Did I somehow miss all the fawning worshipers bowing down before the golden Trump statue at CPAC? After all, the godless Left screeched that Christian conservative Trump supporters are now functional Baal worshipers! Maybe the genuflecting idolaters at CPAC are hiding somewhere among the mystical, drooling QAnon throng that is poised to storm Biden’s North Korea-like-fortified capital any minute now. Or maybe, just maybe, the hyperbole was misplaced.
Seriously, what a dumb controversy. Even the statue’s creator, a Moody Bible Institute graduate and missionary kid named Tommy Zegan, thought the criticism was nuts. “This is not an idol,” he told The Washington Times. “Nobody is worshipping this. Nobody is making sacrifices to it. This is a sculpture, and liberals don’t know the difference between a sculpture and an idol.”
What’s especially hypocritical about the FakeNews “Trump idol shock” is that nobody on the Right can even come close to worshiping their politicians the way the Left worships, for instance, Barack Obama (haloes hovering behind his head in pictures, creepy “Barack Hussein Obama” chants in schoolrooms and baselessly distributed peace prizes, anyone?).
Men aren’t gods. But today, most men aren’t even that admirable. No wonder so many Americans love Trump. After decades of feeling stabbed in the back by a parade of compromised RINOs, Trump came along and called out the Left. He fought back against illegal immigration, anti-Americanism, climate hysteria, Critical Race Theory, Obamacare, the Deep State, pro-abortion policies and attacks against religious liberty. He stood with Israel and against Iran. He didn’t denigrate average, working Americans; he fought for them, even as the Left pulled every trick in the progressive playbook to try to destroy him. And though he failed to serve out two terms in office, he still managed to keep standing — even after two ridiculous, failed attempts at removing him through impeachment.
What Trump did should not make him an idol, but it certainly made him a hero. And a hero is exactly what so many Americans have craved.
Just recently, a video of a man physically wrestling a puppy from the jaws of an alligator went viral online, drawing more than 1 million viewers on YouTube. Why the interest? Yes, people love puppies, but I don’t think that was the real draw. We’re drawn to videos like that because most of us rarely get to watch a hero in real life.
I see this same yearning for heroes in Christendom, a yearning only heightened by the seemingly endless sea of high-profile ministry scandals that have erupted over the past several years.
The late Ravi Zacharias and Hillsong’s Carl Lentz are on the front pages today. But yesterday, it was Bill Hybels and James MacDonald. Before them, it was Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips and Josh Duggar. Before them, we had Mark Driscoll and Tullian Tchividjian. And that’s just scratching the surface. In between all those famous failures, we’ve had numerous scandals involving third-, fourth- and maybe 50th-tier pastors and Christian leaders. Name a shocking sin, and you’ll probably be describing somebody who did it and leveled his church or ministry in the process. But the news cycle moves on … hey, who’s the next to fall? Because you know there’s another one coming soon!
Could we stop for a moment, though, to consider the collective damage done through these scandals — not just to the church, but to individual Christians who need Christian heroes?
And yes, I use that word “hero” on purpose. Just go back and read about the heroes of Hebrews 11, which highlights the faithfulness of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Rahab. And in Heb. 11:32-38, we read of both the triumphs and the persecutions of God’s faithful people through history:
And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy.
Heroes indeed. But where are their kind now? There certainly are mighty Christian heroes around the globe today, enduring hardship, standing for Jesus even unto death. And yes, there are still faithful Christians and faithful Christian pastors in America, mostly unknown but to their own churches. I’m grateful to God for them.
But why are there so many bad Christian leaders? Not just those tainted by highly publicized scandal, but the miles of compromised men who would rather hear the praise of the world than the praise of their Savior? You will know them by their fruits: by their compromised lives and/or by their seeming indifference to the spiritual health of their flocks and the moral and spiritual collapse of this country, unless it’s to join the Left in its white supremacy attack du jour. You will know them by their lack of “thus saith the Lord” at the very time when we need to hear it thundered from every pulpit across the land.
And perhaps we laymen are to blame.
Dr. C.F.W. Walther, first president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, said it well:
God often bestows upon the land or a church true teachers for a time. But then it often happens that they are despised and received ungratefully. Earthly treasures are esteemed more highly than the pure word and sacrament. Men become ashamed before the world because of the pure doctrine. Nothing is done to maintain the orthodox ministry. God’s word is heard with a sleepy mind. Men learn to despise it. Finally God allows such unthankful disciples to lose the heavenly treasures, so that they who have despised the precious bread of the divine word, shall in retribution be fed with the worthless stones of man-made teaching. Thus St. Paul writes concerning the Christians in the last times, “Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie.”
Isn’t this a description of today’s American church? No wonder we’re in such sad shape! The church, which was blessed in the not-too-distant past with many faithful Christian pastors and leaders in evangelicalism, heard the Word with a sleepy mind, became ashamed before the world because of pure doctrine and took the Word for granted. And so our heroes have been replaced by exactly the kinds of compromised and faithless pastors and leaders that we deserve!
And make no mistake about it: Christendom needs real heroes — not just so we can admire and imitate them (Hebrews 13:7), but so the Lord will be glorified by mighty warriors of the faith who stood on His Word in the evil day and honored Him with their lives, in every way.
God can give His church heroes again. But first, we have to stop wanting the garbage that so many of our pulpits dole out today: the hype, the branding, the shallowness, the worldliness, the social-justice nonsense, the almost total lack of deeply serious Bible preaching. We have to want heroes more than we want our ears to be tickled.
The first step is to pray that the Lord will end our famine of the hearing of the Word and give us faithful heroes again. And if He grants our pleas for those heroes, maybe we’ll finally appreciate them.