This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Powell: Setting a low bar

A recent Doonesbury comic strip by Garry Trudeau featured a pastor giving an announcement from the board of elders to a congregation about what evangelicals currently view as sin. The list of behavior that will now be condoned includes vulgarity, lewdness, sexual assault, adultery and others to be announced. At the end of service, one members said to the pastor, “Lovin’ the low bar, pastor.” Another responded, “Me too, I feel like a saint now!” The pastor replied, “Enjoy.”

John Powell

Many evangelicals have traded Jesus’ gospel for power, prestige and self-aggrandizement. They proclaim they are protecting Christian family values while condoning the lack of family values at government’s highest level.

Indifference to President Trump’s adultery and dishonesty is like giving a mulligan — a do-over, acting as if a golfers’ poor shot never happened — according to Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. Other prominent evangelicals like Franklin Graham and David Brody have followed suit in shrugging off the president’s actions. Rather than repentance and accountability, an attitude of “get over it and move on” prevails. Leadership is compromised.

This isn’t just the mindset of evangelical leaders. It’s common among people in the pews, even evangelical women. A group of women interviewed by CNN echoed Perkins’ position. When asked if they cared about the president’s affairs, they answered with a resounding “no.” They praised his pro-life stance and promise to “make America great again.” They believed God had ordained him for the position.

Evangelicals comprise about one-fourth of the U.S. population. All proclaim Christian values, but many have abandoned the values that Jesus lived and died for — embracing the stranger, caring for people in the margins, loving the enemy. Jesus tells us not only to love God but to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39). Nationalism, xenophobia, racism and immorality are not part of God’s agenda. With a mulligan attitude, many evangelicals seem content to live with compromised leadership.

I ask my evangelical brothers and sisters: Who’s your Lord? Jesus or morally corrupt leaders? Has following Jesus taken a backseat?

None of us is devoid of sinful acts. Yet God’s truth is dominant for Jesus’ disciples. They reject immoral behavior, no matter its origin. They seek forgiveness and change their behavior.

I recently confessed to a friend that I no longer call myself an evangelical. Their actions make a mockery of the title. While I may identify with some of their issues, I can’t embrace unholy alliances. Those who follow Jesus Christ strive to live out what it means to be his disciple. One does not align with immorality.

When human rights and compassion are replaced by prejudice and callousness, I say “Enough!” If Christians want to proclaim God’s evangelical mission, they need to take seriously the message of Jesus, who said, “The Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor . . . to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18). Compromised leaders must understand their actions aren’t in line with God’s mandate. You have the responsibility to tell them.

I call on my evangelical brothers and sisters to reject the authority of unholy leadership. Reclaim what it means to be an evangelical, sharing the good news of Christ. The world is watching, waiting for you to take a stand.

John Powell, of Ypsilanti, Mich., has worked as a pastor, preacher and teacher in Mennonite churches and institutions.

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