Own It… And Let It Go: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
It’s already being described as a “Christian Insurrection”. The so-called Christian flag was carried into the Capitol alongside those of white supremacists and Neo-Nazis. Before the assault on the Capitol, Christian music blared from speakers, prayer circles were spotted with believers holding hands and placards were held high proclaiming the “Jesus Saves”. Over and over again, participants in the riot identified themselves to the media as “Bible believing Christians”. We do not yet know with any degree of accuracy if evangelicals made up the majority of those who gathered in Washington, but we can say that their participation was significant.
These are people we know.
We have sat next to them at Bible studies and in church. We have played music with them in praise bands. We have bumped into them in Christian bookstores. We’ve traded comments with them on Facebook pages and blog sites. Some of them are even closer to us, as they are literally family.
These are people we know… and know well.
Over the past five years, we have watched as slowly, bit by bit, they have bought into the most outlandish conspiracy theories. We have watched as excuses were made for the immorality of the sitting president. We have watched as evangelical churches festooned themselves with flags. We have listened as evangelical pastors and leaders have turned from the clear message of the Gospel to a mix of nationalism, racial animus and grievance. We have watched and heard what was said at the recent Jericho March in Washington.
Some of us have objected in conversation and writing to what we have witnessed, while others of us have tried, mostly without success, to initiate some sort of dialogue. Neither effort has met with much success. It is time, I believe, to own what we see. To own it and then to let it go. By owning it, what I mean is that we have to be honest about what we have seen and heard, without excuses and without equivocation. Much of American evangelicalism has succumbed to the heresy of Christian nationalism. Much of American evangelicalism has become taken up with blatant idolatry both in the person of the President and in worship at the altar of right wing politics. After last week, we can add willful violence to heresy and idolatry.
After we own the reality of what has taken place, I think it is time to let it go. Theological debate with someone given to idol worship is seldom fruitful. Debunking conspiracy theories with facts usually leads to yet even more convoluted conspiracies. In any case, a change of opinion is not what we should be seeking. It is repentance and amendment of life that we should be hoping to see, nothing more and nothing less.
By owning the tragedy of American evangelicalism and by acknowledging the sad reality of what much of it now represents we will then be able to let it go and see it as a mission field in which we can share the Gospel that so many have abandoned.
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”