In the last installment, we discussed how many white evangelical Christians view the Bible as the inerrant, unquestionable truth. Today‘s installment covers how they translate that dogma into the Bible-as-ultimate-authority.
Many white evangelical Christians believe the Bible is the ultimate law by which to govern. It supersedes any law written by Man.
Do an online search for should a Christian obey God’s law or Man’s law, and you will find a tsunami of articles and opinions on this subject. As an illustration, the first four links I found are HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE. A direct quote from the last link:
If there was a conflict between God’s law and Man’s law, a Christian would be advised to keep God’s Law. It would be better to go to jail than to rot in Hell. — Truthinlove.com
Evangelical Christians use their interpretation of Bible to justify this thinking. They often point to Acts 5:29:
But Peter and the apostles answered and said, We must obey God rather than men.
This approach is similar to the Muslim concept of Sharia.
The Library of Congress defines Sharia as the totality of God’s commands and exhortations, intended to regulate all aspects of human conduct and guide believers on the path of eternal salvation. The Koran and the Hadith, two sacred Islamic texts, form the basis of Sharia. It is an attempt to craft Man’s law from strict interpretations of God’s law and forms the basis of anti-democratic theocracies.
Eight countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, operate under Sharia law. For Muslims outside those countries, Sharia laws may govern the activities and decisions of their individual sects, but they still follow the secular laws of the land in which they reside.
God said it. I believe it. That settles it.
Anyone who grew up in an evangelical church in the 1970s is likely familiar with this song. I know of it because my church disagreed with its message. God said it; that settles it was a constant refrain in the evangelical church of my youth. A person’s belief didn’t matter. In this world, God is the ultimate authority and his Word is true, whether one believes it or not.
Starting in the 1980s with Jerry Falwell Sr’s Moral Majority, white evangelical Christians began to justify using the Bible and their God said it and that settles it mentality to shape secular laws of the United States. Doug Banwart provides this context for the Moral Majority in a 2013 article in the Western Illinois Historical Review:
The Moral Majority was a political organization that was intent on engaging the culture in the 1970s and responding to a host of societal ills through legislation. Moral Majority leaders and members feared that the 1960s and 1970s, which had seen dramatic changes and reversals from traditional Christian values in everyday life and politics, were pivotal in triggering moral and social decline for the country. The organization lobbied to end abortion, reinstate school prayer, re-establish traditional gender roles for men and women, defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, quash special rights for gays, and help the country get back to its roots. Tamney and Johnson note that it was “committed to making Fundamentalist morality into law.” Led by an evangelical Christian (Falwell), a Catholic (Paul Weyrich), and a Jew (Howard Phillips), it represented in its plurality of leadership the mission of the organization: a Christian, a Catholic, and a Jew putting aside their religious differences in order to clean up the country.
The movement to take over state legislatures, overhaul the courts, and install conservatives at every level of government began over forty years ago with the Moral Majority.
In the Moral Majority’s founding treatise, they were very clear in their belief that God’s law trumps Man’s law, a Christian form of Sharia law. To them, it was imperative to highjack every means of forcing Man’s law to mirror God’s law with patience (they have been at this for over forty years), surgical political strategies (Citizens United, gerrymandering), and utter ruthlessness (encouraging conspiracy theories and sedition from the pulpit.)
This is why so many white evangelicals justify voting for Donald Trump. After almost forty years, their goal of making the United States a theocracy ruled by God’s law was within reach. Because of Mitch McConnell’s block of judicial confirmations in the United States Senate, federal judicial benches around the country sat vacant. With a transactionally conservative President, a takeover of the liberal federal judiciary was within reach, not only to overturn Roe v Wade, but to enact a raft of Bible-based nationwide legislation. Trump further validated evangelical Christians by elevating one to vice-president; he never questioned their candidates for federal judicial appointments; and he paid lip service to their importance.
Worldwide, Christian persecution is on the rise, but American white evangelical Christians have a persecution complex.
