Elites from across the spectrum of the industry gathered behind closed doors at an invite-only meeting this week, on a prestigious campus of higher learning.
On the agenda: Well, you’re not important enough to know all those details, other than to understand that the gathering was an outlet to address “challenges” and certainly was not organized with anything anti-Trump in mind.
In fact, organizers said that some unidentified Trump voters (who regretted their votes?) were allowed to mingle at this confab with the Important, Respectable Elites, those of Measured Tones, Nuance and Gospel Reason.
Who knew evangelicalism had its own Bilderberg Group?
That’s not entirely fair to say, of course, since it seems no plan for a one-world government was discussed, nor was the Chatham House Rule fully imposed at the meeting of 50 prominent evangelical “thought leaders” at Wheaton College.
We know from The Christian Post, for example, that attendees included Tim Keller, co-founder of The Gospel Coalition; Fuller Seminary president Mark Labberton; Gabriel Salguero of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition; and Trillia Newbell of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, among others.
We also know who wasn’t invited: prominent evangelical Trump supporters like Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse; Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas; and Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University.
Prior to the gathering, Doug Birdsall of the Lausanne Movement told The Christian Post: “I have been in touch with two of their offices with a desire to engage in a meaningful conversation. I don’t think they are globally perceived as evangelical thought leaders by virtue of what they have written or by virtue of the values that are reflected in their public statements.”
They’re not globally perceived as evangelical thought leaders? Sure, the son of Billy Graham, who is known internationally for his evangelism and relief work, is just small potatoes, right? The senior pastor of one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in America, a Trump adviser and an internationally known speaker for a large media ministry — a big nothing, y’all. And who cares what the president of the largest Christian university in the U.S. thinks about anything?
Translation: Those Trump guys are just an embarrassment to “our” movement. The “crazy uncles” you hide in the closet when company comes. And we’ll just pretend that 80% of white evangelicals didn’t vote for Trump, while we’re at it. It’s just downright humiliating to have to acknowledge any institutional attachment to these – well, we won’t call them mouth-breathers, but — understated thinkers who voted for Trump, right? They’re not globally perceived as thought leaders!
Don’t worry, though. Dallas Theological Seminary professor Dr. Darrell Bock assured evangelicals after the meeting that it wasn’t “anti-anything” and certainly not “anti-Trump.”
So let’s assess some of the “non-anti-anything-or-anti-Trump” content from this purported “evangelical consultation,” as live-tweeted by writer and speaker Katelyn Beaty:
• “American evangelicalism has not been able to separate itself from the perks of white supremacy.” – Pastor Charlie Dates, Progressive Baptist Church of Chicago
• “How could white Christians mourn the deaths of the Charleston Nine but politically support a presidential candidate who appeals to the ideology held by the Charleston murderer?” – Bishop Claude Alexander, senior pastor of The Park Church
• “As the country has become more polarized, the church has become more polarized, and that’s because the church is not different enough from America or from modernity. There’s now a red and blue evangelicalism.” – Tim Keller, co-founder of The Gospel Coalition
• “We need to evaluate whether our institutions and churches are safe places, in terms of mental health and spiritual health, for African-Americans.” – Trillia Newbell of the ERLC
• “All power must be reframed in the light of the cross. An evangelical dance with political power, the Religious Right, the Tea Party, and now Trump … is central to our failure. Winning power was Judas’s goal, not Jesus’s.” – Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Seminary
• “We were taught to become like you [American Christians], and now we have our own Trump: Jair Bolsonaro.” – Brazilian church leader Valdir Steuernagel
This is “globally perceived evangelical thought leadership,” eh? No wonder the doors were closed!
Let’s face it: The same group of perceived-as-Trump-hating progressives are on a constant Important Conference prowl, continually gathering to navel-gaze, pontificate, genuflect before each other’s brilliance, insult their detractors and talk about how glad they are that they’re not like Trump voters or — God forbid — those embarrassing, compromised, hayseed leaders of the Religious Right.
During this “consultation,” was there any extended, intercessory prayer offered for President Trump, for his personal repentance and salvation? For the safety of his family? For the wisdom he needs to lead our country? I Timothy 2 tells us: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior ..”
Was there any intercessary prayer offered for conservative evangelicals, either leaders or laymen? Any loving petitions made for our growth in and faithfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Apostle Paul prayed for the church at Colossae? “We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”
Was there any point in this “consultation” in which all these people got on their knees and repented for their own sins of unnecessarily politicizing evangelicalism, causing unwanted and ungodly division and demonizing their enemies, when the Bible tells us to love and pray for one another? 2 Thess. 1:3: “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.”
Did anyone stand up at this gathering and say out loud, “Guys, I know we all agree on the evils of Trump and those white supremacist evangelicals who don’t want unvetted Muslim immigrants flooding across our borders and all that, but we’re also never going to have unity in the Body of Christ if we keep excluding and berating those we regard as our intellectual, political and spiritual inferiors. Do you think they might see some problems in evangelicalism that we can’t see because we only hang out with and listen to our own? Shouldn’t we love those with whom we disagree, and shouldn’t we all rejoice in the gospel of Jesus Christ and work together to make disciples of all nations, loving and praying for each other?”
I hope someone said that. I also hope this group prayed for President Trump and for all evangelicals, conservative Trump advisers and voters included, just as conservatives need to pray for the organizers and attendees at this Wheaton gathering. I hope they repented of their own sin, just as we conservatives need to repent of ours. That would be a healthy start.
What isn’t helping is this whole Bilderberg Group mentality. The self-appointed elites will privately meet at an invite-only “consultation” to figure out what’s wrong with us mouth-breathers, and neither we nor our preferred pastors or leaders are allowed to weigh in. They will decide the direction evangelicalism should go, behind closed doors. They will determine which political issues to emphasize (always those of the Left). And they alone will attempt to be the media representatives of evangelicalism (gotta love that Washington Post!) to push their agenda. They will decide who is in, who is out, who is learned, who’s an idiot, who is Important, who is Passe.
This is not the way it is supposed to work. I’m not against Christian meetings, even private ones. I’m not against strategizing, and I’m not against conferences. What I oppose is this nose-in-the-air, cool-kid-clique elitism that is more Bilderberg than biblical.
What is wrong with evangelicalism? At root, I think we’re tragically drifted away from our first love, the Lord Jesus Christ. Consequently, we’re spiritually weak and very, very worldly. And it shows.
Call me antiquated, but whatever happened to caring about lost souls? Do we weep over those who are going to hell and proclaim Jesus Christ to them? Because I don’t hear too many “globally perceived thought leaders” in this crowd talking very much about that, except as a subject of intellectual pondering.
How about the importance of Christians reading and studying their Bibles every day and having a daily devotional time? Any “globally perceived thought leaders” worried about the loss of that once-widely practiced daily activity among evangelicals, who are rapidly becoming biblically illiterate?
Are we engaging in regular times of both personal and corporate prayer — the ol’ prayer meeting; remember that? — for our churches, our pastors and our congregations?
Does personal holiness matter if politics are left off the table? Are the fruits of the Spirit important?
Are we willing to sacrifice everything we are and everything we have for Christ, regardless of Title IX, pushback from sexual radicals or losing worldly regard from our think-tank buddies?
No, the Bilderberg Group — or those who behave in ways similar to it — can’t save evangelicalism. Only Jesus Christ can do that.