January 6, 2021
AMERICA UNDER SIEGE: AN OPEN LETTER TO GLOBAL SOUTH ANGLICANS
Dear Anglican Brothers and Sisters in Christ of the Global South,
I am writing to you as an evangelical Anglican from the United States, watching, as many of you are, the horrific, lawless events unfolding in the US. It has been a tragic and historic day.
To date, one person has died inside the U.S. Capitol building, a citadel of freedom. The National Guard from three states were called and violence has now been contained. On the world stage, what it says about our democracy is nothing short of appalling, like unto Benghazi and Belarus.
What is taking place is nothing short of violent insurrection and sedition, even treasonous, but not entirely unexpected. Those of us with eyes to see, saw this coming years ago when Donald Trump first took office with his language and rhetoric, inciting social unrest with his lies, taunts and tweets. Today it all came to a head.
But the problem in America is not just political, it is profoundly spiritual and theological.
Let us be clear. Donald Trump is not a Christian. He has never claimed to be a Christian and most of those he employed are not Christians. When he was first asked, he said he had no need to repent because he had done nothing wrong. Later he said that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. It was eerily true. His worldview is now coming to fruition as I write. His Christian nationalist torch bearers are carrying the banner for his views and it has resulted in pushing democracy to the edge in the most freedom loving nation on earth.
Two standards were being employed. The insurrectionists were White, (not Black); they were nationalists, so called Christian nationalists, and those who believed that the election was fraudulently stolen from them by liberal Democrats, never mind that Trump lost by seven million legally recognized votes, ratified by 50 state courts and the Supreme Court of the United States.
At the heart of the political and theological dilemma is America’s understanding of freedom. The first is political freedom enshrined in the First Amendment — freedom of religion – in which all Americans are guaranteed freedom of speech, speech that evangelicals believe could be undermined by an upcoming Equality Act.
The second understanding of freedom is decidedly Christian. Christians claim to possess “freedom in Christ” based on their relationship with Jesus. Sadly, many evangelicals have conflated the two, falsely believing that their freedom in Christ would be jeopardized if America goes socialist.
There is profound irony in this false narrative. Most countries of the world do not have such constitutional safeguards. Countries like Nigeria, South Sudan and China have no such constitutional statements, yet Christianity thrives and is in fact growing. China has 60 million Christians, (more than all practicing Christians in Europe), there are 475 million Christians in Africa; they are growing by leaps and bounds despite the fact that there is nothing enshrined in their political structures that guarantees their freedom. These countries experience persecution on a daily and massive scale, yet Christianity remains vibrant and their churches grow.
America is spiritually dying. Mainline denominations have been slowly destroying Christianity for over 40 years with a social and sexualized gospel that long ago departed from historic Christianity. Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, the United Church of Christ, to name but a few, have abandoned the ‘faith once for all delivered to the saints’ and sold the faith down the river. They must be held culpable and accountability for what America has become and why Nones are now the single biggest group of unbelievers in America.
As an Anglican who has lived in four countries; (New Zealand, England, Canada and the last 40 years in the US), I can attest that these other countries have no problem worshipping in peace and freedom without constitutionally mandated freedom.
At another level, the alliance of the gospel with right wing politics can only be viewed as an abomination. Jesus is neither a Democrat nor a Republican and his Kingdom (which has no end), cannot and should not be equated with the Republican Party at prayer. America is not a Christian country; it is a representative democracy. Most of its citizens are mostly nominal Christians, though many people claim to be ‘born again.’
COVID has shut down churches and public gospel proclamation; and those converts one hears about are mostly foxhole COVID converts. We have the largest group of COVID deaths (over 357,000) in the world, and a president who has shown no empathy or visited even one family who has a member who has died from this virus. His malignant narcissism has determined all his actions, and even as he calls for insurrectionists and rioters to back off; he does so, saying the election was stolen from him.
America is in turmoil. There are still some 70 million evangelicals who believe Donald Trump is America’s savior. His departure, they believe, will lead America down the rocky road to Socialism, never mind that a vast number of social programs are socialist, like disability, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, programs that are normative in most Western democratic countries.
Tonight, my parish prayed The Great Litany, and I invite you, my brothers and sisters in the Anglican communion around the world, to pray for the United States. We are living in a dangerous moment. The testimony and witness of the Protestant Christian (read evangelical) Church in America is compromised in this hour. Pray, that as a nation we get beyond partisan politics, repent, humble ourselves and once again worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who stands above politics.
David W. Virtue, DD
January 6, 2021