It was so predictable. David Rogers posted some comments here from DA Carson about the dangers of angry Christians being involved in politics. Dr. Carson, not a left-winger by any reasonable standard, was simply saying that when we engage in anger on politics, we undermine evangelism – our ultimate goal.
Here was Carson’s money quote.
But at the end of the day, if you can’t do it with compassion, and gently, and leave the doors open for evangelism, boy, you destroy everything. I think one of the devil’s tactics with respect to the church on the Right today is to make them so hate everybody else that at the end of the day they can’t be believed anywhere, not even the proclamation of the gospel.
To this preacher, the only biblical response to this was, “Amen.”
Then, the predictable happened. One of the first commenters (currently #7) made this statement:
So, according to Carson, the right demonizes the left in order to make the big bucks. So, is he in the left demonizing the right for some loftier purpose?
Obviously, if DA Carson is giving a warning to the right, he must be a closet lefty who is demonizing the right to support liberal politics. If I had a nickel for every time that flawed logic has been used on this site, I would have a lot of nickels.
Mike Leake wrote an article warning about the dangers of being an angry Calvinist. Several Calvinists reacted like Mike has drowned their kittens. Thing is, Mike is a card-carrying member of the vast Calvinist Conspiracy. He was holding his own side accountable. That, my friends, is a good thing – demonstrating integrity and humility. Calling Calvinists to account does not make one an Arminian, a modified Arminian, an anti-Calvinist, a Traditionalist or any other form of non-Calvinist.
Too often, in blogging, we rationalize and justify tactics on “our side” that we condemn on the “other side.”
All that to make a point. Blogging tends to magnify our differences and create false dichotomies, pushing everyone to the extremes. Everyone is either a hyper-Calvinist or a rabid anti-Calvinist. And, for the purposes of this post, everyone is either a full-fledged right wing culture warrior, or they are a compromised, convictionless tool of the left side of the aisle.
That is, simply, a denial of reality.
You can be conservative both theologically and politically and still think the tactics of the political and religious right are often wrong, unhelpful, and destructive to the cause of Christ.
- Look, I am just about as right-wing as I can be. The only Democrat I’ve ever voted for in a national election switched parties after the vote.
- I cannot conscientiously vote for anyone who thinks it is morally acceptable to enter a mother’s womb and execute her baby. Anyone with values warped enough to believe that is “a woman’s right” is too twisted to get my vote. That is a personal commitment. Just because someone gives lip-service to abortion doesn’t mean I will vote for them, but I will not vote for anyone who cannot see something this simple – that abortion is unspeakable evil.
- I reject the idea that conservative economics are immoral or that Christian economics require massive government giveaways to people. I pastored in a community in which generations in families lived on government checks and I saw the devastating effects that had on those families.
- In fact, one of the most immoral things we are doing as a country is overspending by over 1 trillion dollars per year. We are robbing our grandchildren and great-grandchildren so we can indulge ourselves today. That is just flat wrong.
- On election night, I will likely sit by the TV until late into the night and watch the returns. Last time, I’d made and printed guides that helped me track battleground states and monitor the progress of the elections. Most days, I check the latest polls to see where the president’s approval ratings sit and keep an eye on tracking polls. If anyone assumes that I don’t care about politics or that I do not have strong convictions, that person would simply be wrong.
But, the fact that I passionate about politics and have conservative convictions does not mean that I support every piece of rhetoric on the right, nor do I believe that my commitment to conservatism should lead me to sanction dirty tricks, deceit or other unsavory practices by operatives on the right.
Forestalling Pointless Debate: Before we waste time on this in the comments, let’s just settle two things: 1) right-wingers do dirty tricks and 2) left-wingers also do them – at least every bit as much – no point in arguing this.
So, here is what a card-carrying member of the vast right wing conspiracy believes:
- [I changed a couple of things here – I stand by what I said, but I think the discussion will become petty and silly if I leave them up]
- People who deny that some (not all, or even most, but SOME) on the religious right have some racialist motives in their politics is losing touch with reality.
- It is never okay for Christians on the right to assert untrue facts or use unethical means, even in the pursuit of a noble goal. The end never justifies the means.
- Asserting that some Christians have dangerously confused the work of the Kingdom and the interests of America does not make you unpatriotic.
- Man’s anger does not accomplish the work of Christ. Christians should state their convictions reasonably, kindly and avoid angry and demeaning words. This does not lessen our conviction, it honors Christ.
- When Christians judge the validity of other Christians’ faith based on their political stands, they are in conflict with the gospel of grace.
