Category Archives: Politics

Are the choices only two?

When listening to political discussions among Christians, I realize that we’ve accepted as true the idea that there are only two choices. You are red or you are blue. Democrat or Republican. Conservative or liberal.

The two political parties are after power. They want to win elections. Many individual politicians have strong personal convictions, but they face enormous pressure to conform to “the party” and vote according to what will get the most votes in the next election. The party wants to gain or maintain power, so they want everyone (candidates, party members, voters) to always stick to partisan lines.

We believers must not allow ourselves to be sucked into this game. We need to look at each situation, each issue, each political question and ask, “What is right? What is best for the Kingdom of God?”

When I do this, I can question a political stance held by Democrats without throwing my unquestioning support to the Republicans. I can challenge Republican politicians without backing their political rivals. I can even vote for some candidates from one party and other candidates from another party. (I might even vote for a third party or [gasp] choose not to vote for anyone!)

The world wants you to opt to follow the elephant or the donkey. I say always follow the Lamb.

Another look at politics and the church

I want to reflect a bit on yesterday’s post: “Political Power Corrupts The Church.” More than that, I want to try to clarify some terms.

In the first place, I realize that talking about “supporting” a political candidate can mean different things to different people. I don’t see merely voting for a person as supporting them. Many in the last election voted for Hilary because they disliked Trump, and many voted for Trump because they disliked Hilary. It was more of a vote against than a vote for. Rather than supporting one candidate, these people were opposing the other candidate. At that point, at least, they aren’t supporters of the person they voted for.

A supporter promotes that person in some way. They contribute to the cause, either by sharing ideas or actually giving money. When I talk about Christians who support Trump, I’m thinking of those who only speak well of him, share memes favorable to the president, echo his ridicule of opponents, etc. It’s not about merely deciding to vote for him in the next election as the only viable option.

The other element of yesterday’s article that seems to need definition was the Pew study about “accepting refugees.” That phrase was common at the time the article came out, being applied to the European refugee crisis. I have never heard the phrase “accepting refugees” used in relation to our current border crisis, though I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody somewhere used the phrase in that way. I would argue that it’s not the common understanding of the phrase and it caught me totally by surprise when some thought that was what was being referred to.

Finally, my concern is that Christians not allow politics to become the lord of the church, changing our outlook toward morality, toward other people, and toward what is most important.

Political power corrupts the church

I’ve been trying to understand the effect that Donald Trump has on conservative Christians. Why do so many openly support such an ungodly man? Even many who claimed to “hold their nose and vote” in the last presidential election now cheer every move made by the man in the White House.

I think it’s about power. The President has openly sided with evangelical Christians, like the proclamation the White House made about religious freedom a couple of years ago. He is giving protection to religious groups that did not exist under President Obama.

Because of this, evangelicals have had to undergo some amazing and well-documented shifts. What do you do when you have a president who is openly immoral, is given to distort the truth, is outrageously abusive toward opponents, and supportive of unseemly elements in society… yet also gives power to the evangelical church? The answer in the United States has been to choose the power and overlook the rest.

Not only that, but evangelicals have been willing to shift opinions on moral issues to align themselves with the man who gives them power. In a Pew Research study about views toward refugees, only 25% of white evangelicals said that the United States has a responsibility to accept refugees into this country. That contrasts with 65% of the religiously unaffiliated and 43% of white mainline Protestants. What group most closely lined up with the views of white evangelicals? Conservative Republicans, who came in at 19% in agreement. Even moderate and liberal Republicans were much more open to the acceptance of refugees (40%).

This is about refugees, not illegal immigrants. It’s not an issue with an obvious “Christian” response, so don’t take my comments in that light. That said, there is nothing inherently Christian about rejecting the idea of being responsible for receiving refugees. It’s not a doctrinal view or a religious tenet that moves these evangelicals to a harsher view than the general public. What is it? Power. The desire to align themselves with the politician that gives them power.

That’s what frightens me about the Christian support I see for Donald Trump. Power corrupts. Political power corrupts the church.

