Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today, I think nailed it in his op/ed yesterday. His focus was on the outcome of the Alabama Senate Race (written before the result was known, we now know Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore) but can be applied as we consider the future of Christians in politics.
He pointed out the hypocrisy found among some (many?) Christians on the left, right, and in the center.
First, Christians who consider themselves progressive or moderate have been rather smug toward their conservative brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Many have dismissed conservative Christians as though we’re tax collectors and sinners.
- They have believed the worst about us often attributing some of the more outrageous remarks made by conservatives (not even necessarily Christians) to us all.
- They have not taken the time to understand why we believe what we believe.
- They have been divisive.
- They have often overlooked poor conduct in candidates they support.
They call these conservatives idolaters for seeking after political power. They call them homophobes for wanting Christian bakers to legally follow their conscience. They call them racists and Islamophobes for wanting secure borders. These moderates and liberal evangelicals are so disturbed by the political beliefs of their brothers and sisters that many say they don’t even want to be associated with them anymore; they seem to view these brothers and sisters in Christ as tax collectors and sinners.
In general, we have witnessed few Christians among these critics taking the time and effort to understand the views of their conservative fellow believers or to delve into the social and political realities they might be coming from.
But too often, we mistake the inarticulate groanings of certain foolish conservative leaders for the actual beliefs and behavior of the mass of evangelicals who vote for Donald Trump or Roy Moore.
When you actually talk to such supporters face to face, you often find more nuanced and reasoned political views, grounded in moral principles, combined with a ready willingness to condemn the immorality and verbal carelessness of these two men.
Second, with conservative Christians, we have had a misplaced trust in people and the process.
The first problem, I think addresses a flaw with some of our theology.
The problem with many Christian conservatives is this: They believe they can help the country become godly again by electing people whose godliness is seriously questioned by the very people they want to influence.
The focus here is not on who you vote for, but why you vote for that person. In who are you putting your trust?. Scripture states it should not be in our officials. “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation,” (Psalm 146:3, ESV).
I agree that finding candidates who reflect our values is important. It’s certainly far better to have a friend than an opponent representing us on the city council, state legislature, or Congress. What we can’t do is mistakenly believe that revival will come from what is done in the halls of Congress or the White House.
Yes, we did see revivals in the Old Testament when certain kings repented and followed God’s law (so why some of us think that revival will start via a morally bankrupt leader who is unrepentant is beyond me). Two things to consider:
- Israel was a theocratic monarchy, the United States is not.
- The people of Israel were the people of God, the citizens of the United States are not God’s special people.
Historically, revival starts in the church and spreads outward, and its focus is the Gospel, not legislation.
So put your faith in Jesus, not politicians, and pray that the Holy Spirit will revive our hearts and empower us to be faithful witnesses, (Acts 1:8).
The second problem is a problem with how we apply our belief. Galli addresses how some conservative Christians respond when attacked, and the temptation is to respond in kind.
When combative conservative Christians refuse to suffer patiently in the public square, retaliate when insults are hurled at them, and do not refrain from the appearance of evil, they sabotage not only their political cause but the cause they care about the most: the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Galli points to the example of Jesus.
But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly, (1 Peter 2:20b-23, ESV).
Does our approach to politics model this?
We need to do some collective soul-searching as followers of Christ whether we identify on the left or the right. Galli notes we shouldn’t forsake our duty “to participate in the public square for the common good.” What does our participation say about our witness for Jesus Christ? This should be the foremost question in our mind, not success at the ballot box.
In doing this we need to seek to preserve unity, we need to show charity, and we need to exercise humility. I’ll be the first to admit I have work to do.
I encourage you to read Galli’s entire piece.