- There is often a disconnect between the aims of Christianity and the purposes of the political right. We share a lot of convictions, perhaps, but we cannot subvert our gospel work for political aims.
- A Christian who does not pray for president Obama (and not just imprecatory prayers) is not obedient to scripture. If you berate the president but do not genuinely pray for him, you are on shaky biblical ground.
You don’t have to be on the left to be disappointed and even disgusted by much that goes on out on the right wing. There is a middle ground, in which one can both be a conservative and also be critical of words, tactics and attitudes of the political right. :
Forestalling Pointless Debate (Pt 2): Please don’t ask why I’m not criticizing the political left. I’m not on the left and neither are about 99% of the people who wander by here. Why should I rail against the abuses of the left? We need to hold OURSELVES accountable. Railing against the other side is just too easy.
A Few Random Thoughts
1) Our message offends, our manner should not.
If we accurately and faithfully present the truth of the Word of God, it will offend many in this world. The Bible tells people they are sinners guilty of death and hell (who wants to hear that?) and that they have no hope of saving themselves (hard for rebellious and self-sufficient people to hear). Salvation in the Bible is not present as a form of therapy, or as a means of self-fulfillment or achieving success (all messages the world would love to hear). The Bible demands that we turn from our sinful lives, repent and yield our lives to the Lordship of Jesus. The mantra of modern man is “follow your heart” and “don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life!” The Bible says, “obey God” and “yield full control of yoru life to Christ.”
We have a message of hope – that those who repent and believe can be saved from their sins. It is truth. It is for everyone. We have been given the right to announce the Lordship of Christ to the world and call them to submit.
We even have the right to call our culture to submit to Christ. Abortion is wrong because it offends God, not just because it kills babies and harms the women who have them. We do not have to be obnoxious, arrogant, deceptive or hateful as we assert that.
We can maintain tact, kindness and compassion as we articulate biblical positions. They will still hate us for what we believe, but that ought to be the only reason we give them.
2) Respectful debate is more effective than loud argument.
Have you ever watched Skip and Stephen A argue? Have you ever seen anyone convince the other of their point in those arguments? Have the loud shouting matches on Sean Hannity or his mirror-image doppelganger on the left, Chris Matthews, ever convinced anyone? More to the point, have any of our debates on Calvinism had any effect on anyone (other than to draw lines and choose sides)?
Reasonable debate in an affirming context is simply more effective than loud and insulting argument.
Why do you blog or comment? If you are a Christian, it has to be to honor God, edify the body and influence others toward the truth. Angry and insulting debate just simply never has that effect.
I will make no mistake about it.
3) Saving America is not our primary goal; saving souls is.
America and Americans badly need Christ. But God does not need America. And God is not concerned with “saving America” any more than he is with saving Venezuela, Zimbabwe or Indonesia. Once, God worked through a nation in the world (and will again if you follow biblical eschatology – sorry, fleshly shot!). Now, God works through the church to reach every tribe and language on earth.
Yes, we should be very concerned with the spiritual state of our nation, but we must be careful of conflating the interests of the Kingdom and the interests of the Republic.
We are here to evangelize. Whatever involvement we have in politics must serve that goal.
4) We must remember that liberals are not our enemy; they are the battleground.
Yes, in spite of what some might assert, there are some genuinely saved political liberals out there. But, as any statistical analysis will show, the political left has rejected our religion and our values. But religious and political lefties are not our enemy. They are the battleground. We stand against the forces of darkness and the power of the lies that the prince of this age has sown in this world. We are not here to FIGHT liberals. We are here to fight FOR them, to bring them from darkness into the light.
Is there any man in America more obnoxious than Bill Maher? Chris Matthews? These guys are mean, hateful, spiteful and vicious to their political opponents. But, while we should confront their wrong ideas we need to remember that we are not here to defeat them or humiliate them, or even to silence them, but to proclaim to them the riches of Christ’s grace regardless of how forcefully they reject us or the gospel we preach.
Forestalling Pointless Debate (Pt. 3): I did NOT say liberals were not Christians. But denying that liberals tend to be less religious, less Christian and more likely to reject biblical values borders is not a defensible assertion.
Is There a Point in All This?
As usual, I have rambled and made this way more involved than perhaps it needs to be. But here is my point: there is a middle ground! Just because someone calls the political right to accountability does not make him a liberal. I can be a committed conservative and still be ashamed by things that conservatives to and still call them out for their ridiculous statements.
Let’s leave behind the tendency to push one another to the extremes.