Recently, Apple, Google, and Amazon, or Big Tech as they are called, systematically removed accessibility to the conservative social media alternative Parler. This, of course, is in reaction to the insurrection at the Capitol building Wednesday January 6th. While it appears that at this time it is legal for them to act as they did, it definitely appears to be unethical and unfair. And its unlikely that a small company such as Parler would ever be able to take on “Big Tech” in legal battles.
Parler does seem to have violated Apple’s rules and so is in breach of contract. While this is true, many other companies such as Twitter have had similar contract breaches allowing violent Tweets to trend while delaying to shut them down. I don’t know all the evidence for everything, but it does appear that in some ways conservative alternatives are being targeted or persecuted you might say.
My question isn’t whether that is fair or legal. I want to explore if politically conservative Christians are being persecuted for righteousness sake or if they are taking a beating for something else. In this article, I don’t plan to finger wag. I am not trying to bash anyone. I really want to get to the core of what righteousness looks like when it comes to political views.
Also, I am assuming a largely conservative Christian audience. Thus, my defense of the righteous stances of conservative Christians will be shorter than my critiques. The reason for this difference is that conservatives already believe what I will support and need more argumentation for them to evaluate my critiques.
Righteous Stances of Conservative Christians
There are many stances that conservatives take that are honorable. I’ve selected the top two issues that the Bible addresses as moral issues.
Abortion is perhaps the main reason so many Christians feel that they must vote Republican. To me, being pro-life is the most Biblical conviction of the Republican party. The Bible clearly views the pre-born baby as in fact a human. David says in Psalm 139:13-16:
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; / you knit me together in my mother’s womb. / 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. / Wonderful are your works; / that I know very well. / 15 My frame was not hidden from you, / when I was being made in secret, / intricately woven in the depths of the earth. / 16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. / In your book were written / all the days that were formed for me, / when none of them as yet existed.
In this passage, God cares for and wonderfully forms the pre-born child. It’s a creative work that God does not take lightly.
Luke also indicates that the pre-born is a child. When Mary mother of Jesus came to Elizabeth, “the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy” (Lk 1:41-44). Jess Ford sums up this scenario:
One or two weeks into Mary’s pregnancy, Jesus Christ was recognized with joy by another preborn baby. Elizabeth and her child recognized preborn Jesus as Lord. A preborn child, just a few weeks following conception, was honored rightly. And the presence of Jesus filled Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit.
From these and many other passages, we should conclude that the Bible is pro-life. We should fight for it in order to rescue some.
But as most good causes, it can be abused. I am no fan of politicians who use this issue as a way to lock in a voting bloc. On the other hand, its better than the politicians who are steadfastly against pro-life. We should hope and pray that God does indeed help us politically to undo the laws which legalize all kinds of abortion. But I don’t think we should expect too much from politicians.
Instead, I prefer the method that groups like Save the Storks use. They go and set up mobile ultrasound units outside abortion clinics. They invite women in to see their babies before they go to the clinic. Seeing their babies and hearing the heartbeat has saved many lives. I believe that many more churches and institutions should get behind such efforts.
This one gets a little sticky, in my mind anyway. We go from saving innocent lives to private lives of individuals. And here is where we need to separate what the Bible says and realize that the American legal system is not Biblically based.
First, let me be beyond clear: The Bible classifies everything except monogamous sexual relationships as sin. When God created man, “male and female he created them” (Gn 1:27). Sexual union is to occur in the context of marriage: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gn 2:24, emphasis added). Paul removes any doubt concerning this phrase: “Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, ‘The two shall be one flesh’” (1 Cor 6:16). If therefore sexual relationships with prostitutes are considered “one flesh,” then any other relationship fits this category.
