Over at Patheos, I just blogged on who I’m voting for this presidential election season. This topic afforded me the chance to talk more broadly about how abortion is not simply a position, one among many that we could choose. It is instead a holistic theology. It is, specifically, a theology of death.
Tag Archives: politics
I recently had the chance to be part of an exciting panel on “Millennials and the Future of Political Engagement” at Values Voters Summit. The panel featured young evangelical thinkers like Matthew Anderson of Mere Orthodoxy; Andrew Walker, Kentucky policy analyst; and Eric Teetsel of the Manhattan Declaration. Chris Marlink, Jeremy Renner look-alike, moderated the 40-minute discussion.
This from Chris Marlink of the Family Research Council:
I had the pleasure of playing something like the intellectual equivalent of John Stockton to a panel of young, evangelical Karl Malones. Our discussion on the millennial generation and the future of political engagement was wide ranging and included everything from the history of Church and state, to the offering mercy in the so called “culture war.”
Unfortunately, the audio recording of panel discussion isn’t great, so in addition to the recording, you’ll find this helpful transcript of the panelists’s remarks. Listen to the panel audio here.
Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy posted a great article on the panel which sheds some additional light.
Here’s hoping that this panel, and efforts like it, helps drive young evangelicals to think well about political philosophy, to vote, and to vote according to a robust whole-life ethic that prioritizes dignity, life, and the holistic flourishing of the American polis. There is a great deal of bad thinking on offer among evangelicals about politics; in fact, I think there are few areas in which our collective thought is more muddled than this one. Yes, politics can be corrupt; no, elections do not determine our eternal destiny; yes, politicians regularly fail to deliver on their promises.
But Matthew 5:13-16 and 25:40, Mark 12:12-17, and Romans 13:1 all, in different ways, call us to participate as much as we can in the civic life of our countries. That means voting, involving ourselves in our society, realizing that real human lives are affected by political decisions, acting on your convictions, contending for the weak among us, generally supporting the government insofar as we can, supporting candidates who come closest to our own beliefs, and basically caring.
Young evangelicals: please do not buy the media myth that you’re disinterested, disconnected, and unneeded today. Push away from apathy and fear. Be like Wilberforce, Lyman Beecher, Jonathan Edwards Jr., Abraham Kuyper, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and act on your faith in the public square. Motivated by Christ and the gospel, be salt and light in the broader culture.
You have likely heard of the Anthony Weiner scandal and his ensuing apology. A married man, Weiner “sexted” with several women until he posted a salacious photo intended for private viewing to his public Twitter account. Those who still doubt the utility of Twitter, take note. It now accounts for the loss of a shamed public servant.
With many others, I followed these developments with interest. I wanted to see how Weiner apologized. There have been a spate of these kind of men-behaving-badly fiascos and the inevitable apology often sounds like a remixed personal pep talk. “I see now that I acted out of line with my personal convictions, and I am determined to do my very best to live up to all that my thousands of fans expect of me.” You hear this sort of shlock all the time.
As far as public confessions of shame by disgraced men go, this one was actually pretty good. Here’s a snippet:
I have exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years. For the most part, these relation– communications took place before my marriage, though some have sadly took place after.
To be clear, I have never met these any of these women or had physical relationships at any time. I haven’t told the truth, and I’ve done things I deeply regret.
I brought pain to people I care about the most and the people who believed in me, and for that I’m deeply sorry. I apologize to my wife and our families, as well as to our friends and supporters.
I’m deeply ashamed of my terrible judgment and actions.
As I said, this apology was solid–maybe a six out of ten. Of course, Weiner stopped short of giving his apology backbone. He has vowed to stay in office. An apology is not enough. Egregious actions should have serious consequences. It’s not sufficient to stand in front of some cameras and confess. Confession should bring contrition–expressed in the form of action like, say, resigning.
But that’s a matter for another message-board discussion. All of this hubbub had me thinking about apologies. Apologies are not just pro forma statements of contritive fact. They are utterances from the core of our being that we are in the wrong. Apologies are a form of common grace. In a world ruled by Satan, not by God, no one would apologize. Everyone would excuse their actions or ignore them. When we fail to apologize to our spouse or roommate or employer, we are picturing a little bit of a world order ruled by vicious principalities and powers.
I received some interesting feedback from last Friday’s post. Some wondered about my thoughts about Ralph Reed and the future of Christians in politics. I am not prescient, and I am not in politics, but here are a few sketchy ideas.
