Trump, Jerusalem and Evangelicals
When the U.S. Embassy opened in Jerusalem this week, two U.S. right-wing evangelical preachers were tapped to bless the venture.
Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, who also preached at an Inauguration Day service for Trump, did the invocation. John Hagee, a megachurch pastor from San Antonio, gave a benediction.
Richard Mouw, past President of Fuller Seminary, in Pasadena has the credentials and clout to take such people on. And he did this week in a piece published by the Religious News Service.
Mouw’s analysis, titled “To My Fellow Evangelicals: Why Your Cheering in Jerusalem is Shameful,” is illuminating on this specific issue, but it has larger implications for the way this religious faction, a key part of Trump’s base, is wrapping the flag around the cross.
Mouw points out that God did not give a blank slate endorsement to biblical Israel. Time and again the prophets called Israel and it’s leaders to account in matters of justice. In particular, they addressed the treatment of the “stranger and alien who resides among you.” Such strangers and aliens were to be treated justly and with the greatest respect. Palestinians are today’s “strangers and aliens among you.” Many of them are Christian. One hears none of this from Trump’s “court evangelicals,” like Jeffress and Hagee.
It’s all endorsement, no accountability. That’s a consequence of the idea that the establishment of modern Israel and of Jerusalem as it’s capitol is part of a grand scheme leading to Christ’s second coming. They go blind to facts on the ground, because they see their great plan unfolding.
This uncritical embrace of modern Israel is the same mindset these folks apply to Trump himself. They have anointed him as God’s chosen instrument. They give Trump unconditional endorsement. They never call him to accountability for his words or his actions. The Bible has a term for such religious leaders — “false prophets.”
Check out Micah 3: 5, “Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead by people astray, who cry ‘Peace’ when they have something to eat, but declare war against those who put nothing in their mouths.” Well, Trump is giving his court evangelicals plenty to eat.
The biblical doctrine at stake here is sometimes called, “election.” The idea is that God chose or “elected” a particular people to be the instrument of God’s purposes of healing and redemption of all creation. But election in Scripture does not mean that the elect are better than other people or nations. Nor does it mean those so chosen are free to do whatever they damn well please.
Election means responsibility. As it is put in Luke’s gospel, “From everyone to whom much is given, much will be required.” (12: 48)
Election means you have a job, not a license. It means you are called to a purpose not privileges. Election does not mean you are free to do whatever you want, but that you are held to a higher standard.
Trump’s court evangelicals have turned this doctrine of election into an uncritical, “God is on our side” theology. Since God is on our side, whatever we do is okay.
And in supporting this distortion of the Biblical faith, they get the relationship between church and state fundamentally wrong. That relationship is not one of uncritical embrace, but of critical examination. Think prophet Nathan calling King David to account. Think Elijah challenging the false prophets of Ahab and Jezebel.
Billy Graham eventually recognized that he had been played by Richard Nixon. Subsequently, Graham counseled evangelicals to keep their distance from those in power. I doubt this current crop of right-wing evangelical leaders has Graham’s insight or capacity for repentance.