I don’t think I can handle another civil war. The pain of the last one remains all too real. A house divided. Friend set against friend. Sisters and brothers at odds, taking opposing sides, facing off in battle. At this point, I’m still unsure that Cap and Tony Stark will ever see eye to eye again, or if the Avengers can unite once more to save the world from peril.
This past week, televangelist and erstwhile federal inmate Jim Bakker has predicted another impending civil war, this one precipitated by the (hypothetical) impeachment of President Trump. And the soldiers on the front lines of this potential conflict? Christians, apparently.
“If [impeachment] happens, there will be a civil war in the United States of America. The Christians will finally come out of the shadows, because we are going to be shut up permanently if we’re not careful.”
You certainly have to appreciate Jim Bakker’s penchant for imagery. If I close my eyes, I can picture warrior Christians belly crawling from hidden trap doors in the earth, creeping up on unsuspecting liberals (who are just minding their own business on park benches, reading newspapers and eating ice cream cones), before carrying out a covert strike and silently slipping back into their holes.
Now, it has been a long time since anyone took him seriously, so maybe, with this statement, Bakker’s aiming to ascend the ladder to renewed relevance, pining for a seat at the table, a few places down from Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, as a sort of second-tier luminary of the Christian Right. Or maybe his words simply got out in front of his head in the heat of the moment. In any case, although he has obviously lost the plot on this one, he has tapped into a common sentiment among conservative American Christians.
The Wrong War?
For decades, they’ve believed themselves locked in a perpetual conflict for the soul of their nation. Ironically, they’re half right. Well, 35% maybe, but still.
We are indeed at war – the war to end all wars, as a matter of fact – as the Kingdom of God advances against all corrupt and unjust systems of this world and the spiritual darkness behind them. As Paul the apostle wrote:
“For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 6:12, NRSV
“Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:2-5, NRSV
But that’s the point where the Christian right stops getting it right and starts getting it wrong. They readily identify the left side of the American political spectrum as one of the ‘authorities’ mentioned here. And sure, there’s plenty of corruption, decay and vice evident in the Democratic Party.
Yet conservative Christians routinely fail to recognise the equally evident depravity festering at the other end of politics. They ignore the avarice, prejudice and selfishness inherent in the Republican Party, inexplicably partnering with it to destroy flesh-and-blood ‘villains’ of the liberal persuasion.
In short, they’re fighting the wrong war.
The’ve simply adopted one side in a conflict of human political ideology and forgotten that God’s Kingdom stands against both sides of the spectrum, against all ‘rulers and authorities’, all corrupt and oppressive constructs and systems, and the darkness behind them. (A sad outcome of their partisan behaviour is that they’ve often made enemies of the poor and the marginalised, the very people to whom Jesus proclaimed ‘good news’!)
The Real War
No, we’re not going to arm ourselves to the teeth at Walmart and begin a guerilla campaign against the political left (Well, not me, anyway…I can’t speak for Jim Bakker). But it is high time for Christians to emerge from the shadows of petty political partisanship and enter the real war. Our war is against every human ideology that acts unjustly and keeps people enslaved. It’s a war fought with strange weapons: self-sacrificing, cross-carrying love, compassion, words of peace, and prayer.
If that’s not your kind of war, so be it. But if you’re part of the Kingdom of Jesus, that’s the war you’ve signed up for.
- Feature Image: Crossed rifles (from http://hddfhm.com/clip-art/crossed-rifles-clipart.html)
- Jim Bakker (from https://jimbakkershow.com/about-us/about-jim/)