In the early Church, pagan authorities would ask Christians to offer a grain on incense to the gods. Sometimes,as it Maccabees, believers were to merely pretend to do so. Many made the compromise but many didn’t and were martyred.
Many of my Christian friends worry about a coming persecution of believers. But what if the problem in front of us right now is not the persecution of Christians by the progressive Left but the moral compromise of Christians to conservative Right?
What brings this to mind is David French’s recent comments on conservative Christians who uncritically support President Trump:
Why does the larger public not see the compromise in the same way Republicans do, as a necessary, (often anguished) transactional embrace of the lesser of two evils? Well, because these same socially conservative Republicans spent years—decades, really—telling the American public that transactional politics was wrong, that character mattered. The same Southern Baptist Convention that will overwhelmingly vote for Trump next fall passed a resolution in 1998 on moral character of public officials that contained this statement, “Tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment.” (Emphasis added.)
Even as someone who broadly shares their policy and cultural concerns, is hard to escape the conclusion many conservative Christians are only concerned about morality and character in politics when they see these as winning issue.
And winning means supporting a man whose character and life is contrary to the Gospel? Well, ifs it’s only a grain of incense, does it really matter?
Yes, yes it does. And so French say
You cannot unring that bell. You cannot maintain credibility with a skeptical culture and say, “Our bad. Politics is really just a transactional, antiseptic evaluation of competing policy proposals.” If you’re going to reinterpret a decisive, theological declaration, you need to show your work. And if you think that public skepticism doesn’t matter, that you can just win anyway, write laws, and change the moral character of a nation, an entire history of public resistance to morals legislation—from prohibition, to bans on contraception, adultery, sodomy, and obscenity—stands in your way.
Christians who support Trump to score a win in the culture wars might want to ask themselves how this is in their best long-term interest. As for the hope to avoid persecution, they might as well this squares with the witness of the martyrs?
Or as French concludes: “From the beginning, the American experiment has been inextricably linked to the virtue of a ‘moral and religious people.’ Embracing an immoral man to save morality is not a bargain that most of the American people understand—no matter how well it plays on talk radio or conservative Twitter. ”
Something to think about.