In what is certainly a diversion from the gospel message and an embrace of partisan politics, a prominent bishop said late last week he’d rather roll the dice with hell than risk being in a heaven “full of American evangelicals.”
Bishop Talbert Swan, who pastors Spring of Hope Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Massachusetts, posted the inflammatory remark on Twitter on the heels of President Donald Trump’s decision to undo his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border.
To back up his dangerous claim, which seems to dismiss the weightiness of hell, Swan listed why he knows Jesus “wasn’t a white evangelical Republican”:
How we know Jesus wasn’t a white evangelical Republican:
•Jesus fed hungry multitudes/free food
•Jesus healed the sick/free healthcare
•Jesus sat with little children/free daycare
•Jesus taught his disciples/free education
•Jesus forgave a dying thief/“soft on crime” pic.twitter.com/fTrL7XYpsJ
— Bishop Talbert Swan (@TalbertSwan) June 22, 2018
The minister went on to say Jesus “never spoke a word” about abortion in the New Testament, never mind the many times God celebrated his pre-born creation. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart,” the Lord told Jeremiah.
Nevertheless, Swan doubled down on his message. After a follower responded to his post, saying it “ain’t heaven” if it’s full of evangelicals, the bishop wrote back, “Now that’s a great point!”
Swan’s comments were undergirded by the fact that Trump was elected with the support of 81 percent of white evangelical Christians, according to the Pew Research Center. It’s worth noting, though, that many prominent evangelical leaders — including the Rev. Franklin Graham — have recently pushed back on some of the Trump administration’s policies.
For example, Johnnie Moore, the de facto spokesperson for Trump’s informal evangelical advisory board, told CBN News’ Jenna Browder last week that many evangelicals did not support the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which resulted in children being separated from their parents, who were prosecuted for entering the U.S. illegally.
.@JohnnieM, one of many faith advisors to @realDonaldTrump, on separating families at the border: "We do not support the policy, and the Attorney General was wrong to use scripture as he did to justify it." @CBNNews #FaithNation
— Jenna Browder (@JennaBrowder) June 19, 2018
As a result of the criticism Trump faced from both allies and opponents, the president signed an executive order walking back the controversial policy. But even if none of this debate existed, Swan’s tweets are theological malpractice.
Regardless of who is in the White House or which political party controls Congress, the gospel should never be used to advance a partisan goal, despite efforts from Swan, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). Far more than theologically dishonest, the ramifications of using the prospect of hell for political gain are quite literally deadly.
Hell marks the eternal separation between humanity and a good and just God. The only way to bridge that gaping chasm is through the work of Jesus Christ — not an elected official.
The gospel is greater than the Republican or Democratic parties and to demonize roughly one half of the country’s voters is tantamount to cutting your ability to evangelize in half.