September 3, 2008

Country First?

The second evening of the Republican National Convention featured an odd mixture of religion and politics. As Christian musician Rachel Lampa sang two devotional songs about God, delegates danced and held up McCain campaign signs declaring "Country First." Additionally, Lampa sang in front of a video of a huge American flag waving--so large that each stripe seemed taller than she. As a result, it looked like the delegates were not even listening to Lampa's song. She was singing about how God will catch her when she falls and that she is blessed because of God, and the delegates seem to think it was a celebration of putting America first ahead of all else. No message could be further from that of the One Lampa sang about. As Jesus taught, we must put God first and we are to love all the people of the world.

Some commentators have claimed that Lampa's appearance proves that the Republican Party is focused on the concerns of evangelical Christians. However, if evangelicals were really paying attention, they would have noticed that the large flag and the campaign signs showed that Lampa was merely being used. We should not applaud our faith being used as political entertainment. The Democrats similarly trotted out evangelicals last week in hopes of gaining more votes. The question is why do we fall for it? Why do we get excited when politicians act like they care about us when it instead seems they are merely using our faith for political gain. As I wrote in a Columbia Missourian column earlier this year:
Christian musician Derek Webb warns in a song that we will not find "a Savior on Capitol Hill." Although Christians should work to impact society for the better, we should not place our faith and trust in a specific politician or political party. We are saved by grace, not legislation. Our hope lies in Jesus, not the ballot box.
Hopefully, all of the Christian leaders attending the Democratic or Republican conventions will not allow their focus on the gospel to be sidetracked.

5 comments:

  1. Okay, but which is worse, or which should be avoided more:

    Politics in church, or church in politics?

    It seems to me that you would just as likely--if not more likely--conclude that political parties don't care about Christians if they made no gestures (speakers, musicians, etc.) toward evangelicals than you are concluding despite the gestures they have made--no matter how token or insincere you judge those gestures to be.

    Of course politicians and parties care about Christians!--like they do any demographic group of potential voters. But they care in a political way. Those politicians who are also believers in Christ care in a deeper way.

    I agree we should remember that a political party is not our church or Lord, but we should seek and take the opportunities to infect politics with a Christian influenza (influence).

    And, if we're going to belong to a party or support a candidate, I think the issues to which our Lord speaks should be the driving issues that decide the party or candidate we choose.

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  2. cat's dad:

    The way I read it, Jesus ignored the politics of the day and focused on issues of spiritual importance.

    Politics are nothing more than men seeking power to control other men. Faith is so much more than that. Faith is drawing on a higher power and yielding control over our own life to that higher power. If I'm busy seeking political power to control the lives of others, that will only serve as a diversion to keep me from even thinking about giving God control over my life.

    You say "we should seek and take the opportunities to infect politics with a Christian influenza (influence)". Do you mean like this:
    http://www.youtube.com/v/QG1vPYbRB7k
    (advocating that a congregation pray that a gas pipeline and the Iraq war are "God's will" -- are we to pray for God's will to be revealed to us, or that God shape his will to our desires)? Or do you mean like outlawing abortion (which God already outlawed in the 10 commandments)?

    God gave us free will when He could have simply forced our obedience. Jesus taught gentle persuasion through example, not coercion. Shouldn't we work within that framework too?

    Isn't it better for each of us individually to seek to obey God's will for ourselves at all times through (proper) prayer, study of God's laws, and the example of the life of Jesus Christ, and collectively to assist each other in that endeavor? If more of us were doing that, wouldn't our shining example serve to encourage others to do the same, and their example encourage others, and so on -- eventually eliminating the perceived need to apply political pressure towards having everybody else follow God's laws?

    Because I am not without sin, I have no right to concern myself with the sins of my fellow man. My faith tells me to focus on obeying God's will myself rather than involve myself in the politics of men in order to force others to obey God's will.

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  3. Stan,

    It seems that you think one's faith and politics are mutually exclusive, and I think you're mistaken.

    For instance, your philosophy would seem to exclude a Christian from seeking public office. And if it doesn't exclude this, then it would certainly forbid that Christian office holder from seeking to put the morals, etc. he or she personally holds into policy.

    The fallacy, though, is you overlook the fact that all public policy and legislation is based on someone's or some set of morals and beliefs. The Christian set of morals and beliefs shouldn't be disqualified, especially by a Christian such as you!

    Politics, when a Christian is the office holder, is much more than a man seeking power to control other men. In fact, all authority is God ordained, according to the Scriptures.

    It makes no sense at all to say a Christian shouldn't be salt and light in the public, as well as every other arena of life.

    And, Jesus didn't ignore any facet of life or circumstance that affected those he was seeking to teach, touch, and change.

    You make the shocking statement: "Because I am not without sin, I have no right to concern myself with the sins of my fellow man." I'm glad that the prophets of the Old Testament, the apostles of the New Testament, and all the spiritual leaders who touched my life to this point didn't share your. Numerous scripture passages disagree with you, and so do I.

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  4. cat's dad:

    Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    I must have done a very poor job on my first attempt to state my position, because that absurd position you are arguing against isn't mine! Sorry, I'll try again.

    I'm not saying faith and politics are mutually exclusive. I'm saying [1] faith is much more important than politics, [2] living our faith is much more effective than using politics to persuade others to follow God's laws, and [3] it is much more important to concern ourselves with our own adherence to God's will than that of others.

    I meant to say Jesus pretty much ignored the politics of the day, because the only example that comes immediately to my mind is "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" and I can recall none which would advocate petitioning Caesar to incorporate Christian morals into law (not that there's anything wrong with that). Perhaps there are other examples of Jesus addressing political issues which you would like to remind me of.

    Jesus made a statement to the effect of "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" to a "shocked" audience, I read in John 8. In Matthew 7 Jesus instructs that if we concern ourselves with the judgement of others we will be judged accordingly, and we'd better get the beam out of our own eyes before attempting to remove the mote from others. These are areas where Jesus instructs us to tread very carefully and to get our own house in order first. I may have oversimplified this in my "shocking statement", but this is what I was getting at.

    The targets of today's Christian "culture wars" are all over the blogosphere busily pointing out the multitude of hypocrises evident in the arguments and behavior of their accusers. This atmosphere does not lend itself to the effective witness of the Good News of Salvation, especially to the people we are openly "at war" against. If we were more concerned with getting our own house in order, there would be less hypocrisy for them to point at and our witness to others would be much more effective.

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  5. Thanks for the comments!

    CD: I understand that politicians are going to try to reach us as a voting bloc, but I worry that they will just use us and our faith in order to gain office. We must offer a prophetic challenge to those of both parties, rather than becoming partisan pawns.

    Stan: I think you hit the key here. We should focus on making a positive difference, not trying to gain more power.

    CD: You are correct that our faith should impact our politics. I hope it does. I am afraid, however, that too often politics impacts our faith rather than the other way around.

    Stan: I think you captured the issues quite well.

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