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Dave Handles the Tough Issues
The other day I overheard my wife Amy ask the following question:
“How come all the people I know who are protesting the stay at home order are Christians and the people I know who are defending the order are not?”
It is a great question, one that she’s going to ask our small group leader when we meet next. It got me thinking not only about that question but about some broader questions that her question made me ponder. One of these was: Is american evangelicalism becoming more about politics and less about following Christ?
Wikipeidia defines Evangelicalism as
Evangelicalism (/ˌiːvænˈdʒɛlɪkəlɪzəm, ˌɛvæn-, -ən/), evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide, trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity that maintains the belief that the essence of the Gospel consists of the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, solely through faith in Jesus’s atonement.] Evangelicals believe in the centrality of the conversion or “born again” experience in receiving salvation, in the authority of the Bible as God‘s revelation to humanity, and in spreading the Christian message.Wikipedia
That simply is what I mean when I say that I am a Christian. I’ve been saved by God through Christ’s life, death and resurrection, I believe the Bible is the Word of God and I believe that I am called to share this good news to all. “Christian” may mean other things to other people, but this is what I mean by it. Also, since we are doing definitions, when I say “Church” I mean the world wide group of Christians per the above definition.
My concern is that evangelicalism at least in America seems to be adding to the Wikipedia definition. Which leads us back to Amy’s question. Why was all the support she was seeing for the stay at home order coming from those who believed differently than she does and everything she was seeing in opposition to the stay at home order coming from “like minded” believers.
Now it doesn’t surprise me that there is a political divide in this country about the response to the corona virus. There seems to be a political divide in this country about everything these days. We all seem to have been transported into a Seussian childrens’ book entitled “Red State, Blue State.” I get that. What I don’t get is that the evangelical church seems to have picked sides.
I remember 30 to 40 years ago when the republican party was courting the evangelical vote, but since then it seems like they’ve got engaged to it. Why is the church getting engaged to the republican party when we are supposed to be the Bride of Christ?
My political beliefs tend to originate from my Christian faith. A better way to say that is my faith informs my political preferences. I do vote republican much of the time, but there have been many instances where my faith has informed me the better candidate was not riding on the elephant. I have received much grief, even ridicule over the years for this practice. Some people it seems, have their political preference inform their faith. A few years ago a young man who had just moved to our near Chicago suburb from downstate Illinois visited our youth group. While introducing himself he said something to the effect of “Of course I’m a Christian I’m a Republican.”
Over the years I have seen a growing tendency to think the exact thing. This kind of thinking has had many evangelical leaders promote Republican dogma like it’s a tenet of the Christian faith. One of my heroes, the late Billy Graham, has 3 very instructive quotes regarding the mix of politics and religion.
… it would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.Billy Graham – Parade Magazine 1981
“I’m just going to preach the gospel and am not going to get off on all these hot-button issues. If I get on these other subjects, it divides the audience on an issue that is not the issue I’m promoting. I’m just promoting the gospel.”Billy Graham 2005 – quoted in What Billy Graham taught us about a healthy relationship between religion and politics – Deseret News 2/21/2018
“I’m trying to stay out of it and just keep preaching the gospel, because there’s nothing coming out of Washington or any of those places that are going to save the world or transform men and women. It’s Christ,”Billy Graham 1987 – quoted in What Billy Graham taught us about a healthy relationship between religion and politics – Deseret News 2/21/2018
I think that Graham’s quotes are even more instructive when you consider in his lifetime he met and prayed with every president from Truman to Obama.
Unfortunately not everyone agrees with Graham on this. I have been embarrassed and outraged by how unchristian much of the political rehtoric I see by fellow believers. Our President had his share of rants during the early days of his daily co-vid briefings. On at least 2 occasions he went off on journalists who were asking valid questions. In both cases, I saw on Facebook people I respected saying the reporters deserved those attacks and not one apology for our President’s behavior. One person referred to one rant as one of the best things he ever heard him say. The main gist of the commentary was that the left deserved everything the President was doling out.
As a Christian I believe that the only thing I deserve is a Christless eternity as a result of my own sins. I also beleieve that my salvation comes from God through Christ and is taught in the Bible. Nothing else is needed. When evangelicals defend unchristian behavior because they like the politics behind it they are not showing an understanding of Christ’s redemptive love to a watching world.
I am very passionate about political involvement. I have written many blog posts, letters to the editor and letters to my elected officials regarding my beliefs. I have had many politically charged conversations and firmly believe that I have a duty and a responibility to share my convictions with my representatives.
Another passion I have is my passion to shower the world with the love of Christ. If I had to choose between passions I hope I’d choose the passion mandated in the Bible. Jesus states this passion very succinctly in the book of John …
12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.John 15:12-13
As I come to an end of my thoughts about Christianity and politics, I will try to circle back and answer my wife’s question. The Christian response to the Covid 19 situation, or any situation for that matter, should be the response that speaks in the economy of God rather than man. Man’s economy may be all about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. God’s economy is about experiencing Christ’s love, sharing that love and putting others needs ahead of your own.