So yesterday was interesting. Watching pro-Trump protesters stormed the US Capitol building gave early evidence that 2021 has every intention of outdoing 2020. The events were fascinating, disturbing and will be picked apart for years to come. Questions will be asked about the apparent racist difference in how the authorities responded to the events in the summer and the events yesterday and the fall out will be bitter and long. So let’s get a few things cleared up and then move on to the big lesson that church leaders in Europe and the West need to grapple with and grapple with now.
What it was not
It was not a Coup. Or attempted coup. Or coup-d’etat. Or anything remotely close.
In a real coup you don’t get these guys posing for photos. This is a clown-show not a coup.
What needs to be said
But it does need saying by US church leaders everywhere that this has nothing to do with Christ and in fact the opposite is more likely. Early responses like this are going to need to be repeated a lot and not just in the next few weeks. And just so you know where I stand (as a European), it seems the answer to my one simple question is ‘no line at all.’
What needs to be done – surface level
I’ve argued for a long time that the political actions advocated by Christian Republicans has been fatalistic and weak. They succumbed to the idea that the only options were Trump or Democrat.
The alternative should not be seen as between Trump or a Democrat but between Trump and a better GOP and Christians should be leading that campaign.https://thesimplepastor.co.uk/is-there-a-reasonable-alternative/
So Republican Christians who are not, for good conscience reasons, willing to vote Democrat need to be unashamedly, clearly and consistently campaigning for Republicans who are the least like Trump and co. At the surface level, Christians need to be clearly seen to be leading the charge for a renewed GOP that is as far from Trump as possible and begin now.
On a more general level, Evangelical Christianity needs to be liberated from the shackles of political ideology in America for the sake of evangelical Christians everywhere.
What needs to be done – conspiracy health check
The next level of response is to get clued up on conspiracy theories. The Bible is not silent on the topic and there are plenty of good books on the topic (I’d also recommend Them as an entertaining read) that should be read. People should do an audit of leaders who made political prophecies and hold them to account for those things. America is the nation most obviously riddled with conspiracy theories but it is the canary in the mine. Conspiracy theories are on the rise everywhere.
A love of controversy is a dangerous sign and so pastors beware in case that person is you, but more likely sitting on the back row and very active on the internet.
Where the work really needs to be done
People are waking up to the fact that there are two separate realities in the US. And if you think it’s just the US then you’re being naive.
Increasingly churches everywhere and societies at large are going to have to face some uncomfortable decisions. The different media eco-systems that people now inhabit is the biggest factor to consider. Probably the most important questions to ask in a church to diagnose this, is not are you reading your Bible but where are you getting your ‘facts’? Who are you trusting to tell you the truth about the world?
For example, The New York Times fact checked some claims about yesterday but that’s totally useless. The people who need it the most don’t trust a single world the NYT says. So they won’t believe it at all. And not only will it not change their mind it will only deepen their convictions. It only feeds the idea because of course, that’s what the elites want you to think.
One of the most important discipleship lessons we’re going to need to start including in all our training is how to help people sift the words. I remember showing someone a short video of why Monster energy drinks are of the devil, and they just bought it straight away. I was shocked by how quickly a big load of rubbish was swallowed whole. I’m not shocked any longer.
And main-stream media outlets are so dominated by a single worldview that building trust is going to be very difficult to keep and increasingly easy to lose. Elites need to understand the fear and mistrust that exist even on the very mildly-right of centre and realise that much of what they are doing is making things worse.
This fracturing of truth is, of course, aided and abetted by the internet and I expect governments to seriously think how they can regulate the internet while still allowing free speech. This is not an easy circle to square.
Why does all this matter? It’s hard to be trusted as people who speak the truth if we couldn’t recognise a fact one came up and punched us in the face.
Blessed are the peacemakers
It would be really easy to ban all talk of politics in the church but that would be the wrong play here. Instead, more conversation is needed within churches – with hard and fast rules on kindness, patience and listening. Christians need to learn the art of conversation and debate and we need to learn it fast because, as we’re watching in America, the forces that would tear churches apart is strong and getting stronger.
There are very few paths to reconciliation and very few paths to unity. They are narrow, they are hard, they are opposed on all sides and misunderstood at every turn. The paths to division are broad, easy to find, accessible to many and open to all. Right now I think America is cruising down an eight-lane highway to greater division and both sides are in a hurry to get there. And that is something that should trouble all of us.https://thesimplepastor.co.uk/america-the-troubled/
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