Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Presidential Election

I know politics are touchy. I know we all have opinions. There is a new dialogue that is emerging within Evangelical circles revolving around politics, presidents, and ideologies. A conversation that I am joyful to be a part of.

This is a letter:
From my brother and my dear friend in Christ, Brett Berger.
Another voice. For your edification. May we all grow closer to Him...

And now in response to every email I have received and every post I have seen on the internet, I will add my official statement on this election. I make this statement as a Christian, who confesses that Jesus is Lord, to Christians who make the same confession. I am nobody. I do not say this with infallibility. I do not say this with disrespect. I may charged with naiveté or worse. I only say this because my gut was about to bust, and I need to go on record. I am writing this to my friends and family, but I will be slightly disappointed if this does not make it around the world before dinner time.
(1) What is the most frequent command in Scripture? Do not fear! If there is anything with which I am disappointed concerning the church’s place in this election and the responses there after, it is the reign of fear. Prominent Christians have sent out messages trying to motivate us to vote McCain-Palin with threats of terrorist attacks, communism, abortion, homosexuality, the rise of Islam, the rise of the anti-Christ, the judgment of God, and cross-dressing kindergarten teachers. All of it playing on fear that may or may not be grounded in reality.
What is Scripture’s message to us? Do not fear! Why? Not simply because “God is in control,” but because “Christ is risen.” What is the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection beyond the atonement for sin, but that we ourselves have the same destiny and call. What does that mean? Jesus’ resurrection points to our own and that we might also share in the cross before that glory. The sting of death is overcome, and so our deepest fear goes with it. When people no longer fear death, the tyrant’s power is threatened because his reign depends upon it. When the tyrant’s power is threatened, he will lash out. We look at the lives of martyrs throughout history and marvel at their courage and the testimony of their lives but think little of whether we might be considered worthy of same call or why they faced such terrible circumstances calmly, courageously, and-dare I say it-with joy. It is because the kingdoms of this world are impotent in the face of the kingdom of God. It is because they believed the promise of Jesus that if we lose our lives we find them. They believed that our call to take up our crosses might be literal and not simply about whether we are eating too much ice cream. They believed him when he asked us to love our enemies so much that we would resist killing them and offer them a blessing. They believed that we are to overcome evil with good by doing good even to the point of death.
Am I saying that we are all destined for martyrdom with an Obama administration? Not at all! Rather that our fears look so petty. I am simply saying “Do not fear!” Death is the worst that can happen, and it means nothing to the followers of a crucified and risen Messiah. Our prosperity and the ease of our lives may have made us soft and subtly wooed us into all kinds of idolatries.
(2) Have we, as some suggest, invited the judgment of God by electing Barack Obama? Hold on to your seats because I am about to lose some. If we invited the judgment of God upon our nation, I believe it was back with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Our so-called Christian forefathers signed a document that says,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
But our Christian Scriptures say,
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2)
But what if the government was bad? Paul wrote these words under the reign of an Emperor who would eventually use Christians as torches to light his parties. He was not good. He was not Christian. He was not democratic. He was not a capitalist. He was not pro-life. He was the Emperor, and Paul trusted that his rise and fall depended more upon the will of God than any assessment or actions of our own, and that he did not have wisdom, knowledge, nor strength enough to resist that. Does this mean that we are to acquiesce to evil? No, rather it means that those is in power mean nothing to our ability to do good. But weren’t our founding fathers Christian? Some were. Some were in name only. Some were not. It would be an error to grant to them some kind of papal infallibility. The fundamental philosophy and structure of our government owes more to Enlightenment philosophy than it does to the Christian gospel. The autonomy of man, the supremacy of human reason, and even the individual’s right to seek one’s own happiness simply are not the virtues of the Christian gospel. Rather we are to find our life in God and give ourselves as servants to him and in the service of our neighbors.
The judgment of God in many ways is giving us what we want. When we declare our independence from God, he gives it to us.
