Peter Wehner’s scorching assessment, The Theology of Donald Trump, should have conservative evangelicals gnashing their teeth, because clearly they want the same spoils of war as their progressive foe. The only difference being that they want them from the other side.

Wehner’s article excoriates evangelicals on the Right for not simply supporting Donald Trump in his Presidential push, but for their craven, slavering syrupy endorsement of a man as far away from understanding the guts of the cross of Christ as one can be in politics.

And all of this at a time when secular Republicans are making excuses not to attend the party’s wedding feast/national conference this year, in protest at Trump’s nomination.

Wehner damns this cohort not so much with his punchy, powerful words, but with their own flaccid, faithless efforts.

Here’s Focus on The Family’s  Dr James Dobson after meeting Trump:

“Trump appears to be tender to the things of the Spirit.”

To which Wehner retorts:

Of all the descriptions of Mr. Trump we’ve heard this election season, this may be the most farcical. As described by St. Paul, the “fruit of the Spirit” includes forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, hardly qualities one associates with Mr. Trump. It shows you the lengths Mr. Trump’s supporters will go to in order to rationalize their enthusiastic support of him.

And how about this from the perennial Jerry Falwell:

“Donald Trump is God’s man to lead our nation.”

Now I can pretty much excuse Falwell. Over the  decades he has demonstrated that he doesn’t quite get how the Church is the nation of God, rather than the nation being the nation of God.

But when celebrity Christian author Eric Metaxas says that Christians…

“…must vote for Trump because he is the last best hope of keeping America sliding into oblivion.”.

then I wonder whether the best biographer of Bonhoeffer so far has actually read Bonhoeffer, much less understood him. I hope Tim Keller of New York Redeemer Presbyterian Church distances himself publicly from his friend’s comments.  He needs to.

And all of this sprang from the parody of a Love Feast that Trump held with hundreds of evangelical leaders recently at which he said:

“And I say to you folks, because you have such power, such influence. Unfortunately the government has weeded it away from you pretty strongly. But you’re going to get it back. Remember this: If you ever add up, the men and women here are the most important, powerful lobbyists. You’re more powerful. Because you have men and women, you probably have something like 75, 80 percent of the country believing. But you don’t use your power. You don’t use your power.”

Woah, There’s your problem right there! The same pesky problem that Judas Iscariot had with Jesus. All that power at your finger tips Jesus, and you simply refusing to use it to further yourself – and us!

Where was the Jeremiah, the Micaiah, in that room who would stand up, push back his seat and shout “You lie!” before being booed and then dragged out by security. I guess when your mouth is full of lobster it’s hard to raise your voice in protest against the host isn’t it?

Wehner concludes with this damning observation:

Evangelical Christians who are enthusiastically supporting Donald Trump are signaling, even if unintentionally, that this calling has no place in politics and that Christians bring nothing distinctive to it — that their past moral proclamations were all for show and that power is the name of the game.

Yes, power is the name of the game.  It’s just not the game that Jesus was playing.  And that’s something both the Left and the Right in the US – and here in Australia, which increasingly lives its Christianity in the rain shadow of the US – need to humbly acknowledge.

As traction within the cultural framework slides further away from conservative Christians in Australia, let’s remember that for every Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to defile themselves with the king’s food, there were dozens of their countrymen slurping wine and wolfing down cutlets who had conveniently forgotten that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

7 Comments

  1. I must admit that I find this desperate need of Christians to claim or label celebrities, politicians, or other influential people as “one of us” not just bizarre but shallow & naive. It is not God-honouring or faithful to the Gospel of Jesus. I don’t understand why Trump can’t be labelled for what he is – an opportunist, manipulator, egocentric, etc., but certainly not Christian. (They even managed to do the same thing with Bill Clinton!) This doesn’t mean American Christians shouldn’t vote for him, as his opponent may arguably be so much worse! But we should at least be honest about these people & maintain our own integrity as believers. (I use the “we” pronoun as we are just as guilty of this in Aus – remember Peter Garrett!) I also agree with you about the power mindset which seems to permeate so much of Christian thinking these days. I tend to think that fear is very much at the centre of this thinking – afraid of being vulnerable, not in control, sidelined/irrelevant, etc. Certainly the opposite of how Jesus went about his work. The Gospel idea of suffering seems to have escaped us, but I suspect we will soon be reminded of it.

  2. I thoroughly enjoy reading your blogs and am presently referring to myself as an eschatological Christian, thanks to your blog of a few weeks back. And I am an American living in Oz and will be voting in our upcoming election—a conundrum the likes of which I have never seen. Our choices are…well, let’s just say a rock and a hard place do not compare with the selection before Americans. With this in mind I would like to offer some push back on your most recent blog. Not that I disagree, but so as to put more flesh on the issue. From my perspective, not having decided as of yet who I will vote for, the issue is larger than just the presidency and the commander-in-chief. This person will also select Supreme Court Judges who will pass judgment on laws that will seek to shelter those people of faith who resist the current tidal wave of social upheaval. Churches and faithful followers of Christ will find themselves out of a job and put out of their churches (those that meet in public places like schools). This is what Eric Metaxes references, I believe, and he is right.

    One visual I would like to offer is the account in the bible of Nebuchadnezzar, the destructor of Jerusalem, the pilferer of the Temple, the ruin of the Hebrew nation. In Daniel chapter 4 we read of the heights to which old Nebbie ascended and the depths to which he descended. I see the potential for Mr. Trump to experience his own Nebuchadnezzar humiliation. This may be what Dr. Dobson refers to as being “tender to the Spirit”, I don’t know. I may be naïve but I see greater potential for him, once he occupies office, of experiencing the humility that the office exerts on unsuspecting candidates. He is arrogant, vain, pompous and may just receive the comeuppance he deserves. That would be my prayer should he win the election. I see no such possibility in Mrs. Clinton because she has been close to the heights of power as Secretary of State and her arrogance metastasized.

    All is not doom and gloom, however, as God puts in power who He wants and on that I rely.

    1. Christians need to think through the different dynamics of election politics, since this is not directly addressed in Scripture. NT writers had no prerogative in selecting leaders and lived under the Caesars, whom they described sometimes as agents of God and other times as agents of darkness. We have this prerogative. Politics is not the process of choosing the “most Christian” candidate. There are no Christians in this race (and we are warned against judging unbelievers as though they were Christians–which is exactly what the media pundits who are cited in this post are doing). Even pagan rulers (like Cyrus) could be effective leaders and administrators who act favorably towards God’s people and played a role in the advance of God’s kingdom. But we are urged to pray for our leaders and to ultimately not put our trust in flesh-and-blood “princes” (= politicians). Our trust is in our Lord.

      Two other quick bits. First, I have a post on baptism in 1Peter that may interest you: http://conservativerestorationist.blogspot.com/. Second, what happened to the previous post with the short life span?

  3. Stephen, we interacted on this a bit via Roger’s FB today. Question: It’s the 7th of November. Your a US Citizen standing with your election ballot in hand. Your an evangelical Christian. Who do you vote for?

  4. Since Jerry Falwell is dead, and they must be referring to his son, Jerry Falwell Jr, I am not sure why this quote was not phrased a little more cautiously.

    By calling him ‘perennial’ it seems to be describing his father’s legacy more than his own.

    It does seem a little bit like cherry-picking to me, since they are only referring to a small number of evangelical endorsements.

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