This was originally posted at Alan’s site on May 9. I was supposed to put it up here, but I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off! Sorry, Alan. It is a pretty good counterpoint to the harsher treatment that appeared here on Saturday. Let’s try to have a civil discussion, people.
I have met Dr. Russell Moore and have spoken with him many times and know him to be nothing of the sort. I also know many who know him far better than I do and they would say the same. In his defense, I wrote this on Facebook this morning regarding the tweet from Donald Trump featured above:
Early this morning, Donald Trump tweeted this. Dr. Russell Moore, formerly the Dean of Theology of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and is one of the strongest voices in America for the gospel, a Biblical perspective on life, Christian morality, religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and biblical marriage. But, he has opposed Trump because of his ways and policies and sees him as a danger and has tried to warn Evangelicals not to align themselves with him. He has opposed Hillary and President Obama as well, but they have never attacked him personally this way. Trump is sending the message that if you don’t fall in line with support of Trump, personal attack and rejection is what is waiting for you, not dialogue and a consideration that you might have a point in your objections. The hope in engaging prophetically is that Trump will come to repentance, see his errors, and seek to govern well if he is given that opportunity. That is the purpose of a prophetic stance at this point in the process. That won’t happen through capitulation and a silencing of opposition. If Trump actually cares about uniting the Republican Party, he will seek to listen to his critics on the Conservative side instead of writing them off. If I were him, I would listen to Russell D. Moore instead of denounce him. Like I have been saying, attacks on Christians will not just come from the Left. There will be an attempt to silence from any side that doesn’t get our support.
I am not taking a political stance here. I am calling for an open process where Christians will continue to voice their concerns to BOTH sides and be salt and light in our culture on Biblical issues instead of soldiers in a political army. I will most definitely defend Dr. Moore’s right to speak prophetically into the political situation to candidates and elected officials. He responded with this tweet later:
1 Kings 18:17-19 (ESV)
17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. 19 Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
Dr. Moore’s reference to Elijah’s encounter with the prophets of Baal is significant here. He is asking, “Who will we serve?” At issue in this election for the church is not just who wins the White House, but whether or not the church will have a prophetic witness in this culture today and in the days ahead. We are well acquainted with pressure from the Left as Religious Freedom is under attack in many ways as Christians are being pressured to leave their religious views inside the church. Evangelicals are used to seeing that and have a long history of taking Biblical stances in that regard that engender opposition. But, are we ready for the attacks from the Right? Or, from those who will carry the banner of the political party that we have most closely aligned with in the past? How will we respond? Don’t we see that the attack is coming from every side and there is a way through it if we would look to Christ alone?
I would like to encourage a view that goes beyond the next 3 weeks. This election is not tomorrow. It makes sense for Christians to prophetically speak into the political process on issues and to candidates and elected officials. They serve the people – “We the people …” We have a role and a duty to be salt and light. What will be said of us in ten years? In twenty years? What will our children say of us? Sacrificing our voice to support someone without objection just because we fear the other candidate or the other party will win or we fear rejection from others is exactly the type of political move that weakens our gospel witness. Election day is November 8, 2016. A lot can happen between now and then. Lining up behind one candidate now just because he/she is not the other and ceasing to speak into the process if there are legitimate concerns only guarantees that the status quo is what we have to vote for.
Here are the things that can happen if the church maintains (or regains) a prophetic witness:
- The debate can be altered. If we refuse to acquiesce to the situation as it presents itself, but we inform both parties that our vote is up for grabs and there are the things that matter deeply to us, there might be some movement or change. We might end up affecting both parties. Our witness has been weakened because we have aligned so closely with a Republican Party that knew our vote was in the bag. Now, there is anger and lashing out that that might not be the case. What if we informed both parties that we are no longer pawns in their game? What if we addressed both parties and witnessed to the better way of Jesus? What might change? We don’t know because we have never tried that before. We are usually so concerned about getting a Republican elected that we miss our opportunity to actually shape the election. I am not saying that we will be successful, but what if we tried? As for me, a major issue in this election (among others) that concerns me and millions of other believers is how we treat immigrants as those made in God’s image. The Bible speaks to this pretty clearly. How could the debate be shaped and altered in a more Biblical way if we spoke into this instead of just acquiescing or running away? What about issues related to the sanctity of life? Race/Ethnicity? Marriage? Family? Building and Developing Communities? Justice Reform? War and Peace? Our Economy? Education? What might we say to both parties during this time of upending? What if we took this current situation as a call to MORE engaged in the process as advocates for the weak and the vulnerable as an expression of the sacrificial love of Christ instead of less?
