*Note: this blog contains uncensored quotations.
**Secondary note: rude or defensive comments will be deleted.
If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. – The Gospel of Thomas, Verse 70
When I speak on the American church losing this election, I am not talking in terms of candidates and who won or lost. Whether or not America’s presidential election is launching a great era or a bad one is a matter of personal opinion, and the realities of that opinion will either be confirmed by facts, or they won’t. Either way, I feel that American Christians severely lost this election, and we lost because who too many of us really are was exposed for the entire world to see.
I am not given to politics. I do have my opinions, but when I traded in the world for the Kingdom years ago, I let it go. Prior to that time, I was a lobbyist for women’s issues within the New York State house and senate, and I will fully admit that I did what I did as a lobbyist for both Planned Parenthood and Concerned Clergy for Choice. I am not ashamed of the fact that I did community education for women in preventing disease and unwanted pregnancy, and that I was a part of the EC in the ER bill back when it was still on the New York State floor (later, it was signed into law by President Bush). One of the major reasons I left was because I felt they were mixing politics and I was not comfortable with where they were going. All in all, however, I do still follow matters; I do still have thoughts about what is best for my country, and now, most definitely as a church leader, I have thoughts about what is best for the church.
I resolved when this whole election mess started that I wouldn’t delete people because of who they voted for president. I still state I have not done that, although I will fully admit that one side got deleted a lot more than the other because of their behavior. No matter who you back for president, you should be able to do it with poise and not vile, ungodly behavior. When people started getting ungodly, I waited, and I toughed it out, until I simply could not watch what was being done and said any longer. Good or bad, whether someone thinks I am right or wrong, I deleted people who couldn’t behave and even blocked a few because they would not stop their vile conduct.
For this, I am not sorry. It is an example of how the church lost this election, and how if we don’t get ourselves together, we are going to destroy ourselves. Which is why I write this blog. As a church, we need to be reached.
I am not going to use this blog to get into a discourse on church and politics; I am saving that for my next blog series, which will be very insightful into the origins of these movements and the realities that, whether or not they tell you that you’re “voting the Bible,” you’re not, and you aren’t doing what you do out of Biblical belief, but rather, clever propaganda. In fact, what I am seeing in our losses as a church is how easily swayed we are by propaganda, by ideas and thoughts that we’ve heard so much, we don’t realize they aren’t true even slightly. So here, we are going to look at all the ways we’ve lost…in a big way.
Following the improvers of men – Whenever I start looking at the throngs of people Christians seem to follow, I always hear the words of Nietzsche in one of his works: “These improvers of men – who are they? And who made them improvers?” In other words – we are surrounded by self-declared experts who, for whoever knows what reason, decided that these are the people we should follow because they have the “answers.” We don’t know where they came from, we don’t know the first thing about them, and what they have to say is really not that innovative or interesting. Most of the time, they are “improving” by getting caught up in waves of emotion and swaying people to their thoughts and feelings. What came to me this election was the true way in which people simply follow people because they are perceived to be famous, more “spiritual,” claim to have been to heaven three hundred times in the past year, or because they are simply more entertaining. The more we clamor that we want something new, the more we follow people who are literal and traditional, who uphold our modern traditions and who make us feel better about who we are as believers, isolating ourselves and ignoring the bigger issues of the church as an international whole.
When Charisma Magazine started endorsing Donald Trump, I was done with them. I hadn’t been a big fan of Charisma’s cohorts for awhile, because I felt that many of their statements were derogatory to women without being derogatory (they criticized feminism, made women in ministry sound like a commodity rather than something that should just exist, and elevated some people over others), but I was willing to tolerate them. Before now. Now they just sound like a bunch of “improvers” with an agenda to push, one that is not for the good of the church but for whatever ideals they have, and their conservative ideals leave out a good majority of a more moderate or more liberal church that has no interest in what they seek to push or promote.
