Erick Erickson just doesn’t know which Jesus that Jerry Falwell, Jr. is worshiping.

Over at Ted Cruz’s new campaign site, I mean, Erick Erickson’s new website, The Resurgent, Erickson expressed his concern that Falwell just hasn’t thought through how to reconcile his faith with his politics like Erickson has.

He doesn’t like that Falwell said of Trump, “Look at the fruits of his life and…people he’s provided jobs…that’s the true test of somebody’s Christianity.” After clarifying that he’s not questioning Trump’s faith Erickson adds, “What I do question is whether Jerry Falwell is so intent on finding a savior for America that he’s descended to worshiping flag waving, America Jesus and not the actual Jesus who carries a banner for truth, not for the Grand Old Party or even America.”

I don’t care for Falwell’s “true test” either. And I have a problem with “America Jesus.” But I also have a problem with the double standards Christian conservatives are applying when it comes to their religious purity tests for presidential candidates.

Erickson praying with Cruz. Credit: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez.

Erickson praying with Cruz. Credit: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez.

Erick Erickson’s guy, Ted Cruz, just made a severe theological faux pas in New Hampshire yesterday. According to The Dallas Morning News,

At every point on his tour, Cruz asked voters to pray for him and the country, using one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite Bible verses, 2 Chronicles 7:14, as inspiration.

“If my people, which are called by my name, would humble themselves and pray, and seek my faith and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear their prayers and will forgive their sins and I will heal their land,” he said.

So Ted Cruz just equated biblical Israel with America.* Talk about a flag-waving America Jesus! When you’re working more and more in your own life to make sure you’re worshiping the actual Jesus and not a political Jesus you concern yourself with questions like, “Who is ‘my people’ in this verse?” “What is ‘their land’?” If the answer is “Americans” and “the United States” its time to put in a little more work. I hope Erickson isn’t “upping his skirt” just a bit more for Ted Cruz. If America Jesus is no good for Donald Trump, its no good for Ted Cruz either.

Russell Moore of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) continues to be highly disturbed by the candidacy of Donald Trump. Trump is twice-divorced. He “destroys families” with his casinos. Unlike Erickson who wanted to be explicitly clear that he was not questioning Trump’s faith, Moore knows that Trump is “lost.”

Portraying this lost soul as a brother in Christ is not only doing wrong to Trump himself, it preaches an anti-gospel to all who hear.

However, Mr. Moore is no stranger to lowering his theological standards when it suits him. During the 2012 presidential election, Moore explained why it was acceptable for evangelicals for vote for Mitt Romney, a Mormon. Moore said:

The question is not John 3:16 in terms of reading the regeneration of the person’s heart. The question is Romans 13: Does this person have the kind of wisdom to bear the sword on behalf of God’s authority that He has granted to the state? And can I trust that person to protect society? That’s the fundamental question.

Apparently things have changed a bit since 2012. For Romney the “fundamental question” was wisdom in bearing the sword and assurance of protection. Now regeneration of the person’s heart is back on the table and Moore knows Trump’s heart is not regenerated.

In a panel discussion, Moore went on to make other declarations that would presumably apply, not only to Mitt Romney in 2012, but also to Donald Trump in 2016:

Moore added, “We are going to have to give up — on both sides — the idea of president as religious mascot.” An Obama-Romney campaign, Moore said, is a “good thing for American evangelicals.”

“It enables us to simultaneously honor the king,” he said, alluding to 1 Peter 2:17, “and to boldly proclaim the Gospel — in a way that we see happening all through the Book of Acts. We are able to love and pray for President Obama while we disagree with him on life and religious liberty and marriage and some really important things. …

“And if a President Romney is elected, we’re the people who ought to be able to say, ‘We respect and honor this man as president. We’re able to … serve with this man as president, and we’re the people who are willing to — if we’re invited into the Oval Office — say, ‘President Romney, here’s where we agree with you; here’s what we like about what you’re doing. And we sincerely want to plead with you to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Is the President to be a religious mascot now four years later? What has changed? If Trump is a “lost soul,” can’t Moore serve with this man as president, tell him where he agrees with him, and then sincerely plead with him to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Moore is rightfully very concerned about religious liberty. “What will matter to evangelicals [in 2016] is how the candidate, if elected president, will articulate and defend religious-liberty rights.” Trump addressed the matter with the Iowa Faith and Family Coalition: “‘I will protect [religious liberty]… because we’re not being protected.” Wow, Trump says his first priority if elected President of the United States would be to “preserve and protect our religious liberty.” First priority. Isn’t that what Russell Moore wants?

It appears that Christian conservatives want to move the goal posts depending upon which players are out on the field. Are we simply looking for character? A defender of religious liberty? A wise leader to skillfully bear the sword? What’s good for one election ought to be good for the next, or so one would think. What’s good for Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz ought to be good for Donald Trump.

If we, as evangelicals, are supposed to look for people of character, perhaps we need to hear Erickson or Moore speak to the character of the valiant leader who will carpet bomb enemies into oblivion until the sand glows, or of the intrepid executive who can eloquently describe civilians killed in the line of fire as “collateral damage.” Does that speak to a candidate’s character or is that merely worldly wisdom in bearing the sword and “protecting society”? The answer to that question, among others, would shed much light on the subject of the flag-waving America Jesus versus the actual Jesus who carries a banner for peace and truth.

