Politics and Duty

I was at a few different churches on the Sundays leading up to election day, and I heard quite a few comments regarding politics and voting. I have never heard a minister endorse a particular candidate within a church. I have heard lots of preachers encourage their listeners to vote. It is good to vote. We should all vote.

At most churches you will hear something like, “Choose the candidate who most reflects your Christian values,” or “Vote for the person whose positions line up with the Word of God.”

At one church I heard the statement “It is your duty as a Christian to vote.”

All of those statements sound good at face value, but what happens when we scratch a little bit deeper?

If I say that it is a Christian’s duty to vote I am making a statement about right and wrong. I am saying that there is a right thing to do (vote) and a wrong thing to do (not vote). We all know that the value of voting is not in the act of casting a ballot. It is all about who I cast a ballot for. Therefore, this statement about Christian duty makes an implicit assumption that there is a right way to vote and a wrong way to vote.

Christians do not all vote one way though. Most white evangelicals vote republican. Most African-Americans vote democrat. Most Catholics vote Democrat. Most Baptists vote Republican. Most Hispanics vote Democrat. And that is just an extreme generalization. There are all kinds of shades in between.

During the 2008 presidential election , millions of Christians were praying that Barrack Obama would win. Millions of Christians were also praying that he would lose. Did God answer the prayer of some people but not others?

We tend to see our own opinions and beliefs as correct and conflicting opinions and beliefs as wrong. Since we are right, then God must be on our side. That would make our candidate, God’s candidate. What about the person who has carefully examined the issues according to Christian values and has come to the opposite conclusion from us? Could they be right too?

All of us must consider that there can never be a world leader or government system that reflects the values of the Kingdom of God. No matter if it is the kingdom of Caesar Augustus, George Washington, George W. Bush, or Barrack Obama, it will never posses the life-changing and world-transforming power of the Kingdom of God, and our hope should never be placed in the systems of power of this world. My vote may make me feel that I am contributing to a better world, but it will never truly transform the world around me.

I would recommend the book Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne for a radical examination of what Jesus had to say about issues that are central to today’s political discussions.

11 Responses to “Politics and Duty”

  1. I think this is a point that is sometimes missed when people with one particular interest come together. People who come together for a common interest (church, political issues, “clubs” of all stripes…) often have differing points of views on a wide variety of issues. Does that make those who might be in the minority “wrong”? Does that make those who might be in the majority “insensitive” to what the minority believes? I don’t think that is what people come together for and it can often diminish the purpose of their “meeting”. I like to hear what people think. I may not agree, I may be very very very vocal in my disagreement, but I respect that their experiences, their beliefs have brought them to their views. And I’ll probably learn a good bit about their point of view–even if I, ultimately, do not embrace their opinion.

  2. I think we would all be better people if we made it a point to get together with people who are different than us and talk about life. Then we wouldn’t be so quick to identify some as our enemies.

  3. Exactly! It’s a lot easier to stick labels on people when you know nothing about them.

  4. I am flattered that you used my name is you blog:-) And yes I think it is fine to be divisive if you line up with scripture. And as usual I have a ton to say on this topic but I don’t have the time. I will just say this, Jesus was radical and extremely divisive. He did not mandy pandy around with gray areas. In God’s word and in Christ there are no “gray areas”. I realize people may read this and go “What does this have to do with the discusion of politics and duty?” But I will ask you all one simple question. Jesus said render untio Ceasar what is Ceasar’s when asked what to do about paying taxes. Now do you think Jesus would have said the same thing if Ceasar’s taxes were paying for abortions? I am not so sure… And one more question… Do we Christians have a duty to bring issues like that out into the open??? Personally I am appalled by any rational that explains away ones ability to vote in favor of a canidate that openly supports and defines the murding of the unborn… Where is our duty as Christian’s in that process? I know that was more than one question…

  5. You know what I think puts you most at odds with my ideas, Bill? I think it is your way of seeing everything as black and white. Yes, in some areas we must have rigid beliefs, but there are lots of extremely complex issues with lots of gray areas.

    Here area few:
    stem cell research
    genetic engineering
    eternal security
    death penalty

    I bet you have pretty black and white oppinions about a lot of those issues. If we are not will ing to at least acknowledge the complexity of the issues, then we alienate ourselves and marginalize others.

  6. Ummmmm… NO! By not acknowledging that the Bible is the complete, inerrant, infallable word of God you undermine its validity entirely and go against exactly what it says. That is the basis of moral relativism.
    Deuteronomy 4:2
    2 You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.

    Deuteronomy 12:32
    322 “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. pYou shall not add to it or take from it.

    2 Cor 4 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God,1 we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to fthose who are perishing.

    As far as all your topics, indeed, there absolutely are clearcut Biblical solutions:
    stem cell research: The only contoversy with this that I am aware of is if the stem cells are from fetuses. If that is the case then it is clearly defined: See Exo 21:22 &23. Now, I am sure you may try to argue this is vague. I don’t see it as such. The death of an unborn child at the hands of someone else is defined as murder. No gray. So that takes care of stem cell that receives cells in that way and it takes care of abortion.
    *We have stem cells banked away from Chloe’s umbilical cord. No harm. No foul:-)

    Next, divorce, that’s easy: Mat 19:8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
    Clear cut! No gray!
    Death? I don’t know what you mean. Ok, I am getting tired. I say all this in love but there are no grays. I suggest you check out the following: Go to http://www.lamblion.com/television/programs.php It is an awesome presentation on absolute truth verses relativism. It is done by Dr. Robert Jefferies and it is the April 10th 2010/. I hope you take the time to listen to the dangers of not accepting absolute truth. Here is a small exerpt.

