“We reject the false doctrine that the Church could have permission to hand over the form of its message and of its order to whatever it itself might wish or to the vicissitudes of the prevailing ideological and political convictions of the day.”
The Barmen Declaration (1934)
Robert Jeffress, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas is an unabashed Trump enthusiast. Jeffress preached to Trump on Inauguration Day from the Old Testament example of Nehemiah, the humble servant who leads the effort to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, endorsing Trump’s border wall since “God is not against building walls” and feeding his already inflated hubris by urging him to ignore his critics, stating “we have never had a president with as many natural gifts as you.” From what’s been seen so far, not only is this patently untrue considering the long line of predecessors but Trump does not need to have his grandiosity encouraged! Besides distorting and misapplying the Word of God that he is supposedly commissioned to steward faithfully, preacher Jeffress resorts to fawning over a man who is undeserving of praise, whether it’s his crudeness, especially towards women, his failing financial track record, fueling conspiracies and false allegations about birth certificates, eavesdropping and secret recordings, repeated blame shifting and demagoguery and demonization of the media and those who disagree or confront him about his distortions of reality.
On the 4th of July, at the “Celebrate Freedom Rally,” in that good old, Baptist patriotic amalgam of civil religion & American greatness, with a mega-flag along with his mega-Baptist choir, Jeffress called Trump “one of the great patriots of our modern era and a president who cherishes the sacrifice and service of those in our armed forces.” I suppose he was referring to Trump’s 5 deferments from serving in the Vietnam war or his petty tirades with the Gold Star Khan family or belittling of Sen. John McCain. Trump is not the only one who seems to have difficulty with distorting reality. It beggars the imagination how the good pastor could even consider Trump a great patriot. As for the song “Make America Great Again,” I’ll take “In Christ There is No East or West” any day.
It’s hard to take this silliness seriously. Sadly, Jeffress is sickeningly sincere. What’s missing from Jeffress’s messages, is Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom. The true gospel is greater than any one political party, political leader or country. It is for all people and all nations, none of which may claim special status. It is not limited to 4 years or 8 but eternal. Jeffress has joined the line of spiritual leaders who sell their birthright for a mega-mess of porridge, who join the ranks of court prophets, sycophants who abandon the truth and fidelity to God to rub shoulders with the mighty (1 Kings 22).
It would be great if this could be dismissed as a Southern Baptist aberration but the adulteration of anemic churchianity with politics, right, left or “alt,” subtly undermines and distorts the real work of the church. The true Christian faith is misrepresented. Since the baptism of Jesus, the gospel of his kingdom has thrived in or despite a variety of political environments. It does not need the repeal of the Johnson amendment to succeed. It does not rely on flag waving or coddling demagogues. It does require faithful men and women of integrity and boldness to refuse to worship a golden ego (Daniel 3) or a tempting political offer on a mountain peak (Matthew 4:8) when they see one.