Beyond this positive statement of marriage, you have the story of the Angels and Lot. God said to Abraham, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin!” (Gn 18:20). What sins does the narrator single out in the passage? Homosexuality and rape (Gn 19:5). The context of the passage clearly emphasizes the “grave sin” of the Sodomites using this sin. Of course, objectors use Ezekiel 16:49 to say that Homosexuality isn’t under condemnation in Genesis 19: “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” In context, it seems that Sodom is being used as a literary reference for effect. Ezekiel is comparing Judah to Sodom in order to emphasize her national sin:
You not only followed their [Sodom and Samaria] ways, and acted according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. 48 As I live, says the Lord GOD, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done (Eze. 16:47-48).
So not only did they have social injustices in their midst, but they also followed “their abominations.” In context, these abominations have sexual overtones: “Have you not committed lewdness beyond all your abominations?” (Eze 16:43) and “You must bear the penalty of your lewdness and your abominations, says the LORD” (Eze 16:58). That these abominations are sexual I think can be demonstrated from Leviticus 18 where the word abomination is used five times (Lev 18:22, 26, 27, 29, 30). One time it is directly connected with homosexuality: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Lev 18:22).
How can Ezekiel and Leviticus be linked? Well, as is often observed Ezekiel has priestly vocabulary which bears remarkable similarities to the priestly vocabulary in the Pentateuch especially in Leviticus. There seems to be a strong relationship between the two books. Thus, in the Ezekiel passage, it seems best to understand homosexuality is assumed in the context because it uses the same words and concepts.
Well, some object to these arguments because these passages are in the Old Testament. We, being in the New Testament era and progressing on the trajectory of freedom that Jesus established, are no longer subject to the same laws. This in some sense is true. Many things commanded in the OT law are simply not for NT believers. But in order for us to determine if homosexuality is not sin in our day, we must first understand the NT’s attitude toward homosexuality.
Paul is the clearest on this. Because people reject God, he “gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error” (Rm 1:26-27). Homosexuality is unnatural and shameful. Also he says:
Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9)
This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, 10 fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me (1 Tm 1:10).
That last verse in particular points to the fact that sexual deviancy is antithetical “to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel.” In other words, sexual practices outside that of monogamous marriage are against the gospel. Thus, the trajectory of Scripture is not to more and more sexual freedom but remains staunchly against it.
These sins are not unforgiveable. In fact, these are the very people God welcomes into the church: “And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). God loves sinners. And he saves them, washes them, and places them into his kingdom. Therefore, our attitude should be the same. We love the sinner, hate the sin, and bring them to a relationship with God. Anger, vitriol, intolerance, silencing, and such have no place in the Christian’s dialogue or actions with people practicing homosexuality.
Second, the sticky part is wondering if we should apply these texts to the American legal system. Under the American system of justice which demands that rights be equally applied to all citizens, there is no reason to refuse a civil union between same-sex couples. While this comes as a shock to many Christians, I do not believe that we should attempt to undo the Supreme Court ruling. Instead, we must first recognize the Kingdom of God is not America. And our legal system in that Kingdom is not enforced on those people outside of the Kingdom. Second, the kingdom of God is currently spread not through legal or militaristic means, but through bearing witness to the Gospel of Christ (Ac 1:8). We are to “go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” (Lk 14:21). I honestly think that we need to focus more on evangelism rather than politics.
Does this mean we ignore what goes on politically? No. I think we need to call out sexual deviancy for what it is. This will be political in and of itself. If we have the opportunity to undo laws that promote this agenda, then we should act. But let us act in a spirit of kindness and tolerance. Not vitriol and violence. I think we also need to work to keep it from being taught to children. It’s one thing to let consenting adults practice it. But it is quite another to make children believe it is alright.
These two things, I believe, are prime examples of things which the conservative party has fought for which align with the interests of the Kingdom of Heaven. In these things, I greatly commend conservative political activists. These stands I believe are worth being persecuted for. They are clear from Scripture. And they merit our humble submission to the penalties inflicted upon us. However, there are some conservative ideals that are less than savory.
