i folks, Adam here. As I’m sure you’ve seen or read, I put some posts up this week, two in particular that raised quite a stir, which in total transparency was part of the intent. As a result, I feel the need to respond to those posts and the many comments, as well as the texts and private messages I have received from a lot of you.
This comes after much prayer, reading, and soul searching, as well as numerous drafts in my head. I am not here seeking to defend myself or be defensive. I’m also not here to take back my comments. I don’t wish to apologize for them, but I want to share WHY and perhaps give some clarification or better illumination as to the spirit behind those comments. This is long. And I ask that if you took to time to read my posts, creep my comments, or respond, that you take the time and read or listen to this.
First, I’d like to address a concern that several folks expressed publicly or in private text, call, or message to me. That is the issue of causing division. Yes, what I said could be divisive. How could a minister, one who is supposed to bring God’s Word to God’s People and also lead others into a relationship with Christ cause division? After all, Jesus prayed for unity. In John 17:21, Jesus asked, “that they may be one, just as you, Father are in me and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Jesus equates unity here with the proof that Jesus has come. We must be unified. But what does unity mean? Does it mean complete agreement in all doctrines, even minor ones such as foot washing or head coverings? Or rather, does it mean, as most evangelical protestants believe, unity around a core set of beliefs: Who Jesus is, What it means to follow Him, How he transforms our lives, and the Inspiration of God’s Word? It means to be united around what the Gospel, the message of Jesus, is.
About this, we must have unity. And we must have division. “Wait… say what? You had me there for a minute.”
The same Jesus who prays for unity also brings division. In Matthew 10:34, Jesus said, “Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Jesus goes on to say that he has come to bring division even among families. This does not mean Jesus came to instigate a civil war. It does mean that the message of Jesus, the commitment of life to Him and Him alone will alienate those whom we love and care about. It means that we are to be willing to die to relationships with anyone for the cause of finding truth in Christ.
I have shared what I believe are Gospel truths, Gospel inspired warnings, Gospel-driven division. I am NOT saying that people who disagree with me are automatically wrong, non-Christian, or bad people. As I work out my theology from the Word and into the world, I see fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in spiritual peril and I know in my heart of hearts that as a shepherd of the flock (1 Peter 5), I MUST speak up.
Secondly, I’d like to address the concern over hypocrisy. I will be the first to say that Adam Will is a fallen, sinful person. That I am not perfect, and even when I have good intentions, I mess up. I’m pretty open about that fact. If you know me or have ever sat under my teaching, you know that. And I strive to be humble, open, and teachable.
That being said, I have been consistent with my comments on social media for several years about the concerns I have had that were partially reflected in my recent postings. I’ve also been consistent with my messages I preach, blogs I write, and in private conversations. Numerous people can attest to that. Call me a keyboard warrior if you’d like, but that wouldn’t be a fair characterization.
Now, I said this wasn’t supposed to be about me, and I’m trying not to make it so. I just think I needed to lay a little foundation work before I get into the nitty-gritty.
I have many loves but besides my Savior, and my family, my two great loves are History and Theology. Especially Church history. As I have learned more, read more, watched more, I have seen a disturbing trend for the last 10-15 years. Those older than me have seen it much longer but I didn’t. This problem goes by many different names, and all those names describe a part of the problem but not the entirety.
I’ll do my best to describe it without a multipage volume here. But the term I’ll use is one that is currently in fashion and so I’ll use it: CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM. What is Christian nationalism? On the outset, to someone from my background, it sounds somewhat noble, maybe even good. It’s Christian, and it’s caring about our country, right?
Christian Nationalism is a hybridization of political ideology, often ultra-conservative, with a patriotic flair. It is neither fully Christian, nor fully patriotic, but a bastardization of belief, whereby the mission of the Church becomes to preserve a certain culture or set of beliefs, primarily through political means. It is the equation of certain freedoms with the Gospel. It is the transformation of Jesus into a flag-waving Anglo-Saxon who embraces political power. And for decades, it is how many of us in the conservative Evangelical and Fundamentalist world have gone about accomplishing the work of a non-political kingdom.
It is wrong. It is a Heresy. It is Evil. And for many, it is becoming a cult.
