The work of unity not the purpose/intent has changed.
Our polarized climate has created two separate dominant paths for the future of the culture. These patterns existed before President Trump, but the end of his presidency, coupled with the insurrection, the life threatening pandemic, our moment of racial reckoning, and the inequalities of our nation have combined to fundamentally shift where we are in our ability to pursue unity.
Unity in the United States was the possibility of encounter. Seeing Jesus in other traditions, whereas now unity starts with being faithful to Jesus and being more willing to practice the fruits of the spirit with our enemies and our neighbors. Being willing to learn, to listen, to love, and to be stable anchors of hope.
So while the work has not changed, how we pursue it has to, because something has shifted in a major part of the American church.
Many white Christians who come from evangelically informed backgrounds and their cousins Pentecostals and Charismatics are stuck with the reality that the white American culture is becoming much less religious and these communities are fearful of immigration and deeply distrustful of their political opponents the Democrats and other elites within the society.
And while you won’t necessarily hear this preached on in every white Evangelical church from Sunday to Sunday and you’ll seldom hear it preached at more diverse suburban megachurches, within the community itself the conspiracies and social media channels show how large and influential these messages have become.
Let’s consider one Pastor David Jeremiah. A Charismatic/Pentecostal leader and the founder of Turning Point Radio and Television Ministries and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church (a part of the Southern Baptist Church) based in San Diego, CA.
This is from his sermon (here for reference) on socialism which has been viewed over 1.7 million times and was delivered this past September. At about the 18 minute mark he is signaling his opposition to the forceful removal of statues. His key-line:
“Socialism wants you to forget. Christianity wants you to remember.”
They [Liberals, Democrats] want you to forget your history. They want to end you. They are villains and that’s what Jesus said would happen before the end of days.
Or just yesterday (reference) Eric Metaxes commenting on a hit piece on Francis Collins and evangelical leaders who partnered with the CDC and others to encourage vaccination. Because these leaders were out of step with their constituents he writes:
“the UGLY truth about Christian ‘misleaders’ is coming out. It’s hard to judge the German Church of the Thirties very harshly when this is happening in our own time. Lord have mercy. Who ELSE will write about this?”
I have no ill for Pastor Jeremiah or Eric Metaxes. I am neither alarmed or shocked at their willingness to demonize their enemies or fabricate details for their own advantage. This is how social media stars and politicians can act. And this is how we all can be apart from Jesus.
This written series or ones like it in the future is not to take aim at the religious right or even to focus on particular leaders, but it is to draw to your attention something important.
As Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and others fear the change in the society and the culture some like St. Peter are willing to take arms to protect Jesus/America/faith/family. And in fact believe it is their ‘holy’ and total obligation to do this and that if you will not take arms you are conspiring with evil.
My point is not to say they are wrong about the changes to the culture, my point is to say to take up arms in the name of Jesus is deeply unfaithful. Understandable, forgivable, but unfaithful.
Jesus will restore because he is that faithful, that gracious (far beyond what we practice). But his restoration doesn’t make the taking up of arms and betrayal to the faith okay.
What Evangelicals and Pentecostals fear the loss of is real. The alternative to what is coming I can not say will be good for the wider world or the United States, but let us at least understand it and trust Jesus for the outcomes.
We are at a point of transition, ours is the task of being more rooted not tossed to and fro with the winds and the news. More willing to repent of sins and to love our neighbors. To trust God with the uncertain age we will enter into and to trust his hand to guide us and teach us. We will trust in God’s love and perseverance because that is his character. And he will be faithful to the end.