Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Political Confessions of One Independent Evangelical

Not of This World

I don’t believe the Kingdom of God can or will be established by a political process. My primary purpose in life is to proclaim and practice the gospel of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is not to push a conservative social agenda. My identity is found in Christ, not in the GOP. The hope to which I cling, the hope I hold out to the people of this world has nothing to do with candidates, legislation or even Supreme Court nominations, it is based on the One Who said that His kingdom is not of this world.
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place (John 18:36 NIV84).”
Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Mark 12:17 NIV84).”
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God (Romans 13:1 NIV84). 
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:20–21 NIV84).
One of the authorities that exist and that has been established by God in the United States is the authority of the adult citizen to vote. My primary citizenship is in heaven, but I am grateful to be a citizen of the United States. As a citizen, God has given me the authority and responsibility to vote. I am not alone in taking this responsibility seriously. We will all one day stand before Christ to give an account for what we did with the gifts God has given us. We all must wrestle with our consciences before God with this gift of enfranchisement (the right to vote).

It would be great if our consciences were perfect moral compasses, but they really have become ossified by our sinful natures, influenced by a culture that disregards the rule of God and darkened by the enemy of our souls. Both the liberal and the conservative build their agendas on values, values that they would impose on others. My conscience is informed by my understanding of the Word of God and though the Law of the Lord is perfect, my grasp of it isn’t. Whenever I justify my selfishness, my understanding of God’s Word is darkened. When I submit to the work of Christ in my life God’s Word becomes clearer to me.

Washington State, November 2012

I live in Washington State so November of 2012 was especially challenging for me. I voted very differently than most evangelicals. I voted for Barack Obama, same sex marriage [Later the LORD made it clear to me that I sinned by voting to approve same-sex marriage. Please read my later blog post When the Foundations Are Destroyed: Why I Was Wrong to Vote to Approve Same-Sex Marriage] and the decriminalization of marijuana. I did it [I thought] with a good conscience based on the reasoning that I am laying down in this article. Right or wrong, I am accountable before God for my actions so—though others may condemn me—we will all know the truth soon enough. It would sound smug if I said that I don’t care what others think, plus I’d be lying. God is speaking to each one of us. We can all learn from each other.

I may have lost a number of conservative readers (and maybe even a few friends) with that last paragraph, but hopefully some will continue reading out of morbid curiosity. In any case, I’ll quickly explain my vote for Barack Obama. I like him. He is far more liberal in his policies than I am and I hate the fact that he doesn’t seem to be able to understand why it’s wrong to force faith-based organizations to pay for things that violate their collective consciences. Roman Catholics believe contraception–even non-abortive contraception–is a sin. I believe abortive contraception is murder, but non-abortive contraception is not wrong in and of itself. Mitt Romney probably matches my conservative values more closely, but I’m not sure. To me, his values seemed to change like the wind.

Marriage, That Blessed Arrangement

To the vast majority of evangelicals same-sex marriage is a no-brainer, it is inconceivable to them that any Christian would fail to be appalled at the thought of it, would fail to grasp that legalizing same-sex marriage is the beginning of the end of our civilization. Yet I voted to approve same-sex marriage because I am convinced that what the state calls marriage is not the same as what God calls marriage. What the state calls marriage is just a legal arrangement. The state cannot make two people one flesh, only God can do that.
Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate (Matthew 19:3–6 NIV84).”
Only the Creator can make a man and a woman one, and that oneness is for one man and one woman. That is what our Lord has declared. God has joined my wife and me together and He forbids any human being from trying to separate us. My commitment to my wife is that I will never leave her or be unfaithful to her and that nothing but death may separate us. May God grant me the grace to love and honor her. May God deal with me and teach me to be the servant-leader that He has called me to be. If we submit to the work of God in our lives then our marriage will be a city on a hill, a light for the world.

The Apostle Peter said that the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17).  I believe God is talking to the church about marriage, but not about same-sex marriage nor about a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Rather, He is speaking to us about how our one man/one woman marriages can bring glory to Him and hope to the world. Do you feel the shaking? God is disciplining us.

Decriminalizing Drugs

I don’t want to smoke marijuana. I don’t think anybody should smoke marijuana. I voted to decriminalize it because the war on illegal drugs is a fool’s errand. Prohibition against alcohol failed, but we didn’t learn our lesson. Our experience proves what sound macroeconomic theory predicts: criminalizing drugs will put resources into the hands of the most dangerous and despicable of men.