Unrighteous Stances of Conservative Christians
In my critiques, I do not mean to be vicious. But I will be rather blunt at times because Christians need to hear the stark truth. And the truth on these issues is completely against political conservative ideals.
I do not know of a better statement from scripture that describes conservative evangelicalism than this one regarding social justice: “But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ (Lk 10:29). I cannot tell you how many times people have echoed the sentiment of this phrase in conversations about race, poverty relief, and welfare. Conservatives argue that the government should not be responsible for welfare, rather the church. Then, in another breath, we are told that that church is not responsible for people outside of its membership because individuals are responsible to help individuals. Then, we are warned about be generous because we might give money etc. to the wrong person and make them dependent on us. And then we rarely get practical guidance on how to do it. It is as if the words of Jesus, “love your neighbor,” are systematically weakened to the point where “our neighbors” are those whom we already naturally love.
But this weakened view of Jesus completely misses the radical nature of his command. This weak view is exactly what the Jews were doing in Jesus day. He quotes the Jews for saying, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy” (Mt 5:43). Where does this “hate your enemy” idea come from? No one knows for sure. It’s probably just a negative inference with which they invented.
“Oh,” you may say, “we don’t teach that you should hate people. We just are not responsible for their welfare. The church isn’t either. Or the state for that matter. People are responsible to work hard and earn a living for themselves.” But active hatred isn’t what is in view here. You see, when Jesus explained what it means to love one’s neighbor, he gave to examples of people who did not love their neighbor.
Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side (Lk 10:31-32).
Since he identifies them as religious leaders, I can only imagine they were living out their principle to hate their neighbor. What did they do? Did they kick the man? Did they insult him? No. The ignored him. Hate, then, isn’t just the emotion of hatred like love isn’t just the emotion of love. Hate involves a decision not to bestow some good (helping the poor soul). Hate is ignoring someone in need.
The next question comes quickly: who is my neighbor? Jesus points out that neighborliness transcends covenant membership boundaries. It was a Samaritan who helped a Jew (Lk 10:33). And the Jew was told to be like the Samaritan (Lk 10:37). To put it in modern terms, it is like Jesus would tell you a conservative evangelical to show compassion like a #BlackLivesMatter protester. And you, like that Samaritan or the protestor, must transcend ethnic and class boundaries to show compassion and love people.
Coming back to Matthew 5:45, we see how God loves his neighbors by bestowing the goodness of the sun and the rain on both his friends (covenant members, presumably) and his enemies (non-covenant members). He does not hate one group be leaving them in dusty darkness. No. He loves them all. And you should be mature just like your Father is mature: love everyone by bestowing good on them.
Let me put it to you straight: when you as a Christian ignore someone in need, you are hating them in the eyes of God. It doesn’t matter if they’re in the church or out of it (cf. Mt 5:47; Lk 10:33). If you ignore another human being whom you have the capability to help, you hate that person. When you ignore the cries of the poor by justifying yourself saying “they should just get a job,” you hate your neighbor. When you ignore the protests of African Americans by justifying yourself saying “they’re just paid to do that,” you hate your neighbor. You, at the very least, need to investigate to determine if there really is a need or not. And in the examples above, there are great needs.
Should Churches Help?
The second wall of defense is that churches are not responsible to help in social justices as a corporation. I’m always a little confused on this one. First, because if all Christians are responsible to help others both in and outside the faith, it follows that we as the body of Christ should do it together. Second, there are no verses prohibiting or even hinting that we shouldn’t help the poor as a corporation. Third, the church historically has always sought to help the poor. The only reason the responsibility of the church is denied now is because of the American autonomous spirit. This spirit isn’t derived from the text of the Bible nor from church history. It comes from the desire to keep what is ours.
