A new name - Pastor's Pen for 20th December 2020

I apologise if several layers of thought coalesce into one stream here. It is the week when the electoral college of the United States confirmed the Democratic Biden-Harris victory in the presidential election. Finally, the Republican Senate majority leader found it within himself to offer congratulations to the winning team, notably after the Russian president Putin did the same (the last significant world leader to do so). Republican politicians still make claims about a nationwide fraud, in spite of the improbability of such a coordinated, inter-state, cross-party exercise, and a lack of compelling evidence.

That large sections of the evangelical church in America have been so eager to align themselves with such a graceless, craven attempt to subvert a legal election result has given me pause for thought. The stream of so called prophets presenting Trump as some modern day Cyrus seem (at best) misguided.

Belatedly, church leaders such as Beth Moore have observed the dangers of a sort of Christian Nationalism that seeks to align the Conservative/Evangelical church with a particular party and leader. She points out that neither Trumpism nor Bidenism should in any sense supplant our fidelity to the one king, Jesus. It was a bad idea when Emperor Constantine wanted to harness the unifying power of faith to galvanise a 'Holy Roman Empire' and it's a bad idea now. Spiritual compromise with Babylon is inevitable.

Our recent journey through the book of Revelation has surely reminded us that it is the place of the church to primarily give allegiance to the kingdom of God and Christ, and to soberly distance ourselves from the idolatries of empire. Babylon takes different forms in each era. The church stands a little way off, hopefully bringing a genuinely prophetic voice and living by faith.

Our own politics in New Zealand seem somewhat tame in comparison to the USA, and long may that be so. 'God defend our free land' as the anthem goes. Yet let us not be smug. Many within the so-called evangelical churches of Aotearoa have been swept along by alt-right conspiracies and pseudo-Christian prophecies in this Covid year. The detractors and despisers of the church actually love it when we show ourselves to be fringe lunatics. Witness is damaged, and certainly has been on the other side of the Pacific this year. Maybe evangelicals need a new name, or perhaps labels should be abandoned altogether as they have become so tarnished?

How much better to be engaged with local, simple acts of hospitality, love and connection. It was so encouraging to hear the first stories coming in from those delivering the Christmas tarts with advertising about our Christmas services. Great conversations of life, faith and humour. The core message of Jesus might be to 'love God and love your neighbour'.

Thanks to John G. for setting up this initiative, and to missions committee for funding the project. From one resident of Marsh Ave. relayed to our office today; 'A big thank you for our mince tarts which really changed her life for the week. Very happy and would like to come to our services.'

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