The Evangelical church became a political force in the eighties. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and James Dobson began articulating a “Christian position” on issues of national interest. Interestingly, it was always the same as the Republican position. They began with moral issues, moved on to “family values”, and eventually had a position on almost every issue, including the military, international affairs, and taxes. They even supported specific candidates.
I am aware that Falwell is dead and Robertson and Dobson are quite elderly and no longer much of a political force, but they were huge power players just a few years ago. I remember James Dobson was no friend of John McCain because he wasn’t conservative enough and because he swore. Yes, you read it correctly; he opposed McCain because he apparently, would on occasion, turn the air blue. The election cycle, some evangelical leaders got together in somebody’s living room and chose Santorum as their man, but nobody cared. Interestingly, this time they chose Donald Trump. That was a head scratcher, except he claimed to be pro life and said he would appoint a strict constitutionalist to the Supreme Court. The influence of Evangelical leaders trying to tell us how to vote is a thing of the past.
influence of Evangelical leaders trying to tell us how to vote is a thing of the past.
Sincere Christians have gotten involved in politics with sincere motives; they wanted to uphold Christian values on a national level. But that’s the problem. The United Stated is not a theocracy; it is a representative republic.
It’s Christians who should be living out their values, rather than politicizing them and turning them into a national agenda. The influence of our daily lives will be far greater than any political influence that we may be able to gain.
A lot of Christians have a romantic view about our nation’s past and its founding fathers. They believe that our morals have gone to hell and that makes them both uncomfortable and mad. Far too much of our Christian political rhetoric has been an expression of that discomfort and anger. That’s how we became famously perceived as homophobic, pro-life, and judgmental (and either Republicans or Tea Party Activists). We are better known for what we are against than what we are for. So, the popular persona is that we are self-centered, out of touch, angry, and uncaring. I only wish these perceptions were totally invalid.
How about replacing the negative campaign with love? How about loving gays and speaking up to protect their rights? It’s not the same thing as supporting homosexuality; it’s just loving all kinds of people, like Jesus did. How about loving and helping the women with unplanned pregnancies, along with those who have had abortions, and even those who provide them? Again, it doesn’t mean you’re pro-abortion; it means you’re serious about loving people like Jesus did. Loving like Jesus is where the real power is.
This old system of the Evangelical political power structure is almost dead because people came to see that combining religious power with political power seldom, if ever ends well. Power corrupts and when a religious leader who already has significant influence gains an audience or role as an advisor to someone with great political power, it gets very difficult to remain a person of faith and character. Usually, the political agenda and the religious agenda are merged. Then the politician sounds like he shares your religious values and church leaders are associated with other platform positions that are not defensible from a Christian perspective.
Let’s be honest. Does it really matter to Jesus if the Ten Commandments are posted in a courtroom, if teachers can lead their students in a diluted, politically approved prayer, or if some people choose to say “Happy Holidays,” rather than “Merry Christmas?” These things matter only to crusty old church members who remember when what they perceived as Christian ways were more in vogue. This type of indignation is born from the fact that the mores of culture has far moved away from their comfort zone and the formerly popular Christian folkways. I just can’t find any connection with these selfish issues of comfort and Jesus who lived under far worse political conditions than twenty-first century America, but never focused on it.
Jesus didn’t seem to care about politics, other than to say we should pay our taxes. His viewpoint seems strange when you realize that his nation was occupied by a cruel militaristic superpower that had forged a partnership with religious leaders to form a corrupt theocracy. The government was the ultimate blend of imperialism, militaristic might, religiosity, corruption, and cruelty. They crucified their enemies.
Followers of Jesus have every right and reason to be involved in government because our system allows for our participation and is only as good as we make it. But, as Christians, we should judge ourselves, rather than others and endeavor to transform our image from hateful to loving, leveraging the real power of a living life in the way of Jesus.