We must pray as our Lord taught us: Deliver us from Evil
Hitler? Nazi? Holocaust? These terms pack incomparable power to elicit condemnation. The entire world not only agrees but feels a reflexive moral obligation to name that person, that political party, and that event as evil. Candidates for evil status must clear the high bar set by Hitler, Nazis, and the Holocaust. Incongruent comparison with these words impairs public perception of true evil and libels an undeserving target.
On the Friday evening after hosting his last show for FOX News, at times like an Old Testament prophet, Tucker Carlson reached past many terms of opprobrium, even Hitler, Nazi, and Holocaust, to hurl the E-word itself—“When the government decides that the goal is to destroy things for its own sake— ‘Hey let’s tear it down!’ What you’re watching is not a political movement—it’s evil.”
Utterance of that word from such a prominent pundit or platform is rare, but not unprecedented. Ronald Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” and as “the focus of evil in the modern world.” George W. Bush called Iran, Iraq, and North Korea an “axis of evil.” Is Carlson’s charge that the current government is evil warranted? Carlson set forth his case: “It might be time to reassess the terms we use to describe what we’re watching . . . If you have people saying, ‘I have an idea. Let’s castrate the next generation. Let’s sexually mutilate children’ . . . If you’re telling me abortion is a positive good, well, what are you saying? You’re arguing for child sacrifice.”
America’s “trouble is theological,” according to Carlson. She stands not at the crossroads of mere better or worse or even of conventional right and wrong, but already under the sway of evil. Conservatives diagnose and characterize the Woke revolution variously as neo-Marxist, totalitarian, and mass formation. Treatments prescribed for what ails us include a return to the Constitution or to common sense or to law and order. But according to Carlson, these worldly remedies alone cannot prevail in the face of the evil that confronts us. Nor does the party out of power promise hope for deliverance—“I’m certainly not backing the Republican Party. I mean, ugh! I’m not making a partisan point at all.” Since “a larger force is acting upon us” Carlson thinks we should acknowledge the evil and “say that this is so” and “maybe we should all take maybe ten minutes a day to say a prayer about it.”
Carlson recognizes that others, especially those with the theological qualifications he lacks, should be speaking the truth and sounding the alarm America needs. But alas, requisite courage is lacking. “You look with disdain and sadness as you see people you know become quislings and you see them revealed as cowards, and you see them going along with the new new thing which is clearly a poisonous thing . . . saying things you know they don’t believe because they want to keep their jobs. . . . And you’re so disappointed in people, and you realize that the herd instinct is probably, maybe the strongest instinct . . . the instinct to be like everybody else and not to be cast out of the group; not to be shunned.”
From whence and whom ought Bible-believing Christians expect love-driven warnings of present evils? From the highest profile evangelicals in America perhaps? From the theological stewards of the largest (and ostensibly conservative) denomination in the nation, the Southern Baptist Convention?
Rather than offering prophetic warnings such as Carlson’s, many high-profile evangelical luminaries have followed the model set by Timothy Keller, the superstar former pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. For two decades Keller and Keller-inspired evangelicals, having targeted blue communities for the advance of the gospel, have labored consistently to sanctify Christian votes for the Democrat Party—the party that leads the government Carlson calls evil.
For decades famed pastor and bestselling author John Piper avoided and begged off political questions due to his own admitted ignorance and lack of expertise on such matters. But in 2020 Piper rushed out a blogpost on the eve of the November election to absolve of wrongdoing any Christians planning not to vote for Trump.
Less than 40 months before Dobbs overturned Roe v. Wade, the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church and president of 9Marks ministries Mark Dever defended the pro-life bona fides of Christians who vote Democrat because they “don’t think [politicians] are really going to get anything done on” certain important issues and so “even if you [Republican voters] don’t adopt that [multi-issue voting] yourself, can you allow space for that in your church as a morally legitimate argument and option?”
Committed to being found winsome by blue communities, Timothy Keller tweeted: “The Bible tells me that abortion is a sin and great evil, but it doesn’t tell me the best way to decrease or end abortion in this country, nor which policies are most effective.” Really? Is it possible that support for the Democratic party might offer “the best way to decrease or end abortion in this country,”—the party that not only supports abortion on demand at every stage of pregnancy but looks to punish anyone who refuses to celebrate such abortions?
Plausible accountings for such absurdity owe more to a kind of Michael Jordan-esque marketing acumen than to anything one might draw from the Bible or twenty centuries of Christian tradition. Criticized by many, including Barack Obama, for not toeing the activist anti-racist line to their standards, Jordan quipped, “Republicans buy sneakers too.” Acknowledgment that the Democrat party is evil would alienate the bulk of the Keller-movement’s targeted audience. My message to Piper, Keller, and Dever is the same as Dever gave to me almost 40 years ago—“sometimes a pastor has to deliver two messages that few people are willing to hear at the same time, ‘I love you, and because I do, I must disapprove of what you are doing’.”
The lone figure among the most prominent evangelical voices to break ranks with the sanctify-Christian-votes-for-Democrats elites is R. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In a substantive, confessional, and courageous long form essay Christians, Conscience, and the 2020 Election, Mohler admitted that his vote for a third candidate in 2016 was a mistake and vowed to vote for Trump and for the Republican party in the future. Like Carlson, Mohler’s courage brought reprisals. Woke establishment Southern Baptists tapped an unknown Alabama pastor to challenge Mohler for the SBC presidency, threw the vast resources of the denomination behind him, and scuttled Mohler’s bid.
Like Reagan, Bush, and Christian conservatives generally, Mohler has identified and named evils abroad, such as this from May of 2020—“Christians just have to remember that evil is very much alive in this world, evil in the form of Al-Qaeda as one illustration. . . . Evil is out there, Al-Qaeda is still active.” But what of domestic evil? Will Mohler call the party (not Democrat voters but the party!) of Tim Keller and of countless other brothers and sisters in Christ evil? Will evangelicals and Southern Baptists hear prophetic warnings not only from a courageous talk-show host, but from their putative leaders? Might admiration and gratitude for them swell in our minds and hearts when we pray as our Lord taught us—“deliver us from evil?”
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