81 % of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump to become President of the United States. Donald Trump whose moral character would be unfit for most leadership positions in the church, became leader of the free world. Political expediency and a seat at the table was more important to most evangelicals than following Jesus as Lord and King. David Gushee writes:
The embrace of Donald Trump in 2016 by most white evangelicals was just the latest sign either of the bankruptcy of evangelicals or the meaninglessness of the category…But I no longer believe that the church, per se, knows or follows that religion (referring to a religion of justice, love and compassion). I no longer believe the church, per se, is generally a source of good in the world. (Gushee, page 146)
After the circus of the Kavanaugh hearings where both Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blesey Ford were pawns for both Republican and Democrats, it became clear that the confirmation hearings was more about power and partisanship than ethics and the rule of law. It was also not about justice since Christine Blesey Ford was “supposedly” (I believe she was) sexually assaulted by the supreme court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh 30 years ago.
Nevertheless, I can’t blame Christians who are sick of the two party system that is part of the cultural norm within American Politics, or are sick how morally corruptible Washington has become. Even most of our churches are becoming more and more partisan where conservative evangelical and conservative catholic churches vote Republican, and where progressive mainline protestant churches and some of the fringe religious groups vote Democrat. The partisanship and tribalism affected by the cultural wars are splitting both families and churches in our nation where unity in diversity is supposed to be celebrated. One party blows the horn of nationalism championed by Russia and Fox News, while the other party plays the victim and prophet and is desperately trying to find a candidate to unseat the tyrant in-chief.
In my own “egotistical” self-righteousness, I too have been prone to point fingers falling more on the “liberal” side of politics, and is one of the reasons that I have to bite my tongue at a lot at family functions since my family (both my wife’s and my brother’s family) are politically conservative. There is an old saying, if you want people to like you, “please do not talk about politics and religion”. My mother continues to remind me of this since my two favorite topics are religion and politics (she and I are on the same page both theologically and politically). Maybe not as much politics, but definitely religion and theology. Yet the application of Christian ethics is played out in the political arena, and one cannot have a discussion about ethics without it turning political.
Unfortunately for most evangelicals, we have drunk the religious right koolaid which has brought many of those that are proud of their evangelical heritage into the Republican Party. Keith Giles writes in his book, Jesus Untangled:
For more than 40 years now, the Republican Party has been promising American Christians that they will overturn Roe v. Wade and outlaw abortion again. We’ve had two terms of Reagan, one term of George Bush, two terms of George W. Bush, and a majority Republican Congress during many of those years-and what have they done?…Not much. The truth is, the abortion issue is a “shiny red button” that the Republican Party loves to hold out to us as a way to manipulate us to vote for their candidate. But once that person is elected the issue of abortion is never a priority of that politician… Here’s why: The “shiny red button” works as it designed to work. It makes us vote for them. That’s all it is supposed to do…Simply put, the abortion issue is nothing more than a means to manipulate the evangelical Christians in America to vote for Republican candidates.” (Keith Giles, Jesus Untangled, Kindle Loc. 1400)
Giles goes on and discusses one of Fox News hero, how Ronald Reagan manipulated evangelicals:
“Ronald Reagan knew how to please evangelicals without giving them anything in return. Major constitutional amendments went nowhere. And the White House gave lip service all the time. But…they wouldn’t spend the president’s capital to go to Capitol Hill and lobby legislators on behalf of these ideas, not really (Giles, Kindle Loc. 1438).
If I was still an evangelical, I would feel lied to and betrayed by the Republican Party. We have all been manipulated. Just like Keith Giles, it is time for us “to open our eyes, throw off the chains and return to Jesus-and Jesus alone as our Lord and King.” We need to vote as he would vote.
Yet as Christians what is our role in voting and politics?
Do we side with partisan politics championed by both the Republicans and Democrats, or do we vote as we believe Jesus would have voted, and participate in politics as a representative of King Jesus not as a Republican or Democrat.
To Vote or Not to Vote, THAT is the Question
This month’s synchroblog topic is about voting. The question that it wants to answer, should Christian’s vote? Is it our responsibility and civic duty to vote?
According to Timothy Keller, most Christians do not fit in to the two party system. He writes:
Nevertheless, while believers can register under a party affiliation and be active in politics, they should not identify the Christian church or faith with a political party as the only Christian one. There are a number of reasons to insist on this. Another reason Christians these days cannot allow the church to be fully identified with any particular party is the problem of what the British ethicist James Mumford calls “package-deal ethics.” Increasingly, political parties insist that you cannot work on one issue with them if you don’t embrace all of their approved positions.
So should Christians either be a participant in politics and do our civic duty to vote?
I believe that part of fulfilling Jesus command to “love our neighbors as ourselves” is to vote and participate in local politics. Christian ethics is all about loving our neighbor as ourselves. Keller explains why Christians need to be involved in politics, but not to be part of the two party system:
So Christians are pushed toward two main options. One is to withdraw and try to be apolitical. The second is to assimilate and fully adopt one party’s whole package in order to have your place at the table. Neither of these options is valid. In the Good Samaritan parable told in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus points us to a man risking his life to give material help to someone of a different race and religion. Jesus forbids us to withhold help from our neighbors, and this will inevitably require that we participate in political processes. If we experience exclusion and even persecution for doing so, we are assured that God is with us (Matthew 5:10-11) and that some will still see our “good deeds and glorify God” (1 Peter 2:11-12). If we are only offensive or only attractive to the world and not both, we can be sure we are failing to live as we ought.