We love money – and that’s not a good thing – I have this sinking feeling that had Donald Trump just been some poor, unsuccessful man who decided to run for president, he wouldn’t have taken the world – or a good percentage of the church community – by storm. Everyone would have blown him off (like they should have) and not taken it all real seriously. Because he is a billionaire businessman, he’s right up the alley of people who think prosperity is the key to everything and the ideal that God blesses people with only money. In prosperity logic, Donald Trump as a billionaire equates to Donald Trump being favored by God, with no consideration for the fact that there are rich people and poor people and it rains on both alike. Throw in a few chants for conservative politics and you have a complete recipe for the ultimate deception. Which brings me to my next point…
We don’t understand spiritual gifts and five-fold ministry offices – When I discovered that Charisma Magazine and many others were endorsing the idea that Donald Trump was a prophet, it was enough to make me want to throw in the towel and join another religious group. For the past decade, I have taught on spiritual gifts, on the five-fold ministry, and what apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers do…and it’s apparent that the church is simply not listening. How anyone can presume or compare a secular politician in a secular country, who has no prophetic training, who we have no comprehensive education he is even a Christian, is a prophet sent to deliver a message is absurd. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are secular politicians appointed to represent secular groups of people. There is no evidence to bespeak that either one of them has a prophetic or any other sort of ministry gift because neither of them are in ministry. We do know Hillary Clinton is a churchgoing Methodist, but we have nothing to suggest that Donald Trump had set foot in a church in recent memory before someone went and put a prayer shawl on him. The very act of doing so was disgraceful, because it proved that we don’t understand the symbolic power of such garments and that we so want to have our own way and feel like someone represents the church that we were willing to compromise spiritual dignity.
If we don’t understand spiritual gifts and the five-fold ministry, that means we need to sit down long and hard and admit we don’t know about the Bible (as a church) as we might like to hope we do and start learning from accurate leaders who may not be sensational, but can help us get to where we need to be in the spiritual realm.
A revolving cast of characters – What do Jezebel and Elijah have to do with this election? The proper spiritual answer is nothing, but somehow, they got dragged into this election as the whole thing took on a ridiculous, fanciful messianic character that was, quite frankly, an embarrassment. Donald Trump cannot by any serious scholar be compared to the Prophet Elijah for a few reasons. The first is that Elijah went up against Ahab, not Jezebel. There is not a single verse in the Bible that ever says God sent Elijah to talk to Jezebel, because Ahab was the leader, not Jezebel. Jezebel only had as much power as Ahab lent to her, and if you read the whole story of Ahab and Jezebel, you will see that Ahab deliberately went and sought out Jezebel for his wife in rebellion to God. But Donald Trump was running for president, for the highest position in the land. He wasn’t a spiritual authority sent to go talk to the highest authority in the land. He brought no spiritual measure to the election and he was not “going up” to combat anyone. He was a man battling an election against a politician, but both were to be elected by the people and the electoral college. Ahab was a king; he inherited his position, he was not voted in. Donald Trump did not speak a singular prophetic word the entire election. God did not appoint Trump to speak on His behalf.
The theology and scriptural errancy in these ideas is almost laughable, but what is even more scary is how quickly and desperately people swallowed it up. People want a leader so bad, want someone they feel they can “identify” with, they bought this, hook, line, and sinker. But as one of my pastors put it, “Who decides who is who?” That, I feel, is a really important message – who DOES make these decisions, and why do people follow them so readily?
Not caring enough who are leaders are – I have made the statement in the past few years that I get sick of being “Al Borland.” If you’ve ever watched the show, Home Improvement, the main character, Tim Taylor, is host of a cable tool show, Tool Time. He’s always screwing up and everybody hates him. Al is his assistant; quiet, competent, and clearly knows what he is doing. Tim got the job because he was more entertaining, even though Al might have been more qualified. I feel like this is exactly where we are in church today. People throng behind a leader they think might be more entertaining or more popular while forsaking competent leaders who can teach them the Word and about ministry, bringing them to a place where their work speaks for itself. The fact that Christians thronged behind Donald Trump shows me that we don’t care enough about who we choose for our leaders. We are willing to overlook aspects of their character and their credentials that are unqualified for the job and improper for those behaviors as believers in order to get the one who has the most money, is the most popular, or stirs up the emotions the most.
