Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson recently asked why Trump doesn’t fill Christians with rage. I can think of one reason.
If you’re not familiar with Gerson, he’s a thoughtful evangelical (graduate of Wheaton College), former White House Director of Speechwriting (2001–2006), and now an op-ed columnist for the Washington Post. He wrote a September 1st piece titled: Trump should fill Christians with rage. In it, Gerson asks where’s the rage over Trump?
I can think of one reason: Ritual prostitution. Gerson touches on this in his piece.
Ritual prostitution is a phrase we rarely hear today. The nation of Judah did hear it. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God warned that she had “prostituted” herself “with many lovers.” They included sexual sin as well as shrines and idols found throughout the temple. God raged against this. “Is there any place you have not been defiled by your adultery with other gods? You sit like a prostitute beside the road waiting for a customer” (Jer.3:1-2).
The Lord hoped that after Judah saw how he “divorced faithless Israel because of her adultery,” she’d return to him. Nope. She has only pretended to be sorry (Jer.3:7-10). God warned that he’d destroy the temple. Judah shrugged. She couldn’t be that bad.
It’s the same story 500 years later as money-changers in the temple sell salvation. Israel had forgotten she was God’s wife (Hos.2), God was her husband (Isa.54:5). Salvation was being “married” to God. Selling it was a form of ritual prostitution. Because of this, Jesus warned that he’d destroy the temple in three days. The Jews shrugged. We can’t be that bad.
It’s the same story a few years later. Paul reminds the church in Corinth, a church rife with ritual prostitution, that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (I Cor.6:19). It was why some had died. The Corinthians shrugged. Things couldn’t be that bad.
Which brings us to Gerson’s piece. I admit it’s sprawling so I doubt most folks will read it through. I also think Gerson’s been breathing a bit too much of the Washington DC air. He goes to great lengths about the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol. He makes some valid points but I doubt most evangelicals (or at least the ones I know) condone the assault.
I feel Gerson hits home when in language reminiscent of the prophet Jeremiah he thunders three “woes” against evangelicalism. The first one struck me most. I quote:
“Given the evidence of sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention, the corruption and sexual scandal at Liberty University, the sex scandal in the Hillsong ministry, the sexual exploitation revealed in Ravi Zacharias’s ministry, and the years of sexual predation at the (Christian) Kanakuk summer camps, Americans increasingly identify the word “evangelical” with pretense, scandal and duplicity. In the case of the SBC, victims (mostly women) were ignored, intimidated, dismissed and demeaned. Many of the most powerful Southern Baptist leaders betrayed the powerless, added cruelty on top of suffering and justified their coverup as essential to Christian evangelism.”
Given that believers are betrothed (married) to Jesus our Bridegroom, making our bodies temples of the Holy Spirit, I think we’re seeing ritual prostitution in the temple. But here’s why there’s no rage. It’s difficult to rage against something most evangelicals are doing.
Yep, sad but true. A 2007 ChristiaNet.com survey indicates 50 percent of evangelical men and 20 percent of evangelical women are addicted to pornography. The percentages are higher (77 percent of all men and 50 percent of all women) when asked if they visit porn sites regularly. Pastors hardly fare better. In a 2011 Christianity Today survey, 37 percent of evangelical pastors reported that porn addiction was “a current struggle.” Only God knows where these numbers have gone during Covid as we spend more time alone.
This my friends is ritual prostitution. And as the people of God so often do, many evangelicals shrug it off. We can’t be that bad. I disagree, especially after reading how church and ministry boards responded when their leaders were caught in sexual sin.
I know a little of what I speak. Many years ago, before mobile devices were ubiquitous, I spoke at a large retreat for men. Promising complete anonymity, I asked them to mark a card “yes” if they felt they were way-in-over-their-head in porn.
Seventy-five percent of the respondents checked “yes.”
There’s an old saying: If you point a finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you. It’s unlikely we’ll see the sort of rage that Gerson feels is appropriate when, in pointing our finger at so many evangelical leader’s sexual sins, the majority of evangelicals in this country see three fingers pointing back at them.