It’s still idolatry, even when progressives do it
· Dec 23, 2021 ·

I get that Donald Trump was, and is, the big, bright, shiny object in the room that attracts all the attention.

I get that progressives are far more comfortable reacting with indignant outrage at every statement, every appearance, every move the former president makes than they are defending the hapless leadership being provided by the guy they told everyone would be an upgrade.

I get that there are more than a handful of groups on the right that seem to excel at opening themselves up to legitimate criticism.

And so it was hardly surprising to see those three realities come to a head at First Baptist Church in Dallas last Sunday when former President Donald Trump was invited to offer a "Christmas greeting" to the congregation.

After watching the service, it's not controversial to suggest that Trump was the star of the show. The projected image on the facility's mega-screen, the bulletin that was half manger scene/half Trump, the hero's introduction, the standing ovation, the cell phone picture snapping and video recordings fit for a celebrity, the way the entire service was designed to culminate in Trump's address…the church leadership was anything but ambiguous in their marketing what the morning was about.

None of that should happen in church, as I wrote about in my Monday Memo. But despite the fact that nearly every conservative Christian commentator with a public platform expressed their own objections to the scene – responses ranging from displeasure to rebuke to condemnation – the progressive left still pounced on the spectacle as: (1) some grave offense against a God they don't even believe exists anyway, (2) a violation of cultural norms that they seek themselves to undermine and rewrite daily, or (3) the logical consequence of that great ideological boogeyman they have dubbed, "white evangelicalism."

Far be it from me to rain on the progressive self-promotion parade, but this phenomenon is not confined to one side of the political aisle, nor is it common to just one ideology. The problem is idolatry, in this case political idolatry, and it infects all of us. Point out the speck of Trump at First Baptist Dallas if you will, but take time to also notice the giant log of Maxine Waters being given the pulpit at Macedonia Baptist Church of Los Angeles the very same Sunday.

Criticize how Trump was honored with a standing ovation by people who were ostensibly there to worship Christ. But criticize also how Waters was called "our champion and our leader" by a supposed minister of the gospel.

Blast how Trump turned political, warning the worshipers that "dark clouds" had gathered because of Joe Biden's leadership. But blast also how Waters was entirely political, warning the worshipers of the unfolding disaster provoked by Senator Joe Manchin's refusal to support the Build Back Better bill.

Lament Trump's outrageous affirmation that he helped "save Christianity" for the nonsense that it is. But lament also the grandiose fawning over Waters' $5,000 check to the church, as well as the minister's $1,000 check to her all being done in the pulpit for public consumption.

These concurrent episodes should reveal to us that what is at play here is not the machinations of a singular political movement. Call the first "white Christian nationalism," and you logically must conclude the second is "black Christian nationalism." Say the first is a problem with "white evangelicalism," and you logically must conclude the second is "black evangelicalism."

Of course, that doesn't happen in media. Professors like Samuel Perry aren't invited onto the pages of Time magazine to howl about the latter, only the former.

I'd prefer we all just be honest. This is human nature creeping in, where we are inclined to honor first the institutions, ingenuity, and inventions of man. We are tempted to trust that which we see rather than that which we don't. We are prone to equate position, money, and resources with blessing, influence, and righteousness. We come to value power, and worship the powerful. It's idolatry.

But the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus stood every aspect of that approach to life on its head. It represented a new way of living where the last are first, the meek inherit the earth, the peacemakers are blessed, and those who thirst not after the goblet of prestige but rather the river of righteousness will be filled. It demanded allegiance to a greater throne than Caesar's, and promised an inheritance far beyond any politician's program.

Now two thousand years later, how are those who don't know Jesus and who have never picked up the Scriptures to learn of Him, supposed to encounter that revolutionary new way? That responsibility falls on the shoulders of those of us who do know Him and seek earnestly to follow Him. We should introduce the uninitiated to the things of God, if by no other means, in the way that we conduct ourselves and our weekly worship services.

That was the great tragedy of a week ago in two different churches, one "black," and one "white." It wasn't the presence of any politician that was the much as it was the absence of such an overflowing and abundant worship of the one great King that there isn't time nor interest in noticing anything else.

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