I am an evangelical Christian, which means that I openly share the “good news” of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and I have personally accepted that saving grace for my sins.
As a trained Southern Baptist minister and a political scientist, I am bothered by many politicians and preachers who proclaim what God intends for me, or us, to do. Our world is populated by countless religions, denominations and self-proclaimed religious leaders that are always telling us what to do, and they make their pronouncements in the name of God.
There are many conflicting messages I hear from the mouths of some demagogues in the United States at the present time. In 1967, I wrote my Master’s thesis at the University of Texas in EI Paso. It was a 272-page study titled, “Slavery As A Political Instrument In The Name Of Christian Principle: The Growth Of A Political Theory Through Congressional Debate, 1789-1861.” My research and writing involved a detailed study of how the Bible was used during congressional debates by U.S. legislators from the American South.
Most of those were known as evangelicals, and most of them owned and used black slaves as their labor source. At the height of American slavery, another element was obvious in the United States, and many evangelicals subscribed to it. The element became known as Manifest Destiny.
Many people subscribed to the idea that God intended that the United States control all of the land between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Many evangelicals, particularly in the South, accepted the elimination of native tribes or their removal to unprofitable lands. Remember the Trail of Tears from the South to Oklahoma? Many said it was “God’s will.”
Many people said that natives who stood in their way were “savages.” They were viewed as non-Bible-believing individuals. Such individuals were told they would go to hell unless they “accepted” Jesus. The teachings of “God’s will” for greedy causes helped lead to decades of Indian Wars, war with Mexico and even the U.S. Civil War.
God’s will was often enforced through the use of guns and whips. Many evangelicals saw no hypocrisy in their actions. Some believed that it was good for “pagan Africans” to have been brought by force “so that they could find Jesus and go to heaven.” Many missionaries came from Europe to lead so-called “pagan natives” to Jesus.