Once again the Church finds itself, at the nexus of religion and politics, having to answer in defense because a high ranking political official invoked his religious belief to justify a morally objectionable government policy.
The policy of zero-tolerance at the US border with Mexico has resulted in the separation of children of all ages from their parents. Even infants as young as three month are allegedly taken from their parents to what is called "tender age" facilities. Some of these children may never see their parents again, according to government officials.
The outcry against this policy has been swift and visceral. There are voices of condemnation coming from religious leaders as well as politicians. However, as Michael Brown pointed out in his opinion piece "Quoting the Bible, Jeff Sessions, and a Warning About What's Coming Next," in the June 20, 2018 Christian Post online edition, there will be resistance to the authority of scripture. Missing from Brown's post, though, is what the Church ought to do for what he sees coming.
It does not matter that the Church comes out with one voice in rejecting the policy of breaking up families. It does not matter that the misuse of scripture is called out for what it is. It does not even matter that the Methodist Church that Jeff Sessions belongs to has rebuked him for using scripture to support a policy that harms children. None of that matters in the long run if that is all the Church does.
In many of the responses I already see a kind of bracing for a fight. Always, when things like these happen, what we get from the Church is a battle cry – the liberals and the godless culture are attacking the Church and taking away our religious freedom. So we take up a militarized posture, ready to take the culture wars up a notch. And by any means necessary.
This could be a watershed moment for changing the tainted perception of the Church held by too many outside of its sacred walls. There will always be a conflict between the Kingdom of God and the world; it is not simply a cultural conflict. Regardless of how debased the culture may become, it still remains that we are not fighting against people, but against "principalities and spiritual powers."
Instead of taking up an attacking posture, the Church should look to humility and begin an RCA (root cause analysis) to identify and eliminate the factors that lead to crises like the one it finds itself in. There are five things the Church must do if it is to stop the outward flow of credibility.
First, the Church should evaluate the current posture of confrontation to see if it is not enhancing the negative perception. Yes, Jesus confronted the hypocrites of his days, but his rebukes were aimed at the religious class. He regarded the non-believers as sinners, and showed them compassion. He rebuked their sins but he never failed to serve them. He never made enemies of them. He won them over with understanding and love.
Second, the Church should rid itself of political labels. The June 12 -13, 2018 Southern Baptist Convention continued the tradition it started in the 1970s of inviting conservative political speakers. It identifies itself as a politically conservative group supporting politically conservative politicians, and are therefore tied to the policies enacted by those politicians. I know its anathema to the sensibilities of religious conservatives because they have been taught that if one is not a conservative and a Republican, then one cannot really be a Christian. Not only is that a lie, but it subconsciously creates enemies of others. It diminishes the worth of others and can justify abusive behaviors against them.
Third, the Church must ask itself some questions. What is the teaching that would allow for so many religious conservatives to support a policy that harms children? What is the biblical basis for that teaching? If the Church is teaching something that is not theologically sound, then that is a problem that needs correcting.
Fourth, the Church must reaffirm and act overtly to show that a moral character and truth matter. Until it repents for throwing out all biblical ethics by renouncing moral rectitude, and turning its back on truth, for the sake of political expediency, the Church will never be seen as a credible witness to the Gospel.
Fifth, and most importantly, the Church must trust in the ability of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. God is "able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think," (Eph. 3:20). The abominable theology espoused during the 2016 election season that compelled a believer to choose one evil to ostensibly defeat a greater evil, was a tool of the Devil. That was a false choice akin to the one the Serpent used to deceive Eve.
Giving in to the deception was a tacit indication of the lack of faith in God. Does the Church not think that God is able to achieve his purpose without employing evil means? He declares "Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?" (Jer. 32:27).
The challenge to the Church is not restricted to a select group. We cannot say, "Well, I did not vote for this or that person, therefore this does not apply to me." The Church has one Foundation, and is one body. If one part of the body is malfunctioning, the entire body is affected. It is every believer's responsibility. Repentance and prayer still works. "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).