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Lentil Soup, Donald Trump, & The Evangelical Church
Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson

In addition to writing about faith, leadership, and the church, Matt is also the founder of Spiritually Homeless.

“Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate and drank and went on about his business, indifferent to the fact that he had given up his birthright (Gen 25:34 NLT).”

It’s one of the saddest verses in scripture to me and one that’s stuck with me over the years as I evaluate my choices and life direction. In the felt urgency of temporary hunger, Esau trades away his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of stew. I’ve always been intrigued by the story and the intensity that Esau carries as he decides he wants the stew Jacob has made…

“I’m starved!”

“Look, I’m dying of starvation!”

“What good is my birthright to me now?”

So much promise, so much potential, so much of Esau’s future is tied directly to the birthright he carried as Isaac’s firstborn son. What could have been a lifetime of prosperity and influence is bargained away in an instant to satisfy the urgency of the moment. As it plays out, Jacob gets the birthright and then later the blessing of the firstborn from his father. Jacob becomes Esau’s master in the family hierarchy and Esau never really recovers.

I regularly ask myself if the things I’m pursuing are lentil stew.

Am I chasing temporary urgencies, and if so, at what cost? Esau’s lack of self-control and inability to have a long term vision wreaked havoc in his life as he sought to fulfill his intense desire by whatever means available.

I’m convinced that the Evangelical Church has sold its birthright for lentil stew.

Since the development of the “Moral Majority” in the 80’s, the American Evangelical Church has become more and more focused on a single issue – abortion. It’s been the political rallying cry of the Republican party to garner the Evangelical vote, and it’s worked amazingly well as a political tool. Hear me clearly – I think abortion is wrong. I’m not pro-abortion. I’m pro-life. But for me, being pro-life isn’t a birth or abortion choice, it’s a belief that every life has value at all stages as an image-bearer of a holy God. Unfortunately, the primary method of ending this overwhelming challenge for most Evangelicals is simply trying to vote it away. But if the way of Jesus were to legislate morality, he would have taken a throne instead of a cross. How quickly we forget the weight of the law in the Old Testament that only highlighted the need for a savior. Jesus came to bring freedom from the law by making a different path – a path of grace and forgiveness anchored in a relationship, not legality.

The Evangelical Church preaches grace and relationship from the pulpit but advocates the restoration of the law at the ballot box. It’s become a gathering of 21st-century Pharisees actively legislating morality on its own strength and beliefs. In 2016, the Evangelical Church saw its moment and it pounced. An open supreme court seat and a brash candidate promising to fill it as they wanted to set the table to overturn Roe v. Wade. 81% of white American Evangelicals cast their weight behind Donald Trump as their voice was clearly heard. Sure, there were other reasons that people voted for Donald Trump besides abortion, but it was by far the most common rationale given by the Evangelical block to explain their support. It was a vote for lentil stew. The pressing urgency of ending the evils of abortion without considering the long term effects of the decision of the moment. Much like Esau could have found other food to satisfy his hunger and regroup, Christians too could have rejected the temptation to take the bait and sought other ways to proactively address abortion. The church must still find a way to address abortion outside of politics in a way that brings lasting change instead of simply adding legal consequences to an already challenging choice.

The rest of the country heard the vote of the 81% loud and clear.

The Evangelical Church is aligned with Donald Trump and all that comes with his presidency. We’ve lived in this reality for the last three years. We’ve watched the church largely embed itself to Trump’s rhetoric and perspective. The same behaviors that were seen as spiritually repugnant from previous presidents just a few decades ago are now downplayed and dismissed. It’s all part of the package deal and the price paid for the urgency of the moment.

Alignment with Trump tells the world the church is OK with the mistreatment of immigrants at the border – brown-skinned people also made in God’s image. It’s ok with the perspective that there are “shit hole countries” – full of people also made in God’s image. It’s ok with consistent racial rhetoric that empowers bigotry and hatred towards black and brown people – also made in God’s image. It’s ok with a degrading and dehumanizing perspective of women as objects of sexual gratification that can be grabbed by the pussy without repercussion – yes, women are also made in God’s image.

And just like Esau, the Evangelical Church seems to be going on about its business indifferent to the fact they just gave up their birthright. In the midst of a pandemic, an economic depression, and a nation on the brink of a massive racial conflict the Church has already sold its voice to speak hope, truth, and reconciliation in the name of Jesus. If ever there were a moment for the Evangelical Church to rise and bring the Gospel to our nation, now is the time! Unfortunately, it sounds like the boy that cried wolf, and your attempts to speak the truth are disregarded because you’ve lost your integrity to speak.

The Evangelical Church has given its voice to Trump, and Trump is not speaking for Jesus.

I often wonder how Esau reflected on that lentil stew as his life progressed. His brother Jacob got the birthright and the blessing. It’s Jacob, not Esau, in whose line the Israelite descendants flow through. He and Jacob finally make peace but it takes decades and even then the potential of Esau’s life and legacy is never fully restored.

American Evangelical Church, the lentil stew is rotting in your bellies.

You’ve given away your opportunity to reflect Jesus well in this season. Stop. Repent. You must speak honestly and boldly to the anger, hatred, lies, bigotry, and deceit that comes from the leaders you’ve elected.

I’m sure all this may sound political to you, but this is ultimately a significant spiritual issue. We must each reckon with what kingdom we will align with and whom we honor as our king. There are significant implications to our choice to choose Jesus as King or to choose an elected official as King. We are all amazingly lucky to be in America in 2020, even in the midst of the chaos we’re experiencing. Be grateful for your nation, but be faithful to your Savior. America will one day fall, but God’s kingdom will endure. Our words and deeds ultimately reveal who’s on the throne of our individual lives.

I’m reminded of the words of Joshua as he has a “come to Jesus” talk with the Israelite people who have wavered in their faithfulness to God and chased the idols of the culture around them… “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:24 NLT).”

God, may you protect us from the lure of lentil stew! As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

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