[And to my friends on the left smiling smugly, ask yourselves if your position is all that different. Do you automatically reject anything and everything the President says? Do you evaluate Democratic candidates on their personal lives? Can you be happy with someone who disagrees with you having and distributing power?]

Mark 10:42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Immigration: Neither the Left nor the Right

I mentioned the other day feeling unable to support either of the two major political parties here in the United States. To me, they each promote some good things and each promote some ungodly values. Because I choose not to follow a platform that’s handed to me, I find myself with views that conflict with each party. Especially on a topic like immigration.

  • I favor a secure border. We should do what we can to eliminate unauthorized border crossings.
  • A secure border can only be created when there is a practical process that opens the door to unskilled workers. There needs to be a worker visa. I wouldn’t insist on a path to citizenship; the goal is to allow people to come and work when needed.
  • The two above items need to happen simultaneously.
  • I think all language deeming the secure border a “wall” is misguided. As I’ve written before, it smacks of very ugly attitudes. It is used to rouse the xenophobes among us. Little progress on real immigration will occur as long as the term continues to be bandied about.
  • I think the immigrant caravans are a bad thing. I think most of those in the caravans are not bad people. They are pawns in a political process, used by activists to provoke a situation. (Could be pro-immigration activists; could be anti-immigration activists. My hunch is it’s both)
  • The president should retract statements about immigrants being murders, rapists, drug dealers “and some good people.” He should at least admit that the inverse reflects reality. He knew it was a misrepresentation when he said it. Admittedly, President Trump speaks in hyperbole and expects everyone to recognize it was such. Still, slandering entire groups of people merely hinders open discussion on important topics.
  • Christians should stop encouraging people to come here illegally. I think we minister without judgment to those who have already come. But we do nothing to promote illegal immigration. (And yes, I know that some of you think that you can’t minister to those who came illegally without promoting future illegality. I disagree.)
  • Politicians (and Christians) need to stop the fear mongering.
    • The situation on our southern border does not constitute an emergency. Viewing how people use 911, I recognize that many people have trouble recognizing what truly is an emergency situation. This isn’t one.
    • Terrorists aren’t streaming across our southern border. There are much easier ways for them to enter the U.S. Few have entered from the south in the past; there is nothing to indicate that has changed.
    • The caravans appeared after the discussions about “the wall” began, not before. This situation was provoked by activists. It did not occur spontaneously.

There. Is that enough to make people on both sides mad? If not, I’ll share some more. I don’t attempt to make my position align with either major political party. And don’t ever plan to.

photo courtesy Conor Luddy on Unsplash

That’s not Trump’s wall you see in the Bible

As I’ve mentioned, I watch for illogical arguments. And I watch for misuse of the Bible. Discussions of the border wall tend to feature both.

When Trump announced his desire to build a wall, people begin quoting Ephesians 2, talking about how Jesus came to break down walls, not build them. While I definitely agree that Jesus is about bringing people together, I disagree that he is against all physical walls. If I come over to your house and start banging on your walls with a sledgehammer, are you going to say, “What a Christlike attitude!”?

Then wall enthusiasts started quoting Revelation 21, pointing out that the New Jerusalem has walls! Again, that’s not a very good use of the Bible, especially since the walls in Revelation have gates that never close.

Now I’m seeing people quote Nehemiah, observing how he was blessed for building a wall. To be honest, this one comes the closest to having some relevance. Here’s an example of a wall being built for the protection of those living inside. Still, if we begin conflating the nation of Israel with the modern-day U.S., we quickly get ourselves into trouble. And again, Jerusalem’s wall had gates that were open to all… except invading armies. Any and all peaceful visitors were welcome.

I’m okay if you want to argue the merits of the wall in the comments, but that’s not really my point. What I’m saying is that we need to stop using the Bible as a political tool, to quit picking out the parts we like and quoting verses out of context. Read the Bible to find God, to understand Him more, and learn how to draw nearer to Him. Don’t search through it to find arguments to support your partisan positions.