*To read more on the identity of biblical “Israel” see what I have written on the subject here, here, and here.

Jeff Wright

Jeff Wright is a Chaplain in a "city of lost souls" and holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from Dallas Theological Seminary. His other areas of interest include the kingdom of God, American evangelicalism, the ministry of the local church, obstacle course racing, and all things Star Wars. He blogs at JeffWrightJr.com in addition to Libertarian Christian Institute. You can also find him @jeffwrightjr and facebook.com/PursuingTruth.
  • Mike Blevins

    I often wonder which Jesus the religious right is serving. I heard a guy on the radio the other day justifying Christian political involvement by pointing out that the Sanhedrin was the governing body of Palestine during the 1st century AD, therefore, Jesus was acting politically when he addressed the Sanhedrin. If you squint really hard, that thought can almost seduce you!

  • Alex Wilson

    I would interpret the “My People” as those people belonging to God and “Called by His name” regardless of their national identity. In Romans 4, Paul links the Faith of Christians with the Faith of ancient Israel all the way back to Abraham, saying specifically in verses 21-24:

    “because he [Abraham] was fully convinced that what He had promised He was able to perform. Therefore, it was credited to him for righteousness. Now it was credited to him was not written for Abraham alone, but also for us. It will be credited to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.”

    Paul makes it clear that God views Christians and Ancient Israel as one and the same, being saved not by obedience to the law, but rather by their/our Faith in God to deliver on what he has promised. So 2 Chronicles 7:14 isn’t limited to Ancient Israel and it doesn’t exclude the Christians in America. Christians certainly meet the requirement of being called by His name, having been called by the name of Christ since the time of the Apostles (Acts 11:26). And it’s not at all counter to New Testament teaching to say that if a group of believers humbles themselves, prays, seeks God’s face, and turns from their own sinful ways, (But seek first the kingdom of God and his Righteousness -Matthew 6:33a) that God will hear them, forgive them, and heal their land (and all these things will be provided for you. -Matthew 6:33b)

  • Alex Wilson

    Why would Christian involvement in politics need to be justified in the first place?

    For context of the discussion, we have to keep in mind that for most early Christians political participation wasn’t even an option. The Jewish governmental authorities were hereditary monarchs(King Herod, Agrippa,etc.) and the Roman governmental authorities were appointed by the Emperor (The Senate was essentially powerless by this point in the Roman Empire). Since there wasn’t an option to do so for most early Christians, it isn’t at all surprising to not find anything directly related to political involvement in the New Testament.

    What we do see in scripture however is that Paul didn’t hesitate to use the political rights he possessed as a Roman Citizen. He used them as a tool to avoid being scourged in Acts 22:22-29 and to avoid a trial before the Sanhedrin by appealing to Caesar (Acts 25:1-12). Given that Paul was willing to use his rights as a Roman Citizen, I don’t see any reason why a Christian who is an American Citizen would avoid using their rights to participate in the political process.

  • Yes, and by the way, I’ve heard Christian radio shows where they make that distinction. There are also scriptures who make clear this is not enough, that the cup of iniquity is full. And in the USA, also, the people called by God’said name, Christians (Jets too) are part of the problem.

    Speaking of Mormons, they have a very real widows and orphans program, as alternative to federalized welfare. They keep stores of food, against the day when “the State” comes after them again. Pastors in America are not preparing their flocks. Ezekiel 33, 34.

  • His involvement was more like Matthew 17:24-27 and Matthew 23 and Matthew 7 (kingdom of God taken from you). Besides, the Sanhedrin only ruled the religious life of the nation. The laws of Moses made ZERO provision for ANY government.

    Herod was king, but Pirate was the one with the (political) power to put him to death. The Parisees especially were culpable for demanding his death at the hand of the ones forbwhom Jesus asked the Father “Forgive them”. One of the reasons they wanted to kill him was to keep “our place and our nation”. Safe from the Romans and after Jesus rose Lazarus, from the people.

  • There are the examples of Daniel and Joseph too. But they were “selected”. But today’s shadow government (Oliver North’s term) hates anything Christian or decent. Ron Paul had no chance. JFK pleaded with Billy Graham days before his murder for a private talk. Billy begged off with the excuse of a cold, but the request was while exiting the prayer breakfast. (?!) A decent peaceful Christian like Ron Paul is blocked.

    The most local level maybe but the fed government is nationalizing that too. These last decades of history show this. But preaching salvation in Chrest and liberty throughout the land can make a difference.

  • Mike Blevins

    Christian involvement in politics needs no justification, per se. It simply needs to stand on solid biblical ground. I’m not concerned with Christian political involvement, I’m concerned with that which doesn’t reflect the nature of Christ. American evangelicals are consumed with a fascination with FORCE, and that is not like Christ. When the church comes out in defense of life, liberty, and property, it is on solid ground. When the church seeks to use the coercive force of the state to take liberty from others, it is on thin ice. Personally, I’d like to see the church become a champion of liberty, even when the people might not use that liberty in ways Christians would like. Leave those personal choices between them and God! Gay marriage is a great example. After centuries of persecuting and demonizing homosexuals–often brutally–it would be wonderful to see the church campaign to take the government out of marriage and leave that personal choice to the individuals involved.