When Evangelicals Rejected Bethlehem and How I Walked out of a Christmas Eve Service. Plus is Christian Nationalism Derailing Southern Baptist Missionary Work?

One of the most well known stories in the Bible is that of the narrative of Luke. In the second chapter Joseph and Mary are looking for an inn. The story of Bethlehem teaches a lot about Christianity. Yet in the wake of the vitriol of the 2016 election I felt sick over what I heard. Unable to connect to the traditional Christmas narrative I ended up walking out of a Christmas service asking myself if evangelicals have rejected the story of Bethlehem? Also in Christianity Today the Chief Missiologist of the North American Missions Board wrote an article about how Christian Nationalism and politics is harming missionary work. This blog is looking for stories from American missionaries abroad who have had to deal with this issue in their job.

“I’m one hundred times more passionate about creating Christians and churches that will be faithful, biblical, countercultural, and spiritually minded in a socialist America, in a Muslim America, in a communist America, than I am in preventing a Muslim America or a communist America. That puts me in a very different ballpark than many public voices.”

John Piper

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

Luke 2:1-5 NLT

In December of 2016 I was attending a Christmas eve service in Chantilly, Virginia. Chantilly is a suburb in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The service did what many evangelical services do on Christmas – they read the story of Luke. You probably know the story of Caesar Augustus, the decree, Mary and Joseph looking for a room for the night and all while Mary is pregnant. But in 2016 the story changed for me. Here is what happened. I sat in the chair and my mind was a whirl. Due to Christian Nationalism I had lost a number of friends. In my mind I reflected on all that I heard the previous year. Mexicans being called rapists. Racist banter and boasting of violence. And while I believe in strong immigration laws I was sickened by the over the top put downs that I was hearing. While I was there in church I was thinking about how 81% of the people around me voted for Donald Trump. I was in the 17/18% who did not. I wondered to myself if I was part of the church or was this foreign to me? Did I belong to it? What was I a part of? As I heard the pastor preach about the story of Luke I started to feel sick to my stomach. I could not connect the traditional story of Bethlehem with what I was hearing in the media. The thought of worshiping, singing or doing communion with people made me feel sick. And as I sat there I wondered are the people around me reading from the same Bible that I did? And finally I found myself wrestling with this question. Do evangelicals believe in the Christmas story in Bethlehem? The story of Mary and Joseph, exhausted, tired and looking for shelter and assistance. As my stomach was in knots I did something I never did before on a major holiday service. I got up and walked out midway through everything while the pastor was preaching. I felt that if I stayed that I was going to vomit. And so I walked. Dazed and confused I spent the evening at a nearby Popeyes and sat in a booth thinking about this issue until the restaurant closed and I was kicked out. But for the first time I was asking myself do evangelicals believe in Bethlehem? Now I was not sure and could not state that claim. 

 

Is Christian Nationalism Harming Missionary Efforts Inside the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Missions Board? 

There was an article recently in Christianity Today that I wanted to write about as well. It comes from the chief Chief Missiologist of the North American Missions Board. Jeff Christopherson writes about how American politics is adversely affecting Southern Baptist missions and hurting the spread of the Christian Gospel. This is what he recently wrote in Christianity Today. 

When it comes to mission, we know our sides, but we seem to understand little else.

Square in the middle of this social morass, a hefty subset of evangelicals have staked their sacred ground. The seamless convergence of cultural politics and religious identity has provided the climate for darkness to flourish with full permission from the very people who are commissioned to bring Jesus’ light. But sadly, this isn’t a new thing. This marriage of an exterior religion shrouding an interior darkness has often been recorded throughout church history in the most shameful seasons of our past. Another chapter appears to be in order.

Here is a question. What happens to the mission field when partisan evangelicals collectively turn their missionary platforms into ideological troll farms? What happens to the mission field when our highest calling is to leverage a profound cultural angst into a vitriolic nationalism? What happens to the mission field when those with whom we disagree become cultural enemies to vanquish rather than friends and neighbors to love? What happens to the mission field when an aberrant version of Jesus is formed in our own image and weaponized online as a parochial wrecking ball? What happens to the mission field when evangelicalism’s good news has nothing to do with the gospel?

This happens:

The trajectory of the religiously unaffiliated continues to climb at unprecedented rates, while the great evangelical prize—political significance—will continue to erode.[1] Our preferred weapon of cultural engagement, politics, will, as Jesus taught, be turned and used against us in full measure.[2] The mission field has been torched by our own hand, and the utility of evangelical voting bloc will no longer be desired.

It’s a lose-lose scenario by any measure.

Jeff Christopherson then leaves with four thoughts to consider. 

  1. Christian beliefs have public power. 
  2. Blind affiliations can only compromise Christian beliefs. 
  3. Christian beliefs assume that Kingdom Patriotism is primary. 
  4. Kingdom patriotism has chooses truth over power. 

