John Piper (aka, Evangelical's Patriarch) Baffled by Christians Backing Trump
I'm Agreeing With Piper? This is 2020, Y'all.
Growing up in the Baptist world and going to a conservative Baptist college ensured that I would be not just introduced to John Piper, but pointed in his direction as the gold-standard for Christian thought and behavior.
Over the years as I’ve left most (all?) of my conservative evangelicals roots, I have found myself often disgusted and dismayed at the teachings of Piper.
But today, my friends, the weirdness of 2020 reigns, because I’m not only sharing a recent Piper article, but I’m desperately hoping that you too will share it with your people, too (or at least share this, my summary of it. :)
His message, titled “Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin,” is something all people who identify as Christian (and who voted for or have supported Trump since) need to read. As of this moment it has been shared on FB over 30k times already. I suspect that shall increase dramatically.
May it be so.
I actually got emotional reading this.
Just last night I was talking with my wife about my sadness around the Christian world from when I came. My bewilderment at how an entire culture of people seemingly abandoned everything they stood for.
They sold their souls for the gain of… what… political power?
As I understood it, growing up attending Sunday school and youth group and the above mentioned Christian college, other than “getting saved so you went to Heaven,” the entire point of life is to be a good person. That might sound overly simplistic, but the point is still true. The whole enchilada, within the Christianity I once knew, was about building up good character and treating your neighbors and your enemies with kindness, love, and respect.
But over these past four years I’ve watched in horror as Christians (many whom I know and love) suddenly acted as though all that was tertiary to American political gain. Suddenly “right policy” was more important than “right personhood.”
So then reading Piper’s article—which is all about his disappointment with exactly that, exchanging matters of character for political gain—washed through my being like a crisp Topo Chico in July.
If you don’t end up reading the whole thing, let me share a few key takeaways and some of my favorite lines:
…this is a long-overdue article attempting to explain why I remain baffled that so many Christians consider the sins of unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia), unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia), unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia), unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai), and the like, to be only toxic for our nation, while policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach are viewed as deadly.
That’s it. That’s my key confusion, frustration, and point of sorrow. So many Christians dismiss the president’s atrocious behavior as merely unfortunate, or not their favorite, or “toxic” is about as bad as they’ll name it, all because for them Democratic policies are deadly, aka, way worse than a person’s character.
Piper goes on,
It is not a small thing to treat lightly a pattern of public behaviors that lead to death. In fact, I think it is a drastic mistake to think that the deadly influences of a leader come only through his policies and not also through his person.
This is true not only because flagrant boastfulness, vulgarity, immorality, and factiousness are self-incriminating, but also because they are nation-corrupting. They move out from centers of influence to infect whole cultures. The last five years bear vivid witness to this infection at almost every level of society.
We can’t let Christians get away with saying that the president’s bad behavior and disturbing character don’t impact the country. They do. They have.
There is a character connection between rulers and subjects. When the Bible describes a king by saying, “He sinned and made Israel to sin” (1 Kings 14:16), it does not mean he twisted their arm. It means his influence shaped the people. That’s the calling of a leader. Take the lead in giving shape to the character of your people. So it happens. For good or for ill.
His influence shaped the people.
You’d have to be hiding under a rock to not see how our country has been shaped by the president’s attitude, behavior, language, and overall demeanor.
Is it not baffling, then, that so many Christians seem to be sure that they are saving human lives and freedoms by treating as minimal the destructive effects of the spreading gangrene of high-profile, high-handed, culture-shaping sin?
The destructive effects of the spreading gangrene of high-profile, high-handed, culture-shaping sin. I just wanted to re-type that sentence. Damn, Pipes. That’s 🔥.
Christians communicate a falsehood to unbelievers (who are also baffled!) when we act as if policies and laws that protect life and freedom are more precious than being a certain kind of person. The church is paying dearly, and will continue to pay, for our communicating this falsehood year after year.
The justifications for ranking the destructive effects of persons below the destructive effects of policies ring hollow.
Did you catch that?
Piper is lamenting how Christians, these past four years, have communicated this idea that polices and laws are more precious than being a certain kind of person. As I said, this has felt like a massive 180˚ reversal from everything I’ve ever been taught about Christianity.
I find it bewildering that Christians can be so sure that greater damage will be done by bad judges, bad laws, and bad policies than is being done by the culture-infecting spread of the gangrene of sinful self-exaltation, and boasting, and strife-stirring.
How do they know this? Seriously! Where do they get the sure knowledge that judges, laws, and policies are less destructive than boastful factiousness in high places?
I’m just feeeeeling Piper here. This sense of, “how do they know this?!” around the assumption that getting the “right” judges and policies in place are less destructive than having corrupt moral character at the highest levels of leadership.
I think that calculus is worth consideration.
Then J.P. has a section about abortion, which is for many (most?) the de-facto issue that clouds any rational, moral thinking. He writes this,
Where does the wickedness of defending child-killing come from? It comes from hearts of self-absorbed arrogance and boasting (James 4:1–2). It comes from hearts that are insubordinate to God. In other words, it comes from the very character that so many Christian leaders are treating as comparatively innocuous, because they think Roe and SCOTUS and Planned Parenthood are more pivotal, more decisive, battlegrounds.
The very character so many Christians are treating as innocuous… woah… yup.
He goes on, (and, it goes without saying, but I’ll say it: I obviously don’t agree with Piper on his political views here, nor his summary/descriptions… again, I know you know that, but I’m stating it just in case)
I think Roe is an evil decision. I think Planned Parenthood is a code name for baby-killing and (historically at least) ethnic cleansing. And I think it is baffling and presumptuous to assume that pro-abortion policies kill more people than a culture-saturating, pro-self pride.
When a leader models self-absorbed, self-exalting boastfulness, he models the most deadly behavior in the world. He points his nation to destruction. Destruction of more kinds than we can imagine.
Lord, may all Christians who blindly support Trump because of abortion, may they read that paragraph and feel the weight of it. And may they come to agree with Piper’s conclusion,
It is naive to think that a man can be effectively pro-life and manifest consistently the character traits that lead to death — temporal and eternal.
Look, I realize that not everyone will be as moved or enthused by this article from John Piper.
Piper is problematic in so many ways, it’s true.
But today, when I read his words, it felt like the efforts of so many Christians these past four years to gaslight me in to thinking I never really understood the heart of Christianity dissipated. It felt like a wave of clarity.
It wasn’t I who had fundamentally misunderstood American conservative Christianity. It was millions of American conservative Christians who have lost their way and tried to convince me otherwise.
In his final section to pastors, Piper ends by asking this:
Have you inadvertently created the mindset that the greatest issue in life is saving America and its earthly benefits? Or have you shown your people that the greatest issue is exalting Christ with or without America? Have you shown them that the people who do the most good for the greatest number for the longest time (including America!) are people who have the aroma of another world with another King?
Christianity should never, ever be about “America first.”
The grossness of that sentiment should be self-evident, and yet sadly, it has not been.
While we disagree on almost everything, I find myself gleefully nodding along to the words, “the people who do the most good for the greatest number for the longest time are people who have the aroma of another world.”
That “other world,” in my reading, is what Jesus described as the Kingdom of God. Come November 3rd, may Christians dust the cobwebs off their hearts and remember what it means to be someone who seeks first the Kingdom.
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