Trump Reviving Liberal Christianity?
Anecdotal evidence suggests other liberal churches from a variety of denominations have been experiencing a similar spike over the past month, with their higher-than-usual levels of attendance staying relatively constant for several weeks. It’s not at all clear that the Trump bump, as the writer Diana Butler Bass termed it in a conversation with me, will be sustained beyond the first few months of the new administration. But it suggests that some progressives are searching for a moral vocabulary in grappling with the president-elect—including ways of thinking about community that don’t have to do with electoral politics.
A liberal Baptist pastor from Atlanta, Trey Lyon, sent Green a sermon he preached post-election. Excerpt:
If the state will not provide rations, then we will learn anew how to plant our own seeds. If the state questions the covenant of marriage, the church will say, “What God has joined together let no one cast asunder.” If the state says, “There isn’t enough to go around,” we will say, “Evidently you aren’t managing it right, because in God’s economy there is enough for everyone to have their fill and enough left over to take some home with you.”
Read the whole thing. I like that quote from Lyon, not because I agree with it but because I’m glad to see Christians realizing that the church is more important than the state, and acting on it. And I am not going to fault people for wanting to come together more often in church, especially in a time they perceive as a crisis. I don’t happen to believe that this is going to sustain itself, because I don’t believe liberal Christianity has a future, but the impulse these folks have to gather together in church is not a bad one.
And I really and truly hope conservative Christians are having the same thoughts, and doing the same thing. As a Benedict Option proponent, of course I believe that for reasons that are much broader and deeper than who inhabits the White House. If a great saint of God had just been elected president, I would still promote the Ben Op, because no president can stop the dechristianization that has been underway for a long time.
Nevertheless, here are Trump-specific reasons why conservative Christians ought to be drawing closer to their churches now:
- The Trump presidency tempts conservative believers to fall back into old habits of thinking that everything’s going to be fine because the Republicans hold the White House. It’s not going to be fine, or rather, if it is going to be fine, then it’s going to be fine because of what you do in your local church and local community.
- Most everything about the life that Donald Trump lives and has lived is a rebuke to Christian principles. I understand why Christians voted for him, even if they did not approve of the way he lives or the things he champions. I’m not asking my fellow orthodox believers to regret their vote. But conservative Christians must keep squarely in front of them that the United States is going to be led by a man who manifestly does not share our beliefs. We would have be in that same position had Hillary Clinton won, but at least it would have been easier to see that. We have to hope and pray that we, the Church, will have a salutary effect on the executive branch of the State, and that the executive branch of the State will have no effect on us.
- The next four years will be tumultuous ones, with frightened people on the left reacting out of anger to just about anything Trump does. We conservative Christians need to be in church, reminded constantly of our obligation to refuse to react in anger, even as we defend what we believe is right. As Christians, we are not free to hate, period. That’s something that a passionate political era makes hard to see — which is why we need our church leaders to remind us.
- The Trump years, both in America and abroad, are likely to be marked by instability, even upheaval. Trump’s election is not a fluke. There’s a lot going on in the West right now, and even globally, as the old postwar order finally begins to break up. Just as the Benedictine monks in Norcia fled their monastery in the middle of night, during the first earthquake, and took shelter with the other townspeople in the piazza, around the statue of St. Benedict, and prayed together, so too should we seek refuge in our church communities, to keep ourselves grounded while the earth shakes and structures fall.
Whether conservative or liberal, if you are a religious believer, feel free to add to the list your Trump-specific reasons why we should all draw closer to our religious congregations in the Trump years.