Evangelicals: What Now?

Wallace Henley is an exclusive CP columnist. | (By CP Cartoonist Rod Anderson)

More than 80 percent of white evangelical voters cast their ballots for Donald Trump, noted The Wall Street Journal on the morning after Trump won the presidency.

"They were mobilized by what's at stake and the clear contrast with Hillary on life," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council was quoted in the story as saying.

The Wall Street Journal article also included comments from the Southern Baptist Convention's Russell Moore. "The most important lesson" from Trump's victory, wrote Moore, "is that the church must stand against the way politics has become a religion, and religion has become politics."

Perkins summed it up accurately, and Moore raised an important point.

Evangelicalism now may be entering a period of danger. It was assumed that a Hillary Clinton presidency would imperil evangelical Christianity, with its stances on the protection of the unborn, traditional marriage, and other hot issues.

But the Trump presidency may present a more subtle danger for the evangelical church.

This is a good time for conservative Christians of all races and doctrinal varieties to look closely at the case of Daniel in Babylon. The young Hebrew was among the choicest of his people nabbed by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and taken into exile.

Daniel and his close friends were singled out for their exceptional qualities and promise. The king's aides wanted them placed under the "Chaldeans" to be instructed in the politically correct ways of the Babylonian worldview and culture. Daniel famously refused in no uncertain terms — the Hebrew language of Daniel 1 suggests that he metaphorically set his feet in stone in the determination that he would not compromise his beliefs.

The "Chaldeans" appear across time in many forms. Initially they were an ethnic group in Mesopotamia. By the time of Nebuchadnezzar they are regarded as the "learned," the elite establishment within Babylonian culture who shaped its consensus spiritually, philosophically, and in policy.

Their task was to define Babylonian political correctness, to preserve it, propagate it, and press everyone into conformity to it. The "Chaldeans" in every civilization establish the core worldview that is to guide the thought and lifestyle of the society. To go against it (as Daniel did in Babylon and the early Christians did in Rome) is to be "deplorable," uncivil, unpatriotic, boorish and dangerous.

One must conform to the consensus of the power-elites within the society or face marginalization, caricaturization, vilification, villainization, criminalization, and perhaps even elimination.

The Chaldeans are given this encompassing authority by the rulers at the very top. They have helped those authority-figures to gain their position, and then the Chaldeans help sustain the rulers. Trump's victory is seen by many as the repudiation of the Obama-Clinton-leftist-progressivist "Chaldean" establishment, a revolutionary overthrow of the elites who have dominated the culture.

The contemporary "Chaldean" power elite in the United States consists of five establishments:

1. The Entertainment Establishment

2. The Information Establishment

3. The Academic Establishment

4. The Political Establishment

5. The Corporate Establishment

It's no surprise that the titans of these establishments are in mourning in the wake of the Trump victory.

But here's the new danger: Trumpism may become the new establishment, and the evangelical Christianity that helped put him there could become a major component of the new Chaldeans who preserve, propagate and press people into conformity.

Evangelicals and other culturally and socially conservative Christian groups, including Catholics and the Orthodox churches and their own establishments, must now ask: "What now? "Where do we go from here? ("Here" being Trump's election)

If one looks at the history of the church the answer is clear. Biblical Christians must always understand themselves as a "remnant community" within their cultures. They are citizens of God's Kingdom, placed in earthly kingdoms for the sake of preserving and propagating the interests and values of the Kingdom of God — "righteousness (goodness and justice), peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17)

Note that the third "Chaldean" function — that of pressing people into conformity — is not in the job description of Christ's authentic church. Biblical Christians are to offer people the Good News and the opportunity to enter relationship with God through Christ, but not force them to accept God's grace-gift of salvation.

Donald Trump in the past has supported abortion, and sometimes pursued a lifestyle not in accord with the morality evangelicals believe the Bible teaches. And he has done so, according to his own assertion, without feeling the need for forgiveness.

In his campaigning Trump seemed to promise he would support values evangelicals and other Christians embrace as aligned with the Bible, and one hopes he will.

But here's where it becomes so important for evangelicals and all biblically based Christians to ask and answer correctly: What now? Where do we go from here?

Biblical Christians must see themselves as representing a position beyond the extremes seemingly symbolized in Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Like Daniel, in our "Babylon," we must embed ourselves immovably in biblical values, and even if Trump, now being acclaimed as a hero by some Christians, strays, we must confront him.

Biblical Christians must be the prophetic voice in the very gates and halls of the palace, not mindless, heartless sycophants of Trumpism, any more than the left-progressivism embodied in Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

That goes especially for us evangelicals who put Trump in office.

Wallace Henley, a former Birmingham News staff writer, was an aide in the Nixon White House, and congressional chief of staff. He is a teaching pastor at Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

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