Over the past two days, dozens of evangelical leaders gathered at Wheaton College in Illinois to talk about the future and “soul” of their faith. These aren’t the evangelicals who support Donald Trump — that’s another group — but these Christians are certainly affected by that relationship and that’s the problem. They were trying to figure out how to bring their religion back to its Bible-based roots. Or if that was even possible.
It was said that Trump wasn’t explicitly discussed by this group, but he was the elephant in the room throughout the gathering. One reporter even noted Pastor Tim Keller‘s comments about the new schism:
Tim Keller is one of 50 evangelical leaders who are meeting today and tomorrow to discuss the future of the movement amid recent political events and arguably political idolatry in the church. He says, “As the country has become more polarized, so has the church, and that’s because he church is not different enough from modernity. There’s now a red evangelicalism and a blue evangelicalism.”
“As the country has become more polarized, so has the church, and that’s because [the] church is not different enough from modernity. There’s now a red evangelicalism and a blue evangelicalism.”
Those distinctions, of course, only apply to white evangelicals.
Black evangelicals fall decidedly in the “blue” category here. Their interests have long been cast aside by the “red” ones.
Already, pro-Trump Christians have criticized the gathering, saying it was just a way to denounce them.
Dr. Richard Land of Southern Evangelical Seminary says a look at who’s invited — and who’s not — betrays their real purpose: marginalizing evangelicals who support President Trump.
“Any definition of ‘thought leaders’ and any definition of evangelicalism that excludes the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Franklin Graham is a pale imitation — anemic and incomplete,” says Land.
He says that like there’s something wrong with marginalizing evangelicals who support Trump. In theory, evangelicals ought to “marginalize” everybody who’s a bigot, racist, and otherwise un-Christ-like.
But that’s the problem. It’s not just that the Trump evangelicals are too numerous to cast out, it’s that the ones left behind really don’t have much of a leg to stand on. The evangelicals who gathered at Wheaton are still against women’s rights, still against marriage equality and transgender rights, still promoting abstinence-only sex education and Creationism, and still perpetuating the culture wars.
How the hell can those people say that other evangelicals are ruining the brand?
You have one group that has already alienated a large segment of America — including young Christians — and then you have another group that’s tossing kerosene onto the mix.
They’re all part of the problem.
Maybe the most accurate assessment of the Wheaton gathering came from one of Trump’s closest evangelical allies, Pastor Robert Jeffress, who said this to the Christian Broadcasting Network:
“It’s a meeting that will have very little impact on evangelicalism as a whole,” Jeffress told CBN News. “Many of them are sincere but they are having a hard time understanding that they have little impact on evangelicalism.”
That’s all too true, I fear. The group that’s the lesser of two evils is going to have a hard time convincing the 81% of white evangelicals who voted for Trump — and were, therefore, not completely put off by his overt awfulness throughout the campaign — that they’ve made a huge mistake.
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