- If the debate is altered, it can be altered even more if a third candidate runs. I am not saying that this would be successful or even advocating for it, per se, but what if another candidate ran at this point who was more palatable to Evangelical concerns? Ross Perot ran in 1992 and won 19 percent of the vote. But, he was leading in June of ’92 with 39% with Bush at 31% and Clinton at 25%. Then, in July, Perot dropped out and did not reenter again until early October. His flakiness cost him the election and he never recovered. It is only early May right now. My point is that anything can happen. In an election year where both candidates are not popular, why would we not speak out for a better perspective that could influence other candidates stepping in to alter the debate even further? I am not saying that I would or we should support the third candidate. But, perhaps he/she could alter the debate even further?
- We should remember that in America, our vote is our voice and to be a free people means that we are able to freely speak. I am a high school history/civics/economics teacher by trade before I went into the ministry. We live in a Democratic Republic that exists according to the “consent of the governed.” We are the actual rulers and when we go into the voting booth, we get to exercise our will as informed and shaped by whatever has shaped us. It is the one time that we get to officially speak our conscience in a way that is recorded. As Christians, what does that mean? How does being shaped by God’s will as revealed in Scripture affect how we vote? Often, we have had clear choices. Sometimes not as clear. We should encourage MORE debate and more thought on this issue. Instead of just falling into the binary Left-Right divide that is given us, we should recognize that there is more to it than that and we should we willing to discuss what lies behind many of our political positions. “Politics” is not bad. It is just how people govern themselves. Partisan politics where we compromise so we can have power for ourselves and over others is where the problem lies. Let’s vote and let’s think and discuss and still choose to love one another in the end. It is okay to disagree. That is the country that we live in. As followers of Jesus, maybe one way that we witness to Him is to model HOW we can disagree with others while still loving those who disagree with us? What if the biggest test here is not whether or not we get our way, but how we handle NOT getting our way or NOT having all approve of us? What if we are going to be given a chance to speak and then reflect Christ in how we respond to the reactions against what we say?
- We can speak to what we believe the Bible says. I am not advocating for any candidate. I have decided personally that I will vote for neither. I might be completely neutral even if other candidates run. Or, I might write in a candidate or spend 15 minutes staring at my ballot on November 8 and pray and make a decision that I had not thought of yet. Or, maybe a miracle will happen. A lot can happen between now and almost 6 months from now. But, we get an incredible chance to speak into a system and speak to other Christians about what it means to follow Christ in this type of government and this type of society, not just by voting for a certain candidate, but by living in a certain way and by telling a better story with our lives – and by loving those who oppose us. For so many who make politics their idol because it promises them power and a form of salvation and victory over their opponents, we can work through what being ambassadors of Christ and the Kingdom of God means in this context.
- Work to keep unity with other believers, even if there is disagreement. How we love one another is how we witness to the world and show that Jesus was sent by the Father (John 13:34-35; chp 17). If political and social differences – even theological differences – cause us to divide in relationship, then our fellowship was never based on Christ, it was based on agreement with temporal concern or having others agree with us for our own comfort. Can we be in relationship with those we differ with? If Jesus is Lord and our unity is really in Christ, then we better learn to sacrificially love those we don’t agree with. If we don’t, what story do we have to tell the world? Jesus is always right and we see through a glass darkly. We all need some humility, even as we seek to live our out convictions.
Instead of seeing this situation as a time of doom and gloom, what if we see this as an opportunity to “tell a better story”? What if this is a chance to speak to a divided world about who Jesus is, how God loves the people that He created in His image and that Jesus came to die for, and how Jesus handled the competing agendas of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and the opportunists who had sided with Rome? Was his context any less perilous than ours? Yet over and over again, Jesus pointed to the Kingdom of God – and the politics involved. It is a decidedly subversive and political act to carry the pack of a Roman soldier an extra mile beyond the required mile (both to the Jewish leaders AND to the Romans). It is a political act to turn the other cheek when hit. It is a political act to point to a hated Samaritan as the one who was actually the neighbor to the man beaten or to not condemn the woman caught in adultery or to invite yourself to a tax collector’s house or to heal on the Sabbath. The list goes on and on. Jesus confronted the sin in their hearts and the sin in their controlling systems and he called people away from the pursuit of power, prominence, and popularity and He called them to repentance and to the Kingdom of God with the ethic of sacrificial love for God and neighbor.
Could we potentially be at a place where the witness of the gospel can shine brighter than ever if we can resist the temptation of jumping in on one side or the other? Maybe I have taken a side by not taking a side. But, I am thinking about what story I want to tell years from now. I might have a different perspective in November. I don’t know. Things could happen between now and then that might change my thinking. But, for now, what if we sought to alter the debate instead of succumb to it? What if we keep pushing the issues both to the candidates as well as in our churches and what if we came out on God’s side instead of asking Him to be on our side? What if we pray and believe and not give up? And, what if we remain grateful that we still get to live in a country where these are the things that we get to work through instead of just being controlled by a dictator?
What if we tell a better story?