Christian Conservative On Knife’s Edge
I received a version of this letter from a reader today. I asked him if he would rewrite it to take some specific identifying information out (to protect himself and his family), so I could publish it. He did, and so I share it with you. I think it’s very powerful:
I live what many would call the American Dream. Not only do I fly Old Glory from the front porch of the house I own, I own my own small business as well. I am a married man and father who serves his church regularly in a leadership position. I also sit on the board of a local school where my children attend. On top of all of that, I serve my country in the military reserves. I own guns, live in the Bible belt, and grew up without social media but am young enough to follow them and appreciate constantly changing technology.
I have been conservative since my college years when I felt that my country was headed in the wrong direction. My conservatism led me to vote conservative and argue for conservative ideology. I received my bachelor’s degree, and will soon have my master’s from seminary.
In 2016, I had my reservations about Trump. I voted for Cruz in the primaries but in the general election I gladly voted for Trump. I did so because I was American and I wanted my country to put back on the right track. I believed Clinton was the worst choice for that. I didn’t want Democrats running this great country further into the ground. I even began to like Trump; I laughed at his gloating and mic-drop moments in the debates. I thought that he was the strong man who could put on our country on a better path. I gladly supported him in office for his conservative judges, tax cuts, strong immigration policy, etc.
However, I never put a Trump sign in my yard nor wore a MAGA hat. I never jumped into the “MAGA river”, I just sat on the shore with my feet in the water. I didn’t think wrong of someone in the river, floating down the MAGA current with Trump, I just didn’t want to put myself in there. But over the last two years, I began to slowly pull my feet out of the water. It’s not that I didn’t support Trump, nor would vote for him in the upcoming election, but I couldn’t be as infatuated with him as others. I began to slow down on my political posting online, and wouldn’t throw facts and truth at liberals to garner some tears so I could gloat in my conservative superiority. I still supported Trump on policy, but I could not bring myself to celebrate the man.
Last year, I began to see something that I had not seen before. This came after I read your book, Live Not by Lies. I saw that the church in America was not faithfully serving God like she claimed, but rather serving a country. I also saw the other side where the church began to serve “wokeness” in the name of compassion only to find that “compassion” whiplashed with societal whims.
Then January 6th happened, and my whole American dream came crashing down. I saw a pastor I knew post online his praise for the raiding/occupation of the Capitol Building. I saw other professing Christians on social media, many whom I know in person, calling for states that voted for Trump to cut ties with states that did not. I saw the title “demoncrat” again and again, calling those on the other side of the political aisle “enemies” and “evil” as if it were some sort of war.
My own friend, mentor, and pastor called Vice President Mike Pence a traitor — a traitor — on social media for not pulling some magical string to keep Trump president. I am still in shock about it because this was not like him.
After all of this I have realized something: I am stuck in the middle. I cannot and will not align myself with these professing Christians who sound like they are the “conserva-woke” who replace “white oppression” with “deep state” and “every negative incident against a black person is proof of systemic racism” with “every negative incident against Trump or a supporter is proof of the pedophile deep state that wants to bring the new world order.” But I also cannot and will not align myself with the “woke” church who does just as much damage, if not more, to the Gospel than the conservative church by bowing to cultural desires and lusts. While I support conservative policies and believe that progressive policies and ideology hurt everyone, I cannot join with these friends, acquaintances, and ministers I know who claim the name of Christ, yet clearly proclaim allegiance to the tribe of Trump.
I feel alone. I feel like I am no longer part of this country that I loved, that I still serve, and that I want the best for. But I feel like this is the most real place I can be. I believe like this is what it actually feels like to be a follower of Christ: set apart, in the world but not of the world. Oh, it hurts a lot, don’t get me wrong. Daily, I battle depression over this. I get angry and impatient because I’m watching what I thought was the city on a hill crumble around me, but then I realize all of this does one thing; it puts me in the position to fully rely on Jesus Christ.
The most alive I have ever felt was when I knew I had absolutely no control over my circumstances; death was a mere second away if it would come. I have been in multiple circumstances, by choice, that if one minor misstep happened, I would die and there would be nothing I could do about it. Yet in those times, I felt the most alive.
