© ABC News, August 2017
“Hate Has No Place in America!”
But What If CHRIST
Has No Place Either?
“Hate has no place here!” So declared Donald Trump after dozens of our citizens perished at the hands of two heavily armed young men in El Paso and Dayton.
Clearly, he was addressing what has become a rising concern throughout America in the wake of multiple mass shootings over the past twenty years, including another one just a week ago at a California mall. And we must include the nearly 100 people brought down by gunfire throughout our country every day, plus the 100 or so planned mass shootings this past year alone that were preempted by the FBI (and therefore unannounced) in which hundreds more of our citizens could have been lost.
Unfortunately, ours is increasingly becoming a culture of violence, as the President observed. As one example, one may note how millions of our youth are absorbed daily in video games consisting of nothing more than acts of gratuitous violence—“practicing” murder in the name of entertainment.
Morally, Who Are We Becoming
as a Nation?
These most recent tragedies come on the heels of the second anniversary of the Charlottesville rally that ended in riots by white supremacists—and death.
The fact is that hate groups have metastasized into every state of the union, with over 1300 existing as of this year. Is this where America is headed? Is this who we are becoming as a people?
We should be worried. As President Trump put it Monday morning: “Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart, and devours the soul.”
Sociologists tell us most of these groups are anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, or anti-Semitic. Some are even anti-white, anti-Christian, or anti-government. The common thread among many of them is a feeling that the white race is losing its grasp on the levers of power; that there’s a state of emergency because the white race is being “replaced” or “annihilated” through racial intermarriages, or immigration, or other demographic shifts.
Such movements in America, linked by the internet, are transnational, consisting of the accelerated uprisings of “the Aryan race,” bent ultimately on “race wars” that will reassert white power worldwide.
But this extraordinary moral and social crisis we’re facing—what seems to be increasingly defining us as America—goes deeper than a host of factions made up of angry racists. And those who hate come in every shade of skin color.
As conservative columnist David Brooks wrote in the Times on August 6, 2019, “At this moment we’re in a battle for the very soul of America.
Why Do We Hate Each Other?
In his recent bestseller, Ben Sasse, Nebraska’s Republican Senator, observes in his book THEM: Why We Hate Each Other—and How to Heal:
We’re the richest, most comfortable, most connected people in human history. And yet…In the midst of extraordinary prosperity, we’re also living through a crisis. Our communities are collapsing, and people are feeling more isolated, adrift, and purposeless than ever before . . . . we all have a sense that something’s not right . . . . We sense that somewhere along the way, everything went off the rails. (p. 3)
Here’s how Senator Sasse expands his analysis of what America is becoming morally:
We’re angry, and politics is filling a vacuum it was never intended to fill. Suddenly, all of America feels marginalized and ignored. We’re all standing there in the dark, feeling powerless and isolated, pleading: “Don’t you see me?” (p.9)
Right now partisan tribalism is statistically higher than at any point since the Civil War. Why? . . . . Alienated from each other, and uprooted from places we can call home, we’re reduced to shrieking. (p.13)
So in the end, more than parading white supremacists or lone mass killers, America’s endemic, pervasive, and growing “tribalism” (our political, social, economic, racial, and religious polarizations) forms an even greater threat to our national identity.
But why have such dystopian fissures formed in the past couple of decades?
Helpfully, as a practicing Christian, Ben Sasseboils it down to at least one of the spiritual realities behind it all with this analysis:
The real culprit has less to do with us as a polity and everything to do with us as uprooted, wandering souls . . .What’s wrong with America, then, starts with one uncomfortable word. LONELINESS. (p. 15, emphasis added)
He’s talking about what’s going on at the heart level. But there’s more to it than loneliness—as crucial as that is to address. What lies deeper still?
The Heart of Our Cultural Disintegration
Is Found in the HEARTS of Our People
The 16th-century British philosopher and historian Thomas Hobbes had a pretty good grasp on the biblical view of the human condition apart from outside intervention when describing his now-famous conclusion known as the Hobbesian Nightmare. It can be expressed along these lines:
Left to ourselves humankind will descend into a chaotic, conflict-torn society where social strata are engrossed in self-centered perpetual antagonism that ultimately amplifies into large-scale violence that the government finds powerless to reverse.
Five centuries after his birth, is Hobbe’s “nightmare” what we’re witnessing unfold in America? Are we at the threshold of the unmasking of our true nature as a “fallen people” before the bar of the Judge of the nations?
Certainly, something dark and destructive resides in the American DNA—a condition that allowed us to violently displace and disenfranchise the American Indian peoples and then led us into centuries involving the enslavement, terrorizing, murder, lynching, oppression and yes, even hatred, of African American peoples—and other groups of color.
In many ways, today we remain out of alignment with our highest ideals—such as the belief that all of us are created equal and endowed by the same Creator with irrevocable rights and that ours is a government of, by, and for all the people. We reveal a deep-seated dysfunctionality that is truly spiritual at its core, depravity that no amount of laws or congressional actions or presidential speeches can heal.
Donald Trump said after last weekend’s bloodbath: “Hatred is a plague in our nation.” Yes, it is. But that’s because, first of all, it is a plague in our hearts!
Jesus said so quite clearly in Matthew 15 (emphasis added):
But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person.
The animosity, divisiveness, anger, and violence we’re witnessing daily on our plasma screens and iPhones spring from hearts captive to rebellion against the Creator to whom we all belong, which, in turn, causes him to step back and let us reap the whirlwinds we have sown.
As Scripture puts it in Romans 1 (The Message, emphasis added):
Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives . . . Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care . . .
I regret if that passage offends you. But unfortunately, that’s the biblical diagnosis of both our hearts and our nation—and the future destiny of both—based on God’s penetrating, indisputable x-ray vision of our true spiritual condition.
