Evangelicals & Abstraction
This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me (Matthew 15:8)
Some Christians rattle on and on about “The Family” while neglecting their kids.
Some Christians pontificate about “The Church” while rolling their eyes at the people in their actual congregations. (Russell Moore)
Abstraction is defined as the quality of dealing with ideas rather than events. I would submit most professing Evangelicals rarely move beyond the abstract component of authentic Evangelicals living which the Bible does not permit as an option for only the elites within Christendom but for every blood bought Child of God.
Evangelicals can proclaim all they want from the early hours of the Lord’s Day until the wee hours of the closing of the Sun about how much they love Jesus who is the head of their lives but when the proverbial rubber hits the road many Evangelicals will be found Weighed and Found Wanting (seems I remember a book written by that title by someone just last year. You should check it out if you have not already).
Editor’s note: since I began crafting this blog disappointing news broke (which strengthened my thesis) that all four states (Michigan, California, Vermont and Kentucky) which had Pro-Life affirming legislation on the ballots were soundly defeated. That makes a total of five when we include Kansas. So much for the supposed positive momentum from the overturn of Roe.
It is one thing for nine individuals in black robes to wade into the scrum but the real test of our country’s resolve to protect life in the womb will always be measured citizen-by citizen and state-by-state. So even when a Republican leaning state like Kentucky can not gain a majority of its citizens to put substance behind the abstract belief that all life is precious from the moment of conception until natural death then guess what? Our nation is still heading headlong into the abyss upon which they will not be a chance for redress because as I mentioned in my last blog post once the Genie is let out of the bottle society never reverts to their prior moral condition.
Narrowing our gaze on Kentucky Evangelicals should be greatly alarmed because Kentucky is solidly classified as a red state. Yet even when a Republican stronghold like Kentucky becomes reticence when given the perfect opportunity to go on the record and place clear unmistakable laws on the books safeguarding life in the womb their alleged Pro-Life commitment is found abstract. I would submit Kentuckians regrettably have been found Weighed and Found Wanting. Kentucky had a prime opportunity, totally within their grasp, to express by the Will of the People, they are gravely serious about the sanctity of life, instead of relying on judicial legislation. Judicial activism to create laws to facilitate human flourishing was never the intent of the Founders. Laws were intended to be expressed by the Will of the People through their elected representatives.
Abstractions, left unacted upon, are nothing more than grandiose ideas that never impact society for its betterment. Specifically, for Evangelicals we will never fulfill our Potentates’ mandate to exercise dominion when we fail to engage in the skillful art of Orthopraxy.
Orthopraxy (right actions) is where the individual Evangelical either acquits or condemns themselves. The Church is replete with individuals who can pass a theological exam, correcting answering to whom we owe supreme obeisance, as just one example. Spiritual dissonance materialize when the individual Evangelical does not translate their professed orthodoxy into orthopraxy. In other words, the individual Evangelical talks the talk but does not walk the walk.
Much like the Sunday school student attending Church during a Resurrection Sunday service who answers Jesus despite the actual question being “who has four legs with a bushy tail and floppy ears” most church-goers know the correct answer to whom we owe our supreme obeisance is Jesus but when Evangelical never move beyond the concept of abstraction to reality then that is where we witness spiritual dissonance on full display.
Yet even the declaration most Evangelical will response with the proper orthodoxy is growing more and fragile each year. Polls after polls gives apt evidence of how even orthodoxy (right thinking) grows more anemic each successive year. If you are so inclined check out Ligonier Ministries’ most recent report on the spiritual health of the Church.
Using the universally agreed upon principle of whom we owe supreme obeisance [hopefully you reflectively answered Jesus Christ] let me press my case. Blogging as an unapologetic Evangelical of African American descent I would expect there to be no surprise my chief identity marker would be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I would think temporal identity markers like one’s political, civic and fraternal, etc., affiliation would always be understood to be subservient to one’s divine obeisance.
I have been a member of a fraternity (Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.) since November 19, 1983. Pledging Alpha remains one of my best memories from my collegiate days. As a testimony to how important the fraternity remains for me, I just completed paying off my Life Membership, not a small financial commitment.
Yet, no matter how important the fraternity may be and no matter how much good the fraternity does for the community as a temporal entity it cannot and will never be a first-order identity marker for me. Why? Because I understand when I stand before God on that Great Day being a member of Alpha Phi Alpha will recede into the background, if it ever comes up at all. Yet, despite my repeated declarations of Evangelicalism as my chief identity marker, to my utter dismay, I was sternly rebuked by a fellow fraternity brother for my criticism of Senator Raphael Warnock simply because Senator Warnock is a fellow fraternity brother.
