Many, many mainstream Americans have become both alarmed and angered by the actions of the Obama administration. Yet, the sad truth is that even though conservatives might make gains in 2010, the election of 2012 is still far away and it is entirely unclear whether or not Obama can be defeated. Added to this, there are a dearth of GOP candidates or politicians who have proven themselves in any way trustworthy. While Arlen Specter may seem exceptional in the degree of two-faced duplicity he has exhibited in order to stay in office at all costs, was he really that different from the Republican’s last standard bearer, John McCain? Looking ahead, most of the Republican establishment is pushing Romney, but it is hard to see how he would be an improvement on the current situation. After all, ObamaCare is modeled after the very health care program championed by Romney in Massachusetts. While Romney has given lip service to conservative moral issues, at heart he appears to be a pro-business statist. We could expect a Romney administration to be moderately more business-friendly, but little he has said indicates that he would roll back the abuses of the Obama administration or undo any of the damage that is being done. And little in his record demonstrates that any such promises he might make would actually be kept.
At the same time, what if the Democrats went down in blazing defeat in 2010 and 2012, and conservative, God-fearing politicians were put into office? Well, significant sectors of America would still be very much in the control of people who stand in diametric opposition to those politicians. This includes the press, academia, the school systems, state bureaucracies, the civil service, the CIA, the Justice Department, and the State Department. We would still have a tremendous fight on our hands to keep a future conservative presidency from being like Bush’s second term, where it seemed that the entire American establishment turned on him. It would no means be the end of the troubles we face.
But all of the above is really just a description of the symptoms, and not the problem itself. To understand the problem, we must first realize that Obama is not responsible for this mess. Indeed, we only have ourselves to blame. The good news is that since we are to blame, we can take hold of the situation and turn it around. The bad news is that we need to start changing our ways of acting and thinking, and start now, before it is too late.
In many ways, the problem first started showing signs of emerging when the Moral Majority came into prominence in the early 1980s, though its roots began to flourish much earlier. What happened is that Christians started taking it for granted that the US was a Christian nation. Once they did so, they stopped examining and defending their own beliefs. Many Christian denominations became hostile to academics, forcing Bible schools and seminaries to spoon-feed rigid dogmatism to their students, and the students to merely regurgitate the various creeds they had learned, rather than to engage themselves with a Living Word and a living God. In many cases, what was (and is) taught from the pulpit in evangelical churches are well worn platitudes and truisms, to the point that many old-time church members practically have all of the sermons memorized by heart. No one is challenged, no one is confronted, and no one is made to think. People are not engaged by the Gospel. Beyond slogans and a handful of creeds, they do not really know what they believe or why. Lacking this basic knowledge, they are unable to successfully share their faith or change the hearts of the people around them.
The Moral Majority in many ways was the apotheosis of this trend. It began as a reaction to the gains made by secular society and to Roe vs Wade. However, while it confronted American society, it did not engage American society. Instead of trying to change people’s hearts, it tried to change the laws and the constitution. In time, the Moral Majority began to lose steam, to be replaced by the anti-abortion movement (which I support). While many people in the anti-abortion movement have done good work in trying to persuade, often on a personal basis, young women not to have abortions, the face of the anti-abortion movement became Randall Terry and his group, Operation Rescue, which was extremely confrontational, but which did not seek to engage anyone at all. The Moral Majority and Operation Rescue may indeed have changed a few minds, but at the cost of alienating nearly everyone who disagreed with them. Many of the people alienated by them became forever alienated from Christianity and the Gospel.
And then we have the television evangelists. When I was a dope-smoking university student, I used to watch Jim Bakker, marveling at how strange and kooky he and his wife were. In my stoned state, I thought they were certifiably insane. Now, after many years, I have tasted of nearly all of the televangelists who have come and gone, many in person. While I now understand where they are coming from, and at times even approve of their messages, I still think that nearly all of them are certifiably insane. They rarely, if ever, have much of an outreach to the unsaved. It is always just preaching to the choir. They may be confrontational and abrasive, but they never challenge or engage their listeners. Most of them are pure and simple demagogues, trying to build their ministries and their pocketbooks at the expense of their followers. I am convinced that some of them are not even saved.
These people and movements have become the face of evangelical Christianity, both to Christians and non-Christians alike. However, the Christian community–in a large part because of the misapplied and misquoted injunction to “touch not the anointed”–has often stood in the way of even the most minor critiques of such men and movements. The result is that instead of cleaning house, as Christians should have done, and using a whip to run the money changers out of the temple, evangelical Christians have embraced these men. Their thoughtless form of Christianity, filled with platitudes and pap, has become mainstream American Christianity.
Because of this, evangelical church membership is now nearly at a standstill. Sure, there are some churches growing leaps and bounds, but much of this growth is transfer growth and does not represent new believers. At the same time, personal Christian growth seems at a standstill among many American Christians. I know of at least one case of someone who traveled all the way across the country to attend the latest “revival”, was blessed, repented, and became filled with the “spirit”, only to have an affair with someone they met on the parking lot after the service. The degree of immorality in the church is in many ways a sign of the spiritual health of the church. When pastors are sent to jail for fraud or are caught in adultery, and when adultery and divorce are just as common among church members as in the general population, it is a sign of deep problems. The non-Christian population watches all of this with disapproval. Indeed, many non-Christians have more morality than the standard bearers of the church–they have never defrauded anyone or committed adultery, and are after no one’s pocket book. It is little wonder that when a Christian tries to share his faith–a faith that he himself may not really understand or be able to articulate–his arguments most often fall on deaf ears.
This all has a direct effect on the ballot box. I am struck by how many evangelical Christians voted for Obama to begin with, especially younger evangelicals. Indeed, there was even a worship video on YouTube that used a praise chorus–not for Jesus–but in support of Obama. Then again, even though they might not have voted for him, few evangelicals really complained that much about his election. This shows a substantial problem in the evangelical community. It is not just that the community is uninformed, but that many Christians could not identify someone who even in the best possible light was pro-abortion, anti-christian, and otherwise inimical to the interests of the church. My own view at the time of the election was that the man was an obvious fraud, a snake oil salesman bent on destroying the United States. However, I do not recall many people displaying such a sentiment back then. It has taken eight months for many evangelical Christians to see the light, and even now some are still confused as to what all the fuss is about, and some still support him.
We are all called to contend for our faith. However, we have sent out men to do this job for us, men who have only contended for themselves. Then again, many people now want to contend for the faith, but do not know how to contend and do not really understand the faith to begin with.
There is a solution to this: People need to know God. And this must begin in the church. Knowing God is not the same as knowing a creed or a doctrine. Rather, knowing God first begins by knowing his Word, and actually applying it to daily life. This is not as simple as it seems, as it requires a wrestling with basic issues, and a confrontation with our own deceits and our own sin. The evangelical church must become confronted by who it is and who God is. In essence, many Christians need to be saved.
When this happens, when people really love the Lord with all their heart, all their mind, and all their strength, then they can begin to build bridges once again to the lost, and start to change minds. This is the only way I see forward–the only way that I see for America to be retaken. Christians no longer have enough strength to impose their will through the ballot box. They must begin bringing people over to their side, instead.