As we all know, David DePape broke into the Pelosi home in an attempt to harm or kill Nancy Peolsi. Instead, he attacked her 82-year-old husband Paul with a hammer, storming through the house yelling, “Where is Nancy?” It’s no coincidence that insurrectionists screamed the very same on January 6, when they swarmed outside the Speaker’s office after attacking and ransacking the Capitol. Not to mention their chant beside a hangman’s noose: “Hang Mike Pence!”
Did you see the image that Donald Trump Jr tweeted of a pair of underwear with a hammer on top of it with the caption, “Get it now: Paul Pelosi Halloween costume”? Classy!
One writer said any journalists who denied Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election “should be dragged straight out into the street and shot.” This threat of political violence is growing by the day. Unfortunately, this reflects an increasing trend among many people who identify as Christians.
Is this really the America that you want to live in? Is this really what you want to leave to your children? And is this the witness of the Church you want to display?
For those who blame this trend on mental illness and drug use, listen to what Republican Senator Ben Sasse said after the Pelosi attack: “Disturbed individuals easily succumb to conspiracy theories and rage — the consequences are bloody and un-American.” Depape is obviously a disturbed individual, but where did he get the idea to bring a hammer to Nancy Pelosi’s home and maim her husband?
Russell Moore said of the attack: “Where does much of this violence or the threat of it come from? Lies. The idea that the election was stolen by a vast conspiracy of liberals is a lie. That elected officials are part of a secret cabal to drink the blood of babies is a lie. That Jews are pulling the strings of the “globalist” order is a lie. That the federal government designed COVID-19 as a hoax is a lie. That your pastor is a “cultural Marxist” for preaching what the Bible teaches on race and justice is a lie.”
I totally agree with Moore, “We must say to those who spread lies and who fuel violence, ‘You will not do this in our name, and you will definitely not do this in the name of Jesus Christ.’”
But all the blame can’t be given to Donald Trump and his sycophantic followers for the culture of lies and violence. I believe the Church and its leaders are partially to blame or what we are experiencing in our country presently. (Please note the difference between upper-case Church and the lower. The lower being local congregations versus the larger Body of Christ. That is, I may or may not be speaking of the church you attend and its leaders, so, please get all defensive for your pastor and church community, which may be much better than those about whom I speak.)
I’ve been a Christian for over 50 years and what I see in much of today’s Church is disturbing. Many lack any semblance of biblical understanding and the discernment that comes from the Spirit and the Word of God. They’re shallow and susceptible to “every wind of teaching” perpetrated by “the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” (Ephesians 4)
It’s the job of “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ…. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:11-16)
Let me be bold and say that weak and shallow teaching makes for weak and shallow Christians. And false teaching produces false believers!
Recent studies have shown that a large percentage of church-going people have little to no clue about the basics of the faith. For instance: Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research have researched Americans who identify as Evangelicals over the past decade or so. These are a few of the things they discovered:
“Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.”
2020: 30% agree
2022: 43% agree
“The Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true.”
2016: 17% agree
2018: 23% agree
2020: 15% agree
2022: 26% agree
“Religious belief is a matter of personal opinion; it is not about objective truth.”
2018: 32% agree
2020: 23% agree
2022: 38% agree
This biblical ignorance creates a susceptibility to childish and ridiculous conspiracy theories like Q anon, a favorite of Pelosi’s attacker.
I served as a pastor for over 30 years and I make no claim to have done any better job than pastors are doing today. And I do concede that the vast majority of pastors, Christian leaders, and authors today are solid men and women of God, for which I am grateful. On the other hand there are many who don’t follow Paul’s example of teaching “the whole council of God“ (Acts 20) to the people they serve. As a result, the Church is full of “infants, tossed back and forth…” (Ephesians 4)
I’m saying that weak and feckless teaching in the Church is partially culpable for some of the senseless and despicable acts such as the Pelosi attack. There are many pastors and teachers whose curriculum is either framed by false nationalistic tendencies, more loyal to political party than the Bible and Jesus Christ himself. Others’ teaching is framed by pop psychology more than scripture, by a constant diet of how to cope with life rather than how to live in a kingdom way and advance that kingdom in the world.
I realize that pastors and teachers have the attention of their flocks (inadequate attention as it is) for a mere hour or two a week, versus the hours every week that people consume the media from the opinionaters, whose consciences are formed by ratings and political preference rather than by the truth.
Of course, it’s outspoken pundits and politicians who are the most culpable for firing up vulnerable people to senseless acts such as the one against the Pelosi family. It’s their violence-inspiring rhetoric and their refusal to condemn violent and adrenalized militia members, who are at fault for uch of what we see on the news every night. But many churches lean more into culture war rhetoric than the teaching of the Scriptures. When they portray an inadequate representation of the person of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God, then we have to take some responsibility here.
A few years ago I wrote about “Christians and critical thinking,” after which someone asked me if such a phrase wasn’t “oxymoronic”! And when I taught on critical thinking in churches some of the people looked at me like I was promoting something entirely foreign to the Bible. Here are some of the passages I referenced…
Pastors like Robert Jeffress who said that “These ‘Never Trump’ evangelicals are morons. They are absolutely spineless morons.” Was it him who also said he wanted a president (like Trump) who is a “strong SOB” who could protect us?
This is a promotion of a toxic brand of masculinity and creates an image of a John Wayne-like Jesus. Did you see the video during the January 6 attack of the capitol where the “shaman” stood in the dais and prayed a violent culture war prayer against his enemies (i.e., the libs)?
I’m familiar with the spiritual war metaphor in the New Testament, the primary passage of which is Ephesians 6 that tells us that we wrestle not against people but against demon spirits. Jesus never blamed demonized sufferers. He rebuked the spirits that held them captive. But culture warriors make people into demons that must be cast out. Thus, we’re given January 6, the attempted kidnapping of the Michigan governor, the attack on Paul Pelosi, and dozens of other atrocities either done in the name of Christ or applauded by his alleged followers.
- I am begging the Church, and in many cases their leaders, to repent of their immaturity and lack of discernment.
- I appeal to Christians and their leaders to take a deeper gaze at Jesus and his kingdom as taught in the Sermon on the Mount and throughout the gospels and see if their ideas and actions are in keeping with him and what he taught.
- I pray for you leaders to eschew false (and otherwise weak) teaching. Please take advantage of the few moments you have with the people you serve each week and point them to Jesus. Gathering a crowd is one thing. Making disciples is another. Of course, it is their responsibility to apply what you teach, but please do all you can to help those you serve to discern truth from error, to possess a little thing called “discernment.” There is a greater judgment for those who teach (James 3:1). I beg you to take your responsibility before God seriously.
Lastly, if you want to know what the Bible says about people who perpetrate violence.