Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Gospel, the Church and Politics

I have watched with great interest as Christians have interacted and responded to another round of presidential elections in our country. I have seen ultra-passionate responses all the way to complete disinterest on the part of my fellow-believers. As a pastor, I am very careful about expressing my thoughts about the upcoming election. Some might be tempted to think that I am fearful of offending someone or fearful of what the ramifications might be for myself and the flock that I pastor. While those are legitimate concerns, my greatest concern is how my comments portray the gospel. **Disclaimer** I graduated from college in 1989 with a major in Accounting and a minor in Political Science, I love politics, my political views are very much shaped by Ronald Reagan being president during my first years of interest in politics. That being said, I am a follower of Jesus first and foremost, which is of far greater importance than political ideology. In fact, being a follower of Jesus should shape and mold our political ideology. I am troubled by what I am seeing and hearing coming from the hearts of fellow believers.

I will begin with the one extreme that I see, that I shall call the “Uncaring Dual-Citizen”. This is the person that sees themselves as solely the citizen of heaven and does not care about exercising their citizen stewardship as a citizen of our great country. My major problem with this kind of person is that they are not using all that God has given them to be salt and light in a culture that desperately needs the influence of followers of Jesus. The gospel, the glorious news of redemption, reconciliation and restoration found in Jesus Christ, would dictate that we should use our rights as citizens to influence and affect our nation toward the gospel. The person who does not exercise his citizenship rights of voting and of speech for the good of the gospel is missing a tremendous opportunity to be salt and light. We are called to submission to our civil authorities in Romans 13, and we have a say in who is given that authority by the way that we vote for candidates who support biblical ideals (note that I did not say conservative agendas…).

Perhaps, even more troubling to me are the excessively passionate Christians on the opposite extreme who jam our Facebook feeds with political diatribe, who demand that pastors practically campaign for certain candidates or parties (from their pulpits!), and who think that American Democracy is as “Christian” as a King James Bible or a hymnbook in a pew! (Note to the grammar police… I know the previous sentence broke about 14 rules!) The Bible does not view one form of government as better than another, the Bible does not teach that capitalism is the preferred view of economics. What really bothers me is that many of my fellow followers of Jesus seem to lose their sensibilities when in the political debating fray. There is never a good reason for a Christian to be rude, to be pugnacious, to be “holier-than-thou” in their defense of their ideology and candidate. I find this to be true especially in the area of pro-life proponents (which, by the way, I am).  The Bible DOES indeed teach us to value human life, but to do it in a way that is rude and unloving in many ways robs from the message and diminishes the gospel that we are trying to uphold. I saw this kind of rudeness, sharp dialogue and lack of love this past year when our state of Ohio wrestled with Issue 5. When it comes to politics, it seems that we, as believers, forget our words (written and spoken) reflect on the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we would only be as passionate about our Savior and about other believers, could you imagine what our churches would be like?

So, I have ranted and yes, I do feel a little better. The question is, “What would I do to fix the problem?” I am so glad that you asked!

  • First, I would remind us all, as followers of Jesus, that our first allegiance is to Christ and not a political party, an ideology, a candidate, our wallets, and I could go on…
  • Secondly, I would ask that followers of Jesus would vote like Jesus would vote. (I can see the “VLJV” bracelets coming off the production lines!) How would Jesus vote? Jesus would vote for ideas and candidates that upheld gospel principles. Jesus would probably not vote along party lines for the sake of the party. Jesus would engage in conversations regarding politics, but would do it in a way that magnified the gospel rather than diminishing it.
  • Third, I would counsel fellow followers of Jesus to utilize all the citizen rights given to them for the sake of furthering the Kingdom of Heaven. Too often we vote to improve our wallets, or to advance our own causes. This year, I would ask my fellow Christians to vote through the lens of a biblical worldview.
  • Last, pray, pray and pray some more! We are to pray for those in authority over us, we are to pray for that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and we should be praying for this upcoming election.

So who am I going to vote for? Do you REALLY think I am going to answer that one here?  I am going to vote for candidates who value life and will defend the lives of the unborn, I am going to vote for candidates who will use their influence and position to serve rather than be served (I know, I am very idealistic!) I am going to vote for imperfect people who are elected in an imperfect system and I am going to leave that in the hands of the perfect God Who gives them the authority to govern.