The persecution of Christians worldwide is an alarming problem. A 2019 report commissioned by Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary, found that persecution of Christians is coming close to genocide in the Middle East. According to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Christian persecution in these areas comprise any of the following: routine discrimination in education, employment, and social life up to kidnapping, murder, and other genocidal attacks against Christian communities. To quote ERLC:
For the past few years the most common forms of persecution have been martyrdom, violent threats, general harassment, detention, imprisonment, legal discrimination, and incitement to hatred through media and from Islamic pulpits. Confiscation of church properties and attacks on churches and properties owned by Christians is also occurring in Algeria, Egypt, Iran, and Syria. Community-based sectarian attacks on church properties have similarly increased in Egypt, Israel, and Turkey. In Turkey, Christians are depicted by the government as being a “threat to the stability of the nation.” The report finds that Turkish Christian citizens have often been stereotyped as “not real Turks” but rather as Western collaborators. Turkey’s Association of Protestant Churches in their 2018 annual Rights Violation Report claimed that anti-Christian hate speech had increased in the Turkish media including private media.
Persecution of Christians in Islamic states is driven by spiritual correctness, the devotion to the certainty that the Islamic faith is correct and any other faith is blasphemy. (Sound familiar?) Persecution is the natural consequence of allowing radical religious extremists to formulate and enforce a country’s laws.
The evangelical fundamentalist points to this horrifying, untenable persecution and claims United States liberals persecute and silence them. An online search for liberal persecution of Christians yields pages of hits. Given the grotesque situations for Christians in many parts of the world, their fear of persecution is not illogical or unfounded.
It does not help that for over four decades, white evangelical fundamentalists have been using threats of Christian persecution to motivate and galvanize their congregations to political action. This recent statement from Franklin Graham illustrates white evangelical rhetoric regarding their persecution:
I think they (in this case, the Biden administration) will try to come after churches, attack churches, attack exempt organizations doing humanitarian work, social work throughout the country.
Andrew Brunson is a white evangelical missionary who was accused of being part of a failed coup in Turkey. He spent two years in Turkish prison before he was freed. He recently shared these thoughts on Christian persecution with The Christian Post:
First of all, I think it’s coming to the U.S. that there will be persecution. I was isolated for a few years, and coming back to the states was almost like coming back to a different country in many ways. And I’m astounded at the speed with which, I think, the U.S. is imploding.
Because of their insistence that the Bible is the ultimate law and authority, they view persecution from a radicalized position of spiritual correctness. Brunson accuses liberals of being inflexible, but it is evangelical fundamentalists who insist that their viewpoint is ordained by God and is therefore infallible.
Spiritual correctness informs every position they take. Any disagreement with their certainty constitutes persecution. Removing prayer from public schools is religious persecution. Forbidding the display of Christian religious objects on public property is persecution. Forcing Christians to follow anti-discrimination laws that violate their Biblical interpretations is persecution. Making them pay tax because they have strayed from their religious foundations is persecution. Writing this series of articles is persecution.
How does protecting their right to certainty, to spiritual correctness, undermine our democracy? Is it possible to grant them spiritual correctness without making them feel threatened and attacked?
Add to this toxic stew the notion of going to war and even dying for one’s faith.
As a child in the early 1980s, I was constantly warned that I might someday have to fight and die for my faith. We were shown sometimes violent movies of Christians being arrested and even executed. Propagandists reenacted Christian torture and executions in our chapel services. The hymn Onward, Christian Soldiers was on regular rotation, with its exhortations to go to war for Jesus.
Now imagine a person who never left that environment. Imagine he instead spent the past forty years immersed in this imagery, being told all the ways he is persecuted by liberals and their ungodly laws, and being constantly warned of the coming holy war for his faith. Add to this pulpits preaching extreme political positions and supporting increasingly undemocratic laws.
When I saw Christian flags and crosses at the Capitol insurrection, I was not surprised. Many white evangelical Christians have been calling for this sort of sedition for over forty years. To save democracy, they must be stopped.