Wednesday, October 15, 2008

McCain or Obama?

I, like most of the people I know, have been very attentive to the upcoming presidential election. In what has been the longest campaign of its kind in history, so much distortion, half-truths and outright lies have been told (by people on both sides) that I find myself succumbing to politics fatigue. Less than 3 weeks left and I wonder how much more political palaver I can take.

The only thing worse than the political campaigns are the apocalyptic warnings that are being sounded from the right and the left. Somehow, it seems to be more fitting coming from the latter than the former--not because I agree with the left. Hardly. But because so many on the right are quick to invoke God, the Bible and Jesus in getting out the vote.

Lest I be dismissed as a pietist or a liberal, let me simply restate my views on these issues.
I recognize the church has a prophetic role to play in relation to political powers. "Speaking truth to power" may have been sloganized by liberals but it is an apt description of the church's responsibility to civil authorities. This is a part of the church's calling as the pillar and ground of the truth.
As "citizen-kings" I believe Christian Americans have a responsibility to try to direct public policy and laws toward justice and mercy. I have written on that before. But I do not think that any church should allow itself to be co-opted by any political impulse that results in the confusing of its message of Jesus Christ crucified. Yet, such confusion emanates from well-meaning but misguided political activism by churches done in the name of Jesus.

My wife and I sat next to a young man from Hawaii on an airplane a few years ago. The conversation we had with him illustrated the mixed messages that too often are being sent by conservative Christian churches. He was raised by his parents to be atheistic, but he was very open to discussing what the Bible says about Christ. When he finally pegged us as "conservative Christians," I asked him what he knew about Christianity. He responded by saying that all he know about "conservative Christians" is that "they want to force their political agendas on everybody else."

Caricature? Of course. But his perception is far from unique. It is too common, and much of the presidential political activism that churches are promoting feeds those mistaken ideas. That is why I think it is vitally important to distinguish between what a church does and says and what individual Christians say and do in the political arena. I largely agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones on this point when he said, the rise of evangelical interest in politics is "sheer folly" because "you can't reform the world."

The church is the only institution that has been commissioned with the task of preaching the Gospel. God forbid that we should trade that mandate for any level of political influence held out by either Democrats or Republicans.

As the campaign winds down (and no doubt, heats up even more), I will work to remember Psalm 146:3, which says,
Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
Whether McCain or Obama wins the election, the kingdom of Jesus Christ will continue on. If your man wins, he will not be able to do what we desperately must have done. If your man loses, his defeat will not be even a speed bump in slowing the advance of the eternal cause and purposes of Jesus Christ.

Remembering that will help get us through not only the next 3 weeks, or 4 years, or 8 years, but also the rest of human history.

17 comments:

One Salient Oversight said...

Good post. Usually conservative Christian bloggers are repeating the latest bit of "Obama is the worst person in the world" gossip sourced from certain media outlets, and then arguing that it is our Christian duty to oppose him and vote for McCain.

Matt Privett said...

Thank you, Tom, for a wonderful and thoughtful post.

Tom Bryant said...

Thank you for saying what most pastors think, but don't say as well.

Joe Blackmon said...

It is certainly true that it really doesn't matter who gets in the White House if God is in control (and God IS in control). However, I have no idea how any Bible believeing Christian can vote for Obama. I mean, they may not want to vote FOR McCain but how they cannot vote AGAINST Obama makes my head hurt. Somebody 'splain it to me.

WesInTex said...

Brother Tom,

Thank you for such an insightful post. You state so well what has been a growing burden for me over the past few years. Conservative Christians are becoming more identified with a political party or line of thought than they are the gospel of King Jesus. I believe Christians should be engaged – particularly here in American where we have been given that privilege as a “political” freedom. However, I wonder how much more good could be done if we were as vocal and vigilant in proclaiming the eternal gospel?

Brother Joe,

I know what you mean about voting for Obama – but here is my dilemma. Our beloved nation has sinned against God grievously – I think most will agree to that. Additionally many of our churches seem to be more interested in furthering their political interests than standing for the honor and glory of God. We have God’s conditions for making things right (2 Chr. 7:14) but many (perhaps even most) are more concerned about elections and “rights” than following God’s Word. I believe that we are puffed with pride and God is moving to humble us – and Obama may very well be the instrument God uses to put His people on their knees. Just as God used the evil nations of Assyria and Babylon to accomplish His will, so He can use this wicked man. I do not intend to vote for Obama, but as I believe God has chosen this man to bring judgment against this sinful nation – is a vote for McCain a vote against God’s purpose? I’m not trying to cause trouble, but I am sincerely struggling with this issue. Brother Tom pointed out that our salvation is not in a man, or in a political party but in the person of Jesus Christ.