The Apostle Paul warned us not to be drunk with wine, but to be filled with the Holy Spirit. People are not highly evolved animals. We are created in the image of God. At our core we are spiritual beings who long for spiritual experiences. Only God can satisfy that need. In Jesus the fullness of the Godhead is incarnated in human flesh. He is the only mediator between God and man. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We can come to God through Jesus Christ and be filled with the Person of God’s Holy Spirit. There is such joy in knowing Jesus and walking with Him. Drugs and alcohol produce a false peace that muddles our brains, destroys our bodies and ruins our lives. Yet our need for spirituality remains. If we give our lives to Jesus He will make us what He created and redeemed us to be. He will meet that need in us.

Abortion

At the advice of a friend, I went to see Lincoln, the movie. I loved it so much that I saw it a second time. That’s rare for me (movies are so expensive), but I was delighted to be overwhelmed by such powerful and complex dialog. I was amazed at the realism. Those fighting to pass the thirteenth amendment were not caricatured as those who loved the African-American. Lincoln was portrayed as a man who was driven by one idea: that all men are equal, therefore slavery is an abomination.

To me the moral center of the movie was when Lincoln said, “Euclid's first common notion is this: things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other. That's a rule of mathematical reasoning. It's true because it works. Has done and always will do. In his book [thoughtful sigh], Euclid says this is self-evident. You see there it is, even in that 2000 year old book of mechanical law. It is a self-evident truth that things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.”

Human life is sacred because we are created in the image of God. To me it is self-evident that life begins at conception. It is not wrong to prevent conception, but once a child is conceived she is endowed by her Creator with certain unalienable rights, and those rights include the right to live.

Like the Democrats in Lincoln who were opposed to abolition on moral principles, there are many who find my view morally repugnant. To them, the woman’s right to control her own body is absolute. To them, freedom of choice is a woman’s health issue and if I oppose that right then I am waging war on women. There is no way to reconcile these two opposing worldviews.

Like Lincoln and many who voted for the thirteenth amendment I am not ignorant of the logical conclusion of my views, nor do I hold to these views to achieve those conclusions. Many who voted for the thirteenth amendment did not want to give the African-American the vote, but that was the logical conclusion of their view and they knew it. Would I execute a woman or a medical provider for performing an abortion? I would not. I could not.

God Loves the Foreigner

I think that the biggest problem with the conservative political thinking of most evangelicals is in the area of immigration policy. We should be leading the charge for immigration reform. We should demand simplification of the immigration process, call for raised quotas and plead for amnesty for illegal immigrants who have worked hard and obeyed our laws. Instead, we behave like those who know nothing about the love of God, who do not know that we all live as strangers here.
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing (Deuteronomy 10:18 NIV).
The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God (Leviticus 19:34 NIV).
One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism

Our politics always reflect our cultural perspective. That is why denominations split between the north and the south during the time of the Civil War. Splits were caused because the churches in the South were pro-choice and the churches in the North favored abolition. Things are more complex today, but black evangelical churches tend to be more liberal and white evangelical churches tend to be more conservative. We’re even beginning to see a split between older evangelicals and younger ones. The younger evangelicals are supporting a broader view that includes environmental concerns. They’re still waging the culture war. They just have a broader view of culture. To me, they’re making the same mistake but are just doing it in a more elegant fashion. The end result will be the same: there will be more division in the church and the message of the gospel will be diluted.

I believe there are two truths that we must keep in tension: 1) Each of us is responsible before God to use our earthly citizenship for His glory and 2) We all need to respect each other’s consciences. To be blunt: being a Republican is not an essential of the faith. Don’t try to force your political views on fellow Christians. Allow God to work in their lives. Respect their decisions. You are not their Lord.
If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ ” So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God (Romans 14:8–12 NIV84).
There are people in this world who will always find something to fault the church for, but when we behave in a way that says, “If you want to be a born-again Christian, you’d better be prepared to become a Republican” then we dilute the gospel and put an unnecessary stumbling block in people’s paths.
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me (John 17:20–21 NIV84).
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12 NIV84).
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17 NIV84).
My problem with the culture wars includes both the culture part and the war part. When the world looks at the church it should not see a people marching in lockstep for some political agenda. No, they should see a people who have been cleansed of their sins, live victoriously over destructive habits, have nurturing families, work hard, have healthy marriages, pray for their co-workers, and lift up the other members of their churches. Along with our Savior and my fellow members of the body of Christ, I pray that God will make us one so that the world will believe that the Father sent Jesus to redeem us of our sins.