There are people who have been on my Facebook page for years; some of them I even met in person. When they started using foul language on their pages, becoming aggressive and pushy, and behaving in a manner that was downright derogatory, I had to disconnect from them. They refused to hear that they were behaving improperly and it was obvious they had picked up the nature of their desired “leader.”
The leaders we pick are the leaders we become. Let that sink in.
Trying to make prophecies fit where they don’t, showing we don’t understand Scripture – I have seen more Christians try to stuff current happenings into the Bible during this election than I ever have in my entire life. It is almost as if there is this intense drive to make things “apply” or “fit,” to make circumstances and world happenings point to something that they simply do not.
Look, the book of Revelation and the book of Daniel are not a gigantic codebook that we can plug headlines into. They are prophecies we should seek to understand from the perspective in which they were written, and see something more in them than just trying to shove an agenda down everyone’s throats. The more we keep trying to misuse Scripture, the more we prove to the world that we do not understand it and we do not desire to learn it.
We’re not conscientious enough about world events – When an individual running for office says, “I would bomb the shit out of them” in regards to a perceived threat to the United States, that individual proves that they do not know enough about how politics work. When people seriously think that building a wall on the Mexican border, using nukes, “loving war,” and handling the international community is a good idea, they are proving that they don’t know the first thing about what goes on internationally and how problems and issues get resolved. Because Christians in America insist on believing they are being persecuted and mistreated, they are missing the fact that how we interact with other nations seriously impacts the spread of the church worldwide and our ability to fellowship and consider our international brethren. It deeply disturbs me when I hear people talk in a derogatory manner about Palestinians, because they are also talking about Palestinian Christians who get lost in political rhetoric. This is a classic example of how politics cause us to throw the church under the bus and to ignore our international, borderless brotherhood and sisterhood of believers. There is more in the international world to consider besides the nations of America and Israel, and there is more to think about than just what is best for us in an immediate sense. There is a fine line between patriotism and idolatry, and if we can’t separate the two, it doesn’t surprise me why the American church has almost completely dropped off the missions map. You can’t go on missions if you already think you’re superior in this modern world.
Christians behaving badly – I acknowledge that people misuse the concept of love to indicate that anything should go sometimes, but we can’t erase that the Bible does tell us God is love and we are supposed to love one another. There is special Biblical injunction for loving those in the Christian community as well, because such proves that God is real. If we can’t love each other, after all, how can we even venture the idea of trying to love others? If this election proves anything, however, it’s that the church has deluded itself on what love really is and is using the defense of truth to try and turn love into a right-fight. The way so-called Christians have behaved this election disturbs me to levels unknown: posting derogatory pictures and memes, bashing, public cussing, not considering how they behave or what they say might hurt someone else’s feelings (let alone turn off onlookers to Christianity in the process), and just not considering or caring that a public official has to think about more than just what one group of people might want.
The way people have behaved is disgusting. The fact that their candidate got elected just endorses it. My Bible tells me I have to die to myself, to the things I might want and the way I might want to act sometimes, not that I have the right to run around and say, “And you can tell them to go fuck themselves.”
The divisions of the American church – Like it or not, the church in America is not one. Our churches are still largely divided by racial lines, the church is sexist with no intention to change that any time soon, the church as a whole is unkind and ungodly toward LGBT individuals, and it’s obvious through incidious propaganda and teaching that nobody even thinks about that the church as a whole has no intention of correcting or changing where it’s at. Change, however, is exactly what is needed, but this won’t happen until the “improvers of men” just become “men with opinions.”
Not separating from undignified individuals – In keeping with my last point, those of us who believe in unity held on as long as we could to people who don’t have any regard or respect for those of us who don’t agree with them on many important issues. We held on to people who didn’t support our ministries and who most of the time picked other leaders and individuals to fraternize with because they liked them better. All of this relates to what I spoke of earlier, about thronging to people who we see as more entertaining and more emotional. These same people, however, are ones who would say I was not a real Christian because I did not endorse Donald Trump for president.