Whoever wins this election, I see dark days for this nation and our churches: economically, politically and militarily. Humbly I see judgment coming – and it will begin in the house of God (1 Peter 4:17).

Kept In Grace,
WesInTex

Rev. said...

Very well stated, my friend!

adamtown64 said...

Thanks.....
Balanced and objective.
Our God Reigns. He raises up one and brings another low.

Russell Taylor said...

Dear Tom,

After I looked up what "palaver" meant, I agreed with you:) I'm personally left without a candidate and will write in one.

One thought that I've had for a while is that our way of life is built on sinfulness and the American people, including most Christians, will vote on the economy because of an idolatrous heart. We say we want God's blessing on our nation. Maybe a revival? Meditate on this.

Every preacher in America preaches on Colossians 3:5 "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:...covetousness, which is idolatry.", this Sunday.

As a result, God sends revival in every church and incarcerates covetousness from every heart.

What happens to our economy as a result and how would it effect the election?

Godspeed,

Russell
Shepherdology.com

Tom Parker said...

Joe:

You make it sound like McCain and Palin are God's Party, that is the party of Bible believing people. Your statement" I have no idea how any Bible believeing Christian can vote for Obama just blows my mind. Your kind of narrow mindedness is revolting.

chalee said...

tom parker-

i noticed you just stuck to name calling and making assumptions about another person without beginning to address any of the issues. how very typically "liberal" and "open minded" of you... *rolleyes*

if you want to share about Jesus' instructions to caesar to care for the poor (it's in the gospel of thomas, right?) or something, then come back when you are capable of substantive conversation. your ignorant opinion by itself is of very little value...

wesintex-

you said: "I believe that we are puffed with pride and God is moving to humble us – and Obama may very well be the instrument God uses to put His people on their knees. Just as God used the evil nations of Assyria and Babylon to accomplish His will, so He can use this wicked man. I do not intend to vote for Obama, but as I believe God has chosen this man to bring judgment against this sinful nation – is a vote for McCain a vote against God’s purpose? I’m not trying to cause trouble, but I am sincerely struggling with this issue."

where in scripture are we commanded to anticipate God's sovereign purposes? if God's sovereign will is hidden (as it always is unless He chooses to specifically reveal it), then we are responsible to continue to obey His revealed moral will. it is dangerous to try to be too "clever" as you seem to be attempting.

Tom Parker said...

chalee:

Please reread Joe Blackmon's comment.

"However, I have no idea how any Bible believeing Christian can vote for Obama."

If I am out of line and I probably am--what about Joe?

I personally found his statement inflammatory.

WesInTex said...

Chalee,

I assure you that I am not attempting to be “clever.” Nor am I attempting to “anticipate God's sovereign purposes.” I am seeking to walk humbly before the blessed One who saved me, called me and appointed me to His ministry of giving witness to “the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24) Why you would seem to judge me otherwise is an issue between you and the Father.

I will ask you this, however – have you never read the prophets? “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:7,8). The things about which I wrote to Joe are not hidden, Chalee. God has clearly revealed His standards in His Word as well as the consequences for disobedience. My question concerning the possible use of Obama as an instrument of God’s judgment against the sins of this nation was not an attempt to be clever (nor was it an attempt to get people to vote for him – I wont myself). It is that I sincerely believe God has been calling His people to repentance so that He may bring healing to our land and an Obama presidency may be the only way to get our attention. We’ve been experiencing a meltdown in the economy and we have been embroiled in military actions around the globe – but we just don’t get it. In the past thirty years especially, the church has turned more to courtrooms and politics than to the sovereign throne of grace. Most of what I hear from “christians” is whining over “lost freedoms” when we should be broken over sin and the conditions of the lost. Dr. Ascol wrote: “God forbid that we should trade that mandate [preaching the gospel] for any level of political influence held out by either Democrats or Republicans.” That is exactly my point. From the articles I’m reading – and the barrage of email “forwards” that I receive, it looks as if we are more concerned about winning the election for McCain than we are about preaching the gospel and upholding the glory of God.

My apologies to everyone for getting a little “preachy” but this is a very serious issue for me and I seem to get the same reaction when I express my heart – “you’re just a flaming liberal and un-American.” If God so clearly and disastrously judged Israel – how can we think American is somehow exempt? If God sovereignty used Babylon why can He not also use Obama? Is He not still God?

Sorry, Dr. Ascol, I still agree with your post.

