Seduced by power
The increasing tension, bitterness, anger and outright hatred permeating the US election is a sad reflection of our times.
But it was also predictable.
It was predictable the moment a number of prominent American evangelical leaders determined that political power was the only route to ensuring that their goals of establishing a “Christian” nation would succeed. The gathered together and created groups like The Moral Majority. They became involved in the political system at the grassroots level. They beat the streets for their chosen candidates at local, state and federal levels. They courted the media. They raised millions of dollars, aware that the only functional way to gain access to the higher political spectrum was to create PAC’s (Political Action Committees) that are the funding arm of any campaign. They aligned themselves with conservative values not only in social areas but later in fiscal policy and foreign affairs.
As the conservative movement grew in power and prestige, more zealous—and therefore more dedicated and active—arms began to appear. One such group called itself the Tea Party after a rebellious action just before the Revolution. The name symbolized their disgust with the quid pro quo of American politics and a desire for change.
And as these political groups grew in power and influence so too did their recognition that they needed a broad power base to draw upon. For a variety of philosophical reasons they realized that groups like The Moral Majority were, broadly-speaking, like minded. So they courted the evangelical base in the United States recognizing that this could be a powerful and influential group. The two disenchanted wings of American society were growing closer together.
Evangelical leaders like James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and others aligned themselves closer and closer with this wing of political America. They embraced the celebrity it gave them. They enjoyed the power and influence it gave them. They were at the pinnacle not only of church life, but at the pinnacle of public prestige and impact. They loved the opportunities to appear on national television news outlets even though they privately abhorred the ‘liberal’ media. They actively sought and obtained platforms in the media to spread their message. And to be fair, a lot of the time it was a spiritual message. Their words pointed to the disintegration of the family at the hands of social re-engineering; they emphasized the importance of personal faith in all aspects of life and called for their supporters to express that faith publicly.
Nothing wrong with that.
But as that army began to grow, darker forces and attitudes also came along. Dissent of any kind became a fuse point. The concept of “us” versus “them” and the need—make that demand that you support “us”—leaped to the forefront of dialogue. No longer was discussion or debate to be tolerated. Rather, there developed a lockstep mindset. And out of that grew anger and discontent. And out of that grew Donald Trump and some of the other candidates for the Republican nomination.
That same mindset enveloped the Democrats as well. The siege mentality grew and anger at Trump and the Republicans has grown exponentially.
Nobody has come out of this election campaign smelling of anything other than rotting putrid garbage. The furor is particularly antagonistic towards the mainstream media with its largely unsubstantiated charges of collusion, corruption, bias and so on. But I think the greater finger of accusation should be pointed at social media. Yes, you Twitter, Facebook, Instagram et al.
You want to see venom? Check out the responses to posts for or against Trump. You want to see hatred in its purest unadulterated form, challenge a Trump supporter on Donald’s words and demonstrative behaviour.
And, worst of all, is that evangelical Christians are most likely to be the source of such venom and anger. Don’t believe it? Check out the worst, most angry posts and then check out the person writing them. Words like “idiot”, “liar!”, and “brain dead” are the least painful of the insults coming from supposed followers of Christ.
Instead of reasoned dialogue and debate on issues, the discussion turns into a childish school yard insulting match; “oh yeah? Well your candidate is worse.” What a drop of reasoning and intelligence in this age when we are so supposed to the be the most informed generation ever!
For outsiders like me looking in, the whole campaign is one of “shake-your-head-I-can’t-believe-what-I’m-seeing-and-hearing !”
What went wrong?
I suggest that those evangelical leaders made an unwise and ungodly decision to embrace the world’s level of power rather than God’s. They forsook the future for the now. They were not content with following God’s plan or God’s timing. They, probably quite sincerely, believed that action by man was needed. In many ways that’s what many followers of Jesus were expecting him to do. As the King he was expected to overthrow the Roman occupation. They were shocked to discover that this was never God’s plan all along. Or how about the Israelites? Not content with waiting upon God despite all the blessings he had bestowed, the Israelites demanded a King so they could deal with temporal matters themselves.. So God gave them Saul and what a disaster that turned out to be.
I say all this election furor was predictable because any time man turns to and puts trust in man-created power, it is a recipe for disaster. The finest of goals and hopes may become subverted by others who have far different motivations and goals. Fame beguiles like a moth to the flame. Its sinewy tendrils gently, then firmly entrap. Adulation, money, fame and power become an addicting aphrodisiac. The core motivations begin slipping away into a vague misty reflection of what was once strong and vibrant.
In the blink of an eye, the individual and his followers have been seduced by power—the world’s power.
And for many of those evangelical leaders, the seduction is almost complete. They are willing to bury or at least ignore, their core spiritual beliefs to preserve the political path they’ve embarked upon. They downplay or excuse away behaviour that diametrically opposes all that they believe and have preached for decades. And which in the past has drawn their scorn and condemnation. The world has become their oyster at the expense of the ministries they founded and nurtured; their followers are left with two choices—agree, or fall away disappointed and disillusioned.
This is the sad reality of what I’ve seen happening in the United States. Once vibrant and important ministries based on solid Christian principles and teaching, pulled into a morass of political nightmares. Excuses instead of loving gentle reproof. Disenchantment grips hold of supporters and then anger and enmity toward those who disagree as the ministry becomes a pawn in the “us against them” battle; my leader, right or wrong.
I am saddened by this seduction that has taken root in so many good solid ministries; ministries that so many have looked up to for so long. I very much fear that these excellent ministries may have suffered irreparable damage to their reputations thanks to their leaders forsaking ministry for power.
No matter who wins this election, surely it is time for to turn away from the seductive snare of political power and concentrate on the real source of power, God. Speak up against immorality and sin by all means. Just don’t become seduced to one political party or philosophy at the expense of your soul.
I stand back to receive the torrent of anger and abuse.