The Political Idolatry of the American Church

“We, Paul and Timothy, are writing this letter. We serve Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 1:1 NIRV

Let’s be real. Who are we really serving? Is it truly Christ Jesus?

I loathe election years, and in general American politics. But it is not politics itself that I see as the problem. Instead, it is the relationship of the evangelical church in the United States to politics. I believe the great sin of the American church is an obsession with power and politics.

And the reality is, both political parties use and usurp “Christianity” for their political purposes. Many political leaders have adapted biblical language and equated, substituted, or oddly mixed Christianity with America. And we seem to fall for it and not be able to see through it time and time again. But equating America with Christianity is near blasphemous and arrogant. I know it is a long tradition in American culture, but it is a very narrow view. To be faithful to Scripture, we must do better biblically with a global, historical, and eternal perspective, not America only or first or one political party.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats represent the whole and genuine faith of Jesus Christ. If you identify as Republican or Democrat, can you say anything good about the other side or call out anything wrong on your “side?” For example, can we be honest enough to acknowledge that both racial injustice and unjust rioting are happening in the US? We need to be against both. There is police brutality, but also police being wrongly abused. There are respectful protesters but also a lot of destructive rioters. Abortion is evil. So is the mistreatment of immigrants and refugees. It is not an either/or. Both/and are issues. If we claim that our primary identity is a follower of Jesus, we cannot lose our prophetic voice and souls in exchange for political power or parties. The true prophets of old never hesitated to speak truth to power even when against popular opinion or at risk to their careers, even lives.

Sure, vote as you want, but voting has become more sacred than the true sacraments to many evangelicals. It is as if it is sacrilegious not to be passionate about it. Politics seem to be the passion over the Great Commission. It has led to idolatry, shallowness, abuse, immorality, greed, selfishness, hypocrisy, fear, anxiety, anger, mistrust of others, etc. I would go as far to say that political hypocrisy and blind political loyalty associated with the church, has done more damage to true Christianity than true Christianity has done good for politics.

For example, sadly, and strangely, many prominent Evangelical leaders are curiously tied to political parties and intense on specific cultural war issues but keep being exposed for various scandals. This reality is a real problem and not isolated incidents. But why do they get to have the loudest voices? Why do they get to represent (misrepresent) Christ? And what good is it to pray in the name of Jesus if we do not represent the name of Jesus? One is more concerned about our rights and outward appearance. The other is about a right life & inner substance. As Jesus warned, “When you pray, do not be like those who only pretend to be holy.” (Matthew 6:5).

The current general state of the American church and her leaders reminds me of the Kings of Israel’s history and the depth to which Israel plunged. For as much as the “religious right” has railed against liberals, I am as sick and disgusted by their hypocrisy and double-standards as I am anything else, if not more so. American Christianity, in general, (with some notable exceptions arising and speaking out more) is in a disgraceful place that one day we will be utterly embarrassed and ashamed by.

Philippians 1:27 calls us to a higher standard. The apostle Paul, while in prison, penned these words, instead of politically protesting his rights,

Despite all the fearful rhetoric, God’s kingdom does not depend on a political party in power to advance. The kingdom of God will advance regardless or even despite what political party or leader is in power. That should not be where our hope, faith, or focus lies. God has his purposes for whoever is in power in each season. The prophet Daniel, taken captive by the Babylonians and forced to enter the service of a pagan king, even acknowledged this. He wrote, “He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning” (Daniel 2:21). Does anyone believe this anymore?

One thing is for sure regardless of who is president or what party is in power; the eternal kingdom and city of God looks more and more attractive every day! There is no King but Jesus! Caesar is not Lord. Jesus is Lord! He is the hidden treasure few seem able or wanting to find and sell everything for. Instead, we sell out for earthly kings and kingdoms. Do as you wish, but I pledge allegiance to Christ above all, before all, and Christ alone. I encourage you to do the same and follow him. All other leaders, movements, and parties will fail you.

***This article is basically a compilation of my last 20 or so tweets on Twitter. You can follow here if interested: https://twitter.com/BenFoley08.