I would not claim allegiance to everything the Christian Coalition stood for or promoted. I’m not a God-and-country Christian, straight up. I do personally love when I see Christians attempting to be salt and light in the broader culture, including the political realm (Matthew 5:14-16). Reed was an unusually promising figure in evangelical circles before he compromised himself morally through ties with Jack Abramoff. I do not know Reed’s heart, and I do not believe that the promotion of conservative ideals equals the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, but I am jealous for the rising generation to plug into their society and make a difference in the name of their Lord.
Sometimes you hear that what transpires in Washington, DC doesn’t really matter–it’s what happens in Hollywood, Miami or New York. Not so. Most of us are not called to ministry, and politics matter. They affect our everyday lives. The outworking of policy touches every single one of us, shaping our day-to-day realities–the roads we travel, the rules to which we conform, the forms we fill out, the babies we save or kill, the taxes we pay. Politics matter. They matter big. It is a noble thing to serve one’s fellow citizens, particularly when one does so from a robustly biblical worldview that recognizes the fact that our God holds all realms in his hand and controls the heart of kings (Proverbs 21:1).
All the more reason, then, for the rising generation to enter the political realm, albeit with chastened ambition borne of awareness of the failings of figures like the once-luminous Ralph Reed. Such an entree will require great care and will necessitate close involvement and staunch accountability to a strong local church. The spate of moral failures related to Doug Coe’s Fellowship reinforces this point, though we scarcely need more proof of the ability of politics and power to seduce and then tear apart a leader. If we would be Samsons, we must be aware of Beltway Delilahs acting on behalf of principalities and powers who would explode our witness and compromise the evangelical cause.
We would not want to make the mistake of equating any particular party or political ideology with the gospel; we would, however, hope for more Christians to work hard and shrewdly in public in order to be evangelistic, to grab glory for their Lord by fruitful labor, and to enable the flourishing of all men. We prioritize the preaching of the gospel, yes, but we also remain aware that for as long as Christ tarries, the affairs of this world matter. Is there another Ralph Reed out there? Are there several? Do these developing leaders have theological training, outstanding character, and a deep love for the local church? Will they enter the political realm to serve, not to grow powerful and famous? Can they look temptation in the face–and the temptations of being a Washington power-broker are nearly beyond imagining–and through the power of the Spirit emerge unscathed?
One can only hope.
And, by the way, if any of those bright-eyed evangelicals wanted to work on trimming taxes, that would be no bad thing.
(Image: 1995 Time cover from wrightandleftreport.com)
1. The Wall Street Journal has a helpful article about certain aspects of the Obama “tax cut” that he’s championed for 95% of the population. WSJ: “For the Obama Democrats, a tax cut is no longer letting you keep more of what you earn. In their lexicon, a tax cut includes tens of billions of dollars in government handouts that are disguised by the phrase “tax credit.”…Once upon a time we called this “welfare,” or in George McGovern’s 1972 campaign a “Demogrant.” Mr. Obama’s genius is to call it a tax cut.” Read the whole piece and if you can’t understand it, look at the little graph and let that sink in. From a state that takes a massive bit of my paycheck before I see it (IL), let me encourage you to consider what these “tax credits” will mean for you and your family, church, etc.
2. So you thought that the lower 50% of the population pays the majority of American taxes? Not so, says the IRS (according to this blog). “According to the most recent (2006) data released by the IRS, the top 1 percent of filers paid nearly 40 percent of all income taxes; the top 5 percent paid 60 percent of all income taxes. The bottom 50 percent paid virtually no income taxes (3 percent of all income taxes paid).” The problem with continuing to smash the highest income-class is that they will be less likely to pump a great chunk of money back into financial markets, which they can afford to do because they have the most disposable income. Money that could go to the market goes to the government (a weakness of both Republicans and Democrats, as recent presidencies attest).
3. Al Mohler of Southern Seminary and Robert P. George of Princeton have just published moving and frightening pieces related to Barack Obama and abortion. Read Mohler’s piece, which includes sections of George’s article, and then read the whole text of George’s piece. (HT: JT) A key quotation from George’s writing: “Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States. He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate. Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress.”
