Christianity in America is facing an existential crisis fueled by fear and the desire to acquire political power to allay those fears. A new religion is emerging in America and the West that can best be described as ‘Christianism;’ a Christian counterpart to Islamism.
Islamism appeared in the 1930s and arose from the political and religious teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood led by Hasan al-Banna, Sayed Qutb, and Abul A’la Maududi. By far the most well-known Islamist group is the Islamic State (Daesh/IS/ISIS) headed by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.
At its core, Islamism is a quasi-political meta-religion; while Islam is the worship of Allah, Islamism is the worship of Islam itself and Islamists are obsessed with a return to the past glories of Islam as well as the political power of Islamism. Islamism focuses on the correct observance of Islamic requirements, and reveres them as end-goals in and of themselves, rather than as means to more properly follow Allah.
In 2014 Daesh announced the formation of the ‘Islamic State’ with Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as their Caliph. Prior to declaring himself Caliph of the Islamic State Abu Bakr was previously known as Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badry. The title he took upon becoming Caliph provides significant insight into the goals and motivations of Islamism.
Upon the death of the prophet Muhammad around 600 AD, there were four Caliphs (known as the ‘Rashidun’ or ‘Rightly Guided’ Caliphs) who succeeded him politically, although not religiously. Muhammad held a unique religious and political position as the one Prophet of Allah, and although his political positions was accepted by his successors, none of them took up his religious mantle.
When, in 2014, Abu Bakr claimed the title of ‘Rightly Guided’ Caliph he clearly claimed the political authority of Muhammad (over all ‘true’ Muslims), although not his religious authority.
In many ways, Christianity in America today is being transformed into a ‘Christianism’ that bears striking resemblances to Islamism.
The vast majority of Evangelical Christians voted for President Trump in the 2016 election. Now, I need to be very clear here: neither Republicans nor Democrats are ISIS, and neither Trump nor Clinton are Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. If you come away from this essay gleefully vindicated in your belief that Trump is as bad as ISIS, or righteously furious at an unprincipled Ad Hominem equating Trump with a horrifically evil terrorist, you have missed the point and I have failed in conveying it.
The point is this. I have not come across a single self-professed Christian who has expressed confidence in President Trump’s faith in Jesus Christ and transformation by His blood. I have, however, come across many Christians who see in President Trump a great hope to recall the past glories of American Christendom.
The point is that American Christians largely support a leader we consider to have taken up the political mantle, although not the religious or spiritual mantle, of Christendom.
Throughout the Gospel Jesus regularly rejected political power or refuted claims that he had come to take political power and defeat Rome: Satan tempting Him in the wilderness; when the five-thousand sought to make Jesus king by force; when Peter told Jesus He wouldn’t die; and when Jesus told Pilate that His kingdom was ‘not of this world.’
Perhaps the frequent emphasis on the power of Christianity being separate from any political power was not merely a reflection of the political climate in Roman-occupied Judea in the beginning of the 1st century, but is—like all other frequent and emphasized statements in the Gospel—an applicable lesson for all Christians regardless of state or century.
Christianity in America is on a knife’s edge with Moralistic Therapeutic Deism on one side, and Christianism on the other. Political leaders have real authority, but Jesus’ Matthew 20 command to “render unto Caesar’s” needs to be considered in the light of His much greater command to “give to God what is God’s.” Our children, friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances can be shown salvation as Christians pursue Christ in obedience, love, and humility; not because of a politically or organizationally preeminent Christianity or attempts to legislate righteousness.