Pastor Robert Jeffress opened his sermon yesterday by reminiscing about the demolition of First Baptist of Dallas’ old building. Jeffress asked the congregation, “Who will ever forget that Saturday morning in October a few years ago when we watched the implosion of the First Baptist Church in Dallas?” Sadly, I’m afraid that Pastor Jeffress’ question applies beyond the building. Over the last year, First Baptist of Dallas has demonstrated that they may worship America more than they worship Jesus. The latest example of First Baptist of Dallas’ implosion was given prior to the sermon yesterday when Jeffress interviewed Sean Hannity as part of the worship service.
After clicking play to watch First Baptist of Dallas’ worship service, the first thing that stood out to me was the word “influence” highlighted on the screen. The word hung there during a good-sized chunk of the intro, and I thought, “How apropos.” You see, right up front, the mega-church signals what it worships: influence and influence’s conjoined twin called “power.” No wonder First Baptist of Dallas featured a powerful, influential TV host during the worship service.
With Robert Jeffress throwing in the occasional prompt, Sean Hannity spoke for about fifteen minutes. Ultimately, the entire episode amounted to little more than a movie press junket for the Hannity-produced film Let There Be Light, with a large sprinkling of moralistic, therapeutic Hannityism thrown in, to borrow from Rod Dreher. Here’s the trailer:
In his opening, Hannity opined, “If we don’t save the culture, we’re going to lose our country.”
Sean Hannity may be correct. It may very well be true that America is on the verge of being lost. The thing is, that’s not the primary concern of the Church, which includes First Baptist of Dallas. And it definitely shouldn’t be the focus of the worship service on the Lord’s day.
Christians (the Church) aren’t called to save the culture and/or make American great. Christians are called by Jesus to make disciples. Being a disciple of Jesus requires laying down the sword, taking up our cross, and following Jesus in faithful obedience. And on the Lord’s day, Christians are called to praise and worship God the Father. The “God and Country” phenomenon plaguing much of American evangelicalism is the worship of the false idol of America wrapped up in religious language.
Our salvation isn’t found in our culture, nor is it found in America. Salvation is only found through repentance of sin and faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sean Hannity, and by extension Robert Jeffress who hosted him without offering dissent, believes that America and the individual are co-equal gods, at the least, with the Creator of the universe.
Expounding on his theology, Hannity told the congregation,
To me, this is the profound thing that Jesus was telling Peter: You know who I am because my Father revealed it into your heart. And when I think about my own life experience, I know when I’m doing the wrong thing. There’s no ambiguity when I’m doing the wrong thing. … So that’s that guilt thing, and sometimes I do it anyway. … And I found that my conscience, the more I listen to it is my friend. As I’ve gotten a little older and a little wiser and a little smarter, what I really think I’ve come to understand is there is God in our heart. He is trying to reveal right from wrong to us every minute. He is telling us, exhorting us to be His children.
Hannity then confesses to believing in Jesus, and concludes, “So that’s my message.” To which Jeffress responded, “Amen. That’s a great message.”
Except Jeffress is wrong; it’s not a great message.
In fact, Hannity’s message is more of the self-serving idolatry that has plagued humankind since the beginning. Humans have always wanted to be the arbiter of right and wrong. Looking inward while claiming that God is speaking is a way to rebel against God while pretending otherwise.
Right and wrong (morality) are not determined by what we feel inside. Our conscience is often not our friend because our conscience is stained and warped by sin. Morality is determined by the objective truths revealed in the Bible. Our feelings and our conscience frequently rebel against God’s ethics that He has revealed in His Word. Looking to our feelings to determine truth and morality is what has brought about the acceptance of things like abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgenderism.
The message that the Church, including First Baptist of Dallas, should be preaching is that all humans need to turn from their feelings and follow Jesus in faith.
Sean Hannity wasn’t finished, though. Continuing, he explained,
We’ve got to be the salt and the light of the world. And God gave us all an obligation if we know the truth, we’ve got to speak up. … I always say that we’re spokes in a wheel. You know, if you go out and vote you’re a spoke. If you go out and donate you’re a spoke. If you’re a pastor and you’re helping to save people and bring them to Christ, you’re a spoke. I’m on TV, I’m a spoke. If we’re all [a] spoke in the wheel, we can really move this country in the right direction and bring people to their better selves.
Hannity’s glorification of humans and human actions wasn’t over. “There’s goodness and greatness in all of us. And the more we can tap into that or connect to that part of God in ourselves is, makes us all that much stronger and greater and powerful, and then we can be used for whatever His will is.”
Sean Hannity never spoke about the need for us to submit our will to God’s will. Bringing “people to their better selves” is nothing more than a self-help, motivational talking point. During the time that is supposed to be dedicated to the praise and worship of the One true God, Sean Hannity held out a man-centered religion with the endgame of shaping America into the image that Sean Hannity believes is worthy of worship.He’s is seeking to reshape the idol of America into a god that is made in Hannity’s image.
For Sean Hannity (and presumably Robert Jeffress until he denounces Hannity’s speech), salvation is found in obeying our feelings and making America great again. That message is an anti-gospel that leads people to hell under the guise of patriotism.