Yesterday, at the evangelical church I attend, my pastor preached a sermon on Isaiah 12:1-6:
You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.
2 “Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.”
3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day:
“Give thanks to the Lord,
call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
This passage speaks of God’s grace and power in our lives. It tells us not to be afraid because we find our strength and our song in the salvation that the Lord provides. It challenges us to proclaim God’s love for others with joy. It encourages us to tell the world about God’s transforming love for His creation.
After the sermon, my pastor gave an old fashioned altar call. He invited people in the congregation who wanted to experience God’s love in a deeper way to come to the front of the sanctuary where they would find members of the pastoral staff available to pray with them and for them. It was a moving and powerful moment. My heart was encouraged as I watched dozens of Christians come forward. This is the kind of thing that should happen in a Christian church. Sunday morning should be a time for Christians to rededicate their lives to God.
At roughly the same time Sunday morning, at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, pastor Robert Jeffress was leading his own service. After the choir led the congregation in some beautiful singing, Jeffress sat down for an interview with Fox News pundit Sean Hannity. (You can read my post on that interview here).
After the interview, Jeffress preached a sermon titled “America at the Crossroads.” You can watch it here.
[vimeo 239371940 w=640 h=360]
I am not sure if this is the kind of sermon Jeffress preaches every Sunday morning, or if he was just trying to impress Hannity, but it sounded more like a political speech than a sermon. While my pastor in Pennsylvania was reading Isaiah’s exhortation to not be afraid, Jeffress was playing to the fears of his congregation. He said that the United States was “imploding.” He said that the “atheists, infidels, and secular humanists” were perverting the Constitution. He said that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, but we have lost our way. He even blamed Harvey Weinstein’s behavior on the removal of prayer from public schools.
He concluded the sermon by asking his congregation to be “salt and light” in the world (Matthew 5:13-16). I appreciated this exhortation, until I realized that Jeffress’s understanding of Christians being “salt and light” was just another way of saying that they should have voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Jeffress said that American culture has become a battleground between the “Kingdom of God” and the “Kingdom of Satan” (the main issue is abortion) and then connected Trump with the former and Hillary Clinton with the latter.
And then, somewhere in the middle of this rant, Jeffress blurted out: “And let me say…how grateful I am for a courageous man like Sean Hannity who is out in the public square pushing back against evil and taking every kind of attack you can imagine. God bless you Sean Hannity.” The congregation then gave Hannity a standing ovation. Hannity stood up and thanked everyone as he soaked in the praise.
Jeffress is preaching a holy war. He is training his congregation to fight in this war. He is propagating fear. He has defiled his Sunday morning service with politics. He is using the Lord’s Day to bring praise and honor to a Fox News political commentator (and in the process no doubt securing his own place as commentator on the cable network). Is this Christianity?
Court evangelicalism at its worst.