In the article which you can read here Christopherson lays out the issues that exist. The Christian Gospel has been harmed by Christian Nationalism. Politics has affected missionary efforts abroad. Its led to confusion and raises many questions that now exist. 

 

Some Questions on What Jeff Christopherson States and The Wondering Eagle is Looking for Stories From American Missionaries that Have Experienced This

These past two years  I have wondered how Christian Nationalism was affecting missionary efforts abroad. It was been embraced by many evangelicals, especially the more traditional Baptists and regular white evangelicals. Those that have rejected Christian Nationalism have been those in the Neo-Calvinist movement. Russell Moore, John Piper and others have written about the topic and while I disagree with Piper I can respect what he says in this area. Here is the question that needs to be asked. Should Christian Nationalism be put in the same category as Mormonism or Jehovah Witnesses? Should it be looked at as another gospel? When one considers Robert Jeffress and First Baptist Dallas should they be considered an un-reached people’s group? Should missionary efforts target churches like First Baptist Dallas to teach them Christianity? These are questions that I am wondering if they need to be raised. 

This blog is wondering how the issue of Christian Nationalism is personally affecting American Southern Baptist missionaries. If you are a current or former missionary that had to deal with this issue in the last three years this blog would love to tell your story. It can be done anonymously. You can email me at wonderingeagle261@gmail.com. 

4 thoughts on “When Evangelicals Rejected Bethlehem and How I Walked out of a Christmas Eve Service. Plus is Christian Nationalism Derailing Southern Baptist Missionary Work?

  1. Eagle, I can tell you how this affects multiethnic churches, especially with those who have a congregation that speaks another language and not all may be documented. It means talking around the bush quite a bit, depending on your immigration stance (I’m of the Bethlehem persuasion). It means a lot of prayer for protection of our congregants for those of us on the Bethlehem side, and care from the pulpit on political matters (which I appreciate because I know many in our congregation voted for the current administration, more over abortion than immigration). There are some who are bolder to speak out, including a couple of our missionaries who are appalled by what is going on with immigration/white nationalism coming directly from Washington. That has caused some issues on Facebook, which were actually addressed from the pulpit in the context of loving one another, despite our differences. I think, in my church, it has made some of those who initially supported the current administration more reflective, as they have come to know these people as good, kind, hardworking folks who love Jesus. I hope that we are all growing in Christ, knowing that these are tense times, especially after what happened in El Paso. I pray much, sometimes I cry, and I do everything I can to support our other-language congregation.I was an overseas missionary when some unpopular situations were occurring, in a South American country that was on the verge of total anarchy. I think what I’ve learned is a) love God and trust Him, and b) love your brothers and sisters in Christ. It may take different forms for different people. But, I have to say that I have seen a maturing in my current congregation that I have not seen before, and a desire to help and minister to the “other” in our congregation because they really aren’t “other”, they are part of the family of God. I am being intentionally vague because I’m careful about what I share about these people that I love so much, and that I know God loves even more.
    P.S. I grew up in the 60s/70s when it was all about marches and making noise. Now that I am older, I think much more happens behind the scenes when people are supportive, well-informed, and plunge into places (like some friends of mine who work with young people on the border) with the hope of changing hearts and minds through Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. People in other countries don’t want Americans, nor our fiat currency, nor what our country represents in their cultures anymore. The evangelicals and missionaries are so slow on the uptake to this change that their naivety is actually embarrassing. Our own country and its faith is dying, but everyone wants to be “global.” Fix the mess here first, or the rest of the world will reject any other message.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Imagine how I felt when the last black person to ever be president was elected!! I, as a WHITE MAN served in the US Navy under Ronald Reagan, and I was a NATIONALIST, and a Christian. Now that I’m old, I’m an OLD WHITE CHRISTIAN GUY, WHO IS STILL A NATIONALIST, and I was SOOOOO DEPRESSED, and suicidal that America would vote for the LAST black person that would EVER BE PRESIDENT. Hope and change they called it, when I didn’t want hope and change. I liked how Reagan ran the nation and put FEAR into our enemies, that we played second fiddle to NO ONE.

    I could not stand that Christians would vote for someone that let other nations cross a red line, that let our debt raise to a level that all presidents put together did not amass. That said that all manufacturing jobs were of the past, that he wanted to REDISTRIBUTE WEALTH, when that is NOT what Ben Franklin had in mind.

    And my whole EASTER was RUINED…

    Dude, grow up! Seriously.

    Ed Chapman

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  4. I’m gonna let you in on a little secret about Calvinism, Wondering.

    There is indeed scripture that deals with the JEWS in a totally different manner than it does the Gentiles.

    The Jews are BLIND. They had to be in order to crucify Jesus. And they still are blind, but a REMNANT is by GRACE, saved NOW.