Jesus says in John 18:36 “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the [religious leaders]. But my kingdom is not from this world.”
Did you catch that? Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. Now Jesus is King, but his throne is not on Earth. His kingdom has no flag, no boundaries, no international HQ. His kingdom is within his followers. And we look forward to the day that his rule and reign is recognized all over the world.
But many of us have lost confidence in Christ and have turned to political power instead. It started long before Donald Trump. It began in the 1970s with the re-election of Richard Nixon, a lapsed Quaker who longed to get the support of conservative and fundamentalist Christians. He campaigned in 1968 for law and order and in 1972 decided to up the ante.
In 1976, Gerald Ford largely ignored evangelicals who voted in large numbers for one of their own, Jimmy Carter. By many accounts, Carter was a failed or at best disappointing president. But he has done more in many years since leaving the office for poor and even Christian causes than he ever did in office. In 1980, my political hero, Ronald Regan won in a landside by convincing people that He could make America that bright city, “shining on a hill”, taken from the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus (Matthew 5-7).
Regan pushed back against the liberalism pervasive of the day. He supported pro-life measures. He was vocal about personal freedoms. He made us proud to be Americans. Maybe we might correct the rebelliousness of the ’60s and ’70s! Maybe, just maybe, with Christian leaders such as Dr. James Dobson, and Jerry Falwell Sr, and others getting a seat at the table, just maybe we were going to have enough influence to fix America!
Then came the disappointment evangelicals had in George H. W. Bush. As a good Episcopalian, Bush Sr had no idea how committed these evangelical leaders were to have their say in his agenda. In the fall of 92, they splintered, many supporting Perot, most sticking with Bush, and a few “liberals” a charismatic Southern Baptist named Bill Clinton. But in the mid-’90s, Bill Clinton was the subject of sermons and a lightning rod of controversy. Not only was he committed to allowing abortion, but he was also a man who had been credibly accused by numerous women of affairs and even rape and sexual assault.
Many of our Christian heroes rallied the faithful. No matter how great the economy was in the 90’s we said that character mattered. That we couldn’t put our benefit over what is right. And it was in this environment, in the late ’90s that I became politically active.
George W. Bush, because of both his own conversion experience and the lesson he learned by his father scorning evangelical influencers, embraced his evangelical faith in Jesus. And except for foreign policy, the early ’00s were a boom for Christian influence in this country. Churches weren’t growing but we were on TV! Our president was a man of faith and we were so excited. New public partnerships with churches were announced, which I still believe in.
We said, we’re not going to keep people on government assistance, but we’re going to help them be self-sufficient! Wow! This was great! And I sang God Bless America with pride at every event I went to.
But then something happened. In 2006, the “godless” Democrats took control of the House and Senate. Christians were devastated. And mind you, when I say Christians, I mean people who looked like and thought like I did.
I remember preaching a sermon against Ohio Governor Ted Strickland that focused on how he turned his back on his Methodist upbringing to support abortion on demand, careful not to mention his name, because, you know, that wouldn’t be proper.
And when Barack Obama was elected, I started to see the problem. I was excited for our country on a purely historical level—the first black president, though I worked hard to secure his defeat. He pushed through a radical healthcare agenda that would have forced faith-based hospitals to perform abortions. Christians had lost the war. But more than that, I saw a few (very few) Christians make fun of Obama because he was different. And I saw other Christians not speak up about this, or not say “stop it” and it bothered me. I was one of those Christians who failed to say “that’s wrong”.
In the meantime, many rural and white voters felt marginalized. There were outreaches to minorities by every political party. There were gay republican groups. Gay democrat groups. Hispanics for Romney and Republicans for Obama groups. Everybody had a group but the rural white voter. Even rural democrats were fed up. And while being white and rural doesn’t equate to being a follower of Jesus, many people would consider themselves cultural Christians (which isn’t being Christian, but the assumption that because you are somewhat traditional, you’re fine with Jesus).
In 2015 I had such hopes. 17 presidential candidates announced for the Republican nomination for president. 16 people from a traditional republican background. Any one of these 16 would have made phenomenal presidents (I mean, I would have loved President Carly Fiorina, but I digress). They represented mainstream conservativism and its different flavors. But one man had something different: Donald Trump.