So, if the words “Hate does not have a place here” are to become our national reality, then most definitely we need a savior. All of us. Each of us. Our nation as a whole. We need a real savior. We’re in over our heads. We cannot extricate ourselves from this “nightmare” by our own strength or ingenuity or goodness.
That pronouncement quite logically leads to the larger, more strategic question:
Does Christ Have a Place Here?
If the Bible is correct, then every hope of reclamation—both personal and national—depends on our answer to that one, overriding question.
After all, it is Christ alone who knows how to—and is able to—hold together the entire universe. Therefore, he’s quite capable of pulling the “tribes” of our nation back together into his kind of love and unity—that’s IF we invite him to take his place among us to the full extent of who he is and ALL he is. Hebrews 1 tells us:
By his Son, God created the world in the beginning, and it will all belong to the Son at the end. This Son perfectly mirrors God and is stamped with God’s nature. He holds everything together by what he says—powerful words! (The Message, emphasis added)
Our glorious hope is that whenever a people—even the people of this nation—decide to enter into the New Covenant with the living God that Jesus died and rose and ascended to heaven’s throne to put into force, the healing of that people—and of that nation—is assured.
Look at what Scripture promises about the results of the God-given redemption any of us can experience, which was sealed for us in the “blood of the covenant” and reinforced wherever Jesus occupies first place:
“I will make a new covenant . . . . I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31, NASB, emphasis added)
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean . . . I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes . . . . On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places will be rebuilt . . . . Then the nations that are left round about you will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted that which was desolate; I, the Lord, have spoken and will do it.” (Ezekiel 36, NASB, emphasis added)
When Christ is given a place—when his throne is given a home—in a heart or among a people, they are swept up into something bigger than themselves. They join together in the fertile blessings of God’s kingdom, the fulfilling of God’s plan for the ages, and the transformation by God’s Spirit of lives and communities and cultures.
That is because the Redeemer whose reign is presiding within us and active over us is the one of whom Scripture tells us:
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together . . . . he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead so that in everything he might have the supremacy . . . and God was pleased . . . through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1, NIV, emphasis added)
The Most Important Question:
What Place Does Christ Have in the CHURCH?
Surely, if there is any hope for ending the divisions and hatreds that are plaguing and paralyzing our land and undermining our very future, it must first be displayed in the life of the Christian community in America.
It must first prevail among those who claim to be enveloped in this glorious Savior already, who are wholly alive to him—who delight in giving him the supremacy in all things and enjoy the heart renovation the New Covenant has brought them in him.
But is the Lord Jesus Christ “at home” among those who claim his name? Does the REAL Son of God—
- the Victor over sin and death and all the powers of darkness
- the Messiah, the glorious and reigning and mighty King of Glory
- the One in whom is found the fullness of the living God as well as the riches of the inexhaustible promises of God
- the Ruler of the rulers of the earth
- the Lord of history and peoples and nations
- the Beginning and End toward whom all things in heaven and earth are moving to come out at his feet for disposal
- the Source of eternal love
- the Savior who draws us into the eternal fellowship of the family of God
—does THAT Lord Jesus Christ possess his rightful place in the life of the American church? In the weekly life of YOUR church? In YOUR daily life as a believer in Jesus?
Or, unwittingly, have most of us, and most of our churches, left him standing where one New Testament church left him—outside the door to our home or church, knocking to see if anyone knows he’s not actually among them, asking if anyone would like to welcome him in to sit at his feet, feast with him, find dynamic renewal in his presence, and join him in his reign (see Revelation 3)?
The Growing Crisis in the Church
Troubling Christian Leaders in America Today
One of the great concerns that is increasingly gripping many Christian leaders today is that God’s people in our land find ourselves in the throes of a “crisis of Christology”—meaning too many of us have settled for a diminished Jesus, a convenient Jesus, a domesticated Jesus, a powerless Jesus. That Jesus is a false Jesus—a useless Jesus.
It’s like we’ve erased his place.
And one clear substantiation of this that has raised its ugly head is how so many Christians in America have “politicized” Jesus—making him a “mascot” for, an endorser of, our particular political persuasions. In doing so, too often we end up absorbing and amplifying the same spirit of tribalism, anger, conspiracy, and fear—and even dark prejudices—that we see embroiling our whole society.
And then, tragically, many Christians turn against fellow Christians who don’t hold to the same perspectives on political and national issues. Like Galatians says, even believers who live “by the works of the flesh” (hatred, discord, fits of rage, dissensions, factions) can end up devouring one another!
Time and again, I’m discovering in my travels in churches all across America that Christians are afraid—afraid!—to even try to discuss certain political views or policies or personalities because we can never be sure if our opinions will create an instant rift between ourselves and fellow believers, or between ourselves and the entire congregation. So, for all intents and purposes, we get excommunicated from the fellowship.
Can you believe that such things are happening right now in American churches?
Have YOU experienced that where you worship?
If so, write to me and tell me about it.
“The Case for a
Nationwide Christ Awakening”
Finally, if you want to learn more about this spiritual crisis in the Church—about how often God’s Son finds no place in our lives and gatherings—then I invite you to read one of the most important documents I’ve ever written.
Published this spring, the 11-page “Case for a Nationwide Christ Awakening” can be read here.
In it, you will discover how desperately the Church needs a major moral and spiritual revolution.
In it, you’ll see even more clearly why without a “Christ Awakening” happening to the Christian movement in our nation, there is no lasting hope for America in this time of unprecedented confusion and despair—and disintegration.
For hate to have no place in America, the true Son of God, in all his supremacy and fullness, MUST be fully engaged once again as the permanent, active “King in residence” among God’s people.
There is no other way.
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com.