I grew up in a binary world. Thankfully, my family made the choice before I was born: I would be an Auburn fan. In the state of Alabama, you either represent Alabama or Auburn and greet fellow fans with either “Roll Tide!” or “War Eagle!” The success of one is interpreted as doom for the other. It’s not enough just to root for your team; you have to hate the other. You have to wish their football team gets put on probation and maybe even receives the death penalty. You don’t just get excited when your side is up; you take particular pleasure when the other side is down. Schoolyard arguments become heated, sometimes violent. Clear facts enter the spin cycle of reinterpretation as fans search for evidence of superiority with religious fervor.
“Why are you only criticizing the Right? Where’s your criticism of the Left?” It’s a question that I’ve been asked a few times lately. There seems to be a reflex to “What about them?” whenever someone’s cherished political team takes a hit. I get it. In our highly charged bi-partisan climate, accusation is interpreted as a zero-sum game. A point deducted from one side seems to be a point in the other side’s ledger and vice versa.
To be clear, I am a conservative Christian pastor. I have never voted for a Democrat because, among other reasons, I have never knowingly voted for any candidate who believes in the legalization of abortion. With that said, I also believe that character is essential for elected leaders in a democratic republic. It goes without saying that the last five years have left me without a political home. As a citizen of heaven, I’ve learned to embrace my fate as an exile here on this earth (Phil. 3:20). I’m a member of the only institution that carries the keys of the Kingdom of Christ (Matt. 16:19). What other membership do I need?
Nonetheless, it’s impossible to be apolitical and a Christian in this world. The claim that we make at our baptism— “Jesus is Lord”—is a political statement. In short, it means that all other kingdoms will one day be subjected to his Kingdom. It means that no other allegiance can come before my allegiance to Christ. It means that, when it comes to earthly authority, there will be times when I will have to say, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
As a Christian exile in the world, I like to think that I’m an equal opportunity offender. I believe that it is important to speak truth to power on all sides, and when I attempt such speech, I do so, not as a representative of the other party, but as a witness to the coming Kingdom of Christ. However, I have to admit that lately I’ve been more vocal in my critiques of the Right, and I believe I have a good reason for that.
When we look out on the political horizon in America today, we do not find two viable political parties for Christians to join. Instead, we find two competing secular religions, each one demanding absolute loyalty from its adherents. “Religion” is notoriously hard to define, but let’s go with this from Merriam-Webster online: “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held with ardor and faith.”
That secular progressivism on the Left has become a religion has been well-documented by writers such as Andrew Sullivan and Ross Douthat. Progressivism has all the components of a religion without a transcendent God. Its adherents even have something of a creed. Further, this secular religion has no tolerance for contrary opinions. As Andrew Sullivan has written, “If you happen to see the world in a different way…you are not just wrong, you are immoral.”
As a Christian, I believe that secular progressivism is evil. It ignores the wisdom of the Creator of the universe, promotes values that are contrary to the revealed will of God, and undermines the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. Conscientious Christians must speak in opposition to the godlessness of secular progressivism.
But here’s the thing: The Right now has its own secular religion. How else do you describe what took place in our nation’s Capitol last Wednesday? The pictures and videos paint a harrowing scene. Not only were mobs of rioters illegally breaking into the Capitol building intent on overturning a legal election and willing to commit violence in the name of a tyrannical despot, but many of them were doing it in the name of Christianity. Alongside the Trump flags, there were Christian flags. On that same lawn was erected a noose and a cross. Christian music was playing on loudspeakers.
Can you see why a conservative pastor might find it necessary to speak more against the Right than against the Left in these days? Both sides are deeply problematic, but only one side portrays itself as a Christian movement. The people I pastor aren’t drawn to secular progressivism. However, they have been trained to believe that the Republican party is the party that best represents their Christian values, and I’m just not sure that’s true anymore. I’m not sure there is a political party in America that represents the values of the Kingdom of Christ (Matthew 5-7 is a great place to find those values).
Consider this: The President of the United States and many of the most vocal leaders of the Republican party have been propagating lies about a stolen election, but our Lord commands us to be people of truth (John 14:6). The secular religion on the Right promotes violence, vitriol, and slander, but our Lord commends gentleness, humility, and love (Col. 3:12). We are called to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44). Can you honestly say that your participation in partisan politics assists you to obey the command to love your political enemies?
Political disagreements have become worship wars. Each side demands absolute adherence. It’s no longer acceptable to critique aspects of your own side. You have to believe it all. We’ve reached a point where citizens aren’t even allowed to consider opinions that contradict the orthodox creeds of their respective side. If a news channel reports something against the code, we boycott it and turn to the one that will exclusively tell us what we want to hear. We now give testimonies of repentance about turning from Facebook to Parler as if in the process something like scales fell from our eyes.
Here’s all I’m saying: If you belong to Jesus, he’s the only one to whom you owe absolute devotion. If you are a citizen of his Kingdom, anything that interferes with your allegiance to him must be removed. For the Christian, the voice of the Lord must be louder than the voice of OAN or CNN or Fox News. The influence of pastors and brothers and sisters in local churches must far outweigh the influence of QAnon conspiracy theorists or even the President himself.
We are called to be in this world, but not of it (John 17:14-17). We follow a King whose Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). There will come a day when all the kingdoms of this world will collapse into the Kingdom of our resurrected Lord (Rev. 11:15), and you don’t want to be on the wrong side of that transition of power. It won’t be peaceful.