“Ah ha!” You say, “You can’t quote any verses that command us a group to help people outside the church. Therefore, we don’t have to do it.” Well, I do find some indications that the church is supposed to help people outside the faith. Paul commands the Thessalonians “always seek to do good to one another and to all” (1 Thes 5:15). The “to one another” is the church and the “to all” therefore must be those outside the church. In Galatians 6:10, Paul says, “Whenever we [plural] have an opportunity, let us [plural] work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” Notice how “we” and “us” are in the plural. It is not “you” singular, but all of us together are to be doing good both inside and outside the faith. Therefore, we as a church are indeed responsible for the people inside the church and also outside the church as well.
Should the Government Help?
While the previous two points may not have seem controversial to some, my answer to this question will probably be controversial. My short answer is “Yes, because there is Biblical precedent.” First, the Bible presents indirect means of giving.
When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all your undertakings. 20 When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow (Dt 24:19-21).
From this we draw the principle that the Lord required the poor to work for their food. Often, the next inference is taken that God always wants the poor to work for it and the government should never interfere. But this is not the case. Deuteronomy 14:28-29 states:
Every third year you shall bring out the full tithe of your produce for that year, and store it within your towns; 29 the Levites, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work that you undertake.
God states that the tithe (a flat rate income tax of 10%) should be gathered together and distributed to the poor. Remember, the book of Deuteronomy is recognized as a national covenant. Essentially it was a constitution for the government of Israel. So, written into the constitution by God himself was direct assistance to the poor. And it was to be generous (“eat their fill”).
So, both a merit-based system and a direct assistance system was in place for poverty relief. God wanted his people to be generous on a personal level and a governmental level.
Where Are We Today?
According to two studies, Republicans give more to charity than Democrats. This idea is floated around to show that conservatives are nicer than Democrats. John Tamny notes:
Taken together, the two studies mentioned exist as inconvenient truths for those who equate wealth with a lack of charity and/or overall stinginess. America’s rich are plainly quite generous, and then America’s Republican rich are statistically quite a bit more generous than are Democrats. The latter is particularly inconvenient for a left desperate to paint a picture of “rich” and “Republican” as something that’s indicative of haughty disdain for the poor and unwell.
There is one factor that he didn’t address in this article though. Giving to a church is considered charitable giving. Since Republicans are known to be more evangelical, how much of their giving goes directly to actual charities and how much goes to supporting their own churches? Church giving should be discounted from poverty relief because most churches are not involved in poverty relief. I didn’t have to look far. M. Margolis and M. Sances did another study adjusting for this factor and they found that there is no essential difference between Conservatives and Liberals.
At the individual level, the large bivariate relationship between giving and conservatism vanishes after adjusting for differences in income and religiosity. At the state level, we find no evidence of a relationship between charitable giving and Republican presidential voteshare. Finally, we show that any remaining differences in giving are an artifact of Republicans’ greater propensity to give to religious causes, particularly their own church. Taken together, our results counter the notion that political conservatives compensate for their opposition to governmental intervention by supporting private charities.
I wish my evaluation skills could run deeper than this. But given my training is in theology and not in sociology, I am going to accept these studies as accurate.
So, where does this leave us? The average conservative, then, does not give more to charity than his counterpart. Being Christians, this should come as a rebuke. But based on the passages above, we should be more generous. We should be giving and helping more as a church. We should be in favor of the government helping people with direct assistance. When Democrats fault conservatives for not caring for the poor, they are right. And in this, we lack God’s righteousness (Rm 3:23). We are unrighteous.
When it comes to discussions on race relations, sides are quickly chosen, and the battle lines are drawn. Each side is ready to do whatever it takes to destroy the other. While this reaction is expected in the broader culture, unfortunately it is true in the Church as well. To make matters worse, the battle lines are not always drawn between exegetical differences, but rather between right and left politics.
It is true, as is quickly pointed out by the right, that the Social Justice Movement is fraught with hermeneutical issues. But the truth is, the exegesis on the right seems more concerned with tearing down the left rather than comprehensively understanding social justice. And in the end, they neglect to hear the cries of their brothers and sisters. So, what does the Bible say concerning race?
