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Evangelical project warning against political partisanship in the Church led by 'Never Trumpers'

Curtis Chang speaks in a 2021 video from the 'Christians and the Vaccine' initiative by Redeeming Babel.
Curtis Chang speaks in a 2021 video from the "Christians and the Vaccine" initiative by Redeeming Babel. | Screenshot/YouTube/WokePreacherClips

A new project and curriculum aimed at helping churches "heal political divisions in the Church" is being led by Christian leaders who have previously voiced their dislike of former President Donald Trump and the support he's received from white Evangelicals. 

The After Party, a video-based curriculum for churches, schools and other faith-aligned organizations aimed at "advancing a Christ-centered political identity," is the brainchild of author and former pastor Curtis Chang, New York Times columnist David French and Russell Moore, director of the Public Theology Project at Christianity Today magazine and former president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention from 2013-2021.  

Initially launched with an online small group course and a series of virtual and in-person events planned for early 2024, "The After Party: Toward Better Christian Politics" consists of a six-session course and accompanying study guides on how Christians should view political engagement rather than the "what" of partisan politics or specific politicians.

A spokesperson told The Christian Post that The After Party was formed "out of deep concern that partisan divisions are tearing apart our church, and that Christians on both sides — the Left and the Right — are called to submit our political behavior to the authority of Jesus."

The After Party curriculum offers detailed instructions on how small group leaders should lead the sessions and includes a list of "optional" pre-written prayers under several categories, including "for the human family," "for the unity of the Church," "for justice" and "for our country."

Justice is a recurring theme in the teaching modules, which frequently focus on Micah 6:8: "He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you but to act justly, To love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" 

In one segment titled "What is the Partisan Mind," French comments, "One thing that's really clear from Scripture is that we are not to forsake the fight for justice. So there is a place for justice. It's a requirement that we pursue justice."

Several of the modules include titles such as "Pursuing Justice as the Antidote to Cynicism," "Reflecting on Past and Present Injustices" and "How We Pursue Justice."

In one video, Moore and Charlie Dates, senior pastor of Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago, explain what they see as a direct link between the civil rights movement and the Church.

"Previous generations of faithful black Christians did not see a separation between the faithfulness of the Gospel and the fight for justice in the public square," said Dates, adding, "There is no civil rights movement apart from the Church."

"Everybody knows Dr. Martin Luther King, but everybody tends to forget that's Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King," Moore said.

Calling out what the project's creators see as an "'us versus them' mentality [which] opposes the 'mind of Christ,'" the curriculum calls on Christians to shun political labels in favor of theological ones.

French, for one, calls the "partisan mind … antithetical in so many ways to being a disciple."

"To be very clear, we are not calling and have not called for people to not be Republican or not be Democrat," said French. "Too many people in this country right now, they have placed that as a fundamental aspect of their identity. 

"And so, part of the call of the After Party is to move beyond that."

Chang, a consulting faculty member at Duke Divinity School and senior fellow at Fuller Theological Seminary, said Republican, Democratic and "any other kind of political parties are just mere signposts" that should point Christians to "the ultimate Jesus after party" in eternity. 

"We're all heading towards one final destination, we're all coming from different starting points," said Chang. "We're going to need signposts coming in from the right, and we're gonna need signposts coming in from the left."

The founder of Redeeming Babel, a Christian nonprofit, Chang is a former pastor of The River Church Community in San Jose, California, and founder and CEO of Consulting Within Reach (CWR), a firm serving nonprofits and government agencies.

While The After Party says it's a nonpartisan effort, Chang has made several political statements in the past, including last May in a tweet from Redeeming Babel, which featured an image of Trump with a caption urging anyone considering leaving the Republican Party to "find other like-minded people" and "leave with others." The post has one like and one re-tweet. 

 

In 2021, Chang called on Christians to "own what happened" on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol riot, which he called "evil."

"What happened at the Capitol was a spiritual event," Chang wrote on Facebook. "An evil spirit animated it, and it was especially evil because so many claimed the name of Jesus. As a church, we have to own up to this ugly truth."

He also blamed white Evangelicals for resistance to the push for mass COVID-19 injections during the lockdowns, telling a U.S. Senate committee in 2021, "The road to ending the pandemic runs through the Evangelical church, particularly the white Evangelical church." Decrying Evangelicals as the largest vaccine-hesitant demographic, he stated that "US evangelical culture is already exporting our misinformation and fears to the rest of the world, especially via social media."

