What 56% means for Christian unity
Why are Christians so divided?
Politics is downstream of culture, which is downstream of religion, which is downstream of faith. Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up: 56% of Republicans say they’d still vote for Trump in a primary, according to a recent Harvard-Harris poll.
That 56% number happens to perfectly match the percentage of evangelical Christians who identify as Republicans or lean Republican according to the Pew Center. Further, 44% of those who say they attend religious services “at least once a week” identify as Republican or lean Republican. Only 29% who say they are Democrats or lean Democrat fit that category. 62% of Republican/lean Republicans say they pray “at least daily,” while a respectable 50% of Democrats/lean Democrat claim that.
Since by another Pew study, we see Christianity is the largest segment of religious Americans, with 70.6% of Americans claiming Christianity, it’s not an unreasonable hypothesis that Christians are divided. In fact, based solely on ads by Sen. (Rev.) Raphael Warnock supporting a woman’s choice to kill her second- and third-trimester baby, I think we can safely conclude that many Christians are divided on politics.
Working our way up to culture, the experience of historically Black Protestant Christians is firmly hitched to the Democrat’s wagon, and has been since the mid 1960s when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. 80% of those Christians claim Democrat/lean Democrat.
Even among rich or poor American Christians of all races, we are culturally divided. The experience of city-dwelling poor Black Americans is a world away from rural Appalachian white Scots-Irish mining communities. They may have many of the same challenges: drug-addiction, single-parent families, lack of education, lack of opportunity, and a distrust of law enforcement—but their opinion on the cause of their maladies begin at opposite poles.
Even within the middle-class, educated, and rising communities, the differences persist. Look at J.D. Vance versus Warnock, for instance. Both are highly educated, accomplished individuals, and both pander to their audience: Vance to his Trump-loving people, and Warnock to his former congregation.
Why are Christians so divided?
So many pastors and public speakers talk about peace and getting along, and unity in the church. But I don’t believe unity is a feature of Christianity, at least not for Christians. I think it’s the opposite, we are meant to divide and to be divided on many, if not most, things.
Jesus said in Matthew 10, after gathering his disciples, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn,” and then he quotes the prophet Micah:
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household”
Those who are welcome in the Kingdom of Heaven are not known by their political affiliation, their genealogy, their cultural pedigree, their economic status, their religious stature, or their family position. They are known simply by their love for God and for their neighbor. This means, on every other thing under the sun, people will be divided. And not only that, Christians are not on the same level in faith, or study, or sanctification. Christians sin, repent, learn, and grow like any human being. God does not throw out the baby with the bathwater (thankfully for all of us).
Jesus continued: “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
A Christians does not have to be a prophet to gain a prophet’s reward, or to be a righteous person to gain a righteous person’s reward. Just loving the prophet or righteous person for who they are is enough.
Christians don’t even need to be openly religious, church-attending Bible-readers to be accepted. In Luke 12, Jesus tells his disciples while a crowd of thousands waits, “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”
God rewards those who have a good heart, a generous spirit, and an open mind. Of course, there are enemies of God in the world, and those will truly have their judgment. But the religious are not exempt from that judgment, and in fact are subject to a much higher standard. It’s far worse for a preacher to fleece his flock and blaspheme the Holy Spirit, living a double life, divided in heart and mind, than it is for one who prays simply at home, and never darkens the door of a church.
Christians are divided because we are individuals. God seeks the heart, not the culture or the politics. He brings a sword to divide those who love unconditionally from those who love themselves. Christ does do without regard to a person’s race, skin color, creed, intelligence, education, money, or position. There is no favoritism in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Keep this in mind as you go through your Sunday, and all week. There are those who disagree with you. Some disagree strongly on politics, even on issues like abortion. Love them. Cherish their lives because God cherishes them. There is no judgment on anyone who loves another. Toward those who do not love, we can shake the dust from our feet and still offer a blessing. There is no need to be mean, or to offer curses.
For that—especially in today’s social-media infested online divided culture—those who love will be hated. So many base their relationships on who is on “our” side versus who is on “their” side, even to the point of disbelieving facts and elevating falsehoods because the lies are more convenient.
In Matthew 10, Jesus said “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Those who love God and keep His commandment to love one another and love their neighbor will be hated by the world. This is how God made the world, and how he made us.
Christians will not be known by who hates us, however. We will be known by our love. In our love for God and for one another, we find our unity. In all else, there is only God’s sword of division.
The 56% may be politically wrong, and culturally given to reactionary impulses that lead to some really bad results. Others may be equally wrongheaded in their political and government ideals. This greatly complicates things like polls and candidates, and makes life hard for a pundit.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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