As the tens of readers of this blog know I’ve been writing a series of blog posts on Jim Wallis’ book, God’s Politics about how Christians should engage in politics. Wallis challenges evangelicals’ loyalty to the Republican party by encouraging Christians to see that their are other issues that are just as much values issues – like poverty and war, etc. He and those who contribute at his blog state that God is neither Republican or a Democrat.
Dr. David Gushee, a professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University shares at the Counter Culture Blog how Christian leaders (which he says “include pastors, missionaries, evangelists, youth ministers, denominational officials, parachurch leaders, college presidents, and Christian ethics professors, among others”) should conduct themselves when it comes to politics. I must point out that Jim Wallis would not be in agreement with him. Gushee first states:

The fundamental principles governing the political engagement of leaders representing Christian churches or “the Christian Church” must be the Lordship of Christ and the consequent political independence of the church in terms of earthly politics. The goal of those working as explicitly Christian leaders or representatives of Christian organizations is to bear faithful Christian public witness so that the Lord of the church might be pleased that we have represented him well. Therefore all who serve as Christian leaders must fiercely protect the mission of the church by refusing to compromise their political independence in both their words and their actions. The only way for us to do this is to remind ourselves constantly that we have an audience of One: Jesus Christ our Lord — and that we are accountable to Christ alone.

Amen to that, I could hardly argue with that. but after that he lists his rules for the 2008 campaign season.

1. Christian leaders must not officially or unofficially endorse political candidates or a political party.

2. Christian leaders must not distribute essentially partisan orsingle-issue voter guides that purport to be apolitical or nonpartisan.

3. Christian leaders must not publicly handicap or comment upon the political horse race.

4. Christian leaders must not provide private or public advice to particular politicians, parties, or campaigns concerning how they can strategize in order to win evangelical or Christian votes.

5. Christian leaders must not calibrate their public teachings or writings in order to affect the outcome of political elections or to gain and hold the support of politicians.

6. Christian leaders must not attend political rallies or campaign events of one candidate or party unless they are prepared to attend rallies and events of all candidates and parties.

7. Christian leaders must not invite political candidates to speak in church pulpits or on church grounds unless they are prepared to invite all political candidates of all parties to do so.

8. Christian leaders must not identify the potential or actual victory of any politician as a victory for God or God’s kingdom.

9. Christian leaders must limit their direct contact with politicians or staff in order to avoid even the appearance of undue loyalty or involvement.

10. Christian leaders must not engage in voter registration campaigns or get out the vote efforts aimed at mobilizing the voters of one political party rather than another.

11. Christian leaders must not direct the funds of their churches or organizations toward direct or indirect support for a particular political candidate or party.

12. Christian leaders may not sidestep these rules by drawing a distinction between their activities as a “private individual” over against their service in their public role.

13. Christian leaders must offer Christian proclamation related to that large number of public issues that are clearly addressed by biblical principles or direct biblical teaching.

14. Christian leaders must encourage Christian people toward active citizenship, including studying the issues and the candidates and testing policy stances and candidates according to biblical criteria.

15. Christian leaders must model and encourage respectful and civil discourse related to significant public issues as well as political candidates.

16. Christian leaders must model and encourage prayer for God-ordained government, its leaders, and their policies.

17. Christian leaders must teach and model respect for the constitutional relationship between religion and the state as these are spelled out in the First Amendment.

Joe Carter, a blogger at the Evangelical Outpost, says the problem with that is, “some Christians wish to maintain the illusion of political neutrality even when it conflicts with our moral obligations.” He also points out.

From this truism, though, some people derive the false assumption that since God does not provide his imprimatur for a particular party platform that the choice between voting for a Democrat or a Republican is morally neutral. This is almost certainly false. Political choices are almost always moral choices. Such decisions are fraught with moral danger and each Christian, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, must determine for themselves how best to follow their conscience.

Obviously some decisions are easier than others. Despite the excuses we may make for our historical-cultural setting, no Biblically oriented evangelical should ever support a candidate who condones such evils as “outrages against human dignity” (i.e., slavery, racial segregation, torture, abortion). Other times the options may force a choice among the lesser of two or more evils (pro-abortion candidate Hillary
Clinton, pro-abortion candidate Rudy Giuliani, or a pro-life third party candidate?). In each case, though, the choice should be to follow one’s conscience in applying Biblical principles to political decisions.

Carter then responds to each of the rules that Gushee puts forth. I encourage you to read his criticism. I personally feel the list is unreasonable, legalistic, and would necessarily hinder the Church’s prophetic voice. Rule #14 seems to contradict the rest, and #16 I wholeheartedly agree with. It does seem that the only group that would benefit from Christian leaders following this list to the letter would be secular progressives. This list also assumes that pastors and other Christian leaders can not have personal lives. I understand that churches and Christian organizations can not endorse a particular candidate under 501(c)3 incorporation rules, but that doesn’t mean Christian leaders can not have personal views. We must in order to be effective in our commission to be salt and light be able to address issues that effect the moral direction of our nation.

What do you think? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.

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