This is the final in my series of three posts about politics. I am not endorsing a candidate or telling anyone else for whom they should or shouldn’t vote. My purpose is to attempt to define biblical principles for political engagement.
Here’s part 3, in which I put the final nails in my coffin – oops, my theses.
21. America is not the new Israel, chosen by God.
I believe the American political system is exceptional in many ways – there’s not a system of government I’d like to switch it for – but the idea that our nation holds a special place in God’s heart is contrary to Scripture. God loves China and Iran and Mexico every bit as much as he loves the United States. There’s nothing wrong with patriotism – the Bible never opposes the concept of national borders – but our citizenship is in heaven and if we forget that, patriotism can easily become idolatry.
I know none of us (almost none) of us has this as theology, but the concept is out there. “America is the last best hope of the world.” I heard someone say it recently, that “God needed America sending missionaries.” I love that we send missionaries, but, no!
22. We need to stop talking about “restoring America” to its former greatness.
First of all, a lot of that nostalgic American greatness talk is based on a somewhat inaccurate view of history twisted into pretzels by men like David Barton and others. America was not founded by men of God searching to glorify God and build his kingdom. Such a view ignores the reality of our history. Even Christian historians with academic integrity debunk that revisionist view.
Beyond the inaccuracy of the “restore America’s greatness” motif, it is racially insensitive if not outright racist. I love this nation and we have much to be proud of in our history, but our treatment of non-white peoples is a deep stain on this nation’s soul. Revisionist history about restoring America’s greatness ignores this.
America enslaved, oppressed, segregated, and marginalized Blacks, committed near-genocide against the Native peoples, interned Asians, and has generally mistreated people of color. Our justice system has been skewed to favor rich people (and white people). Economic injustice has abounded even as our economy has provided great opportunities for most. I think one reason some people oppose social justice is that they live in denial about the horrific things that happened in our nation’s history.
Do I believe America is a great nation? In many ways, yes. What nation in history defeated enemies and then sought to rebuild them and make allies of them? I believe Christianity has had a genuine effect on the USA. But the nation had some significant blind spots and racism has been the chief among them.
Folks, we just HAVE to stop talking about restoring a past greatness in which many people were treated like dirt. That is not godly. Please stop talking about restoring a greatness that included slavery and oppression of minorities.
23. We all need to be distrustful of our political instincts.
We all think we have formed our political views based on Scriptures, but it is far too easy to let hate and anger and partisanship shape us instead of God’s word.
- I have seen this in Trump-haters who see everything from the perspective of hating the president (they wouldn’t call it hate) and see endorsing Trump as spiritual compromise and racism and…you know the drill.
- I have seen this in Trump supporters who say that voting for a Democrat is evidence of a lack of salvation or at least or a failure to love God’s word. Democrats are evil, after all.
I am trying, here at least, not to take sides. I need to constantly realize that my flesh is strong is always going to seek to deceive me. The belief that all my political views are necessarily biblical is foolish. I need to constantly be seeking Christ and studying God’s word and seeking the mind of Christ – trying to bring my political views under the Lordship of Christ.
If you believe all your views are already biblical, I doubt it. We are all in a process and imperfect. What are the chances that you, an imperfect person in a process of being conformed to Christ, are ALREADY completely biblical in your political views?
24. Political isolation should not be part of the Christian church.
If your circle of friends is entirely or almost entirely one party, you may be making politics a point of fellowship, perhaps without realizing it. If your church is almost all Trump supporters or Republicans, you may be more of a partisan club than a church.
Our duty is to reach lost sinners, many of whom are Democrats, with the gospel. The goal is not to convert them to Republicanism, but to bring them to Christ. If our GOPism has kept people out of our churches, it has gone too far. If the proclamation of the gospel or of biblical truth offends people, we receive an amen from heaven. If people of color or people of other political persuasions are offended by our politics, we are sinning against the Savior and failing to be the hospital for sinners the church was meant to be.
Politics should not be a point of division and separation in the church, and they should not be such in the SBC.
25. If you only address the issue of abortion, you are not shepherding the flock.
Abortion is a big issue, but in my church, I do not think there is anyone who thinks abortion is a good thing. I speak to it when there is a text that warrants it, but if abortion is the only moral issue I ever speak to, I am not being pastoral. Sure, I get applause (silent applause in my church) for speaking to that issue, but it really isn’t an issue that many people are dealing with in their daily lives.
Racism? There are racist attitudes in a lot of people in Southern Baptist churches and a lot of people who attend SBC churches have dealt with racism. Confronting the sin of racism and teaching people who have suffered from racism how to rest in God’s love and respond with God’s grace, that is biblical shepherding. Abuse? There are likely abusers listening to my Sunday sermon and there are most certainly people who have been verbally, physically, or sexually abused. Confronting abuse and teaching the abused how to deal with the pain – that is shepherding the flock. Leading anti-abortion cheers is not.
Of course, abortion needs to be addressed, but there are many other issues that must be addressed as well. If we only speak about abortion, we are not fulfilling our roles as shepherds of the flock.
