Many white evangelical Christians in the U.S. find themselves in bondage to several idols or false gods.
They became a cult of the previous president, with his lies and conspiracy theories serving as their “divine revelations.”
But that one god is not enough. There is also the worship of a fantasy – a vision of the U.S. being in divine covenant with God.
For that reason, these patriots and citizen soldiers continuously push back against a culture they believe is “antigod and morally corrupt.”
This covenant America is a mirage, rooted in an idealized and fictional history that overlooks injustice, slavery, racism, atrocious acts against Native Americans, and a continuing legacy of racism, suppression and oppression.
In response to those who seek to provide a fuller picture of the nation’s past, legislators are passing laws to suppress this more accurate history, while continuing to aggressively disenfranchise people of color.
Another god that has overrun the white, evangelical church is conspiracy theories. This god spreads untruth, half-truths and lies.
Rooted in lies and ridiculous rumors that are most obviously seen in QAnon, these religious zealots have lost their minds and their bearings, concocting outlandish stories to entertain themselves and to scare friends and family.
A fourth god is materialism, which has always lurked on the outer edges of any affluent nation.
Affluence and materialism have been ingested and become a toxic poison to the church. The leading edge of this idolatry is prosperity preaching, but elements of this false gospel appear in many community churches as well.
Without the blessings of things, the poor, the sick, the homeless, the offender, the immigrant are held in disdain and suspicion. And yet, these same proclaimers often decry efforts to bolster the social safety net and to address economic inequality as “socialism.”
Personal freedom is yet another idol, improperly defined as the ability to assert one’s “god-given” freedom without any limits. Pope Francis recently described the concept of limitless freedom as “empty” and “selfish.”
This understanding of personal freedom is illogical, contradictory and alienating. It surfaces today in the protesting of public health measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the refusal to be vaccinated and/or to not wear a mask.
A sixth god is the deity supposedly revealed in the Bible but that bears no resemblance to Jesus.
This false god is without compassion, love, mercy, kindness or grace. Worship of such a deity makes church folks mean and angry.
What is preached and believed by church folks in too many white, evangelical congregations is a rigid, moral legalism that looks beyond one’s own faults and sins, choosing instead to rail against “moral sins” in the culture.
There are other idols, or false gods, that could be named, but this is the short list of the most egregious.
And what are steadfast people of real, biblically rooted faith to do in the face of this?
There are several things the Bible tells us to do.
First, we can nurture from a broken heart the passion to see the church return to God. Joel 2:12 speaks of this, “‘Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’”
Second, we can compassionately lead the way by praying the Spirit would move in the church to convict of sin, self-righteousness and judgment.
Jesus declares in John 16:8-11: “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.”
The words of Jesus describe the condition seen in much of the white, evangelical church in the U.S.: sin-filled, powerless, clueless and mired in trivial issues while neglecting to love the Lord our God with all our souls, with all our minds, with all our strength and with all our hearts (Mark 12:30).
A private practice counselor working with veterans and survivors of trauma. Previously, Chancellor served four churches in Texas for 33 years, then ran a Mental Health Department of Alan B. Polunsky Maximum Security prison which houses death row.