Whew! So it seems that I definitely struck a chord in last week’s post, “Not All Political Issues Are Created Equal.” Before I move into this week’s topic, a helpful segue might be to clarify something from last week.
I was NOT trying to suggest that voting for one candidate or another makes you a Christian or even a more faithful Christian. The way you vote COULD, in theory, be indicative of that. But it is not necessarily the case. What I was trying to say as transparently as I could, was that as a Christian, you must not weigh all of the issues in an election as the same. If you are a Christian, you will view certain issues as fundamentally different from others, based on God’s clear and revealed will, in his Word, regarding said issues.
What’s interesting is that some of the heated feedback that I received on last week’s post was of the vein of “You said that you can’t be a Christian (or at least a good Christian) and be a Democrat!” If you read the article closely, I said no such thing. I never used the word Republican or Democrat. I never used the names Romney or Obama. And if I may be perfectly honest, my Bible-driven views on right to life issues don’t at all line up perfectly with EITHER Romney OR Obama. Assumptions that I was lobbying for one candidate or another were merely assumptions.
While I don’t believe it’s wise or appropriate for me, as a pastor, to tell my members who I am voting for, I will tell you that I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. For starters, I think labeling myself as such would immediately and unnecessarily ostracize some people who I’m trying to bring the gospel to. More than that though, I sincerely don’t believe that either party matches up with the gospel perfectly. For instance, I tend to see Democratic leaders as having a better (i.e. “more in line with the gospel”) stance on social welfare and environmental issues, but being off on issues of morality and human life. In contrast, I tend to see Republican leaders as being better (i.e. “more in line with the gospel”) on issues of morality regarding sexuality and human life, but only giving lip service to issues surrounding the socially marginalized and on being good stewards of the earth. Whether or not that’s a fair assessment, I don’t know, but I do think it’s fairly close to the general impression of the American public. Even more generally, I tend to see many liberals as pretty decent at speaking love, but often without absolute truth. I tend to see many conservatives as pretty decent at speaking truth, but often without compassionate love.
Additionally, one of the most startling revelations for me in recent years regarding the gospel and politics is that Jesus himself tended to upset BOTH social conservatives AND social liberals. Many conservatives AND many liberals of his day weren’t able to sense the flaws of their viewpoints, and therefore, viewed their culture and their personal preferences through idolatrous eyes.
So, if you’re going to label yourself a Christian and also call yourself a card-carrying member of the Republican or Democratic party, you had better be ready, willing, and able to clearly defend to others how your party’s platform may not perfectly line up with the gospel and, perhaps, how you’re working to change that. Again, I’m not making a rule that you cannot belong to one political party or the other. I’m simply suggesting that Christian faith prohibits you from merely dismissing some of the issues of your party if those issues potentially run contradictory to the gospel.
“Luke” had a great comment in my previous post about the importance of understanding a party’s basic platform. Before you jump on board, it’s important and responsible to do the necessary research: 2012 Democrat Platform and 2012 Republican Platform.
This all brings me to my topic for this week…
The Significance of This Election
I would suggest that this 2012 presidential election will be historically significant, regardless of outcome, but not because of policy on abortion, marriage, or economy. Rather, as a Christian pastor, the thing that strikes me as so incredibly noteworthy is that, for the first time in American history, if Christians are looking for a distinctly Christian candidate to back, they will not find one.
Let’s start with Romney. He’s Mormon. Mormonism has a veneer of Christianity, which makes it deceptively unChristian. For instance, the Mormon faith, shaped predominantly by Joseph Smith and his Book of Mormon, denies the Trinity (specifically that Jesus is true God from all eternity), the reality of hell, and God’s creation of the world out of nothing. Ultimately, the Mormon faith is “about” living such a good and moral life as Jesus that you, like Jesus, may become the god of your own universe. Whether such beliefs would negatively affect Romney’s ability to govern our country is a matter of opinion. But let’s not be mistaken, he’s not a Christian.
Okay, well how about Obama? In the 2008 election, Barack Obama faced a great deal of criticism when the media stumbled upon some of the sermons preached at his home church, Trinity United Church of Christ, in Chicago, pastored by the very controversial Jeremiah Wright. All signs point to Wright as a fairly influential figure in Obama’s life. So what does Jeremiah Wright believe? Well, Wright practices what is called Black Liberation Theology. This theology traces its roots to the writings of guys like James Hal Cone. In short, Black Liberation Theology contextualizes the Bible so that Jesus essentially becomes the embodiment of a leader who frees oppressed people. In other words, Jesus is not primarily the Son of God who dies for the sins of all mankind, opening the gates to eternal life for all who believe. Rather, he primarily came to overthrow unruly oppressors and balance the social scales. Black Liberation Theology is about a God who desires the empowerment of the oppressed through self-definition, self-affirmation, and self-determination (James H. Cone “A Black Theology of Liberation.” Orbis, 1990 pg. 56-57). Black Liberation Theology has a veneer of Christianity, which makes it deceptively unChristian. In fact, if Black Liberation Theology one day became as influential as the Mormon faith, my guess is that you’d find quite a few evangelical churches, which are currently launching mission campaigns against the Mormon faith, equally zealous in their attempts to correct it.
And let me be clear here, I’m all for equal treatment amongst ethnic groups. That is perfectly in line with the gospel and I sincerely believe that the gospel – the message that all men and women, regardless of skin color, are equally sinners who may be saved by God’s grace in Jesus – is the ONLY thing that can, in time, level playing fields for all ethnic groups. However, I’m completely against anyone distorting the basic message of Christianity for the sake of promoting social reform.
To be fair, Obama has distanced himself from Wright and his church. However, Obama seemed more than fine with the church for 20 years, and only left when it became politically detrimental. Pres. Obama has not attended any new church with any sort of regularity since. Whether his beliefs would negatively affect Obama’s ability to govern our country is a matter of opinion. But let’s not be mistaken, the belief system that he supported for many years is a fairly far cry from orthodox Christianity.
So, again, why is this significant? If, in simple terms, you view a democracy as a government system in which your elected officials are truly representative of your people, then look at what we now have as a country. We have a nation with a veneer of Christianity that is actually dangerously and deceptively unChristian. The most recent Pew Forum research further seems to support this.
Should we complain about the state of affairs? No, that doesn’t do any good. Rather, we should work to redeem the “city” (or nation; see Jeremiah 29:4-7 below). I’m NOT talking about a “Christian government.” There is no such thing unless you’re referring to Jesus, sitting on a throne, as a perfect and benevolent king, with a host of saints and angels bowing before him for all eternity (Rev. 5). No, I’m talking about a Christian cultural renewal. The research suggests that we’re no longer “that Christian” of a nation. Therefore, our principal duty as Christians is not to reform the government, but to now clarify Christianity, share the gospel of Jesus in words genuinely supported by our actions, and be a city on a hill (Matt. 5:14) for the rest of the world, a constant interaction of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23) that suggests to those watching, “Oh yeah, that seems more like the way things should be.”
Listen to God’s will for his people going into a land that was no longer culturally their land. His wisdom still stands.
“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:4-7)