The Imago Dei
When God created the world, he made male and female “in his image” (Gn 1:27). Summed up in these two people is the whole of humanity. This implies that all people, no matter what their genetic code, are made in the image of God. Through his image, God infused into all people dignity and respect because all are blessed with the dominion and subjugation of the earth (Gn 1:28).
The “Stranger in the Land”
The ethnic minority status of the stranger is only hinted at in the Hebrew Bible. Abraham (Hebrew) was a stranger among the Hittites (Gn 13:3-4). The sons of Abraham (Hebrews) were strangers in the land of Egypt (Gn 15:13; Ex 22:20). Moses (Hebrew) was a stranger in the land of the Midianites (Ex 2:22; 18:3). When David confronted the man who claimed that he killed Saul, David asked “Where are you from?” The man replied, “I am the son of an alien, an Amalekite” (2 Sm 1:13). From these examples, combined with the fact that they were not in their native land, it is reasonable to assume that the stranger was part of an ethnic minority within the nation of Israel.
Although the stranger was an ethnic minority, he was still brought into the Mosaic Covenant along with the other Israelites
You are standing today—all of you—before Yahweh your God: Your leaders, your tribes, your elders; and your officials, every man of Israel, your children, your wives; and your stranger who is in the middle of your camp from those who chop your wood to those who draw your water. You are standing today for you to enter the covenant of Yahweh your God. (Dt 29:10-12; Personal trans.).
The passage is very clear that “all of you” are standing to enter the covenant. Moses defines the phrase “all of you” by listing all groups of people, including the strangers. Their menial labor and their last place in the list indicate their low status within the covenant community. But they were made God’s people alongside ethnic Israelites (Dt 29:13). And their participation in the covenant required them to be circumcised (cf. Ex 12:48).
The Rite of Atonement also indicates the stranger’s status as covenant member. In Leviticus 16, Moses instructed the priests on how to offer atonement “because of the impurities of the sons of Israel and because of their transgressions in regard to all their sins” (Lv 16:16). At the end of his instructions, Moses said, “You shall humble your souls and not do any work . . .. for it is on this day atonement shall be made.” The “you” is further defined as “the native or the stranger” (Lv 16:29-30).
Since the strangers comprised such a small minority, it would have been easy for the Israelites to abuse their power. Therefore, throughout the Mosaic Covenant, God placed several provisions to protect this group. Leviticus 19:34 gives the foundational command: “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself” (cf. Lk 10:25-37). God commanded the Israelites to show the same kind of love toward their Hebrew neighbor (Lv 19:18). God defines love by what it is not. It is not treating your neighbor unjustly (v. 15). It is not slandering (v. 16). It is not hating your brother in your heart (v. 17). And it is not taking vengeance or bearing a grudge (v. 18). God sets the example because he “shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing” (Dt 10:18). And in the same manner, Israel was supposed to love the stranger among them (Dt 10:19).
Part of this love was shown through the equal treatment of the stranger. Israel was not to oppress him in any way (Ex 22:20; 23:9; Lv 19:33; Dt 24:14). He was given access to a fair trial (Dt 1:16; 24:17; 27:19). The laws were to be applied equally to him (Lv 24:22; Nm 15:29). He was given equal access to the cities of refuge (Nm 35:15). And he was taught the Law of God so that he could obey it (Dt 31:12).
The stranger was usually classed alongside other poor members of the society and given access to special, state enforced social programs. Israel was to leave the corners of the field, forgotten sheaves, and the leftovers of the vineyard and olive tree for the stranger to come and gather (Lv 19:10; 23:22; Dt 24:19-21). Anything animal that died of itself was to be given (not sold) to the stranger (Dt 14:21). Every three years the Israelites were to pay a ten-percent tax of his crops for a deposit in his town. This food source was to be distributed to the strangers, among others (Dt 14:28-29). As the Israelite devoted his tenth, he was to state that he had given all of it to the needy and had not polluted it (Dt 26:10-15).
