A recent survey from PRRI indicated that nearly a quarter of Americans (23 percent) agree that “because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country,” up from 15 percent in 2021. Evangelical leaders are unanimous in disagreeing with this statement, according to the November/December Evangelical Leaders Survey.
“It is disturbing to see that the distrust and polarization in our country has led to such strong feelings of desperation among Americans,” said Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), of the PRRI report. “Our democracy provides many productive means to work through our differences.”
Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, responded, “Yes, the democracy is under tremendous stress. And it has been in the past. The democracy can withstand this kind of difficulty if we call out undemocratic things. If we pray hard. And if we get involved standing up for the Constitution by being informed voters.”
Many evangelical leaders disapproved of the question itself, saying that it goes against the very premise of the gospel. James Meeks, longtime pastor of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago, said, “Not only do I disagree, I strongly disagree. I cannot find Christ or his cause anywhere in this statement.”
Gregory Johnson, president of Standing Together, said, “I don’t like this question very much. I do believe in the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms in self-defense. However, acts of violence by anyone or any group, that takes up the ‘saving’ of our country is a troubling thought. Instead, as Christians, we are to honor all authority and pray for our leaders, whether they be good or not, regardless of our opinion of them.”
At its last meeting, the NAE Board of Directors approved a resolution titled, “Preserving Our Democracy,” which acknowledges that things are not as they should be. Evangelical leaders indicate that Christians should respond to these challenges with prayer, love and service rather than violence.
Kyle Robinson, senior pastor-elect of Wooddale Church in Minnesota, said, “What our nation needs is gospel renewal. Our fight is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil. Because things have gotten so far off track we need to pray more intently, love more holistically, serve more boldly, pursue holiness more diligently, and proclaim the gospel more faithfully.”
Larry Graber, executive director of KIN International, agreed. “In my view because things have gotten so far off track, only prayer and the grace of God can save our country. Jesus says in John 16:33: ‘These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’”
Kim added, “Politically motivated violence should be rejected, particularly by followers of Jesus Christ, who taught ‘blessed are the peacemakers.’ In the face of political violence, Jesus’ own response to his followers was to put away the sword. Christians need to heed that call again.”
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.