Using Religion to Bag Votes or, The Observant Trump Misses Because His Evangelical Supporters Miss Jesus

Who is surprised Donald Trump knows little about Adventism? Most do not know much about it. Trump’s recent recall of his Presbyterian connections, not the degree of his adherence to that branch of the Christian Tree, illustrates how influential Evangelical discipleship has been on elections since Reagan.

Between the Blind Men

What is up with Mark? The Gospel writer Mark, that is. Unless one reads carefully or is notified by one who reads looking for the nuance, it is easy to miss the way Mark bookends Jesus’ claim that his end is coming with two stories of blind men healed. (Mark 8-10)

Three times Jesus tells it straight. Three times the disciples fail to see. Don’t you just love a good writer!? The last episode where the blind disciples stumble over Jesus’ words includes a request by two brothers for stardom. “We want the seats of power beside you.” After all, when you become President you will need a solid Cabinet.

Oops, wrong political structure.

Whether they are stumping for Trump or another of the GOP candidates, Evangelicals seem to be stumbling much like James and John. One wonders if they are prepared for the suffering to follow. Power and prestige, read TV spots offering analysis or PR coverage of candidate events intended to inform the potential 70 million self-identified Evangelicals, have the opposite effect of achieving power and fame.

The World Seems to Not Need God?

Robert Williamson Jr, offered the following as he sought to make an application of the unintended consequence of the discipleship of power and fame. He wrote,

I have come to think that this misunderstanding of discipleship is common among us as well. At a meeting of church leaders I attended a few weeks ago, one of the presenters asked, “What does it mean for us to proclaim the Gospel in a world that no longer seems to need God?” As I pondered the question, I began to wonder if in fact we do live in a world that no longer seems to need God or whether it only appears that way from within predominantly white North American and European Protestantism, which has historically been heavily invested in our own cultural influence and respectability. In other parts of the world, and among the more colorful threads of the global tapestry, Christianity is thriving. It is churches like mine that are struggling.

It seems to me that it is not the case that the world no longer needs God, but rather that the world no longer needs a church that follows Jesus as a means of gaining cultural respectability, influence, and power. We have become too accustomed to being an institution where the where the powerful and influential gather to hear our preaching. We have too often construed Christianity as a comfortable middle class lifestyle that could never disrupt the status quo. Seeing only partially, through half-healed eyes, we have confused faithful discipleship with cultural prominence. And as our significance wains, we imagine that the world no longer needs God, when in fact the world no longer needs us.

Most often we Christians look for ways to convince people they need God. When we opt for the patterns of life, ways to exert power and influence, in the existing political channels we may learn it is not a resistance to God but to us. It is hard to point to something different when the consequences of our actions seem more about getting into the halls of power, or at least noticed by them.

We Give Them the Word

Consider the way Christians communicate the what of people’s needs. Yesterday our secretary fielded a call. It seems someone was looking for a couch to help a family. The caller noted they had been helping but had reached a point where either more was needed or they had exhausted some aspect of their helping. I am not sure which or both.

The vetting question as to whether or not we would be a good place to recommend came with the question, “Do you give them the Word?” You must know that these sorts of loaded questions come with all sorts of implied meaning. It is not unlike the complaint directed toward churches by those leaving, “We are not getting fed?” In fact, we once had someone leave our church for another who attempted to recruit to their new church by asking, “Are you getting fed?” You would be correct if you wondered if said folks have been grazing various church pastures.

Back to the call. If by requiring those we help to listen to a sermon, take in a Bible Study, or something of that nature, our secretary replied, “No.” But, if you mean do we care of the person, their needs, offer to pray with them and develop a friendship with them, then, “Yes.” The caller was taken aback and noted her disappointment. Then she asked, “Do you have a list of other churches?” Of course she meant that as a criticism by asking if another church could help thinking another church might, Give them the Word.

Beyond the question that came to my mind, “What about her church helping?”, I believed our secretary gave a good answer, maybe the best answer. Our aim in our serving those in need is a no strings attached gift of Jesus. We learn names, faces, and stories. We look for ways to share conversations about our faith and the love of God. But, we do this without Why. Our giving the Word, Jesus, is an attempt to make real the gift of the unconditional. We give out of our excess understanding and experience of grace, of mercy.

So, yes, we give them the Word.

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About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

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