The stranger also participated in the religion of the state. He was not to work on the weekly Sabbath (Ex 20:10; 23:12). He enjoyed the feasts of the Passover, Weeks, and Booths (Ex 12:48-49; Lv 16:29; Nm 9:14; Dt 16:11, 14). He also could present burnt offerings, votive offerings, freewill offerings, and fire-offerings (Lv 17:8; 22:18; Nm 15:14-16; Dt 26:11).
The stranger was not above the law. As a covenant member, he was required to serve Yahweh alone or else face death (Lv 20:2). If he blasphemed the name of Yahweh, he was to be put to death (Lv 24:2; Nm 14:30). If he ate the blood of any animal, he was to be cut off from the people (Lv 17:10-13). Yet, if he participated unwittingly in sin, then he was forgiven along with the rest of the nation (Nm 15:26).
In sum, the stranger was a full covenant-community member but had special privileges to help him in his need. He was not allowed to be socially maligned or marginalized. Rather all of Israel was supposed to incorporate him into the nation. And if Israel treated him properly, the stranger could become wealthy and independent (Lv 25:45-47).
Based on the data, every ethnicity was equal before God. Israel had a special place in God’s plan economically. They were given more privilege than the other nations (cf. Rm 9:1ff). But ontologically, they were equal to every other nation (cf. Rm 3:23). Therefore, even in the Mosaic Covenant, God did not place other ethnicities on a lower plane than Israel. Instead, they retained their innate equality before him.
Where Are We Today?
Unfortunately, the United States of America has consistently denied all these Scriptural principles to African Americans. African Americans have been consistently segregated to the worst parts of the cities. Policing, past and present, has often enforced the law unequally on African American communities. In the past, the financial industry consistently denied African Americans involvement leading to a general lack of wealth in African American communities. And African Americans suffer under a two-tiered justice system in the courts that consistently gives harsher sentences to them. And to make matters all the worse, the Evangelical Church often downplays these injustices or in tragic cases inflicts the injustices themselves. No, my friends. The evangelical church is largely unaware of the history of racial injustice in America. We are not carrying out the righteousness of God on this point. We are unrighteous.
As we look back over this article, what should we conclude? First, that political conservatives fight for some things that are truly righteous. The right to life is a moral imperative. Biblical marriage is a Gospel necessity. But at the same time, we have fought for some things that are truly unrighteous. Welfare is a Biblical concept. Racism is a current and pressing issue that we fight to ignore.
So, do we suffer “for righteousness sake” when the political left, “Big Tech,” etc. come to censor us and persecute us for our faith? Sometimes. We have a few Biblical issues worth suffering for. But many others not worth suffering for. The blessing which our Lord spoke may or may not apply to us. Let me read it for you again:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt 5:10-12).
The charges brought against us may not be false. When charged with being uncompassionate, this very well may be true given our political leanings. When the charge is continuing racism, we very well fit that category. We are not innocent people suffering under the totalitarian regime. We have fought for unrighteousness on many fronts. And now, we pay the consequences.
What Should We Do?
I don’t intend to leave people in the dark. Yes, I think that we have strayed very far from what we should be. But by God’s grace, we can become the people known for good works once again.
We need to recalibrate our thinking so that we align ourselves closer to Scripture. To do this, we need to start with some serious self-critique. We are all very willing to critique others. But we need to really critique ourselves first. The truth is, so much of our identity is so wrapped up in these ideas that we don’t want to critique ourselves because it will rebuke us. But if we are going to “lay down the weights that so easily entangle us and the sins that so easily beset us,” we must perform the necessary action of self-critique.
Thankfully, it is not hard to find books that critique evangelicals. The challenging work is already done for us. What we need to do is read them with the assumption that they have legitimate critiques of who we are.
