It wasn’t always this way.
There was a time when God was trusted to provide. When David described God as a fortress and refuge. When Martin Luther prayed for bravery to stand defiant against the daunting might of the Church. When Martin Luther King Jr. challenged the nation to have its actions match its ideals. Prayers were sent. Appeals were made. Teardrops echoed from the concrete of the Pettus Bridge to heaven. God was trusted to deliver strength, courage and victory in spite of insurmountable odds.
Times have changed. Paul Weyrich, a politically ambitious strategist, decided to leverage the collective influence of Christians for political gain. After a failed attempt to galvanize the group around segregation (Bob Jones University v. United States), Weyrich and Jerry Falwell turned their gaze to abortion and finally gained the traction they needed. This is the birth of the Moral Majority, later to be called the Religious Right.
Weyrich went on to form the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation who was a key partner in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The tandem of Weyrich and Falwell ushered American Christianity into a new age. The age where politics provided and God was no longer needed beyond name dropping for credibility.
History is repeating itself. When Jesus was alive and Rome was in power, the God ordained office of the High Priest was more of a political position than a religious appointment. The High Priest came through the line of Levi. As each High Priest died or stepped aside, their sons assumed the role. Jewish historian, Josephus, records it wasn’t until Onias dies and his son Jason pays Antiochus for the position that the Levitcal inheritance of the office was broken. By the time Jesus is an adult, the practice of Rome appointing the office to the highest bidder was common practice. The Jewish religious leadership had become a political entity, beholden to Rome. Faith decisions were made that were also in the best interest of the Roman Empire. The most famous being the crucifixion of Jesus who was painted as a religious zealot seeking to overthrow Caesar. The church exchanged their moral authority for favor with Rome. This method of religious leaders allying with political leaders led to the Reformation as the Roman Catholic Church increasingly found itself involved in politics.
It seems the church, in whatever form it takes, cannot steer clear of politics. So in 2017, it should not surprise anyone that American Christians find themselves in the same position. The current crop of Evangelicals are direct descendants of Paul Weyrich’s political machinations. It isn’t only Evangelicals but it is Evangelicals, especially. It was 81% of Evangelicals who voted for Donald Trump. The main motivator being the potential selection of 3 seats on the Supreme Court. It is 76% of Evangelicals voting for Roy Moore for similar reasons. Despite the actions of men that explicitly oppose tenants of the Christian faith, Christians are willing to temporarily set aside their morality in hopes of later legislating that same morality through the Supreme Court. That morality is used to harm and oppress entire groups of people. It is all said to be done in Jesus’ name but Jesus never acted this way. He never sought alliance with Rome. He was in violent disagreement with the Pharisees based on their treatment of people who needed help. He challenged those who used God’s name to prey on God’s people.
The Christian hope is no longer in God to deliver victory. That hope rests squarely with our politics. It is no longer God who saves but SCOTUS decisions and legislation. The belief that those prayers directed toward heaven reach the Halls of Congress is the hope of the Believer now. The idea that politics saves renders God obsolete. There is no element of this brand of Christianity that indicates a belief that God is capable of anything.
Many American Christians have exchanged what they believe to be an impotent God for a newer model. It is clear where their faith is placed. An increasingly odd choice since the Jesus whose name they use blasphemously opposed those political powers. He avoided Rome in exchange for relationships with people whom Rome did not serve. The beggar, the stranger, the widow, the leper, those of lower class, children, and women. Jesus did what today’s followers of Jesus are unable to do.
Maybe one day true Christ followers will reclaim their faith. That faith is still full of goodness and the book is not closed on its potential. But for now, ‘In Politics We Trust’.