    We are living in a culture right now that has bought into the idea of relativism and they no longer stand for the truth of absolute truth. By the way if you think that is preacher hyperbole, listen to this survey that George Barna did, he did among Christians. And George Barna discovered that 68% of born again adults, and 91% of born again teenagers said there is no such thing as absolute truth. No such thing as absolute truth. Can you say GREAT FALLING AWAY!

  7. Gray areas are not caused because God’s revelation is incomplete or the Bible contains errors. They are caused because we see through a glass darkly.

    Christians in every age have been confident of certain truths (sometimes enough to burn “heretics” at the stake) that we completely discount in later times.

    We all have to be careful about becoming inflexible.

    Check out Elisha’s not so black and white response at the end of the story in 2Kings 5:1-19.

  8. You cannot twist truth. I mean you can but that is not of God. I am not talking about burning heritics or abortionists for that matter. I am talking about this slippery slope which is more of a spiralling down of more decay in our country, culture, our world because of the dumbing down of the word of God in the name of tolerance. That slope is the downfall of every society in the history of the world. Of course secular history will shift the blame to bad economics or poor military strategy but it mirrors nation after nation in the bible. And the reason is moral decay due to moral relativism because the lack of the people to rocognize truth.

  9. Until nearly the 1500s most people believed that the earth was the center of the universe and all other celestial bodies rotated around it. This idea was supported by Scripture; therefore, anyone who theorized otherwise was persecuted and even put to death. Now we have completely different cosmological awareness, and we cannot imagine thinking of the earth as the center.

    Until nearly 1600 (and later for some) it was considered an offense against the Word of God to translate the Bible into common languages. Those who dared to attempt translation were persecuted and even executed. Today we cannot imagine a world where the Bible is not always available in our language.

    Today we consider the scientists who developed the ideas of our solar system and the men who first translated the Bible to be heroes, yet at one time they were considered the worst of criminals by the same church that we are a part of today.

    From the time of the crusades into the 1800s many thought it was God’s will to overrun the Middle East forcibly converting Muslims or killing them.

    From the colonization of America until the Civil War, American’s accepted (with Scriptural reasoning) the abuse and degradation of an entire race of people.

    So why was God not revealing to His people that the earth rotates around the sun, that it was okay to translate Scripture, and that people should not be killed and enslaved in His name. These errors (and many others) have resulted in terrible atrocities for centuries. It seems that God might have spared the world a lot of suffering if he had corrected His people earlier. I don’t know.

    What we have to see from church history is that the church’s understanding of absolute truth has changed. Changing truth is not an invention of relativism. The church has named people heretics who were actually revealing truth. This tells me that I had better be really, really careful who I call a heretic.

    It also tells me that I have to be flexible. Flexibility is not tolerance or moral ambiguity. It is humility.

    Relativism in our current society has developed largely as a reaction (reactions are usually extreme) to the failures of modernism and foundationalism. In the modern era (since the invention of the printing press, the Renaissance, and the Reformation) we have exalted human knowledge. We have assumed that we could solve every problem and know every truth through more knowledge (this thinking reached its height in the Enlightenment). Through the human failures of the 19th and 20th centuries we have seen that knowledge does not equal truth. Our accumulation of more and more knowledge has not brought about a better society, better people, or even a better church. We have also come to understand that human experiences, personalities, and flaws can distort our understanding. When you and I look at the same picture we may see two different things, therefore it is very difficult for human beings to discern absolute truth.

    We can certainly accept that modernism is flawed and that it is very difficult for people to see whole truth, even if we do not embrace the extreme end of relativism saying that truth is always changing.

    All that is to say that we have to be flexible. We rely wholly on God, knowing that He is truth, but our human brain just can’t get it all at once.

  10. OK. Let me try another way. But as you said last time. I’m ready to wrap this one up. Again, the path to God is “narrow”. Those are The King’s word. The path to God is NOT flexible and THAT message is a detriment to unbelievers. I believe David Hawkes said it well yesterday. We need to understand the bad news first. We need to tell the bad news first. Yes, Christianity is a relationship and a process. But we are forgetting that a relationship is a two way street. The mamby pamby tolerance, truth is shifting message, in NOT the message of TRUTH. Relationship requires sacrifice. It is required! We have to die to self and we have to let people know via leading them by example (sure, of course) but letting the world know there is a price of relationship. And, again, Jesus does not warn us about goats who “heal in my name and clothed in my name and castout demons in my name” because people have learned to adhere to the word of God. The word says we will become a religious people, cold, and worship a God without power. That to me is what a message without absolute truth leads to.

  11. We are sort of addressing different topics. I do not advocate that we communicate that truth is flexible, that we make the way to God look easy, or that we minimize anything about the gospel. I am saying that you and I have to be flexible. Truth is perfect. It does not have to adjust. You are not perfect. You will have to adjust.

    Your understanding is not complete and I don’t believe it will ever be until Jesus finishes the work of resurrection in you when He returns. That is why every one of us has to be flexible. Because we don’t know it all. Because we might be wrong. Because we ate always learning. Because we are always growing. Once again, flexibility is humility.

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