I was raised in what would now be referred to as an American evangelical church. Over the years this term “evangelical” has gotten murky and entangled and confusing. It has become conjoined with Republican politics and often times all twisted up with hatred and disdain for those deemed as “other”.
I moved out into the world with my share of baggage courtesy of a religious tradition that emphasized fear and hell and the absolutes of right and wrong. But this place also introduced me to Jesus, who in time I have come to know and love and view with eyes of wonder in seasons of sorrow as well as joy. As Philip Yancey says, “the Jesus I never knew”.
Saint John the Evangelist is my very favorite gospel writer and a verse from one of his letters has literally changed my heart and mind over the last ten years. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” This evangelical apostle proclaimed something radically different from those who carry his title these days in these parts of the world.
I have watched this week with a sense of morbid curiosity coupled with a most unsettling disturbance deep within my soul as 1000 evangelical leaders met with Donald Trump to form political alliance with one many of them had very recently deemed a completely unacceptable candidate for president. One of the men quoted in this Atlantic article married my husband and me. I feel heartbroken and devastated on many a level.
When these leaders speak of religious liberty, are they in pursuit of such a cause for Christians only? Does this not raise a red flag of hypocrisy for them? Have they been seduced by the promise of power? Here is what Mr. Trump said to them as they met:
“This is such an important election. And I say to you folks because you have such power, such influence. Unfortunately the government has weeded it away from you pretty strongly. But you’re going to get it back. Remember this: If you ever add up, the men and women here are the most important, powerful lobbyists. You’re more powerful. Because you have men and women, you probably have something like 75, 80 percent of the country believing. But you don’t use your power. You don’t use your power.”
Is that the deal that evangelical leaders are willing to make? Has fear blinded them or are they walking into this eyes wide open? Have they traded being disciple for being lobbyist? The Jesus that I know had no interest at all in power.
As unsettling as this situation is for me personally, it has been once again clarifying. Tricia Wilson belongs somewhere radically different from the American evangelical church. Micah 6:8 asks and answers, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” For me, this path is far, far away from the religious tradition of my youth. I never felt at home in the midst of American evangelical spaces and places. Piece by piece, little by little, I have moved away from this place. This week seems to have offered me one last wave in a long goodbye.