Let’s pause for a moment. Various biblical authors speak with one voice about the need to care for the unborn. In the midst of turbulent lament, the author of Psalm 10 says, “to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless.” In one of my favorite passages, Ezekiel 16, where the Lord describes His love for the Israelites, we read in verses 4-6, “And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born. “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’” It is the character of the Lord, the very fiber of His being, to love the weak and defenseless, and to act on their behalf. Though we do not superintend history and nations as the Lord does, we Christians are called to image the Lord’s nature in our fallen world.
The Psalmist goes on to say to the Lord in Psalm 10 that
“O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”
I do not have a great hunger for political debate. Though I am convinced in my own mind of my political beliefs (I lean toward traditional conservative, small-government ideology), I personally believe that there are a great many issues about which Christians may disagree in principle and at the ballot box. On the issue of abortion, however, I think that the right application of biblical texts and principles leads one squarely to the political side that defends the unborn and seeks to prevent further slaughter of innocents in the tens of millions.
If that means that a Christian has to swallow some differences with a political candidate, so be it. But we have a responsibility to prioritize issues that touch on matters of life-and-death, like abortion, euthanasia, and so on. Abortion, then, is not merely one issue of consideration among many. Because it allows for the slaughter of millions of innocents in our country, it is my personal opinion that all Christians should vote for a candidate who will most work to undo it. Regardless of what some may say, the direct overturning of Roe v. Wade will do the most to protect the unborn. There are of course numerous other factors involved in creating a pro-life culture, and it is absolutely right and hugely important that we tackle those factors (joblessness, racism, fatherlessness, and much more) but there is none more significant than the law which singlehandedly has resulted in tens of millions of abortions in this country.
This is not to say at all that a person who does not vote for the outspoken pro-life candidate is not a Christian, is not a faithful, fruitful Christian, or anything of the sort. This is not to say that we should despise or battle brothers and sisters who vote for candidates of differing ideology. We should not. I do think, though, in what is I hope a spirit of humility and love, that if we are to hear the biblical call to “learn to do good; seek justice,correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause”, we must fight for life and the unborn in America (Isaiah 1:17) by voting for candidates who will prioritize these issues even over others we (justifiably!) care very deeply about.
–That’s enough, and I think that’s all I will say on this matter. I don’t want this blog to be about politics, and I do know that my hope and allegiance is not to conservatism, or the pro-life cause, or any other earthly institution or cause, but to the cross and cause of Christ. If you disagree with my perspective, and you are an evangelical Christian, know that we have far more in common than I do with an unbelieving conservative.
Have a great weekend, all.
Maureen Dowd has a fun if slightly snarky column on a recent visit to Wasilla, AK, Sarah Palin’s hometown. Dowd opens her piece with a comment by Carly Fiorina, the female former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, who has apparently said that Palin couldn’t adequately manage HP as a company. Of course, Fiorina failed at this attempt herself (as Dowd points out), so one wonders if Dowd hasn’t undermined her own dig at Palin by quoting her.
Dowd meanders through her column as she meandered through Wasilla a few days ago, making observations as she observes various groups and folks in the little town up north. She shows a general bias against evangelicals and their stances and seems to link the town and its moral backwardness with rural areas. Palin clearly has not come from an august city like New York but is disappointingly from “a town that is a soulless strip mall without side walks set beside a soulful mountain and lake.” Well, at least the mountain and lake are redemptive.
The piece fails to surprise, really. Dowd concludes it with a quote from an anti-Palin demonstrator who notes with a subtlety born out of the purest moderation that Palin is “one of the popular girls, but one of the mean girls. She is seductive, but she is invented.” There you have it. Palin isn’t a mother of five, after all; she’s one of Lindsay Lohan’s pack, just waiting to snicker about a girl for wearing spring colors in fall. Who knew?
All overwrought commentary aside, as I’ve thought about the Palin-McCain ticket, it strikes me that she presents complementarian evangelicals with something of a dilemma, a paradox. Those of us who believe that a man is to be the head of his home and the provider for his family face something of a difficult election choice when it comes to the Alaskan candidate. I’m not referring here to the issue of whether the Bible allows for women to serve in secular leadership capacities. That’s a matter I don’t care to touch right now, as it’s a pretty tricky one that takes careful thought and exegesis. No, I’m talking about how a Christian views Palin’s candidacy in light of Titus 2:3-5, which reads as follows:
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”
The key phrase here is “working at home” for women who have “children”. Paul’s burden in laying out this prescriptive picture of the Christian home is that “the word of God may not be reviled”, a powerful burden indeed. Complementarians understand this verse, then, to teach that men, providing for the primary financial needs of the home, are to free up women are to be homemakers and caretakers of their children.