The Gospel gives us the resources to love people who reject both our beliefs and us personally. Christians should think of how God rescued them. He did it not by taking power but by coming to earth, losing glory and power, serving and dying on a cross. How did Jesus save? Not with a sword but with nails in his hands.
Rich Nathan, Senior Pastor of the Columbus, Ohio Vineyard concurs with Timothy Keller, and writes:
Christianity is ALWAYS injured when it allies itself too closely with any political party or government. Most observers believe that the cause of Christ was severely injured by the alliance of Christianity with the Roman government after the Emperor Constantine’s conversion in the early fourth century. Indeed, many historians have called the alliance between the church and the Roman government “the Constantinian captivity” of the church. As a result of this alliance, the church embraced an increasingly Roman form of government for the internal organization of the church. The church supported the forced conversion of pagans to Christianity and the persecution of people who were not Christian. Political power has always been a source of great temptation for the church in every age.
In recent years, various streams of the church have allied themselves with one or the other of the political parties in America. In the 1960’s, mainline churches allied themselves with the Democratic Party and lost many conservative church members as a result. In the 1980’s and in an increasing way in the 21st century, white evangelicals have allied themselves with the Republican Party. This is one of the reasons that Millennials have rejected the evangelical church and have turned from the faith of their parents and grandparents.
Christians should never buy the WHOLE PACKAGE of any political party’s platform. Christians should, in my opinion, be issues voters not party voters. Sometimes a Christian may agree with certain principles promoted by the Republican Party. Sometimes a Christian may agree with certain principles promoted by the Democratic Party. Often a Christian will disagree with both parties and say that “no political party represents my own biblical perspectives”. And with political parties switching their own positions at head-spinning speed, even the parties themselves don’t buy the whole package that they said they believed just a few years ago.
I agree with both Rich Nathan and Timothy Keller, and unfortunately we have seen the effects of how much influence the Republican party has over white evangelicals. I agree with Rich Nathan that Millennials are leaving evangelical churches in record numbers because of the evangelical churches partisanship with Republicans. I also agree with Rich Nathan that Christians should be issues voters and vote for the best candidate regardless if they are a Republican or Democrat who will do what is best for our local communities. Ones that will bring justice to poor families, equal the playing field with the wealthy, and bring jobs to our given regions. Also vote for candidates who will be a good steward of the environment.
Red, Blue or Green
In Ohio, one has to declare a political party to be able to vote in primaries. I know that I am fed up with the two party system and most of the time I do not line up with either the party platforms of the Democrats or Republicans. I tend to be more conservative when it comes to fiscal and economic issues, and more liberal when it comes to social policy. Yet I am passionate about taking care of the earth, and the party that puts climate change as a priority, is the Green Party. Many of my friends accuse me of throwing away my vote when it comes to state and federal elections, but I would rather be true to myself than to vote for the “lesser of two evils”. However, as I go into the voting booth on Tuesday, November 6, my bias when it comes to voting is not what the Green party says, but what Jesus says. The voting standard comes down to this passage from the book of Matthew:
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your min. This greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matt. 22:37-38)
The issues on ballot and the people running for office should line up with the above passage from Matthew 22. If the issue doesn’t or the person doesn’t, then I won’t vote for the issue or the person. For example, if a candidate is going to cut medicare and medicaid which helps the poor in my state, and back legislation to not support pre-existing medical conditions, then I probably will not back that candidate because I know many people that depend upon Ohio’s medicare and medicaid programs. A lot of the working poor, and impoverished in our state have pre-existing conditions, and it will be difficult for them to maintain health insurance or qualify for medicare and medicaid. Unfortunately, the Republican candidate in Ohio supports cutting medicare and medicaid since he is backed by big insurance companies and will support legislation in Ohio that will disqualify anyone with pre-existing medical conditions for health insurance.
To me, this is a form of oppressing the poor and supporting the wealthy. This goes against loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Also, there is an issue on the ballot lessoning crimes for those who are found guilty of drug possession. Instead of it being a felony, depending upon the circumstances, the offense will be reduced to a misdemeanor requiring less jail time. Right now, the prisons are overcrowded mainly with non-violent drug offenders. This will save the tax payers millions of dollars, and provide means other than incarceration, a way of rehabilitation, drug treatment programs, and safer neighborhoods. Voting for this issue is a way of loving our neighbor. Providing treatment, counseling, are more loving than incarceration.
Even though I tend to resonate more with the Green party than any other political party, Keith Giles reminds me that no political affiliation should alleviate itself above the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He writes:
I would challenge you to crucify your nationalism, to crucify your political affiliation; and put to death anything that exalts itself against the Lordship of Jesus. (Giles, Kindle Loc. 1519)
So to answer many questions about whether or not I should vote this coming Tuesday, November 6, 2018. I am going to vote. I will vote for local candidates that represent Jesus well when it comes to assisting the poor with health insurance, will provide ample housing for the less fortunate, bring quality education to our local schools, and build our local infrastructure within Delaware County. Basically the candidates that love their neighbor as themselves.
Here is the list of other writers and authors who contributed to this month’s Synchroblog. Go read them all to see what others think about voting in the elections.
- Red, Blue, Green, or Neither? – Scott Sloan
- Voting is Violence … So Vote! – Tim Nichols
- Who Should we Vote For if We Vote At All? – Mike Edwards
- Should I Vote in the Election? – Jeremy Myers