    The Jews will remain blind UNTIL Jesus REVEALS himself to them, and he will, and they will get mercy, and all Israel, THE JEWS will be saved. They are the Elect. NO ONE ELSE. Gentiles are NOT ELECT.

    Romans 9, the Calvinists FAVORITE…the potter/clay thing…that is discussing MERCY for those that God uses as PAWNS in order to tell a story about HIMSELF. They get mercy. The Pharaoh, for example, God used the Pharaoh in order to tell a STORY about what MOSES would do.

    Picture this…The role of Satan is played by the Pharaoh. The role of Jesus is played by Moses. Egypt is portrayed as BONDAGE TO SIN.

    Are you getting it yet?

    The Pharaoh gets MERCY for his part in playing the devil. MERCY.

    The rest of Romans 9 is discussing the JEWS that ALSO get mercy, and we all remember Jesus saying, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do, right?

    The Pharisees ask Jesus if they were blind. Jesus responds, If you were blind, you should have no sin, but since you CLAIM TO SEE, your sins remain.

    The so-called GENOCIDE that you HATE SO MUCH, Romans 5:13 states that BEFORE THE LAW (which is the time of the GENOCIDE THING), sin was in the world, but sin is NOT IMPUTED where there is no law…and guess what? Moses wasn’t around yet.

    Ignorance of sin is the same as saying INNOCENT, no matter what sins may have been committed.

    But…the Calvinists THINK…actually all reformers THINK that there is NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JEW/GENTILE, so they USE that verse to say that EVERYONE IS THE SAME, WHETHER JEW/GENTILE.

    So, since the Jews are blind, they think that the WHOLE HUMANITY is the same. Regeneration is a term RESERVED for the Jews, not the Gentiles. Elect is the Jews, not Gentiles. The word Elect is NOT synonymous with the word CHRISTIAN, let alone Calvinist.

    Jesus will REVEAL himself to the blind Jews, JUST AS JOSEPH REVEALED HIMSELF TO HIS BROTHERS. Joseph TOYED with his brothers for a while. Do you remember that story?

    Jesus toys with the Jews, in the same manner.

    From the Catholics to the Reformers, they DISDAIN the Jews, and think that ALL THEY (REFORMERS AND CATHOLICS) need to do is to EVANGELIZE the Jews, and GET THEM to believe in Jesus.

    But God has a DIFFERENT plan, and Gentiles are generally NOT A PART OF getting a Jew to believe in Jesus.

    So, the ole Romans 9 thing, the potter and clay…since Calvinists/Reformers think that is about HUMANITY as a WHOLE, this is where they get their talking points from regarding RAPE and all that nonsense.

    Are you getting it now? The way that they think of the Jews is what their major malfunction is.

    And once you KNOW that, THEN maybe, just maybe you can MOVE ON and BE HEALED.

    Can I now blow on your forehead so that you fall down? (A little Benny Hinn Humor).

    But seriously, do you get it now? Jews are blind, but they think that all humanity is, and this is where they get their logic regarding TULIP and all that crap?

    This is a very common problem with A LOT of Christendom, in that they all wrote off the Jews several hundreds of years ago after they were kicked out of Israel, thinking that GOD WAS DONE WITH THEM.

    In addition, THEY CAN’T FATHOM that Abraham didn’t have the LAW OF MOSES.

    Here is a question:

    Is having SEX WITH YOUR SISTER A SIN? Sarah was Abraham’s SISTER. And God gave brother and sister an inbred child. Abraham was RIGHTEOUS.

    Ask a Calvinist or REFORMER to RIDDLE YOU THAT! But ya gotta QUOTE Abraham when he FINALLY admits that “SHE IS MY SISTER, SHE IS THE DAUGHTER OF MY FATHER BUT NOT THE DAUGHTER OF MY MOTHER”, then look up LEVITICUS that shows that as a grievous sin. BUT GOD NEVER TOLD HIM ABOUT IT, in the same manner as God asked Adam, “WHO TOLD YOU THAT YOU WERE NAKED?”

    You see, YOU were taught, from the Catholics, as well as the reformers, ORIGINAL SIN.

    I reject it, COMPLETELY, in its entirety.

    I can explain, completely as to why, but another time. But can you see the error of the REFORMERS now? Did I explain it plainly? So stop being and PLAYING the victim, and GET OVER IT.

    Yes I said it…get over it. Find a different church, and TAKE THIS KNOWLEDGE WITH YOU. They twist Ephesians 1:4 and the like, too.

    I’ve studied SO MUCH, I know what makes them tick. And I do NOT study their doctrines at all. I just know how to debunk them as soon as they speak of it. It’s EASY. It’s all about the JEWS.

    Catholics were never fans of the Jews, either. NEVER. And yet, Jesus was a Jew, and his purpose was that cross, and many Christians HATE THE JEWS for killing Jesus. GO FIGURE. That was a teaching of the Catholics, so the Catholics treated the Jews like SHIT.

    Ed Chapman

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