Don’t Get PlayedDecember 3, 2022 Current Events 23 Comments
Every once in a while I run across an article so timely and thought-provoking that I just need to share it. I ran across such an article this week, written by Steve Bateman called “Preach the Word and Don’t Get Played.” It is a review of Eric Metaxas’ new book, “Letter to the American Church.” And it puts a finger on a development I’m seeing in the conservative church.
Metaxas’ point in writing his book is to take the American Evangelical church (and particularly the pastors) to task for being wimps and cowards in the face of the great threat to America coming from the political and cultural left. Using Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famous WWII German pastor and martyr as an example, Metaxas calls pastors and the laity to take radical action to rescue our nation from the perils of “Marxist ideology, abortion, same-sex marriage, transgenderism, critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, and government policies that threaten religious liberty”. Those who refuse to take up this political/cultural battle in the interest of evangelism or the gospel mission of the church are just like the church leaders in pre-war Germany who aided and abetted Hitler.
It's an interesting argument, and, having read Metaxas’ book “Bonhoeffer” to great benefit, I would assume it’s an argument passionately and well-made. And, frankly, it’s an argument that is becoming increasingly voiced by conservative, reformed believers. I have been challenged several times over the past 3 years with shirking my duty to take a bold stand for some political issue or against some cultural phenomena. I’ve had brothers call me a coward for refusing to champion their pet political/cultural issue. This is very new. I don’t remember that ever happening 20, or even 5, years ago.
What’s going on?
Last weekend I was in Holland, Mi with Pastor Wayne. We were meeting with a pastor and his elders from an OPC church in the Chicago area, at their request, to talk about some decisions they were struggling with in the ministry there. During the conversation, one of the elders, about my age, made a comment about a subtle but very real change he is seeing in the congregation. He said, “People don’t care about the Sabbath anymore. They really aren’t that concerned about church things in general. They don’t talk about it much. Their time and zeal is devoted to politics and cultural issues. They still believe all the right things – but what they are passionate about are the things they are hearing on conservative talk radio, watching on Fox news, and reading in Epoch Times. That’s what gets their blood moving.” I’m hearing similar things from OPC pastors around the country. Conservative Christians are increasingly being caught up in the political/cultural issues and less zealous for Biblical ones.
I fully understand the temptation. I’m stunned to see what is happening in our culture. I’m deeply saddened (and sometimes angered) by the sheer folly and evil coming from our political leaders. I believe that we, as citizens of a nation that has been greatly blessed by the Lord, have the right and calling to do all we can do to work for true justice and oppose the gross evils we are seeing in our day.
However, two things to note.
First, the church-as-the-church, and pastors, as shepherds of the flock of Christ, cause great confusion to the sheep, and harm to the cause of Christ when we get “entangled in civilian affairs” (2 Tim 2:4). We have a clear mission and calling from Christ – to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Everything else, for the church, is secondary at best. If we actually want to see our culture transformed, we are going to have to devote our selves to evangelism. As Bateman points out,
“If many of today’s evangelicals were as passionate about telling people about Jesus as they were about telling people how to vote, we might see a genuine, culture-transforming revival.”
Secondly, in full contradiction of Metaxas’ central argument, the error of the German church was not its failure to stand up against the Marxist ideology of the left, but their willingness to be co-opted by Hitler’s appeal from the right. Hitler hated communism and promoted himself as the savior of true German culture and identity. He appealed to conservative German Christians precisely because he vowed to fight leftist ideologies and make Germany great again. You can look it up. The reason so many German Christians were willing to go along with Hitler, and in many cases enthusiastically support him, was because of their passion to preserve German culture and promote the German nation. And they got played.
Let’s not do that as we seek to navigate these perplexing and evil times. Study well your God-given calling as citizen of this world. And then be even more certain about your blood-bought calling as a citizen of the world to come. Let’s not get played.