Updated: Nov 5, 2019
Recently, Robert Jeffries, the First Baptist Pastor of Dallas, said on Twitter, “The effort to impeach President (Donald Trump) is really an effort to impeach our own deeply held faith values.”
My immediate response was to roll my eyes and keep scrolling. Pridefully, I distance myself from “those evangelicals.” “Those evangelicals” include those who seem to hate all people or are more concerned with their 401 (K), political power, and other people’s sex life than the teachings of Jesus. Even my definition of “those evangelicals” drips with superiority – that is evidence of my sinful apathy.
But if I take the bible seriously, I can’t just ignore sin in the church. A pastor claiming that supporting a politician is part of the role of the church is teaching his followers to get in bed with the American version of the imperial occult: nationalism.
The connection between nationalism and the church is a toxic sin that is pulling down our church. I can not claim to follow Jesus’ commands and be silent when any teacher claims that supporting any politician is synonymous with following Jesus.
The message to the church of Pergamum convicts me of my apathy towards nationalism’s stranglehold on the American church.
In the letter found in Revelation, Jesus addresses those who have engaged in spiritual adultery by compromise with the imperial cult – a form of a state religion that worships the emperor as a god.
And he commands even those who were uncompromising to repent
My American cultural lens balks at the suggestion that I’m responsible for others’ sins. I want God to judge my faithfulness. But the letter to Pergamum smashes the myth of individualism.
God holds us accountable for those in our communities who are being led astray by false teachers. Evangelicalism's decision to get into bed with conservatism is choosing to compromise to a political party to gain political power. It forces Christians to ignore the sins of the republican party, to increase financial stability and political power for the Chruch. The church should also condemn when Democrats do the same, but currently, our community of believers is siding with a political party that has chosen to ignore God’s command to love our neighbor to gain the political power needed to win cultural wars.
Jefferies's comment is dangerous because he equates supporting the current administration over choosing to follow God. While there is nothing wrong with the love of the country, as C.S. Lewis points out in his book The Four Loves, idolizing that love over our love for God turns patriotism into idolatry.
As a believer, I am called to usher in God’s kingdom. Wherever America or another country stands in the way of God’s kingdom, I must vehemently side with God, making myself an enemy of nationalism.
Nationalism chooses the version of Patriotism that supports the status quo at the expense of the poor, immigrants, people of color, and women.
If the church followed Jesus’ command to love our neighbor, then we would kneel during the national anthem until black lives do matter in the United States. We would speak out continually against the war that the administration is waging against immigrants. We would stand in the way of destruction of Indigenous people’s land. We would speak out for truth and justice and stand against those who want to support a President that makes a mockery out of our faith – through his treatment of women, people of color, and his disdain for truth.
And while I want to wash my hands of those in bed with Nationalism, the message to Pergamum demands that I repent.
When we allow those who promote compromise to politicians, political parties, and patriotism to teach unchecked, the whole community suffers.
While I pride myself on speaking out against the injustices mentioned above, I, too, have made compromises with the American Imperial cult. The presence of the nationalism in our church corrupts the whole church and makes it easy to excuse small compromises. It doesn’t matter if my sins seem less significant or less toxic to me because whenever I compromise, I am still choosing adultery.
Jesus’ message to Pergamum has compelled me to speak out against our Church's adultery with Nationalism. God has invited me to repent in the areas of my life where I've sacrificed my faith to the god of Nationalism. Repenting has led to freedom.
As I’ve chosen to repent, I’ve seen the way God has freed from the toxic culture of nationalism and given me opportunities to walk with friends, family, and peers as we seek God’s kingdom over the American dream.
But this has come at a cost. Members of my family, donors, and friends have cut ties with me. I've been accused of being unamerican or a socialist.
The message to Pergamum ends with hope. God will provide a white stone for those who are victorious. While there is a cost to speak out against false teachers, the reward is far greater.
We cannot allow Robert Jeffries's comments to go unchecked. We cannot roll our eyes at his predictable Trumpian tweets. He is directly tying our faith to a political leader. Those who follow Jesus must only bow down to King Jesus, and our allegiances must only be to the Kingdom of God. Anything else is idolatry.
But to stay quiet is also a compromise. It’s choosing to allow sin to exist in the church. If we are to follow Jesus, we must choose God’s kingdom over America. We must vote in a way that testifies to our allegiance to Jesus, and we have to speak out against those that advocate for compromise with the state.