Back in the days before President Donald Trump was president, Pastor Jentezen Franklin of Free Chapel traveled from Gainesville, Georgia, to New York City for a gathering of 15 or so faith leaders at Trump Tower to discuss the evangelical vote. And they were asked by Trump, as Franklin recounted, during a telephone interview, why on one hand they represented one of the largest voting blocks in America yet on the other, they couldn’t come together on political issues.
Something clicked, Franklin said.
“We looked at each other and thought, he’s absolutely right,” Franklin said.
Franklin, who has since served as an evangelical adviser to Trump, said he left that meeting vowing to find common ground with leaders of other faiths, other denominations, other beliefs, to fight the political battles that need fighting — to fight for the heart and soul of America’s culture and politics.
“We no longer have the luxury of disunity, if we want to keep the America that honors God,” he said.
Voilà: “Life is Beautiful” was born, a massive pro-life Saturday event at Free Chapel — complete with the release of 3,000 butterflies, representing the estimated number of abortions performed daily in America — that’s especially notable for its unity: those of different faiths who wouldn’t normally work together nonetheless joined forces in the common fight against abortion. They put love first. And they emphasized the church’s responsibility for helping vulnerable women navigate this hotly charged, highly politicized issue with “grace and compassion,” rather than condemnation and shunning — an outreach that’s been festering on the back burner of the faith community for far too long, Franklin said.
“The church is waking up,” he said.
About time, some would say. With places like New York now allowing abortions at any time during the pregnancy, and lawmakers like Democratic State Delegate Kathy Tran of Virginia supporting what amounts to infanticide, and governors like Ralph Northam, also of Virginia, saying things like, post-delivery, a “discussion would ensue between the physician and the mother” about the fate of the baby — to live or to die — well, then, maybe it’s not just about time the church got into gear.
It’s past time.
U.S. history tells of a pastor named John Peter Muhlenberg who was preaching in January of 1776 before his Lutheran congregation in Woodstock, Virginia, on Ecclesiastes, the passages about seasons and time. When he reached the part about “a time of war, and a time of peace,” he ripped off his clerical robe to reveal the uniform of a Continental Army Colonel. Off he went to battle, to fight for the blossoming nation’s freedoms. How inspirational; how motivational.
Today’s churches are filled with leaders who worry too much about maintaining their IRS tax exemptions, or about offending their tithe-paying members, than about leading their congregational sheep in the way they should go — than about delving too deeply into the pressing political affairs of our time. But ceding the political ground has not served America well.
As Franklin said, it’s high time to rally the church troops to “firmly take place our place in the community,” he said.
Yes, it is. And if it’s abortion that proves the tipping point for the church to awaken and fight, well then, that’s just divinely inspired.
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive,” Genesis 50:20 reads.
What Satan intends for evil, God will use for good.
Just think. If abortion becomes the issue that starts a long line of concerted, concentrated, coordinated efforts from the diverse-yet-massive religious communities of the country to jump full throttle into today’s political frays — what a time that will be for America. Watch out, evil-doers.
A nation — an America — with a God-centered moral compass is destined for success. Make America great again, indeed.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley.