As we approach what probably is the most unique election some of us have ever faced, I have some thoughts on the current political climate that are a little bit broader than whether we should vote for one candidate or another. I’m somewhat hesitant to share them because I’m generally not consumed with politics and probably don’t keep up as much as I should. But after a fair amount of inner debate, I’ve decided to offer these thoughts not only because I think they might be helpful to some but also to hear the opinions of others who might have a different perspective than I do.
Part of what concerns me about the current climate is the close identification that often is assumed between evangelical Christianity and the GOP – it is almost as if they are the same thing for many of us.
But the evangelical church is not a political party with a candidate running in the presidential election. We are the called-out ones. And part of what we have been called out from is a society that gives politics a greater prominence in everyday life than I think I’m willing to give it. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility to vote. But I would love to see the evangelical church being a more prophetic voice in the political arena – taking a stance for Christian values more than for one political party’s platform.
A small example which we don’t ever hear much about – gerrymandering – the practice through which the victorious party in an election gets to change the boundaries of voting districts (always for their own advantage in future elections) after they have won the election. In my opinion, it’s corrupt at its core and is the result of a thirst for personal power which, if left unchecked, will ultimately be disastrous for America. Why isn’t the evangelical church in America standing up and saying that it is a corrupt system? If not the evangelical church, who will stand up? How can we say to unbelievers that a focus on self is a core element of the disfunction in our lives if we won’t stand up and point out how wrong the gerrymandering system (and the underlying focus on self and personal power) is? How can we stand up against injustice if we so closely identify ourselves with one of the two main political parties which actively promotes this sort of injustice?
Another example – illegal immigration. Whichever side of the issue we land on, who will stand up and say that politicians’ positions on immigration policies have little to do with what they think is just and everything to do with increasing the voting constituency of their party or decreasing the voting constituency of their opponent’s party? Who will stand up if not the evangelical church?
Who will stand up for the principle that the foundation of leadership is godly character if not the evangelical church? If the evangelical church can’t stand up and say to Hillary Clinton that continued dishonesty disqualifies her from being a leader, then who will stand up? If the evangelical church can’t stand up and say to Donald Trump that much of the beauty of God’s creation is in the diversity of His people – i.e. different races – and that failure to take a firm stand against racism disqualifies him from being a leader, then who will stand up?
If not us, who?
But because we have so closely identified ourselves with one particular party, we have forfeited the independent platform of those who have been called out. And we have – at least in some measure – forfeited our platform for declaring the truth of the gospel (because one side of the political spectrum assumes we are exactly the same as their opponents on the political spectrum).
Hebrews 11:13-16 seems relevant – “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”
Here’s what I wish I heard when people talk about the current political environment: “Democrats believe this. Republicans believe this. Evangelicals …. well …. they’re just different.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything like that, and I think it saddens me.