Where do we start with Erick Erickson? Is it the holier-than-thou hectoring, the bad theology, or his penchant for anathematizing other Christians? Erickson is one of the founders of RedState. He sold it in 2014 and left the company in 2015 and has been named one of the most influential conservatives in the country by the Daily Telegraph for a number years. Which helps explain why the conservative movement is in such sorry shape.
After selling Redstate, Erickson announced with much pomp in 2014 that he would be entering the seminary and, presumably, reducing his role in politics. If only he had kept his word. And who “announces” that they are going to seminary? To family and friends, sure, but a press release? “Take up your cross and follow me” is not generally followed by “Will do, but first let’s get with the PR team.”
Still, it was at least half true. He enrolled in Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta—and has been reminding everyone of it ever since—but he didn’t step back from politics. Erickson’s matriculation into seminary reminds me of the old joke about vegans: Do you know how to tell if someone is a vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.
Erickson likes to flaunt his Christian bona fides and use them to harangue his political opponents. Subtle he is not. He is quick to fire off hyperventilating blog posts calling out all and sundry for insufficient personal piety but is not nearly so fastidious when it comes to his own behavior. This is, after all, the same guy who tweeted that Supreme Court Justice David Souter is ““the only goat f****** child molester to ever serve on the Supreme Court.”
Erickson is representative of a certain type of Christian who conflates politics and religion, the role of government versus the role of Christ’s church. To be sure, one’s faith must guide one’s approach to politics as it must guide the rest of life, but understanding the distinction between the spirituality of the Church as separate and distinct from the role of civil government is critical. Misunderstanding the distinction denigrates the Church and poisons politics.
Since this election cycle began, Erickson has developed something of a cottage industry in decrying each and every one of Donald Trump’s sins real and imagined, public and private. It’s his own personal online inquisition. And business must be good because he has expanded into new markets, now taking it upon himself to chastise other evangelical Christian leaders for their support of Trump.
Political disagreement is fair enough, but Erickson criticizes them as Christians. In other words, he asserts—sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly—that political support for Donald Trump is incompatible with Christianity. That is a big claim that Erickson never bothers to prove.
No surprise that Erickson has worked himself up into a lather of (self) righteous indignation over Trump’s hot mic comments about women he has had, tried to have, and wanted to have. One does not need to be a defender of Trump’s comments (I’m not) to see more than a shade of hypocrisy in the overwrought seminarian and Twitter vulgarian who was so put out by the first presidential debate that he tweeted out his intention to drink himself numb. So much for “be not drunk with much wine” or “the peace of God that passes all understanding.” Instead, Erickson the Righteous will find peace in the bottle and then roll into seminary nursing a hangover and a self-righteous glow.
In one of his latest fatwas (he issues them faster than an ornery Saudi cleric on khat so it’s hard to keep up), Erickson takes to task prominent evangelicals like Ralph Reed, Eric Metaxas, and David Brody for supporting Donald Trump in light of revelations that he likes the ladies. (This is a euphemism for those of you tempted to leave a snarky comment that Trump more than just “likes the ladies.”) Erickson tries to give this an air of respectability by wrapping it up with some things he must have overheard at seminary—some bad theology here, a little misunderstood Westminster Shorter Catechism there—but it doesn’t wash.
Erickson writes, “Do these people not care about leading others to Christ? Are they so wrapped up in the day to day partisanship of Repubilcan [sic] vs. Democrat that they have abandoned Christ vs. the World. Shame on them.” [Emphasis added]
He asks if these Christians—his brothers in Christ—“have abandoned Christ vs. the World?” This is, perhaps, the root of his error. Erickson suggests that there is a grudge match between the Church and the World and that the victor is decided, in part, through politics. But Christ tells us “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Christ has already won and Christians are already citizens of heaven—that battle does not play out in this election or in any other.
To that point, “car(ing) about leading others to Christ” and choosing the best candidate in a presidential election are not the same thing. One does not lead others to Christ by casting a vote in the 2016 American presidential election. One leads others to Christ by preaching the Gospel.
Does Erickson think he is leading others to Christ when he posts on his blog that Trump supporters “must be crying into their swastikas” because Trump “said something nice about Israel?” Or that “Trump voters have failed at life?” Shame on Erick Erickson for violating the ninth commandment. Bearing false witness against one’s neighbor is every bit as wrong as violating the seventh (adultery). What is more, a full understanding of the ninth commandment not only prohibits lies, false accusations, and defamation, but also imposes the positive obligation to promote the good name of our neighbors.
In his recent post he continues and falsely accuses fellow Christians of being in danger of losing their salvation by supporting Donald Trump. He writes of evangelicals such as Reed and Metaxas: “Backing Trump is not worth risking your witness. Defending the indefensible is not worth your integrity. And Trump in the White House is not worth your soul.”
In short, Erickson asserts that supporting Donald Trump imperils his Christian supporters’ souls —that they can lose their salvation over their vote in this election. He is on dangerous ground himself here. Shame on him for attempting to bind the consciences of other believers over something other than the Gospel. Doing so is itself the mark of a false teacher or an incredibly immature Christian. And shame on him for reducing the Kingdom of God to the Kingdom of Man. I hope for Erickson’s sake it is immaturity and that his pastor or his professors at Reformed Theological Seminary provide wise counsel and good shepherding.
Peter reminds Christians that we are “strangers and exiles” in this land—this is Babylon not the New Jerusalem. Understanding that is critical to wisely dealing with the struggles of this world. With regard to politics, theologian David VanDrunen offers these sage words in his essential book, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms:
“Speaking of Christian political activity can also be misleading since Scripture only speaks at a general level about civil government and political responsibilities . . . Scripture says nothing specifically about the concrete decisions that Christians must make about voting, party affiliation, details of public policy, or political strategy. These are decisions of moral gravity, but they are not decisions that one Christian can impose upon the conscience of another Christian. Where Scripture is silent, there is no single Christian position. Each believer must seek to apply, with wisdom, biblical teaching that is relevant to political decisions. Certain political actions are clearly inconsistent with faith, but many possible approaches to voting, supporting parties, forming public policy, and political strategizing are potentially consistent with the Christian faith. In these areas believers enjoy Christian liberty—and responsibility—to exercise their wisdom in ‘seek(ing) the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile…’ (Jer: 29:7)”
He never did get around to taking that break from politics. Now might be a good time for him to take a step back and focus on his studies and on his own witness.