By Linda Moldovan [Photo cred, Andrew Neel]
John Piper recently penned a piece on the upcoming presidential election that has incited a strong reaction from Christians of every stripe. Piper states that he will vote for neither candidate, and lays out a solid argument for his stance. In response, he has been called “intellectually and morally bankrupt,” “ridiculous,” and even “pathetic” by op-eds in major web magazines and publications.
Piper’s article can be found HERE, and I encourage everyone to read the full article for themselves with an open heart and a lack of cynicism and political bias. To summarize his piece, Piper basically states that Trump’s character may be just as dangerous, if not more so, than Biden’s policies, and that Trump’s character and rhetoric has infected the discourse and beliefs of our nations, specifically and especially of Christians.
I genuinely cannot understand what any Christian would find wrong or controversial with what he says. While I may disagree with his ultimate conclusion, his article made me question my political stances—not what they are, but where they lie in relation to my Christian beliefs. Where do my political stances rank in the hierarchy of what I consider to be my Christian identity? Where do yours?
Many have taken issue with Piper conflating Trump’s character with Biden’s policies. While the comparison may come off as insincere and even glib to some, that does not mean that Piper doesn’t have a point. I must confess that I find the evangelical responses to Piper’s piece to be, at the least, troubling, and at the worst, highly telling in the most unfortunate of ways. It would be a waste of time to itemize Trump’s many flaws. If we as Christians are being honest with ourselves, we know that he is not a genuine believer. We know that he has a divisive and bombastic personality that makes it harder and harder for many Christians to vote for—not even support, but simply vote for—him. We know that he is not a family man, or a man of God, or a man of honor, no matter how many faith leaders and televangelists and pastors tell you this. We know that he is not our savior.
So why do so many Christians on the political right act like it? On the other hand, much can be said about progressive Christians’ responses to Trump, his administration, and his Christian supporters. I want to focus on Trump’s Christian followers, however, many of whom are evangelicals and/or right-wing.
Freedom, rights, and patriotism as defined by traditional American values shouldn’t exist to followers of Christ. As Christians, our goal is not to preserve and defend the so-called “God-given” rights that Americans enjoy. Patriotism is defined as “devotion to one’s country.” I fear that this devotion has reached a breaking point for many Christians, who–perhaps subconsciously–have come to view political preferences and beliefs as more important than emulating Christ and His love. Political differences now help to widen the ever-increasing gulf between Christians of every denomination, sect, and rank. Our faith in Christ is apparently no longer enough to unite us, and our political differences have the power to divide, and eventually, conquer. If what Piper writes is true, then our collective faith is weak and flickering, not strong and steadfast. Our eyes have moved from Christ to politicians. I can guarantee you that the trade-off is not worth the effort or the ultimate result.
However, I have an issue with Piper’s article. Piper treats Trump as the cause, and not the effect, of our nation’s political divisiveness, which has bled heavily into our faith interactions. I cannot blame Trump for the responses to his rhetoric. Many Christians have accepted Trump wholeheartedly—many have not. Pro-Trump Christians have led the march for embracing a man who has made no attempt at even pretending to live with honor, courage, and humility. Anti-Trump Christians often spew vitriol against Trump and his supporters. The ensuing arguments between professed followers of Christ are generally heated, hateful, and very often public. This is what the world now witnesses. There seems to be only a small number of Christians who, like Piper, have stepped back and tried to look at the bigger picture. I commend these people. I commend Piper for a well-written, thoughtful, and ultimately truly Christian response to what has taken over many of our lives: Trump v. Biden, Republican v. Democrat, progressive v. conservative.
The following excerpt from Piper’s piece directed to faith leaders made me sit up and think. May it do the same for you during these times of discord and strife.
May I suggest to pastors that in the quietness of your study you do this? Imagine that America collapses. First anarchy, then tyranny — from the right or the left. Imagine that religious freedom is gone. What remains for Christians is fines, prison, exile, and martyrdom. Then ask yourself this: Has my preaching been developing real, radical Christians? Christians who can sing on the scaffold,
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever.
Linda Moldovan is currently pursuing her Master of Theological Studies at Portland Seminary of GeorgeFox.