Evangelicals have become an angry and selfish lot within U.S. society. These are harsh words that I take no pleasure in writing, but sadly, it is true.

The American experience enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were an experiment of self-government by those who were governed. Dismantled were royalty, aristocracy and the intertwining of religion and government.

There was no clear indication that this new experiment would be successful, but its audacious enterprise rumbled hope around the world.

Baptists were a part of those beginnings. Having felt the sting of persecution, the lashes of a government which supported only one “religion,” they championed religious freedom for all.

Baptist history notes that those folks we might call evangelicals today were demanding a Bill of Rights in the nation’s earliest days. It was an unheard-of bargain hammered out with politicians who promised the adoption of a Bill of Rights to garner support for the Constitution.

What evangelicals wanted until recently – as do most people of religious faith and those who have no faith and feel no compulsion to take up a faith – was the freedom to believe, act and participate in their communities consistent with the faith they embraced.

Many of those early colonists knew there was a risk living out their faith, gathering for worship and being “salt and light.”

In the last 40 years, that understanding has changed among many evangelicals. And that is tragic both for the nation and for Christians. In recent decades, evangelicals have imbibed bad history, bad theology and bad political theory as it pertains to America.

The Establishment Clause in the First Amendment is simple and clear. In 1997, the Supreme Court in the Agostini v. Felton ruling set three standards for entanglement: No government indoctrination; No favoritism toward one religious group over another in benefits; No entanglement between government and religious groups.

The “culture war” that evangelicals unleashed on the nation four decades ago was a tacit acknowledgment that the glory and the power of the Christian faith had left their churches. Let me say that again: The culture war was a tacit acknowledgment that the glory and the power of the Christian faith had left their churches.

In other words, the Holy Spirit-infused movement that spread from Jerusalem outward, taking on all comers with the gospel of peace through the power of prayer and compassionate ministry, has been lost in our time.

The hand-ringing, desperate political moves, campaigns against the LGBTQ+ community, and the war on abortion are all an admission that the evangelical church today is powerless, rudderless and drowning in mediocrity and idolatry.

The idolatry has drained the power. The lack of kingdom focus has left evangelicals adrift in a storm-swelled sea.

No longer holding the same place of prominence and fearing a loss of control in the nation’s social and political systems, many evangelicals raise their voices in anger, giving testimony to their powerlessness. Like my pastor of old stated, “When there is no power, yell like hell.”

The obvious fact is that if another religion tried to limit our right to worship freely, we would be up in arms. However, evangelical Christian nationalists have no problem with sweeping away any other religion’s right to gather and live out their faith in America by seeking to establish this country as a nation that favors Christianity over other faiths.

Evangelicals need to shut up, stand down, leave the courthouse and the state house, and make their way to the church house. Upon arrival, with great solemnity, broken hearts and many real tears, they need to turn back to God, ask for God’s forgiveness and recover their kingdom mission in this world.

Like the disciples in Jerusalem in Acts 1, they do not need to leave unless and until they are empowered by the Holy Spirit, with their spiritual compasses pointed north, ready to live the life they were called to live and in that powerful living catch the attention of a world without hope.

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