“We’ve turned the other cheek, and I understand, sort of, the biblical reference—I understand the mentality—but it’s gotten us nothing. Okay? It’s gotten us nothing while we’ve ceded ground in every major institution in our country.”
You’d be forgiven for assuming that the above quote, read out of context, is from any one of the current prosperity gospel preachers in the Christian Self Help market. But no, it’s actually a quote from Donald Trump Junior as he addressed a crowd of conservatives in Arizona last week.
Writing about the event for The Atlantic, Peter Wehner gives this scathing critique:
The former president’s son has a message for the tens of millions of evangelicals who form the energized base of the GOP: the scriptures are essentially a manual for suckers. The teachings of Jesus have “gotten us nothing.” It’s worse than that, really; the ethic of Jesus has gotten in the way of successfully prosecuting the culture wars against the left. If the ethic of Jesus encourages sensibilities that might cause people in politics to act a little less brutally, a bit more civilly, with a touch more grace? Then it needs to go.
What’s really interesting about Junior’s statement is not just that it shows how tragically little he understands the gospel, when his father is credited with bringing Christian values back to the White House (whether those values were ever truly represented there is another debate for another blog). In telling us what the gospel is decidedly not, Junior ends up telling us (albeit not directly) quite a lot about what the gospel actually is.
What The Gospel Actually Promises
The gospel never promises anything except eternal life (1 John 2:25). It doesn’t promise wealth, health, or comfort, but rather the opposite. When you sign up to be a disciple, you sign up for “picking up your cross”: the act of denying your self.
The gospel is good news for everyone, but particularly for those whom society looks down on most. There is no “owning the libs” in the Kingdom, or any other group. In fact, to paraphrase Galatians 3:28, there is no Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or Independent in Christ. Much to Junior’s dismay, we’re all part of one body.
When a rich man came to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus instructed him to obey the commandments and give all his possessions to the poor (Matthew 19:21). This was apparently too big a request, and the man couldn’t bring himself to do that. Woud the American Church at large be willing to give up all forms of political power and prestige, if the return investment was every citizen – all registered Democrats, self-identified liberals, moderates, and everyone else outside the Republican party – becoming saved?
I suspect that this trade-off wouldn’t be good enough for Trump Junior.
Pray That Everyone Have Ears To Hear
Junior’s quote should grieve every professing Christian, because it reveals a heart that looks absolutely nothing like Christ. It reveals the profound emptiness of a man who is clearly putting his identity in power structures and acts of dominance rather than in a “loser” savior. At the same time, I find some encouragement in knowing that the gospel is still just as relevant and counter-cultural as it ever was. This is and always has been a good thing.
The road to life is narrow, friends. Make sure the message you’re preaching with your life is one of biblical truth.