So what does this mean for the discussion on Sarah Palin? Palin has five children. She and her husband have by the grace of God created a beautiful, sweet family. From my limited reading on Palin, she and her husband seem like great Christian people, those very much concerned to live godly lives and to love their children. I of course know very little, ultimately, about Palin, but that’s the read I have on her. She’s a professing Christian and seems to have backed up her profession with a godly track record. Yet on the issue of gender roles, I fear that she has stepped into a role reserved by Scripture for her husband.
Which places complementarians like myself in a bit of a stitch. I personally appreciate much of what Palin stands for politically and ideologically. In political terms, to boot, she is a dream, an almost inconceivable political creation, because her combination of gifts, personality and natural background make her an almost perfect trump card as a candidate. She is, incredibly, more magnetic and winning and heartwarming than Barack Obama, the golden-boy. Who would ever have thought this possible at this juncture? A few months ago, conservatives were preparing for inevitable failure as Obama hit one home run after another, politically speaking. Now, Obama’s on his heels; an ad I saw on the New York Times website mentioned how “to get Barack back on track”. Honestly, that’s incredible. How far the conservatives have come in just a few short weeks–and it’s due in considerable measure to the advent of Sarah Palin.
For which many conservatives give thanks. Those conservatives who are complementarian, however, find themselves in a paradox. We love Palin politically, but we worry about her familial role. Speaking personally, I’ll vote for McCain-Palin, I’m quite sure, but I’ll do so with a divided heart. I fear that Sarah Palin occupies the wrong role in her family, and I worry for her children as she could possibly enter one of the world’s most important and personally consuming occupations. This is no insignificant thing.
At the same time, though, evangelicals often find themselves in such positions in this world. We’re often not faced with the best of both options, but with a mix of things. There is real good married with real negatives in so much of what we must choose in this world, especially, one might say, in the political realm. Politics are tough on ideals and idealists. In the upcoming election, I think that strong complementarians like myself will taste this toughness. That won’t send me into sobs or stop me from voting, but it will give me pause as I cast my vote. In voting, as in so many things in life, I must live in paradox as a Christian. Soulful mountains beside soulless cities, indeed, until one day the King returns and all is made right.
I’m excited to let you know about an upcoming conference sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. It’s called “The Politics of Jesus” and it will be held as a one-day event on Friday, October 10th, 2008 at the First Baptist Church of Durham, NC, an important SBC and reformed church. Some of you will recognize the name of the church’s pastor, Dr. Andy Davis, a neo-Puritan shepherd who represents robust theological ministry in the finest sense. He is a personal role model for me, and I look up to him a great deal.
I will be live-blogging this conference, which will showcase top evangelical minds like C. Ben Mitchell of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Greg Thornbury of Union University, and Ken Fentress of Montrose Baptist Church. These speakers and others (including up-and-coming historian Nathan Finn, Southeastern Dean C. David Nelson and Davis) will tackle a plethora of topics related to Christ and the public square: marriage, the SBC, the gospel in public life, and more, all with an eye to building the church and educating Christ’s people.
I love the nature and purpose of this conference, and I’m thankful for the vision of organizer Doug Baker and others who are providing opportunities for Christian intellectuals to think out loud about the way Christianity is to fit into society. The fact that a state convention is sponsoring this event speaks well to the future of Christian engagement with issues of grave importance that our segment of society, regrettably, has all too often despaired over, handled simplistically, or simply ignored. Let’s hope that the future holds more events of this type as more Christians think hard together about life in the public square and more pastors and church leaders provide leadership over this process.
Here’s the conference website, which provides a considerable amount of fun and helpful content: podcast interviews (next to the speaker’s bios), a comprehensive schedule, lodging information, and more. This is a quick snatch of the event blurb:
“The modern church finds itself riddled with internal contradictions between the teaching of Jesus and politics. The demands of caring for the poor, the elderly, and children fiercely interact with the issues of war, economics, abortion, and homosexuality. Christians of all denominational associations struggle to construct a comprehensive and biblical view of the state without compromising the content of the gospel. Does the Bible offer any help when dealing with issues of politics? Did Jesus speak directly to matters of government? Can theological conservatives be socially active without compromising evangelism? What can Christian history teach the modern church about the political future?”
It would be a pleasure to hear thoughtful Christians handle these and other questions of great import for the modern church. Join me in Durham in October 2008 to do just that.