[The following essay is excerpted from the epilogue of Paul C. McGlasson, Choose You This Day: The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Politics of Trumpism (2nd ed., Cascade, 2023). Pick up a copy of the book here.]
It is no secret to anyone paying attention to current affairs that the United States is involved in an ongoing political and cultural crisis precipitated by Donald Trump and the MAGA movement. Indeed, few thoughtful people doubt that democracy itself is being tested by the authoritarian and ethnocentric nationalism Trumpism embodies, whether it is led by Trump himself, DeSantis, or someone else. In my view, nested within this political struggle is a church struggle, of equal importance to some of the most trying eras of the church in the past. The mainstream, ecumenical Christian church cannot stand idly by. What do we truly believe when we affirm our faith in the gospel?
What follows is a brief theological summary for debate:
1. Christ alone rules all reality. The entire creation, the entire cosmos, already even now is upheld alone by his sovereign power and love. There is no force independent of his will. Nothing obscures or resists his purpose. He turns even evil into good through the infinite beauty of his redemptive glory. He alone is Lord of all.
As the ecumenical Christian community, we reject the view that any human figure shares in the sole and exclusive claim of Christ alone upon our service and love. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we belong to him alone. We listen to his voice alone. We follow his command alone. We will not listen to the voice of strangers.
2. Christ alone builds his realm in the world. Christ alone is the mystery of the realm of God, already present and fully real, though manifest fully only to the eye of faith. He uses our hands, our feet, our voices, our lives, according to his good pleasure for the whole of humankind. Yet he retains the freedom to rule as he pleases, and discloses the final mystery of his purpose to no one.
As the ecumenical Christian community, we reject any and every attempt to build a so-called “Christian nation.” The very idea is founded, not in the gospel, but in the misguided arrogance of human pride and quest for power. We can only be blunt: the endeavor to build a “Christian nation” is not a fulfillment of the mission of the gospel, but a direct contradiction of that mission. As disciples of Christ, we are called to serve, not to be served. We are called to lives of discipleship in conformity to the cross of Jesus Christ, taking up our cross daily, showing the love of Christ in word and deed. In humility we freely confess: we are unworthy servants all, who have only done what we are commanded.
3. Christ alone embraces all peoples, of all nations, in all regions and corners of the world. He breaks down every distinction between insider and outsider, by joining the outsider, bringing them always inside the scope of his redemptive love. He oversteps every human boundary, asserting and affirming his own boundless grace and mercy for the whole world, the whole cosmos, including the natural world. He holds all people, all creatures, in his hands.
As the ecumenical Christian community, we reject the view that the gospel can be used to set one group of human beings against another along lines of nationalist pride, racial prejudice, class hatred, or gender discrimination. Where such lines exist, the church follows the gospel by peacefully walking across them, transgressing them, breaking them down, and in the end erasing them.
4. Christ alone is the truth, in whom are hid all treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He alone is our light, and life. His revealed will in Scripture is our daily guide, his living word the source of our being in the world. The truth of Christ alone is our freedom, and the one sure foundation of our very existence.
As the ecumenical Christian community, we reject the false religious attempt to find final truths apart from the gospel. Faith is content to see the world in fragments, and only love binds those fragments into a living whole. Those who claim to know the ultimate truth about everything under the sun—in a so-called Christian “worldview”—contradict the gospel. On the other hand, we accept the fact that truth is real, because Christ is real. There is therefore a constant and necessary human quest to get the facts straight, to gain better insight, to improve perspective, from whatever source it comes. We are not endlessly trapped in competing narratives. Public truths are a valuable moment in a democratic society, in which the Christian community fully and gladly participates.
5. Jesus Christ is the one hope for the whole world. As his disciples, we look to his return with unfading joy and eagerness, lifting our hearts to his never-failing love. His presence always draws us forward, leaving the past in the past, never looking back, always looking forward to his coming glory.
The one faith of the ecumenical Christian community is always, always, oriented toward the future. There are no hazy golden years hidden in the misty past that hold the true secret to our lives; we reject such politicized nostalgia as a pagan myth. Christ is our life, and Christ draws us forward toward his own eternal presence. We live in a social, political, and cultural world that is changing. We understand that not all change is good; but, as Christians, we are comfortable with change, and always will be. We are in this world to be changed, for to live is to change, until we are at the last transformed into his image.
6. Jesus Christ alone forms and reforms human government for the welfare of all humankind. Government exists to protect the well-being of all citizens, especially the weak and vulnerable, the poor and outcast, the marginalized and persecuted.
As the ecumenical community of faith in Jesus Christ, we are not only active members of the church. We are called to be responsible citizens in society, owing to Christ himself our best efforts toward good and effective government. Those who attempt to overthrow democratic government by force must be condemned by faithful Christians. Failure to recognize the validity of democratic government is failure to recognize the authority of Christ. On the other hand, as faithful disciples, we constantly endeavor to participate actively in politics, each according to the light given to us. We vote (though no one knows how God votes); we march peacefully; we protest vigorously but respectfully; and we never yield an inch, until justice and peace roll down from above like rivers, watering the bounty of earth. May Christ himself—the Prince of Peace—grant such a gift of blessed peace in our time and place.
Paul C. McGlasson received his MDiv from Yale Divinity School and his PhD in systematic theology from Yale University. He is the author of numerous books, including the multivolume work Church Doctrine. He has begun a six-volume Theological Exegesis of Scripture, covering the entire Bible. The first volume, on the Pentateuch, is now available.