Cost-Free American Evangelical Discipleship

By | November 14, 2016

American Evangelicals who went for Trump by a margin of >80% are in a quandary.

Either they find a way to accommodate themselves to a man who is thoroughly odious and as unChristlike as you could be (but not so much that he didn’t get Evangelical  vote), or you must accommodate yourself to the fact that Trump is represents none of their values but “he’s good for the Supreme Court,” literally ignoring the evidence Trump has displayed in his behavior of making promises he will keep and using people and groups for his own profit, discarding them when he is done.

And that quandary has led to Trump-supporting American Evangelicals  (TEA people, maybe) to have to go through ridiculous contortions to convince non-believers of the value of their faith that Jesus is true, but Trump, whose every word is a lie, is worth support as the Christian option.

But it comes down to one thing, really, and that is abortion, where the TEA people have convinced themselves that all other issues are secondary, and nothing matters, not integrity, not witness, not charity, not fellowship, but getting a Pro-Life Supreme Court Justice who will finally overturn Roe v. Wade (or just “Roe”), the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion as an option for all American women.

That desire to reverse Roe has led to the incorporation of the TEA church into the Republican Party, and it has led to an abominable theological result, of what I call “Cost-Free Discipleship.”

You see, if we TEA people can just get legal abortion overturned, then those people will stop doing bad things. Since we don’t do those bad things (I mean, we don’t say that we do), then stopping those people will be our way of bearing witness to Jesus.

All good things.

However, there is no cost to us. We do not need to do anything more. A woman who cannot access safe and legal abortion will need to just suck it up and carry to term, whether she is pregnant due to rape or incest, has a deformed or dead baby, or for whatever reason decided to terminate, at her own will.

She will now need to handle what happens next: the medical needs, the doctors, the hospitals, the care, the feeding, the clothes, the housing, and everything involved – because it’s her baby, not ours.

We as TEA people can wash our hands. We did our work in stopping her from abortion, and even if the baby is born into an environment like Flint where the water is poison or an environment like West Virginia where the water is corrosive or a barrio where the housing and food are insecure – none of that is our issue.

We did all the discipleship by making her carry to term, and there is no cost to us. We can go to church and tell God we did all the right things.

Meanwhile, the fate of the woman and baby – we don’t have any ownership. Maybe we’ll set up a baby clinic with volunteers, maybe we’ll provide a soup kitchen, but that woman, likely a single mom, is on here own, because she should have known before she became pregnant that she had a responsibility, and by God if she was raped or she had her family members assault her, then it is just too bad because life is a gift from God.

I’m sorry, but this is nonsense. This isn’t Christian behavior. This isn’t discipleship. This is placing all the weight of our theology on another, and providing nothing for the person who is now burdened by our righteousness.

When I bring this up, I’m told that the woman and baby should pray to God and depend on him, and (emphatically) that we, through our government, absolutely must not provide assistance because that is “dependence” and “welfare” and “rewarding licentious behavior.”

And then we will proclaim to God in our churches that we are righteous and holy and good, and that we have “stopped abortion,” and we can ignore the actual lives of the women – and their babies – because all God asks us to do is make others be disciples, not us.

I think the real issue here for us Christians (for I am a Christians and speak to the Christian church) is not the easy, cost-free discipleship of condemnation and shame.

I think that Christians who follow Christ, if they are “pro-life,” would agitate for the whole woman and the whole baby.

I think a consistent Christian would see that just the government provides for the common defense of the nation, the same government would promote the general welfare. Admittedly, this word “welfare” is often used to mean “payment,” which it can mean, but it also has the larger meaning of the governing doing what it can to help people, most especially those in need.

The Christian church cannot do this for everyone. God is not asking the women and children to hope for the best.

I believe that the God who tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and who tells us that this love is expressed in tangible action, would have us agitate through legal methods to help our neighbor.

It is costly discipleship. But it is necessary, and good.