On the Capitol, Evangelicals “you’re the man” second
(RNS) – I remember my mother looking into my young face and telling me that my father, who had gone to his home in Kenya to visit his sick mother, had to delay his return because the country was undergoing a coup lived time in Kenyan history was common.
This week when my daughter walked into my home office, her eyes were immediately fixed on the television screen, where she saw men and women gathering on the nation’s Capitol in hopes of disrupting, if not overturning, the American government because of their displeasure with the outcome of the election. I led her out with tears in my eyes.
Shortly before, Oklahoma Senator James Lankford cut short his speech against the electoral college census because a Senate official told him, “There are protesters in the building.”
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I’ve known Lankford for more than a decade. We appeared on a CNN special on national unity a few years ago. Lankford is an ordained Southern Baptist minister who serves on the board of directors of Promise Keepers, a men’s evangelical organization. I didn’t expect him to bow to conspiracy theories about electoral fraud. (Full Disclosure: I’ve worked with Promise Keepers on projects and benefited spiritually from the group.)
Promise Keepers preaches values like honor, virtue, and commitment, but Lankford failed to comply with any of those words on Wednesday. Instead, he joined a gang of 12 other senators, knowing full well that their appeal would be futile and only stir the crowd for a lost cause. Everything to protect President Trump’s ego.
Lankford didn’t seem to care that his objection was against the will of the American people or the likelihood that if he heard President Trump’s speech that morning, violence would ensue as long as he and the other senators provided cover for the president . This violence resulted in the loss of the lives of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick and several others. Lankford chose instead to appreciate the mistaken whims of people who politically agree with him.
If you examine the seven principles of Promise Keepers, which work for morality, unity, and obedience based on biblical values, Lankford would have failed most of them. After the uprising, Lankford decided not to raise any further objections to the census of the electoral college. I can’t help but wonder if our Capitol would be in ruins if it had done the right thing from the start.
One of my favorite Bible stories comes when the prophet Nathan confronts David, the King of Israel, after describing David’s sin and saying, “You are the man.” Nathan takes the bold position of confronting David despite David could have killed him. He knew that this would make David a better man.
I believe this is a “you are the man” moment in the conservative evangelical community. We must stand up and proclaim the sins of our leaders for the good of our leaders.
As this week’s events played out, I thought of another pastor that Lankford will soon support, the newly elected Senator from Georgia, Raphael Warnock. As the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, he would never be invited to join the board of the Promise Keepers because he did not check the two boxes required for acceptance in white evangelical circles: pro-life and pro-Trump. (Lankford, a non-apologetic Conservative, examines them without question.)
Do not get me wrong. I am for life, but I am also for democracy. That allows me to stand with Warnock even though he didn’t check the boxes. Warnock has a long history of dedicated service, and while he stands for choice, he has his own way of appreciating life – for example, when he explains that black lives matter.
Conservative politicians, on the other hand, know that if they tick these two boxes, they will be asked nothing else. You do not have to justify your actions with Christian standards of conduct. It is now evident that they do not need to worry about adherence to principles or a commitment to truth.
The problem with this thinking for a Christian is obvious. The problem for a politician is that pro-life or even pro-trump means nothing when we no longer have a democratic nation.
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Aren’t we to blame as evangelicals? If we had gone beyond the two-caste minimum and held onto politicians who crave higher standards, could this have been avoided?
As followers of Christ, we have been called to something greater. This higher mission cannot be included by any political group or expressed by two check boxes.
(Maina Mwaura is a writer and public speaker. The views expressed in this comment do not necessarily reflect those of the Religion News Service.)
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