Trump was known as a successful billionaire who was a reality TV star and an obsession with Twitter and ratings. He told it like it was, and people, especially people like me who had felt forgotten, lapped it up. Finally, someone was saying what we had been feeling. Trump tapped into that. Say what you will about Trump, but he knows how to market. Somehow this man from Queens became the closest thing the rural white voter could identify with. Oh yeah, we didn’t think he’d win the primary, but wasn’t it fun to watch?!
And here we sit, 5 years after he won the first contest in Iowa, 4 years into his first term in office. And Adam Will dares to call out people just like him.
Yep. And here’s why: It’s a Gospel Issue. I’ve seen for 4 years the same people who called out Bill Clinton for sexual immorality make excuses for President Trump. Those leaders got a taste of influence and power and they liked it. They liked it so much it caused them to compromise their integrity and their witness. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Franklin Graham, Dr. Dobson, and Robert Jeffress are bad people. I don’t believe that they are power-hungry. I believe that they want to make a difference for Jesus, but instead of the Jesus way, they thought they could Make America Christian Again (copyright pending) by getting good judges and a conservative agenda.
But there is a problem. Jesus didn’t say “Go ye into all the world and take power and use it to make disciples. And lo, I am with thee, as long as the election is won.”
No. Jesus said we were to make disciples. Not obsess over who rules, because ultimately, no matter who is president, Jesus rules.
Here are just some of the things that have happened to Conservative Christians:
1. A Bastardization of Theology–
We’ve stopped caring about what the totality of Scripture says and justify our beliefs and behavior by a few verses and here and there and no consistent, systematic approach to God’s Word. If God is against abortion, and He is, then we must do whatever we can to eliminate this horrific holocaust. Even if it means compromising other areas of doctrine. We’ve neglected the 22 verses about caring for immigrants and refugees, legal or illegal, because, well, that’s not important.
In the early 1900s, there were two major competing views on eschatology or the study of end times. Many liberal (today we’d call them mainline) churches believed in Postmillennialism, the belief that through the spread of the Gospel and Christian influence, the world would gradually become a better and better place, and then Christ would come back. Two world wars pretty much put the brakes on this once popular belief.
Fundamentalists and conservatives (evangelicals were a split-off those groups later)leaned toward Premillennialism, which had as a chief tenant that the world would continue to grow in wickedness until Jesus would rapture his church away (disappear in the sky) before he came back to deal with the sin on earth. Two world wars and the rise of atheistic communism made this by far the most widely held belief among American Protestants today.
Without getting into it too much, these views are opposed to one another. One has the world getting better, the other has it going to pot. But somehow, these two have become forged in the false gospel of Christian nationalism. We are told by Jeffress and others that if we don’t support President Trump and like-minded people, that it is the end of the world. But that is what Jeffress and others teach is SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN. The whole Make America Great Again is the antithesis of what is commonly called “Left-Behind Theology”. And so, if we can somehow select the right leaders and get the right judges, we’d usher in a new era of divinely provided spiritual renewal.
But Jesus said that we are to not focus on the end times but rather preach the Gospel. Paul tells us our weapons aren’t the ballot box but the Bible. So instead of fighting for the hearts and minds of people, we’ve justified a messed-up theology that says “How Would Jesus Vote”.
2. A Cult-Like Adherence
Now, this is where I poked the bear, or so I’m told. Remember, I never said people who voted for Donald Trump were in a cult. I pointed out the domestic terror attack on our Capitol. People who were so enamored with an ideology that they would launch an attack against a symbol of the very thing they supposedly wish to defend.
I used to be a big fan of conservative talk radio. I listened to Rush and Hannity every day. But after 2008, when I committed to study the Bible more and listen to pundits less, it’s like my eyes were opened. I shouldn’t believe what everyone says, and I definitely shouldn’t get my moral compass from another fallen human. I began to see that while I agreed with them politically on almost everything, they were mean, crude, and arrogant. And the follower of Christ isn’t called to be like that.
