- Focus on the Family’s yea-nay approach to Christian citizenship
- Is breaking faith the Christian citizen’s way to victory?
- Faithful Christian citizens seek victory that counts
FOR THE LORD’S DAY
I saw a headline recently that foreshadows America’s doom as well or better than any other I can imagine: “Christian leaders Call on Believers to be less Rigid, Support Flawed Politicians”. The article reports the comments of two people identified as “Christian leaders at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)” . Reportedly they “urged their fellow believers not to insist on supporting politicians who are strong on principle but less likely to be elected.”
Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery reportedly “called on Christians to support candidates who can get elected, even if they are not perfect for the Christian community.”
I leave it to God to know for sure what is in Mr. Minnery’s heart. But in determining whether I should heed him, or recommend to others that they do so, I must follow God’s Word, and the example of Jesus Christ, who is the Word, incarnate.
By Christ’s commission, his disciples are called to preach the Gospel. Writing to the Christians in Rome St. Paul said:
So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness [justice] of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, the just shall live by faith. (Romans 1:15-17)
I guess people like Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery believe that this means the just should live by faith EXCEPT when it comes to politics. When it does, the just should live by Party Label and allegiance, no matter what their faith requires. Though Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery encourages America’s Christian citizens to make this exception, it’s hard for me to discern where St. Paul agrees with him.
For Paul is writing to Christians in Rome, who therefore lived directly in the shadow of the Roman Emperor himself. He was the supreme political sovereign of that ancient empire. Paul knew full well that proclaiming God’s sovereignty, as Jesus did, risks persecution at the hands of those like Pontius Pilate, who represent human sovereign power.
In Rome, there was a temple erected to Caesar where he was worshiped as a divine being. Should we believe that Paul did not have sense enough to realize that the danger of persecution would be especially acute there? To the contrary, we know, that St. Paul ultimately died a martyr’s death in Rome rather than compromise his Christian evangelical vocation. We also know that many Christians in ancient Rome would eventually join him in that glorious fate.
Perhaps the Christians in Rome took seriously Paul’s reminder that Christians are called, to “live by faith”, i.e., trusting in God and preaching the Gospel shamelessly, even if they inhabite the potentially fatal precincts of human political power. In the context of this reminder, he sternly evoked God’s wrath:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. (Romans 1:18-19)
What Paul says is especially true of people who profess to know God through Jesus Christ. Christians who follow the unrighteous, instead of proclaiming the Gospel, by Word and deed, risk God’s tempestuous wrath [Note: the Greek noun translated as “wrath” is the seed from which the English word “orgy” takes root. It suggests anger so intense that, it takes account of nothing but itself leaving, therefore, no place for mercy.]
The context of Paul’s reference to God’s wrath compels us to ponder what may be in store for Christians who abandon the living Word of God, though they profess to have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior, thereby taking his mind and heart to be the rule and sovereign of their own.
Does Mr. Minnery think St. Paul is wrong? If not, how does he reconcile exhorting Christians to support the unrighteous, with Paul’s emphatic admonition to live by faith, even in the precincts of political power? As Christian citizens, wielding as we vote our shares of the temporal sovereign power Caesar once monopolized, what do we preach with our vote when we use it to elect candidates who promote what God condemns? When we vote for them, are we preaching the Gospel, or holding truth in bondage to unrighteousness, as Pontius Pilate did when he imprisoned Jesus, in deference to his detractors?
Or are we acting like the ancient Israelites of whom the Scripture says (2 Kings 17:15):
And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them, and they followed vanity and became vain and went after heathen that were ‘round about them concerning whom the LORD charged them, that they should not do like them.
Of course Mr. Minnery may think it acceptable to preach the Gospel with words, while contradicting the Gospel when we say yea or nay in the voting booth. For He is quoted saying that “libertarians can learn from social conservatives about the importance of basic moral principles that create the sense of ordered liberty which is so important to our country.” But then he says we should vote for politicians who reject the importance of moral principles. So we should acknowledge the right priority when we teach, but deny it when we act.
This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:7)
Here again Mr. Minnery’s advice contradicts the Apostle Paul. Speaking of a promised visit to Corinth, which he postponed, Paul wrote:
When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? Or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay? But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ…was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. (2 Corinthians 1:17-19)
In his example St. Paul follows the instruction of Christ who said:
Let what you say be simply “yes, yes’”or “no, no”; anything more than this comes from evil. (Matthew 5:37)
Christ’s words force us to ponder a question: Does Tom Minnery’s advice come from evil? What sense does it make for Christians to say “yes” with their lips to the primacy of moral principle, yet deny it with their actions by voting for candidates who reject God’s priority? I have had personal experience with the way this contradiction leads to self-inflicted criticism in politics.
Prior to an election, Christians in the Republican Party admonished Christians in the Black community to stop supporting so-called “pro-choice” Democrats. But then the Republican Christians voted, in the same election cycle, for so-called “pro-choice” Republicans. At the time I was still prominently identified with the GOP. So acquaintances and relatives thereupon taunted me saying: “Your Republican friends say that they’re voting God’s way, and tell us we should do the same. But their real goal is just more power for the rich Republicans.” Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery seems determined to prove that they were right. [Tomorrow Part II: Should Christian Americans betray both the Scripture and the Declaration?]