In Grace,
Wes

Russell Taylor said...

Seriously, I would like to hear an explanation from a Bible believing Christian as to why they are voting for Obama. I'm not a McCain supporter and I don't believe he's part of God's party. I'm an independent, but I absolutely would not vote for Obama for these reasons (some also apply to McCain):

1. I believe abortion and supporting abortion is a sin.
2. I believe to take money from someone by force and give it to someone else is theft and a sin. An income graded tax code is theft by the government and it's officers.
3. I believe that to live by faith in the government to meet our needs and take care of us instead of God is a sin. I am not a socialist.
4. There is nothing wrong with being poor. Securing employment or a certain level of living is not the governments responsibility and it is not a right.

If anyone knows of a potential candidate who believes the government should leave me alone, please let me know so I can support him.

Russell

WesInTex said...

Brother Russell,

Like you, I can’t imagine why a Bible believing Christian could vote for Obama. But also like you, I am having a hard time with McCain. The problem is we are being told these are our only two choices and they’re not.

Allow me to introduce you to Church Baldwin and the Constitution Party at www.constitutionparty.com
We may not win the election, but at least we won't have to vote against our convictions. Check out their website and platform.

Grace,
Wes

Rick said...

Russell,

Perhaps you are overlooking the history of the church. The first church shared ALL possessions, so that the poor would not be left out. Paul frequently collected money from richer congregations to share with the poorer ones. In the Mosaic covenant there were certain aspects of social welfare as well so that the poor in society would be taken care of. Finally, there is the command of our Lord who summed up the law when he said to love your neighbor as yourself. If we could learn to follow these principles, perhaps we would stop seeing the election as being all about "abortion", which it isn't.

Russell Taylor said...

Rick,

1. The church in acts was giving to one another completely voluntarily and they were only doing this within the church.
2. Paul collected from all the churches, including poor churches like Philippi, whom he commended for their sacrifice. He was not giving any of it to the government. Again it was voluntary.
3. I agree that the Mosaic covenant is a good guide for these issues, but supporting priests, orphans and widows is not welfare. Furthermore, even in the New Testament, the widows had to be qualified to receive support. I do not believe Israel was a socialist state under the Mosaic covenant. They were not redistributing wealth, spreading it around, bailing out failed businesses, funding earth worship (environmentalism),etc. and taking the tithe from one person and giving to non-tithers. Even the poor paid tithes into "the system".
4. I agree that if we would love others as ourselves in the churches we could eliminate the "needs" of the people in our churches. I do not, however, believe that these are instructions to support our governments current tax ethic. If the government appealed to the people to love their neighbors by volunteering to pay extra tax or to not cash their refund checks or even take up a special voluntary tax "offering", then I wouldn't have a problem with it. That way people, like yourself, who feel obligated to support the governments spending habits, could give as much as they can to the government to distribute however they want. However, I don't believe that it is ethical, loving or christian for the government to take someone else's money by force and give it to someone who hasn't earned it. The government has no money, it all belongs to people, so they have to take from a person to spend it. Both candidates are guilty of supporting this. We need to remember that Robin Hood was a thief. Christ was not.
4. I think it is inconsistent to appeal to Christ's command to love in support of this type of theft, yet put abortion at the periphery of the election. The next president may appoint a supreme court justice(s). Far more people are murdered through abortion every day in our country, than starve to death in our country. It's something like straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. Every election is about abortion, when one candidate is pro-choice. Pretending to care about the poor, while supporting abortion is inconceivably illogical.

I hope this clarifies my position.

Godspeed.

Russell

ps. Do you volunteer to pay more taxes than you owe? Do you know anyone who does?

I would think that every congressman, including McCain and Obama, and citizen who agrees with your (and their) position would feel obliged to do so. This is another inconsistency.

fitterfloyd said...

Dear Tom, thank you for the article, it was exactly what I needed to hear. In regards to the election, I would say that before we get wrapped up in economics, healthcare and "God's party", we should remind ourselves that there are still 3700 unborn children being murdered in this country EVERY DAY. And almost half of those children's mothers are repeat offendors! With the two candidates being so very clear on where they stand in regard to the greatest moral sin in the history of america, the decision should become soberingly clear in the heart of any Christian. Instead of honoring your political heritage or voting your wallet, would that the Spirit of GOD would convict us all to honor Him and heed the warnings of Christ with our votes. In Matthew 18:7 Our redeemer says:"Woe to world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!" Regardless of the outcome on November 4th, may the redeemed of the Lord have no part in such sin. And may our votes be found acceptable before GOD.