I hope Wayne Grudem is happy. I hope Eric Metaxas is happy. They should be. They got what they want. For now.
But in the long term? I am not so sure.
Trump’s win will lull politicised evangelicals in the US, and by extension, here in Australia into a false sense of security. By that I mean that at the very time our true sense of security should be in the Lordship of Jesus, his rule, reign and imminent return, we will be given another shot of morphine to mask the pain of a cancer threatening the church.
That cancer is the same old cancer it has always been: that somehow the success of the evangelical church is inexorably tied to the success of the conservative political agenda. We will, in short, be offered a chance to rely on worldly powers not God’s power. And that could well be our true downfall.
Now, with the pollsters and journalists still in shock, the ripping up of the progressive establishment script by Trump will surely be seen as a sign that somehow the Christian framework of the nation – or the West – is back on an even keel. This would be a mistake.
Yes, the Donald’s win was a slap in the face for the establishment and it demonstrated the truth of what Rod Dreher says about the mainstream media; it despises, misunderstands, and therefore underestimates conservative religion.
Simply put, the majority of big city media has no interest in religion and cannot see how it could possibly have the pulling power it does. It’s the same here in Australia, in which TV shows such as the ABC’s QandA cannot fathom a world view outside the tiny, er, cloistered world of progressive secularism.
But now that the Supreme Court of the US is likely headed in the conservative direction, the danger will be to relax a little. To take things easy for a little. To think that, after all the panic of the past few years, that we can wrest this thing back from the brink. But is that where our hope lies?
I think not. As RR Reno notes in his book Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society, the church works best as leaven, as a creative minority on the fringe that punches above its weight. Reno points out how, when a group operates as the marginalised creative minority, the central majority gradually assumes that minority’s attributes, without that minority ever having to move from the margins.
Conversely, when the creative minority over-reaches itself and attempts to become the central majority it sullies itself with power, collapses under its own weight, hubris and self-entitlement and is eventually replaced.
Reno says that this explains the extraordinary pulling power of the gay lobby in the US. How does such a small group carry so much weight? Simple: it’s operating as the new creative minority that in turn sways the central majority.
So now that the once minority liberal agenda has collapsed after holding on to central power, why would conservative Christianity rush to fill that void again? Would it not be better to stay on the margins, whatever happens in the Supreme Court? Wouldn’t that be the lesson to learn?
Would it not be better to sup with the devil (aka Trump), with a very long spoon? After all, Trump did promise evangelicals that he would give them back their power. And now that he is in a position to do so, is the temptation too much? Will evangelicals, even those who scorned him publicly, not feel the teensiest bit of desire to just get a little bit back? There’s certainly biblical precedent to say that that will be a problem. We’re all susceptible to it, aren’t we?
Except of course for Jesus – the true circuit breaker when it comes to establishment power. He rejects all of the devil’s offers, and goes the way of the cross, committing himself to that most marginal of minority positions; crucifixion outside the city walls with the true deplorables. And it’s only in our taking up of the cross and dying to ourselves that we are truly empowered.
Yes Wayne, yes Eric, God may give you the desires of your hearts. But don’t forget that he did that for Israel too, and then brought leanness to their souls (Psalm 106:15)