What are contemporary heresies that might infect the church? I ask this question from time to time in my congregation, and you know the answer that people first respond with? Almost always, the first idea they bring up is about or related to homosexuality. That topic is an important one to discuss, and I have done so on the blog here. But I don’t have the sense that hardly anyone in my congregation is affected by it, and thus I believe there are other ideas that impact my congregation far more, ideas that people might not call heresy. Two that come to my mind are related: materialism and consumerism. Do we use our wealth and free will in a way that is consistent with the way of Jesus, or has our thinking and use of our wealth and free will been co-opted by our culture? Again, though, I talk about these ideas frequently, and while they are so pervasive in our culture, such that I don’t believe we should stop talking about them, I’m concerned that there are other heresies we need to discuss, heresies that I identify in the title of this post: Trumpism and White Christian Nationalism.
In the lead-up to the presidential election this past fall, some Christian leaders prophesied a Trump victory. One was named Jeremiah Johnson. He said that God had told him that Trump would win. What do we do with that? Not just the claim of a prophecy, but also the fact that it turned out to be false. Johnson has since apologized, shutting down his ministry, saying that it was time for humility. I respect that. But what has happened in the consciousness of the evangelical Christian subculture in America, so that over the years people who call themselves Christians have done horrible things, such as what I mentioned in the previous post? What ideas have many of us believed that have led us to act in such sinful ways? Are any of the ideas heresy?
One report I read said this: “…over a quarter of white evangelicals surveyed believe in QAnon and three in five do not believe Biden is the legitimate president. A separate study found that 36 percent of white evangelicals will either ‘definitely or probably’ not get the COVID-19 vaccine. These are far and away the highest numbers for any religious group in the U.S. A LifeWay study found that 45 percent of Protestant pastors say they’ve heard conspiracy theories from their congregations, which has prompted 1,400 pastors and faith leaders to sign a statement condemning White Christian Nationalism — the ideology many believe to be at the root of much of the conspiratorial rot.”
Those are some of the false ideas that have captivated us. Is it possible that some evangelicals have been taken captive by empty hollow philosophy based on the tradition of man? Let’s consider the two I mentioned. First, White Christian Nationalism is heresy. Second, there’s another similar word for that heresy: Trumpism.
Let me be clear. While I am mentioning an ideology based on the name of the former president, we could swap that out with the presidential flavor of the month. Currently, it is Bidenism. Previous to Trumpism, it could have been Obamaism, Bushism, etc. It is the placing of our worship, our hope, and our salvific expectation in a human leader.
Maybe you have heard the courageous words that Christian teacher Beth Moore shared against these heresies. Let me quote her:
“I do not believe these are days for mincing words,” she tweeted in January 2021. “I’m 63 1/2 years old and I have never seen anything in these United States of America I found more astonishingly seductive and dangerous to the saints of God than Trumpism. This Christian nationalism is not of God. Move back from it.”
Move back from it. She is right in line with what Paul says in Colossians 2:8. We should see to it that no one takes us captive through an empty, hollow philosophy or ideas based on the tradition of men. When he says, “See to it,” Paul is using the imperative form in Greek. We don’t have that form in English. Imperative means “command,” and so therefore Paul is being very strong here: “I command you not to be taken captive by this false teaching.” We contemporary American Christians can apply that to Trumpism and White Christian Nationalism.
These two ideologies are intertwined, and they are heresy. But what are Trumpism and White Christian Nationalism? Check out The Jesus Creed review of the book Taking America Back for God to learn more. Or listen to this podcast episode in which the authors of the book are interviewed. In both Trumpism and White Christian Nationalism, the heresy is that we place our hope in ideas that are not consistent with the mission and Kingdom of God.
If Trumpism and White Christian nationalism are modern-day evangelical heresies that captivate us, what should we do?
What we should do instead is what Paul says next. Look at the second half of verse 8, “rather than Christ.” Essentially Paul is saying that the ideas of the world are based on human tradition not on Christ. We are to be people who allow our minds to be transformed by Christ. Fixate on Christ. We dwell on Christ, because he is the truth. Anything else…move back from it.
So what is the truth? Paul says it is based on Christ. What does he mean by that? Check back into the next post, as we’ll study Paul’s words further.