Twenty five years ago this month I surrendered to the Gospel ministry. In 1992, what became known as the culture war was in full bloom. In fact, 1992 was the very year that Pat Buchanan gave his well known “culture war” speech at the Republican Convention. I was fully immersed in the idea that conservative politics and orthodox theology were synonymous. Twenty five years down the road, the John Wylie of today is a bit more complex politically and even in some ways theologically. I have learned that monolithic thinking and uniformity are the enemies of honesty, progress (not liberalism), and liberty. Yet, among most orthodox Baptists I have found that uniformity politically is required for one not to be castigated, ridiculed, and rejected. If I could get in a time machine and have a meeting with a twenty one year old preacher who bears the same name I do, I would tell him that he has the liberty to not buy into the whole load of any political agenda. I would tell him that sometimes honesty demands that he express disagreement even if it cost him a great deal with his so called friends in the ministry.
The first thing that I would like to remind the brethren of is that the glue that binds us together is not politics, but theology. It’s the mutual faith that Paul spoke of in Romans chapter one that is the basis of our fellowship, not our voter registration cards. We fellowship around the things we believe about Christ, the Bible, sin, and salvation. We have codified those beliefs in doctrinal statements like the Baptist Faith and Message, and it has been my experience that when we expand those parameters that we always get into trouble, turmoil, and conflict. I have witnessed, and even been guilty myself of questioning a person’s Christianity based on who they voted for. Brothers and sisters, these things ought not to be!
The next thing I would like to remind the brethren of is that our Christianity does not preclude us being involved in politics and even using the political process in certain causes. Abortion, immigration, human trafficking, predatory lending, and a host of other issues are certainly worth our attention and political opinions to be brought to bear on. Some folks act as though involvement in politics is sinful or runs counter to the idea of being kingdom citizens, I do not believe that. If that were the case it would seem that Cornelius would have been advised by Peter to resign from the Roman army, and Sergius Paulus would have been advised by Paul to resign as proconsul of Paphos, neither appear to have done that.
The final thing that I would like to remind the brethren of is actually the main thrust of the article, that no political litmus test should be employed in our fellowship. A person can support a candidate and not support everything that the candidate stands for. In this last election we lost sight of the fact that sincere Christians could vote for Trump, Clinton, a third party candidate, or not vote at all and be doing so based on religious conviction. You can actually be a Democrat and not support abortion, or several other sordid stances of the Democratic party. You can be a Republican and not support war, crony capitalism, or President Trump’s wall. I have found that this kind of liberty is not allowed with many in our fellowship, because the minute that one does not tow the party line on every issue, they are immediately marginalized and ridiculed. The most liberating thing that I can tell you is that you don’t have to buy the whole load! We don’t have to agree on immigration policy, the military, the budget, the Black Lives Matter movement, or any number of peripheral political issues. What we have to agree on in order to fellowship with one another is the faith once delivered to the saints. Please allow people to disagree without writing them off as a liberal, or a fundy, or a racist, or pro Islamic.
Editor’s Note: John Wylie is the pastor of Springer Missionary Baptist Church in Springer, OK, and a frequent commenter here at Voices.