I believe the accusation is unfounded, but I think it’s more to-the-point that we are insisting on holding on to people who proved long before this election that we weren’t THEIR choice in their understanding of the kingdom. People who maintained dignity, discussed things with respect, and who worked as hard as they could to die to the flesh and love people regardless were classified as not being really Christian. This has unveiled where our priorities lie; how too many are defining faith and belief; and, whether or not we want to admit it, reducing faith to issues of salvation by works because the implication is made that if you don’t do what they want, you aren’t saved.
Not acknowledging the sins of their candidate – I’m tired of hearing about emails and Benghazi. If I never hear about either again, life will be great, but I know better. You can’t run around and say Hillary Clinton is a criminal and then bury your head in the sand when it came out that Donald Trump had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a fourteen-year-old girl and dozens of other women. You can’t expect Elijah to be a sexual deviant. Nope. Not equal time, not right, and certainly not family values.
If you can’t accept the sins of your candidate, then he is an idol. He is not Elijah, he is not Jesus, he is not a prophet, he is a man with multiple marriages and children from several different women, and that means I don’t want to hear another word about single mothers, divorce and remarriage, or anything else related to this topic. If your selected leader can get away with it, so can everyone else.
Only considering part – not all – of the issues – Abortion is not the only issue that should be considered when it comes to a candidate. There are medical reasons why late-term abortions become necessary, and there is no such thing as an abortion in the ninth month. Making abortion illegal doesn’t stop abortions, it just creates death. Immigration is a complicated issue, but the Berlin Wall proved that it’s not as simple as building a wall. There are other things that we need to consider as citizens of a nation that have nothing to do with hot-button issues. A lot of things can bring economic instability and can cause racial tensions, the downfall of companies, and the like. We’re supposed to be big enough and set ourselves aside enough to consider social issues that effect everyone, not just what we might like in an ideal world or ideal setting.
Judging different decisions – I saw two extremes this election: individuals who said you would go to hell if you voted for anyone this election, and people who said you would go to hell if you did not vote in the election. Neither statement is fair theologically and neither is true. God is not up in heaven endorsing candidates and the decision to vote is a personal one, made between an individual and their country. The popular vote of the US was for Clinton, not Trump, and the fact that some feel now their vote was wasted or that participating in the system had no point is a justified feeling. Let’s all stop judging one another on this matter already!
Being afraid – When I first heard that Trump won the electoral college vote, my first impulse was fear. I never imagined his run would go this far and that I would have to face the fact that he might be elected, for real. Everything he had said throughout this election ran through my head: “I love war.” “Yes, even with nukes.” “I would bomb the shit out of them.” “I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.” “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime.” They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured? I like people who weren’t captured.”
My thoughts raced to numerous people I’ve met around here: The front-end manager at the Wal-Mart up the street who is from Pakistan, the couple I’ve met with their grandson who is from India, the numerous Hispanics from different parts of Latin America, all of whom are living their lives and minding their own business. Then I thought about our own lives and what can happen and I got quickly worried. God had to remind me that He has not given us a spirit of fear. I have to remember that even in the midst of this, God is using the situation to bring us to a place where we are willing to look at ourselves and where we are to find a place of change. Even this crazy election should be used not to feel vindicated, but to look at who we are and what we need to do.
If you believe in the last days, then you should realize that the church’s time to get itself together isn’t real long. Even if you don’t believe we are in the last days, we all know God doesn’t allow mess to go on forever. We need to learn the truth, the Scriptures, the realities about who we are and stop aggrandizing everything. We have the responsibility to learn how to live with others. The election might have been a disaster politically, but it is only a disaster spiritually if we refuse to learn and accept that we aren’t who we think we are. The sooner we do this, the sooner God can do what He wants to do in and through us.
© 2016 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.