In September 2021, after founding Christians and the Vaccine, which he called "the leading national effort to persuade vaccine hesitant Evangelicals," Chang wrote a New York Times guest essay in which he claimed, "there is no actual religious basis for exemptions from vaccine mandates in any established stream of Christianity."

He and French also partnered together on a podcast for the Christians and the Vaccine project in which French called out white Evangelicals — whom he called "very, very, very Republican" — for their purported "partisanship" and resistance to getting the shots as "an outlier from every other religious tradition, including religious traditions similar to theirs."

"So, not only do you have a situation where you have a — the white Evangelical community is an outlier in vaccine refusal, they're also an outlier in considering the health of their own community," he said, adding Evangelicals must contend with what French called "a spiritual problem in the lack of regard for the health of your community."

According to a 2022 Pew survey, 62% of white Evangelicals said they had gotten at least one COVID-19 injection. The survey did not include non-white Evangelicals or minority non-Evangelical Protestants. 

Another study conducted in 2020 found vaccine hesitancy among physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and nurses was highest among black and Hispanic healthcare personnel at 75% and 51%, respectively, followed by white and Asian healthcare personnel at 44%.

Politically, high-profile figures expressed similar skepticism toward any recommendation on a then-future COVID vaccine under the Trump administration. 

In July 2020, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg voiced concern over the potential impact of the vaccine on humans.

"But I do just want to make sure that I share some caution on this [vaccine] because we just don't know the long-term side effects of basically modifying people's DNA and RNA … basically the ability to produce those antibodies and whether that causes other mutations or other risks downstream," Zuckerberg said in a video leaked by Project Veritas. "So, there's work on both paths of vaccine development."

During a 2020 debate with then-Vice President Mike Pence, Kamala Harris suggested she would only take the vaccine if medical experts — and not Trump — recommended doing so. 

"If the doctors tell us we should take [the vaccine], I'll be the first in line to take it, absolutely," said then-Senator Harris. "But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I'm not taking it."

The creators of the After Party also appear to share a similar distaste for Trump.

During an episode of the "Good Faith" podcast, Chang and French bemoaned the former president's political grip on the Republican Party, calling the GOP and its registered voters "captive to the fear of Trump's power."

"They are unwilling to stand up to him anyway and are just willing to go along with all of his lies, all of his violation of his boundaries, and all of a lot of fear," Chang added. "All of the qualities of evil we've just described."

 

Referring to what he called "the con" of conservative Christians supporting Trump as a "necessary evil," French said, "If you're a Christian believer, you're looking at things through the wrong lens where you're saying if the necessity is political triumph, if that's the necessity, then you're looking at the ministry of Jesus, at the ministry of Paul, at the ministry of Peter, as just failures, which can't be right."

When asked about whether they are anti-Trump Christians, or so-called "Never Trumpers," an After Party spokesperson said in a statement to CP that the group's political views should not disqualify them or any other Christian "from talking about timeless biblical truths that transcends (sp) specific candidates."

"A 'never Trump-er' can still teach timeless biblical truths, just like a Trump supporter can," the spokesperson added. "Applying the logic suggested in your question consistently would mean disqualifying a Trump supporting pastor like Robert Jeffress from teaching biblical truths. 

"We believe both Trump supporters and 'never Trump-ers' should be able to talk about Jesus' teachings that transcends specific candidates."

A report published in First Things last month by Megan Basham found The After Party is funded by secular left foundations that promote abortion and LGBT issues, including the ecumenical One America Movement and the Hewlett Foundation, reportedly the second-largest private donor to Planned Parenthood.

The After Party is also reportedly one of nearly three dozen beneficiaries of the New Pluralist project from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, a nonprofit consulting firm with plans to invest $10 million to "address divisive forces." 

A bio for Chang lists him as a past winner of a Rockefeller Fellowship at Harvard University, his alma mater.

On its website, Chang's Redeeming Babel acknowledges receiving funding from New Pluralists, the Hewlett Foundation and others but asserts that the organization "retains complete control over" the content featured in After Party curriculum.

A statement on Redeeming Babel's FAQ page reads, "Regrettably, many faith-based organizations are reluctant to support projects at the intersection of Christianity and politics due to political polarization and divisions within the church — even projects like The After Party which seek to heal those divisions."

Ian M. Giatti is a reporter for The Christian Post and the author of BACKWARDS DAD: a children's book for grownups. He can be reached at: ian.giatti@christianpost.com.

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