So, despite the fact that Senator Warnock affirms political positions, not to mention several theological positions, in direct opposition to Holy Scriptures I am supposed to chuck my deep-held convictions and fall in line like a good soldier with the Groupthink so pervasive in today’s culture. As Homey the Clown of the late Fox Network Television Series In Living Color would refrain when provoked, “I don’t think so! Homey don’t play that!”
Most Evangelicals of African American descent would never publicly acknowledge my contention but I am utterly convinced most Evangelicals of African American descent voted for Barack Obama for the mere and sole fact he was a Person of Color in clear abandonment of their theological professions. There is no other way to understand the reality that 94% of Evangelicals of African American descent could vote for someone who would be regarded during the time of his administration as the most Pro-Abortion President in American History. Still, to this day, I remain flabbergasted how every 9.4 of every 10 professing Evangelicals of AA descent could, in good conscience, walk into a voting booth and cast a ballot for Barack Obama. The results were even more tragic in 2012. Even after President Obama reversed course and evolved into endorsing same-sex marriage. The astute reader will remember it was the Obama’s administration that argued in favor of the horrendously immoral Obergefell Supreme Court decision.
President Obama was so confident he would encounter little political blowback from Evangelicals of AA descent he came out in support of same-sex marriage and Evangelicals of AA descent did not even retain the capacity to blush (Jeremiah 6:15). Their support for President Obama, even after he flipped on the sanctity of marriage, increased from 94% to 95%. How can someone take a position contrary to what is so crystal clear in Holy Writ and increase in political alignment? They can only do so when Evangelicals hold their biblical principles in abstraction. They are akin to the people that Jesus Christ lamented when He said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me (Matthew 15:8).
Add the reality it was the Obama administration who authored the now infamous Dear Colleague Letter which required academic institutions to permit students to use the restroom of their self- designated gender choice, rather than their biological gender if academic institutions sought to retain federal funding and you have what I called the Bungled Big Three: life, marriage and gender.
So, spout before the masses all day, errday and twice on Sundays “I give an honor to God who is the head of my life” all you want, I am just not buying it. I know I am not the Judge, but I do have the divine privilege to serve as your fruit inspector.
When Evangelicals politically align with anyone who supports the wanton slaughter of life created in the Imago Dei and then doubles down because they evolve and no longer believe marriage is and only is between a man and woman for natural life, I will forever be bedeviled how anyone taking their faith seriously does not vigorously oppose such a political candidate.
Yet, many in the professing Evangelical community seldom move beyond abstraction of Evangelical orthodoxy. Whether it is Evangelicals of African American descent entering diabolical politician alliance with debased God-mocking politicians or other Evangelicals remaining loyal to the bombastic Donald J. Trump. I believe it is very noteworthy that Trump has been noted by many how he spent more time promoting himself than promoting the actual candidates during the campaigning for the 2022 midterm elections.
As an Evangelical my conscience is held captive to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Thus, I only enter political alliance with candidates who espouse a worldview that aligns with the Word of God. Temporal factors like race, ethnicity, fraternal association, political affiliations are never primary.
My uncompromising devotion to the Lordship of Jesus Christ must translate into action. As James writes in his Epistle faith without works is dead. The person who in response to someone indicating they are hungry and cold responds “be warm and filled” illustrates their faith is of no redeeming value. James goes on to ask “what good is that?”
I close with a similar inquiry to my African American brethren in particular and to all Evangelicals in general. What good does professing fidelity to the Lordship of Jesus Christ but supporting politicians who explicitly advocate the enactment of laws in open rebellion to the Bible?
As a final reminder my position never means I support the Republican Party with no reservations. I am not advocating that Jesus Christ is a Republican or would vote Republican. There have been times I could not, in good conscience, vote for the Republican candidate. When that is the case, I see if there is an acceptable third-party candidate and if not then I simply do not vote.
I am not contending my way is the absolute, indisputable best way. Maybe I will get to heaven and Jesus Christ will reveal I should have voted for Mitt Romney in 2008 or Donald Trump in 2016. I enter these discussions with no false bravado, only with fear and trembling.
Yet, one thing is abundantly clear for me. As an Evangelical serious about his walk with Jesus Christ, fully understanding one day I will stand before Him for a full reckoning there was no credible path for me to vote for Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012. Similarly, if I was a Georgia resident there would have been no biblically permissible path for me to vote for Raphael Warnock or Stacey Abrams this past election cycle.
I am most proud of my African American heritage. Pledging Alpha Phi Alpha remains one of the best experiences of my earthly journey but when pressed and, believe me, ever Evangelical will be pressed when we stand before our Creator and give an account.
I know many will take issue with my position, but I challenge you to demonstrate how my thinking is faulty. We can not serve two masters. We can not claim fidelity with Jesus Christ and then vote politically with the very people who endorse and work to enact laws that Jesus Christ would classify as abominations.
As always, let me know what you think. Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.
With fear & trembling,
Ricky Kyles Sr. DEd.Min