BY STEVE DUNN
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” – John 18:36
2012 is a presidential election year.
As the year proceeds, politics will increasingly dominate the attention and the passions of the nation. This year’s election antagonisms are being intensified by a strong thread of religious rhetoric. Many conservative Christians see Mr. Obama as an enemy of the highest order – one, because his positions seem to be closely aligned with the Christian left and by the persistent notion that he is a Moslem hiding in the clothing of the very liberal United Church of Christ. And thirdly, because his political actions seem to intent of promoting the largely often Christian-despising secular left. And those on the Christian left that unfortunately seem to dominate the clergy of Mainline Churches often espouse positions that a sense that cultural priorities trump biblical values. They attack conservative Christian candidates with an intensity equal to the conservative’s attacks on the President.
A little while ago I was having lunch with some pastoral colleagues who were passionately discussing the co-opting of a major Christian university by those who are pursuing the homosexual “agenda.” (Please note that I believe there is a homosexual agenda. More about that another time.)
Sitting at lunch with us was a young man who comes from a church that espouses biblical values.
For those of you who only pay attention to religious political rhetoric, biblical values are neither conservative nor liberal. Christians trying to live authentic biblical lifestyles think that Christ and His purposes are more important than any human philosophy and are repulsed by the claims of both the Christian Right and Christian Left that theirs is the authentic Christian faith. Both the Right and the Left are not careful about letting their culture values trump their biblical values. Authentic biblical Christians, I have found are conservative on moral issues – like human sexuality, homosexuality, abortion vs “choice.” They are “liberal” on social issues like justice, poverty, the environment.
This young man asks what drives the whole homosexuality debate. “Fear” was the answer (with which I concur). “What are they afraid of? was his response. The debate discussed that issue more and then returned to the dissection of the original political issue.
The young man said to me quietly. “I need to tell you that I was genuinely excited by the outcome of the last election. Not because I agreed with all the positions of the candidate, but thrilled that my children now lived in a nation where a black man could be elected president. My fear is that my children will grow up in a world dominated by secular values where there is no place for God.”
We continued our discussion and talked about how ill-equipped the church was to be in this debate because politics seem to have become more important than making disciples. (If you have forgotten, that’s why Jesus says we exist – to make disciples.) Instead “we have simply become the haters in the culture.”
It is a position we have earned–sadly.
In letting fighting culture wars pre-empt the proclamation of the gospel we have made expressions of religion in public life something unwelcome. (Scott McKnight has an excellent discussion on this issue. Please read.)
The Pew Trust, a highly responsible group that measures religious values, notes that more and more Americans are expressing the position that politicians should tone down the religious rhetoric and focus on answering the pressing issues facing the nation. Read …
My counsel to all Christians is to be a part of the politic process behaving like Christians and expressing your Christian values, but not erode the evangelistic mission of the church to fight every cultural like just one more political action group.
And perhaps we need to reflect on these words of CS Lewis, amply supported by the Word of God.
“A Christian society is not going to arrive until most of us really want it: and we are not going to want it until we become fully Christian. I may repeat “Do as you would be done by” till I am black in the fact, but I cannot really carry it out till I love my neighbour as myself: and I cannot learn to love my neighbour as myself till I learn to love God: and I cannot learn to love God except by learning to obey Him. And so, as I warned you, we are driven on to something more inward – driven on from social matters to religious matters.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity