The Evangelical Right Has a Much Bigger Issue Than Public Perception

This afternoon, I sat across the table from three leaders of a non-profit organization that my marketing firm is donating work to. We typically donate a few jobs to nonprofits each year, and this particular nonprofit was an excellent candidate for video marketing.

The executive director explained the barriers to the types of videos they’d like to produce,

See the main issue isn’t that we don’t do good work- we keep children out of foster care and keep families together!

She cited a statistic that helped me embrace their mission- only 4% of children who go into foster care in Kentucky graduate college.

The main issue is that our right wing donor-base freaks out if anything we do looks like assisting those on welfare, and frankly those are the families that need the most help, because they’re the ones who are addicted to drugs or using alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Welfare is a big deal. Children being dumped in a broken foster care system is a big deal too. Immigration is a huge deal. Children being separated from their parents is horrible. How did things get so polarized in our nation, and where did we lose our compassion for our sense of justice?

When Compassion Fails

“After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.… One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.

Jesus healed people for two reasons: firstly, to display God’s power through himself (John 10:37-38) and secondly because He was filled with compassion for people (Mark 1:41).

When you read that passage, it may have slipped by you, but the man at the pool had been laying there for 38 years. 38 years of longing, 38 years of suffering and survival and calling out to friends to drag him to the pool on the off chance that a miracle would happen and he would be healed.

Jesus the God-man, reflects the nature of God and is filled with compassion for him. He is filled with compassion, suffering with this man- not just an emotional response of sympathy, but a desire to help and take action. And Jesus does take action.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk.‘ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.’… And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’” -John 5:1-17

When we read this passage, Jesus is breaking the cultural and religious law. The Jews established these laws to keep their right standing with God, and this impostor, Jesus, has the gall to upset their system and heal someone on the Sabbath! Where Jesus is filled with compassion, the Jews are only filled with legalism. Where Jesus seeks to extend mercy, the Jews seek to attack those who upset the system.

Jesus says this to the religious who have lost their way in legalism. You are the children of the devil. You aren’t even saved.

By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” -1 John 3:10

John Piper puts it this way,

This doesn’t mean that acts of love are how we get right with God. No, the Bible is clear again and again as Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not of works.” No, when the Bible says that we are saved by faith but that we must love people in order to finally be saved, it means that faith in God’s promises must be so real that the love it produces proves the reality of the faith.

So, love for others is a condition of future grace in the sense that it confirms that the primary condition, faith, is genuine. We could call love for others a secondary condition, which confirms the authenticity of the primary and essential condition of faith which alone unites us to Christ, and receives his power.

As I’ve grappled with these polarizing issues that seem to be happening on a daily basis, I think I’ve found the main issue: the evangelical right is no longer a Christian constituent. Real Christians are struggling to find their place in the U.S. political system.

The Demographic Just Doesn’t Fit the Term

After the 2016 election, I knew there were bigger issues in the evangelical right than just a public perception problem, but there were hints of something wrong, long before then. 

In 2010, statistics started floating around that Christians divorced at the same rate or higher than nonchristians. When examined closely, these rates did indeed seem to be correct, with protestants divorcing at nearly 20% higher rates than nonchristians. But the problem wasn’t with the polling questions, but rather with the terminology used.

Classically, the term “evangelical” was based out of the belief of an “emphasizing salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of preaching as contrasted with ritual.” Evangelicals were synonymous with Protestants. Somewhere along the line, however, the term relaxed and as religion became more popular, people began to define themselves as evangelical, without evening knowing what that meant.

A poll by the Pew Research Center in 2017 found that even the term, “Protestant” is filled with people who don’t understand their religion.

For example, nearly half of U.S. Protestants today (46%) say faith alone is needed to attain salvation, but about half (52%) say both good deeds and faith are needed to get into heaven. U.S. Protestants also are split on another issue that is central to the Christian faith: 46% say the Bible is the sole source of religious authority for Christians, while 52% say Christians should look both to the Bible and to the church’s official teachings and tradition for guidance, the position held by the Catholic Church.

When these two questions are combined, the survey shows that just three-in-ten U.S. Protestants believe in both salvation by faith alone and the authority of God’s word. One-third of Protestants (35%) affirm one but not the other, and 36% do not believe in either. In short, only 30% of Protestants understand the core beliefs that shape their faith. Three-in-ten protestants believe in purgatory!

So what happens when the religious right loses their basic theological knowledge? They lose their moral compass. 

When Holiness Doesn’t Matter Anymore

In 1972, an American politician was just getting started in his business career. He owned a string of gas stations, and during the ’72 gas shortage, he struck a deal with a woman who owned a local “massage parlor.” If he set aside gas for her girls, he would use their “services” any time for free.

This isn’t a hidden Clinton scandal, the politician is amazingly open about his sex life then and now, “I had always enjoyed sex, sure,” he writes, “but until [then] I hadn’t realized how little I knew about it. So, of course, I kept going back, a willing student . . . I soon realized I had a big problem: I loved f—ing and I couldn’t get enough of it.” He also soon realized, “I had fallen madly in love with prostitutes. 

The political figure that I’m writing about is Dennis Hof, a Republican running for Nevada legislature. Owner of a strip club and five legal brothels in Nevada, he beat GOP hospital executive, James Oscarson, and will go on the face his democratic opponent later in the year. He pulled the evangelical vote for the state and is predicted to win. Hof largely credits the changing political tide,

I’m kind of rich, I’m kind of famous, and I’m surrounded by hot chicks. I don’t give a damn what anybody says about me,” Hof said.

How can we explain the flippant disregard of the moral failure of our politicians, other than a fundamental misunderstanding that Christians serve a monarchy, not a democracy? Christians serve King Jesus, not the American political system.

Sure, comments are going to come in that we’re electing politicians, not pastors, and as fundamentally flawed as that argument is, what it really exposes are the hearts behind the religious right: Hearts that are full of fear for the future. Hearts that are more concerned with debating issues than loving others. Hearts that are not filled with compassion. Hearts that are hardened enough to ignore even the greatest of moral failures.

If what I’ve said offends you, then take a step back and look at what you’re defending. You have the daily choice to affect people’s hearts and minds through your actions, yet you love your nation more than you love your brother.

Could it be possible that our political views are totally correct, but the way that we live them out, defeats their very purpose?

What This Doesn’t Mean

Take a moment to imagine something with me- you’ve just been in a car accident and you’re standing before the throne of Jesus. He asks you, “why should I let you into heaven?” At that moment, eternity stretches before you and your entire life experience leads you to the words you’ll say… Think about it carefully.

If you answered, “Well I’m a good person, I worked hard all my life defending your laws in the American political system.” You’ve got it wrong. In fact, if you answer anything other than, “Your blood alone is the pardon for my sinful life, Lord Jesus.” as you fall on your face, you have a sealed your destiny.

To the first group of people, Jesus has specific words for you,

“’Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.’… ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”-Matthew 7:21;23

To the second group of people, Jesus has very different words for you,

“‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” -Matthew 25:21

This is not a political rant. It’s a call for repentance. It doesn’t matter who you voted for, it doesn’t matter what political views you hold. It doesn’t mean that if you’re part of the religious right, I’m condemning you and invalidating your worldview.

It does mean, however, that your voting record doesn’t make you right with God- your reliance on Jesus daily and the proof of that reliance being walked out in your life personally is what is crucial to where you’ll spend eternity, friends.


Author and Creative Director for Every Woman a Theologian, husband, dad, and Jesus follower.

Reach me at 1321 Upland Drive, Apt 18241, Houston TX 77043