We’re called to be humble, gracious, and kind. Standing for truth but doing so in love. Not to shout down our opponents but to do what we can to reason with them and present God’s Word clearly and compellingly.
But today, so many of us are in an echo chamber. We select our news based on our own bias lining up with the bias of the particular news channel. We decry stories we don’t like as fake news. We scroll through Facebook and Instagram as if they are NEWS SOURCES!! They aren’t.
And when someone challenges us, instead of digging or asking ourselves to think honestly, we simply delete or block those not like us. Sociologists tell us that’s dangerous. Recent events prove it’s what leads to radicalization, and the Bible speaks of us needing each other, without a litmus test to pass before I let you into my life.
When we accept a person as always truthful, despite evidence to the contrary, when we are willing to leave or delete people from our lives who disagree, and when we decry any contradictions as false flags, that is textbook cult-like behavior. It is the definition of brainwashing. And don’t take my word for it. Ask experts. I recently talked with a pastor friend who was a therapist, and she identified much of what we see as mass delusion. And this person is not some left-leaning activist.
Some of the things we have shared on social media are demonstrably false and misleading. And while you can say what you want from a constitutional standpoint, as a follower of Christ, you must present only the truth!
Because when you share what are widely debunked conspiracies or out and out lies, even if you believe them, you destroy any credibility you have. And this brings me to my last point:
3. We’re destroying our witness
As Christians, we are to strive to be above reproach. After all, the world is watching. While we are not perfect, we continually point towards a Savior who is.
One of the concerns someone has had about several of my posts is that I may be a stumbling block to non-believers, that my speech or words could hinder someone from coming to Christ. Golly, I pray that isn’t the case. You see, my whole reason for this approach is I have seen the opposite take place. I have seen people walk away from the Church and even stop considering Christ because of the actions and attitudes of His followers.
When Bill Clinton had a sexual relationship while in office and then lied about it, Christians decried that as immoral and President Clinton as no longer morally fit to be our president. When Donald Trump bragged about his sexual exploits, talked of fantasizing about his daughter, talked about the size of his genitalia, and paid off a porn-star to cover up the affair he had while his wife was pregnant, we blushed but barely batted an eye. Some “Christians” took the attitude of “more power to ‘em”. Others said, “Look, he’s not our pastor-in-chief, he’s our commander-in-chief.”
I agree. We don’t elect a national pastor. I glad. But do we not see the double standard? If it’s our guy and he commits wickedness, it’s for the greater good. If it’s the other team’s guy, though, watch out. Friends, the un-Christian is watching. And they see it. I know that because I don’t live in an echo chamber. I sit down with non-Christians. I talk to people who don’t go to church. I ask the hard questions and they tell me the truth.
We’re destroying our witness by embracing a philosophy that the end justifies the means. That has no place in the life of a Christ-follower. We are to embrace righteousness, even if it means we lose friends and followers and elections. We are to be people of principle and character.
The public school my children attend has a philosophy that “Character Counts”, and yet we have abandoned that to campion someone. Why? Because he “tells it like it is?” Because he supposedly has some of the same social views as we do?
I have seen more Christians worried or focused on the outcome of the 2020 Election than they have been about souls. While many have yelled “Stop the Steal” they have forgotten our mission to Save Souls. There can be no equivocation about this. One must trump (sorry) the other.
While I received negative feedback this time (and always, truthfully) from fellow believers, I have had numerous people who are either non-believers, or believers without a church home reach out to me, thank me, and ask how they can draw closer to Jesus.
It is our focus on politics that has become a stumbling block to many coming to Christ. And it has become an idol for far too many of my fellow conservative Christians. It is for those reasons that I feel a burning burden in my soul to keep speaking out, in love, about the deception that has blinded our eyes.
If you disagree, I mean you no disrespect. I desire that you would love Jesus more than anything. And if that means that I am a stumbling block in your life, I’m sorry, and I would ask that you remove me from your path, because when I stand before Jesus, I want to hear that I’ve been faithful, not that I’ve caused one to fall.
I love you and I don’t want to inflict any pain or cause any grief. But I also love you enough to tell you what I believe based upon the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and logic, to be the truth, God’s truth.
Thank you for reading, and may God richly bless you.