Some good points and some bad points

Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump
By John Fea
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2018, 238 pages

As I’ve related several times in the past, I’m a bit of a square peg when it comes to evangelical churchianity. Two issues that I feel very strongly about are ecumenism and Christian nationalism. I’m strongly opposed to the ecumenical compromise and betrayal of the Gospel going on in the more liberal-leaning, “progressive” evangelical churches, but I agree with them on their criticism of Christian nationalism. On the other hand, I appreciate the strong stand by fundamentalist and (many) conservative evangelical churches against ecumenism, but their flag waving and focus on preserving America as a “Christian nation” are turn-offs.

The misguided notion of America being a “Christian nation” in some kind of covenantal relationship with God has been preached from pulpits since the Puritans and has led to all kinds of errors and misguided thinking. With the rise of secularism in the 1960s and 70s, Jerry Falwell and others rallied the church to enter into politics and “reclaim America for Jesus,” leading to a deemphasis of the Gospel and yoking with conservative religious unbelievers to fight the culture wars.

I rarely venture into politics in this blog, but a person would have to be living on an island not to notice how American evangelicals have strongly supported candidate and President Trump. I get why evangelicals voted for “the lesser of two evils” in 2016, but the often-unqualified support for the improbable Trump goes far beyond that (see Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jr.).

In this book, historian and progressive evangelical, John Fea, critically examines the history of the popular-but-false notion of America as a “Christian Nation,” the rise of Falwellism, and evangelicals’ unusual support for a man who is often at odds with their Biblical codes of godly morality and decorum. I agree with much of the information that’s presented in respect to the above issues. Christians needn’t (and shouldn’t) be driven by fear or by the nostalgia for a mythical past from which a “Let’s Make America Great Again” campaign draws its strength.

However, this book is not without its problems and they relate to my opening paragraph. Fea is an ecumenist who is eager to embrace as a believer everyone who names the name of Jesus, including Martin Luther King*, Hillary Clinton, and Roman Catholics. The consequence of such belief is a watered down, worthless gospel. It’s quite ironic that the thinking of both theologically liberal and politically-engaged conservative evangelicals results in a tendency toward ecumenism, but for different reasons.

I’m not trying to start a squabble. I understand that many conservative evangelicals still embrace the notion of America as a “Christian nation” and that it’s difficult for them to relinquish that viewpoint. After all, faith and nationalism have been combined by American pastors since 1776. From an even broader perspective, Christians have struggled since the first century to find the right balance between the spiritual and the temporal. Unfortunately much of the legacy we’ve inherited has been skewed far too far to the temporal. We believers are citizens of Heaven and ambassadors of our Lord as we sojourn on this Earth. Let’s “keep our bags packed” and forego putting down deep roots in a world that is passing away.

*Some may be taken aback by my comments about Martin Luther King not being a Christian. Wasn’t he a Baptist minister? MLK certainly deserves our respect for his efforts to advance the cause of civil rights, but he was a theological modernist and a propagator of the social gospel who did not believe the Bible and did not preach the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. See my post about MLK here.

11 thoughts on “Some good points and some bad points

  1. Tom, I totally agree with your points, thanks for expressing my views so well! ‘Christian nationalism’ is misguided in many ways. Firstly, it raises up ungodly pride. But secondly, it is a snare that entangles us in the ‘world’ and worldly affairs. How can we live separated lives? But thirdly, too much flag waving prevents us from entering into prophecy truths…America will certainly come under the domain of the Antichrist – we will miss the signs of the times!
    Sorry for long comment – time is too short to live in error! God bless you brother.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Lisa Beth, and thanks for all of your comments! Here’s another example of where I’m coming from. I’m only 68 miles from the U.S.-Canadian border. Does God love American Christians more than our brothers and sisters in Canada? It’s a silly question but Americans were led to believe something very close to that for two-hundred years, and as you mention, much of that was connected to human pride. Great Britain at one time also viewed itself as a Christian nation and it looked down its nose at all other nations as it ruled its empire from ocean to ocean. Obviously, that’s no longer the situation politically and Britain’s churches are now nearly empty. Another case of God’s people getting wrapped around the wrong axle.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, sister! I know I’m stepping on some toes because the notion of America being a Christian nation and all the trappings that go along with that is still very dear to the majority of conservative evangelicals. I didn’t mention it in the post, but my particular beliefs on ecumenism and nationalism make it very hard to find a church to worship at. Maybe 90% of the churches here in Western New York are either Catholic or mainline/flatline Protestant so the remaining 10%, evangelical churches, are for the most part either KJV-Only Christian nationalist or Rick Warren-style ecumenist.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this book review; I imagine the author would have broken down well the American Nationalistic Evangelicalism rampant in some circles. I think its going too far to be Trump’s fanboy as an Evangelical though I think those voting him over Hillary is an understandable position (I voted for none of them, though I voted in 2016 for other offices and ballots). Like you I am also appreciate but cautious with the author; some years ago I wrote a critical review of his work though he was kind enough to reblog it and share it on social media: https://veritasdomain.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/analytical-review-why-study-history-reflecting-on-the-importance-of-the-past-by-john-fea/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the good comments and the link to your interesting review of Fea’s earlier book. In this book, he looks back at some of the less-than-complimentary history of the evangelical church in America including its fondness for “Know Nothing” nativism. Fea (very) briefly acknowledges the papacy’s disapproval of freedom of religion in both theory and practice, but then scolds American Protestants for nine pages for their anti-Catholic paranoia. It’s very clear from that section and other passages that ecumenist Fea and myself are not in alignment.

      Liked by 1 person

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