by: Scott Little
Last week I came across an article online that caught my attention. It wasn’t so much the headline that caught my eye, which read “What’s next for evangelicals post-Trump?” Instead, it was the subheading under the title, which read “So, what are we to do, now that Trump is leaving office and we have a new president who goes against our values?” That question implies, of course, that President Trump’s values align with evangelical Christian values, while President Biden’s values are opposed to them.
The article was written by an evangelical Christian, so when the author used the terms “we” and “our values” in the question, he seems to be speaking for evangelicals as a whole. As an evangelical Christian, this bothers me – not so much because the author presumed to speak for evangelicals as a group, but because his question is based on a false premise – one that I’m afraid far too many evangelicals have embraced without thinking about it. In stating the question the way he did, the author is making a kind of category mistake, because his understanding of what constitutes “Christian values” is too narrow.
Now, before I go on, I know some of you may be feeling a little uneasy, worried that I’m coming awfully close to getting…political, which these days is like asking you to follow me into a mine field. But please hear me out, and when you’re done reading, don’t ask yourself whether you agree or disagree, or even if it made you angry or not, just ask yourself honestly, “Is this true?”
If you’ve heard me preach or teach much, you’ve probably heard me say that while the gospel is political, it isn’t partisan, and that if Jesus were living in 21st century America, He would offend both Republicans/conservatives and Democrats/progressives, but for different reasons. I’ve been greatly concerned for a number of years now at the intertwining of evangelical Christianity with conservative politics because while there is some overlap, conservative values are not, and have never been, synonymous with evangelical Christian values, properly understood. Of course, neither have liberal values. That’s simply because the values of Jesus and His kingdom transcend both conservative and liberal ideologies. A Facebook post by someone known as “The Confessing Millennial” a few months ago hit the nail on the head: “Biblical Christianity will seem ‘centrist’ at times because it will critique the ideologies of both the Left and the Right. But it’s not politically ‘centrist’. It’s politically transcendent. It’s a category by itself. It’s the ethics of a kingdom that’s not of this world.”
While it’s true that evangelicals place great value on human life, marriage, sexual ethics, and religious liberty, if we’re to be fully Christian and true to the whole counsel of Scripture and the way of Jesus, we must place equal value on telling the truth, welcoming the stranger, caring for creation, and racial, social, & economic justice. To believe that Jesus values the former things more than the latter is to misunderstand and badly distort the way of His kingdom.
The Trump Administration aligned with evangelical values fairly well on the former things, but not so much on the latter. And while a Biden Administration will probably not be aligned with “our values” on the former things, it will likely be much closer on the latter.My point is simply that “our values” are not fully shared by either political party or ideology, and so to strictly view President Trump’s Administration (or any Republican/conservative one) as our ally and President Biden’s Administration (or any Democrat/liberal one) as our enemy is to sell our values far too short, and to unnecessarily cause us to tie ourselves too closely with one political party while casting the other party as the enemy. If we are to have any influence for Jesus’s kingdom and America’s good in the future, the evangelical church in America must rediscover the full range and expression of our values – all of them – or we will have no lasting influence at all.