Where to start? I’d start with the subject of racism. Believe it or not, you do not have to understand or read about Critical Race Theory to become burdened with race relations. To this day, even though I am better versed on this subject than most conservatives, I do not think I could articulate CRT in a highly intelligent way. What radically changed my thinking wasn’t the #BlackLiveMatter manifesto which I read. It was simply the brute forces of history. So, I’d suggest ignoring the whole CRT issues right now. Start with history. And here are two books that I’d recommend.
- Noll, Mark A. God and Race in American Politics: A Short History. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2008. <https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400829736>.
- Tisby, Jemar. Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2020.
Mark Noll is your most objective historian on the subject. Jemar Tisby also has written an historically accurate work for the purpose of educating the church. These two books will change your understanding significantly on the issue of race. There are many, many other books I could recommend on this subject. But start here. Another book on the issue of gender roles in the church is by Kristin Kobes du Mez:
- Du Mez, Kristin Kobes, and Suzie Althens. Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. 2020. <https://www.overdrive.com/search?q=348DE1F5-5088-4160-9854-6D3B44010A35>.
She writes from a strong historian position. I personally do not buy into all her critiques. But she has many, many valid critiques and points out our tremendous inconsistencies when it comes to family values. It really hurts to admit she is right on some of these issues. She is worth the read.
What this will inevitably cause us to do is to reevaluate our understanding of Scripture. No, it won’t make us all radical feminists or whatever boogieman is out there. It will help us realize how much we read into Scripture. Becoming self-aware through this self-critique will project us into a fuller reading of Scripture.
With these critiques in mind, we need to study Scripture. We must cut away political ideas and get to the heart of the text. Opening your mind like this inevitably means you will see new things within Scripture which may change your political agendas.
Is there anything else I suggest? Most people won’t be ready to apply the doing part of this article. But I will suggest that you read more books. If you’re interested, I can suggest a few. Honestly, if you study the history and what other people are saying an then reevaluate your understanding of Scripture, you will naturally find ways to apply the text.
In the end, remember that our God is a God of love. And that we are to be known for love. Therefore, let us pursue this identification at all cost in obedience to our King.
 All quotes taken from the NRSV unless otherwise noted.
 “Is the Bible Really Pro-Life?,” Focus on the Family, 2020, https://www.focusonthefamily.com/pro-life/is-the-bible-really-pro-life/.
 Some may object saying that you cannot derive sexual norms from narrative passages. However, as a follower of Jesus, it seems that this is completely legitimate because he uses this style of exegesis. Matthew 19:3-6 says, “Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?’ 4 He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” 5 and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’” Therefore, I conclude that because Jesus drew sexual norms from this passage in the context of adultery, it is likewise justified to draw sexual norms from this passage in the context of sexual orientation.
 Scholars have long documented this relationship. See, L. Horst, Leviticus Xvii-Xxvi Und Hezekiel. Ein Beitrag Zur Pentateuchkritik (Colmar: Eugen Barth, 1881); Rudolf Smend, “Der Prophet Ezechiel,” in Kurzgefasstes Exegetisches Handbuch Zum Alten Testament (Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1880), 25–27; Karl Heinrich Graf, Die Geschichtlichen Bucher Des Alten Testaments (Leipzig: T. O. Weigel, 1866), 81; August Klostermann, “Beitrage Zur Entstehungsgeschichte Des Pentateuchs,” Zeitschrift Jtir Lutherische Theologie Und Kirche 38 (1877): 401–45.
 I would like to note the great deal of immaturity that this sentiment needs in order for it to be felt. There are a great many things that we do that have no direct scriptural command, but we do them because we are mature in Christ. Bible reading, memorization, and many other personal pietistic practices are nowhere commanded or even hinted at in Scripture. Yet we do them. Why? Because we are mature enough to realize that in order to grow in Christ, we must know what Christ has said. So, just because a practice is not stated in Scripture as a command, does not mean it is something we shouldn’t do it. In fact, there may be strong extra-biblical reasons for doing it. Maturity in Scripture means we no longer stoop to such pettiness.