26. We have a natural tension between our worldwide mission and our patriotic duties.
Every Fourth of July (and Memorial Day) there’s a plethora of articles about the intersection of politics and faith in our churches. People argue about whether we should fly the flag and say the pledge in church or sing patriotic songs in our worship services.
The fact is that our commission is worldwide. We are called to take the gospel to every language, tongue and tribe on earth. We also have a passion (a godly passion) for our cities and for our nation. There is always going to be a level of conflict between our patriotism and our passion for the world. Paul said that our citizenship is in heaven and that we eagerly await a Savior from there – he is our highest passion. As God loved the world, we must love it, even those who are our political enemies.
Our natural tendency is to slip toward patriotic inwardness and we need to constantly remind ourselves that we are here to be part of God’s purpose to raise One Worship People from every tribe and language on earth to glorify him forever and ever.
27. If your political conversations are creating division and costing you relationships, it is worth some self-examination.
Obviously, sometimes you express a harmless opinion and passionate and opinionated people will get offended. But if you are constantly finding people offended by your politics, it may not be that you are “suffering for righteousness’ sake.” Perhaps you are being needlessly offensive. Perhaps you are being a jerk?
Try expressing your views and not making universal judgments or proclamations. “I have decided to vote for Donald Trump” is different than “Every Christian should vote for Donald Trump.” Realistically, people may not understand the difference (see Bart’s recent post where he stated what he was going to do at his church about the Cares Act and many people got defensive about his “pronouncements”).
I say this knowing that this series of posts has offended some. You cannot speak to politics without offending. The key is to state your views while respecting others. Even then, some will choose offense over engagement. Do the best you can, but if you are constantly causing offense, perhaps you should entertain the concept that your approach needs tweaking.
28. We cannot continue to ignore biblical injunctions on honoring one another
I am amazed at the efforts in some theological circuits to downplay the myriad of biblical teachings on unity, gentleness, kindness, and love in the Body of Christ. It is clearly an effort to self-justify. Those who spend their lives tearing down those who disagree with their narrow views do not want to deal with the fact that the Bible calls their attitudes and actions sinful.
I’ve issued this challenge before. Take a green marker and a red marker, and read through the New Testament, especially the Epistles. Highlight with a green marker every passage that speaks of love, of unity, of edifying the Body, of being kind and patient. Then take your red highlighter and mark those passages that speak about “calling out” heretics and confronting theological error. You will have a Christmas tree with red ornaments. There is far more in the text about the importance of unity.
The fact is, the works of the flesh listed in Galatians 5 are all in abundant evidence in social media interactions between believers, and they are often championed as tools of discernment. Our flesh is naturally divisive and destructive and it is Fruit of the Spirit that unites us and causes us to be humble, Christlike, kind, and meek.
Biblical injunctions about kindness, love, gentleness must guide our speech. It is hard in the social media arena. As someone who is active on social media, I know the struggle and how easy it is to fail. But we must let the Spirit of God produce the mind of Christ in us. Let us stop justifying fleshly behavior as some sort of righteous indignation.
29. Guard your social media.
I am afraid that our social media involvement, especially as it relates to politics, is not always a gospel positive. What is your goal on social media? A lost world is watching and what they see from Christians is not always helpful.
Scroll back through your Facebook page or Instagram or Twitter and ask yourself, if a lost person read this, what would they think of my Savior?
30. Genuinely attempt to understand what others, especially your political opponents, are saying.
Let me close with one of my biggest frustrations as a blogger. I can remember so many times when someone would say, “I disagree, Dave.” Then, they would state an opinion almost identical to mine as if it was contrary. I write an opinion and people take it as a condemnation of anyone who disagrees. I already mentioned Bart’s article in which he stated, “This is what our church is going to do about PPP” and said not a word condemning anyone who did something else. He got angry, defensive responses – why are you attacking people who disagree with you?
I am convinced that there is a vast deficit of simple reading comprehension ability in our land. Actually, I don’t think it is an inability to understand English, but a listening deficit. People do not make a good-faith effort to listen and understand what others say. They make an assumption, then react to their assumptions.
If I say something less than complimentary about Donald Trump, I will get, “You are a liberal, a Democrat.” I have gotten that a thousand times. Why? It is a lazy response from someone who doesn’t want to examine their ideas or deal with mine. They do not listen, so they simply attack.
Here’s a question: many of you are horrified that Christians would consider voting for a Democrat or a third-party candidate. Have you taken the time to actually try to understand why they are opposed to Donald Trump? Those of you who have a viscerally negative reaction to Trump: have you tried to actually understand the thinking of those who choose him over others?
If we would simply take the time to listen to others and understand their thinking it would go a long way. We have taken the route of the discernment bloggers too often – assume you are always right, assign motives (bad ones) to those who disagree, attack. This must stop.
I genuinely believe that the 2020 political season has the power to divide us as Southern Baptists if we let it, if we act the way we did in 2016. I haven’t changed my convictions, but I don’t think it is about convictions. It is about the way we interact with one another, the way we honor or fail to honor one another, the way we disagree. I am trying to do better this time around. I hope you will as well.