I am beginning to believe that this is where I, as well as many others, are headed. And while it is scary, I am beginning to feel that life again. Christ followers will not have any power; either it will be taken by the “woke” left because we do not align with their ideology, or it will not be given by the “woke” right because we do not fall lock-step in with the “pseudo-conservative” marching orders of supporting Trump, or whomever.
I have begun to study church history, and I wonder if this is how the early church felt: separated, in the middle, not part of any tribe. I see more of Paul’s letters in this light, and their meaning has become more clear.
Thank you for showing me the truth of what is happening right now and warning me of what might come. I have begun to live my life with the possibility that myself and my children will live in a country where we are looked down upon, scorned, persecuted, and given no merit because of our faith in Christ. I am trying to get my church and other churches in my area to see that the church is not part of this country but rather part of the Kingdom of God and that our battle is against spiritual forces, not people. I want the American church to see that she is to be set apart, in this world but not of it. Yes, we can work toward the betterment of our country, but we cannot put our hope in it. Our hope should be, must be, placed in Christ alone.
One final thought, and this one is hard to say but I say it with sincerity and humbleness; I am beginning to believe that Biden as President is a judgement from God; not on America but onto the church in America. I say this because the church has lost our first love, Him, and like He did to His chosen people when they would stray, God might be doing it to His bride now. It is not that America needs to repent, it is that the American church needs to repent. We have for too long let American ideology be the lens in which to live out the scriptures instead of scripture being the lens in which to live our lives.
A friend told me the other day, “The problem is that you are in the middle, but the middle has shrunk to the size of a knife’s edge, which is why it’s so painful.”
UPDATE: A reader signing himself “Rusty Blade” emails:
I’ve been following your work all through the roller coaster ride that was 2020. I’ve found your writing to be a source of comfort, enlightenment, and, yes, at times frustration. I read your article “Christian Conservative On Knife’s Edge,” and it resonated with me.Like “Knife’s Edge” I too voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020. Personally, I liked Trump. I felt like he was voicing the concerns of a people whom the Elites knew as ‘Deplorables’. It was honestly empowering to hear subjects spoken of in hushed whispers in bars and job sites talked about openly on the national stage. When Trump spoke I felt heard. When the Liberal Elites speak I feel ignored, degraded, and that my humanity is nonexistent. I’m from the Inner City, I served in the Army, and worked a few blue collar jobs so I never really understood why Trump offended so many people. Rough talk was something I had gotten used too.I’m not from the Bible Belt, but the Rust Belt. I’m in my late 30s and a bachelor. I am in trade school and trying to cobble together some kind of life after the COVID wrecking ball came in and smashed my world, metaphorically speaking. I’m an Evangelical, but have been growing increasingly concerned about the woke rhetoric, emotional appeals, and question begging I’ve heard from the pulpit. I’ve listened while fellow Evangelicals say the Roman Catholic Church is the whore of Babylon. However, It seems, if the Evangelical Church wants to see the Harlot of Babylon it should simply look in the mirror.Lately, I felt like the unemployed and those who have lost businesses in the lockdowns have not been heard. I feel like the Media, Governmental, and especially the Religious elite of this country are not taking the them seriously except only when it is expedient to do so. While I think it is commendable that they are trying to platform traditionally marginalized voices, I also feel like they are ignoring those who have had their lives upended or destroyed by intrusive government action.Another point of concern is the murmurs of civil war, apocalypse, and Armageddon that have been appearing on the Internet. Are these people forgetting that these are their countrymen they are talking about? As someone who has served in Iraq hearing civilians who haven’t served speak longingly of war is grotesque. Personally, I’m of the opinion that if you have never served in the Armed Forces, as Police Officer, or EMT you should probably not open your mouth in regards to armed conflictI want to thank you for using your column as a way of giving voice to those who feel uncomfortable about the recent developments going on in our country. To quote my favorite movie Jurassic Park, “Things have all change so radically and we are all running to catch up.” Your critiques of the Right have been getting me to think. Is it uncomfortable questioning your own side? Yes. Should it be done? Again, yes. After all the Bible says, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sins God Who is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We can’t know our sin until we know and question ourselves. Your column has been helping me do that.