That th’ earth thy way, and nations all may know thy saving grace.
Let people praise thee, Lord; let people all thee praise.
O let the nations be glad, in songs their voices raise:
Thou’lt justly people judge, on earth rule nations all.
Let people praise thee, Lord; let them praise thee, both great and small.
The earth her fruit shall yield, our God shall blessing send.
God shall us bless; men shall him fear unto earth’s utmost end.
Psalm 67, Scottish Metrical Psalter of 1650
In Whose Kingdom Will You Serve?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
At every moment the Devil goes about seeking to devour the people of God. And while the enticement to commit sins against the second table of the law (murder, adultery, theft, perjury and envy) will be more or less constant for all of us in this life, those of us in a democratic republic constantly face the temptation to put our country or our party ahead of the Kingdom of God, violating both the First and Second Commandments. If we find ourselves more worried about defending our standard of living, being on the gold standard, or supporting or opposing CAFÉ standards than following the standards of God’s word for kindness and personal generosity, for example, we are serving the wrong king.
Because it describes the attitude of those who know not God, Matthew 6 also shows the unlikelihood of getting cooperation from unbelievers in an effort to make the nation conform to the Bible’s teachings. They seek the temporal because that is all they have. They love to say “eat, drink and be merry” because they think this is the whole meaning of life. But we are not to be like the world.
Christian politicians are tempted to violate Christ’s command to seek first the Kingdom of God, and seek a kingdom of this world instead. This can be illustrated by a pair of questions I once posed: Should I Pray When I Smoke? and Should I Smoke When I Pray?  At first glance, it might appear the two questions are basically the same. But upon closer examination, the questions illustrate a crucial distinction. In the first case, praying is incidental to smoking, which is the main focus of the smoker. So, of course you can certainly pray while you are smoking. In the second case, praying is central. At those times specifically devoted to prayer, smoking is inappropriate because it takes the focus away from the main purpose, which is prayer. An analogy exists between those questions and two others pertinent to this chapter:
- May I commend a man who is right on politics even though we greatly differ in religion? (Of course!)
- May I commend a man’s false religion because he is right on politics? (Of course not!)
Failure to make the distinction between these two questions is much more serious than smoking while praying and probably comes up more much often in the lives of politically active Christians. While I deal with the question of identity politics and religious questions pertaining to a candidate in a later section, here I take a stand to defend the good news of Jesus Christ. Many pundits worry about the encroachment of religion into politics. Much worse is the harmful influence partisan politics can have upon the Christian and the church.
Two Mormons have begun to play a more prominent role in American culture and politics over the last four years: Mitt Romney and Glenn Beck. Make no mistake, these men have a Constitutional and historical right to practice their religion and participate in politics as they see fit, as all men do in the USA. They can mix these two aspects of their lives in any way they wish. My quibble is with neither of them on the issue at hand. They both are patriotic men who want the best for our country, and I agree with many of their political positions. I am dealing here with purely religious questions, and my concern is that many Christians are following misguided leaders who are setting aside sound Biblical doctrine in the name of political expediency.
I will speak plainly. While it is quite possible to work together with unbelievers to stop abortion, work on economic issues, further political goals or protect marriage, it is not okay to do so at the price of denying Christ or the gospel and losing one’s own soul. Well-known Christian public figures, such as Texas Governor Rick Perry, Pat Robertson, David Barton, James Robison and Joel Osteen have already said that Mormons are Christians. However, patriotism and love of country must not take priority over our service to the True and Living God, and his only Son, Jesus. To do so is to make patriotism an idol.
I have come to the conclusion I’d rather sit under a thousand Mormon presidents than hear one more minister deny the gospel by affirming that Mormonism is a Christian religion. Mormonism is not Christianity; in fact it resembles the original false religion promoted by Satan in the Garden of Eden when he promised Adam and Eve that they would be as God, knowing good and evil. Mormonism teaches that Christians will become gods and that the eternal God was once a man. They believe that God has a father and mother.
It is not necessary here to extensively defend the belief that Mormonism is a false religion, a view which has been held by virtually the entire church since Mormonism began formally under the leadership of Joseph Smith in the early 1800s. For those who believe the Bible to be the only inspired Word of God, it is fairly straightforward.
So what in the world does this have to do with politics? Am I worried about the influence of Mormonism on politics? Not at all. Mormons are often outstanding citizens, who agree with other conservatives on many political issues. My concern is not even that Mormons want to have an impact on the culture with their religion. Errors from outside the church are not my concern here; it is the wave of error overtaking the church from within. As the quality of preaching and teaching from American pulpits has deteriorated in recent decades, even as the church has gotten more involved in politics, the crumbling of her walls has nearly reached the foundation (which of course cannot be touched, for it is the Word of God, delivered once and for all to the saints by the prophets and apostles).
It is not the Mormon influence on politics that is the problem; the problem is the compromise of the pure gospel of Christ which alone is able to save souls from hell. Politics and patriotism have become the great tempters of the American Christian. The Scriptures repeatedly warn us that the cross is offensive to the unbeliever. The belief in justification by faith alone through the unique Son of God is foolishness to the wise of this world.
As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. Romans 9:33
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you John 15:18
And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. Galatians 5:11
An American Idol
I love my country. I am thankful for the manifold blessings God has given her. Christians can certainly see God’s gracious hand in our history. But our freedoms and Christian legacy are a result of the blessing of God, not the cause of it. This may seem to be trivial, but it is really the difference between honoring the Creator and deifying the creature, between salvation by grace and damnation by good works, between godly worship and godless idolatry.
It is evident that a legitimate patriotism has grown into patriolatry, with all of the trappings of any other false religion. Just as counterfeiters work hard at making their currency look as much as possible like the real McCoy—by using the same typeface, paper, ink and symbols as as genuine money—so too, the American civil religion has replaced the sweet doctrines of Christianity with super-sweet, cancer-causing substitutes. Patriolatry has set up a false religion right in the middle of the church.
This article is taken from With Christ in the Voting Booth, available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com and fine bookstores everywhere (except Tupelo, Mississippi).