 Margolis, Michele and Sances, Michael, Who Really Gives? Partisanship and Charitable Giving in the United States (August 9, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2148033 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2148033
 It is necessary to delineate whether the Hebrews thought of the stranger as an ethnic minority because the idea of a stranger or foreigner was relative in the ANE. Gary Beckman gives two examples of the relative nature of this idea: “in third-millennium B.C.E. Sumer, whose city-states shared a common language and religious system, the inhabitants of the city of Umma nonetheless held even the men of neighboring Lagash to be foreigners, if not so alien as the people of the Zagros mountains to the east. In contrast, most of the residents of central Anatolia during the Late Bronze Age, although belonging to diverse ethnic groups and speaking several—sometimes unrelated—tongues, were ‘men of Hatti’ (LÚ.MEŠ URUḪatti), the people we today call ‘Hittites.’” Gary Beckman, “Foreigners in the Ancient Near East,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 133, no. 2 (2013): 203.
 This understanding of the passage is consistently agreed upon by a wide variety of authors. Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, vol. 5, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 511; Edward J. Woods, Deuteronomy: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 5, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Nottingham NG, England: InterVarsity, 2008), 411; Telford Work, Deuteronomy, vol. 5, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2009), 432.
 https://statementonsocialjustice.com/. And as for the combating of systemic racism by evangelicals, it is part of our history. Race based slavery was an appalling institution that was the pinnacle of systemic racism. Evangelicals working together undid and eventually destroyed all slavery in the modern world. We—evangelicals: Quakers, Anglicans, Methodists, with a few Calvinists—worked to eliminate that form of systemic racism as an outgrowth of the call of the Gospel. Again, this isn’t the Gospel directly. It is the outgrowth. But evangelicals have a tradition of opposing systemic racism for the sake of the Gospel.
 Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton, American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003).
 or a lay explanation of policing and African Americans: Ava DuVernay, 13th, Documentary (Netflix, 2016); United States Department of Justice: Civil Rights Division. 2015., Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department, March 4, 2015, accessed December 7, 2019, https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/opa/press-releases/attachments/2015/03/04/ferguson_police_department_report.pdf; United States Department of Justice: Civil Rights Division. 2016. Investigation of the Baltimore City Police Department, accessed December 7, 2019, https://www.justice.gov/crt/file/883296/download; Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: New Press, 2010); John F. Pfaff, Locked in : The True Causes of Mass Incarceration – and How to Achieve Real Reform (New York: Basic Books, 2017); Ian F. Haney López, “Post-Racial Racism: Racial Stratification and Mass Incarceration in the Age of Obama,” California Law Review 98, no. 3 (2010): 1023–1074; Michelle S. Phelps, “Ending Mass Probation,” The Future of Children 28, no. 1 (2018): 125–146.
 Mehrsa Baradaran, The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017).
 John Perkins, Let Justice Roll Down (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2014).
 Bob Jones Sr. argued that the African American community was equally oppressed as the poor whites: “Do not let people lead you astray. ‘Well,’ you say, ‘The colored folks have not been treated right.’ I agree with you. Neither have the poor white people been treated right. . .. The colored people in the south today are better off than they are anywhere else in the world.” Jones drew from his own experience, rather than researching his position. The sad reality was that African Americans were nor treated right because they were black, not just because they were poor. Even well off African Americans were treated with contempt. Bob Sr. Jones, Is Segregation Scriptural? (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University, 1960), 11–2. See also, Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019).
 In most exegetical classes, we are taught the historical-grammatical-literary method of interpretation. That is, the text is set in a historical context, with a particular grammar, and a certain genre of Scripture. If I were to add one more element to this list, it would the word current. Not only should we know the history of times past. But we need to know our situation politically, denominationally, etc. Otherwise, we will not understand our own biases when we read the text. Thus, we need to know our current state in order to avoid errors.