Tom Brenner / Reuters
As the fallout continues from the deadly siege of the U.S. capital, Ed Stetzer, head of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, has a message for his other evangelicals: it’s time for an inventory.
Evangelicals, he says, should look at how their own behaviors and actions may have helped fuel the uprising. White evangelists overwhelmingly supported President Trump in the 2020 election.
Some in the protest crowd raised signs with Christian symbolism and phrases.
“Part of this bill is: How did we get here? How were we so easily fooled by conspiracy theories?” he tells NPRs Rachel Martin. “We need to make clear who we are. And our faithfulness is to King Jesus, not what the boasting of a political leader can come next.”
In the interview, Stetzer also laments that evangelicals seem to have changed their view of morality to support Trump.
“So I think we just have to be honest. A big part of this evangelical inventory is that a lot of people sold out their faith,” he says.
Here are excerpts from Morning edition conversation.
You write it “Many evangelicals see Donald Trump for who he is.” Do you really think that’s true? There have been so many other things that Trump has said and done over the last four to five years that betray Christian values, and their support has not wavered. Do you think this time it is different?
I think that’s a fair question, and I’ve been one for years saying that we need to see more clearly who Donald Trump is and often has not been listened to. But I would say that the storm of the Capitol, the desecration of our halls of democracy, for many people has shocked and stunned a lot of people, and how President Trump has engaged in crowding crowds to accomplish these things. Yes I think so. I think there are some important and important conversations that we need in the field of evangelism that ask the question: What happened? Why were so many people attracted to someone who was clearly not connected to what evangelicals believed in his life or his practice or more.
You write that Trump has burned down the Republican Party. What has he done with the evangelical Christian movement?
If you asked today “what is an evangelical?” for most people I want them to say: someone who believes that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and in our place, and we must tell everyone about it. But for most, they would say, “Oh, those are the people who are really super supportive of the president, no matter what he does.” And I do not think that is what we want to be known for. That’s definitely not what I will be known for. And I think as this presidency ends in splinters, as it is, hopefully more and more evangelicals will say, “You know, we should have seen earlier, we should have known better, we should have honored the Lord more in our actions. the last four years. “
Should ministers on Sunday morning deliver messages on how to sort facts from fiction and deter their parishioners from searching for truth in these darkest corners of the internet that spoil lies?
Absolutely, absolutely. Mark Noll wrote many years ago a book called The scandal with the evangelical mind and he spoke of the lack of intellectual engagement in some corners of evangelism.
I believe that the scandal in the evangelical mind today is the credibility that so many have been brought into – conspiracy theories, false reports and more – and therefore I believe that Christian responsibility is that we need to engage us in what we call in the Christian tradition, discipleship. Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” So Jesus literally identifies himself as the truth, so if ever there should be a people who care about the truth, it should be people who call themselves followers of Jesus.
But we have failed, and I believe that pulpits and colleges and universities and parachute services and more need to ask the question: How are we to disciple our people so that they engage the world around them in robust and Christ-like ways, and I think part of the gospel bill is that we have not done so well.
Bo Hamby and Kelley Dickens produced and edited the audio story. Heidi Glenn produced it for the Internet.