(3) Neither America nor any other nation nor any form of government holds a special place in the heart of God with the exception of Israel [but more must be said on even that subject]. Even as early as Genesis, God has had his eye on blessing the nations. God bless America? Only if you can pray with equal conviction that God bless Iraq, Afghanistan, China, North Korea, and Iran. The gospel is meant to go to all nations, and the gospel is meant to unite people from all nations for “in Christ” there is no “Jew or Greek.” Ronald Reagan’s application of language to the United States of America used for Israel in the OT, and which Jesus applied to himself and his followers in the NT—namely that America is a “city set upon a hill” a “light to the world”—is to my mind not simply an error but an heresy from perspective of the Christian gospel. Yet from the beginning of this nation, much of our patriotic rhetoric has been to apply to the American experiment that which only applies to the kingdom of God. I believe in the separation of church and state not in the way of the secularists (which includes Republicans)—to protect America from the church. If I believe in it—if at all—to protect the church from America.
The Christian can not capitulate to such confusion. And the Christian must not confuse such allegiances.
(4) What about Obama’s platform? I take the two most common objections.
A) Obama is Pro-choice. Yes, and from my perspective, his voting record and position on this issue is unconscionable. Ultimately, I could not vote for him because I believe this issue to be one of our generation’s great moral stains on par with the slavery and segregation of generations past. Let me put this into perspective though. The early Christians lived in a pro-choice empire. Unwanted babies were, among other things, taken to the trash dump and left to die of exposure. What was the Christian response? They made runs to the dump to rescue these babies and adopt them as their own. I am convicted by my own indifference to the abortion debate on every day besides election day. By focusing solely on legislation I have essentially deflected my personal and social responsibility to the government. If our goal is save babies, we can not solely depend on our legislators and courts, we must be committed to making sacrifices such as adopting more children, involvement in the foster care system, supporting young women financially and emotionally who will choose to keep their babies, or at the very least giving chunks of money to ministries doing this work.
B) Obama is a socialist or redistributionist. So was Jesus. I say that in jest because it completely anachronistic, but let me put it this way. One of the defining and shining qualities of the early church was this: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 2:44-45). One might object that this was voluntary and it was through a faith-based organization. I might also object that it was so voluntary that one famous young man was turned away by Jesus because he would not sell everything he had and give it to the poor (Luke 18:17-30; cf. Mark 10:17-22 and Matt 19:16-22). I might also say to those who advocate for a “Christian America” one must then consider advocating for a redistributionist America. I must also say at this point that whatever one might argue as far as pragmatism is concerned, please do not argue for capitalism and democracy on the basis of Christian doctrine. Neither capitalism nor socialism, neither democracy nor monarchy, nor any other human form of government are advocated by the Bible—only fidelity to God. The gospel can and has existed under every form of government. And in fact, it is only in the west that the gospel is in decline. China, Africa, Latin America and others are the places you want to go to find vibrant Christianity.
What am I advocating? I simply want us to see the world clearly. I want the church to be the church. If we are to do so, I believe that we must have the courage to put aside certain lies, misplaced hopes, and misplaced allegiances. We must put aside any notion that the American experiment and kingdom of God are the same thing. We must see that our primary allegiance is not to the “flag of the United States of America” but to the crucified and risen Lord. We must not let our hopes rise and fall with an election or a single candidate. Our love for country must be put in submission to the gospel. We must not see power in the same way. We must not see money in the same way. We must not see politics in the same way. We must not see patriotism the same way. We must be truthful people. We must be courageous people.
Abraham Lincoln said, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”
Jesus turned the world upside down. Strong is the new weak. Weak is the new strong. Do not fear!


Heidi Long (Thomsen) said...

I love that you have the courage to write what you did. Pastor Kent Delhousaye spoke on this exact topic the Sunday before the election and was so concerned about the number of Christian's with fear. As Christian's it is our time to really stand up and make a differece and spread the Word of God and love thy neighbor and be the person that God wants us to be. Change the world by becoming the change you want to see by living for the Lord. The worst thing that can happen to our bodies is death but they can't take our soul if it belongs to the Lord and that is all we need to remember. It is easy to get caught up in the media sometimes and the negativity of the extremist's views and sometimes we just need to be brought back to reality and realize that God is in control and he allows leaders to be in our lives for a reason. Jesus is Lord and that is all I need to give me peace.

April said...