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Why more evangelicals may need to follow CT’s lead

Christianity Today has published an unusually scathing editorial by Andy Crouch. Crouch makes the case that “Evangelicals, of all people, should not be silent about Donald Trump’s blatant immorality.” He writes:

Since his nomination, Donald Trump has been able to count on “the evangelicals” (in his words) for a great deal of support.

This past week, the latest (though surely not last) revelations from Trump’s past have caused many evangelical leaders to reconsider. This is heartening, but it comes awfully late. What Trump is, everyone has known and has been able to see for decades, let alone the last few months. The revelations of the past week of his vile and crude boasting about sexual conquest—indeed, sexual assault—might have been shocking, but they should have surprised no one.

Indeed, there is hardly any public person in America today who has more exemplified the “earthly nature” (“flesh” in the King James and the literal Greek) that Paul urges the Colossians to shed: “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry” (3:5). This is an incredibly apt summary of Trump’s life to date. Idolatry, greed, and sexual immorality are intertwined in individual lives and whole societies. Sexuality is designed to be properly ordered within marriage, a relationship marked by covenant faithfulness and profound self-giving and sacrifice. To indulge in sexual immorality is to make oneself and one’s desires an idol. That Trump has been, his whole adult life, an idolater of this sort, and a singularly unrepentant one, should have been clear to everyone.

And therefore it is completely consistent that Trump is an idolater in many other ways. He has given no evidence of humility or dependence on others, let alone on God his Maker and Judge. He wantonly celebrates strongmen and takes every opportunity to humiliate and demean the vulnerable. He shows no curiosity or capacity to learn. He is, in short, the very embodiment of what the Bible calls a fool.

I cannot stress enough how unusual it is for CT to publish an editorial like this, but I think they were right to do so. Furthermore, I would suggest that other evangelical leaders and writers might consider following suit. Why? Many evangelical Christians are content to stay out of the political fray. I in no way fault them for that. We all have different callings and interests, and that is fine. But we are faced with a set of very unusual circumstances in the candidacy of Donald Trump. Impressions often don’t match reality. Many people are assuming that evangelicals in toto are supporting Donald Trump, that evangelicals are willing to turn a blind eye to disqualifying character defects, and that they are willing to endorse reprehensible character so long as the candidate is Republican and not Democrat. In short, it appears that evangelicals have no principle only partisan interest.

I know that many evangelicals would object to that characterization saying, “But that is an inaccurate view of things. Evangelicals are divided over Trump. And many of the ones supporting him are only doing so grudgingly because the alternative is also morally reprehensible.” I get that. But that is not the perception of outsiders. Outsiders are viewing us as a piece. One measure of that is revealed in an anecdote I just heard yesterday. A friend of mine was talking to a very well-known religion writer who assumed that evangelicals like Russell Moore and Albert Mohler were endorsing Trump. I think it is astonishing that a journalist could be so misinformed about the evangelical landscape, but there it was.

Do you think that the media and the general public are going to be any less confused about the evangelical landscape in the wake of Donald Trump? I don’t. Even though some of us have been making the case for his unfitness since the primaries, that fact is lost on many. I guarantee you that after this election is over, the media narrative will place a large part of the blame on “evangelicals” for Donald Trump’s malignant candidacy. And that narrative will treat “evangelicals” in an undifferentiated way.

What does that mean? It means that all of us will bear the dishonor of his candidacy, even those evangelicals who never endorsed him and even some of us who made the case against him. I’m simply saying that we should not expect a fair and nuanced portrayal of “evangelical” attitudes in the aftermath of election 2016. There will be blame and shame going around, and “evangelicals” will bear much of it—some of it deservedly, and some of it undeservedly.

That is why CT‘s editorial is so necessary. We are in an extraordinary moment that calls for extraordinary moral clarity. In fact, I think that more evangelical leaders and writers who are usually silent on such matters would do well to follow CT‘s lead here. It is important to speak with moral clarity now for the sake of evangelical witness later. Max Lucado and Beth Moore, for example, have both weighed-in, and I think it would be tremendously helpful if more would join them. This can be done without endorsing any particular candidate—just as Crouch has done. But I think now is the time to speak up. What we say now will shape the public impressions of evangelical Christianity later. And conscientious evangelicals need to be heard.


UPDATE: Since posting this earlier today, evangelicals have begun weighing-in. I’m going to try to keep a running update of statements below.

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Last night’s debate and my burden going forward

The measure of last night’s disgrace is measured by the lengths I had to go to to conceal it from my children. When there is a presidential debate, our usual routine is to turn it on in the family room and to watch it. The kids may be in and out of the room if they are not in bed already. But it is a conspicuous viewing in the middle of our home if it is anything else.

Last night was different. I retreated into a room by myself to view the debate. On two or three occasions, my children came into the room. And on each occasion, I had to shew them out as quickly as possible to conceal from their tender consciences the ignominy unfolding on the debate stage.

It is not easy trying to explain to them why they cannot watch our two presidential candidates debate. Nor is it easy trying to explain to them why our family cannot support either of them. All they know is that we should respect our leaders, no matter their political party. They also know that we usually have a favored candidate who most represents our ideals. But they also know that there is no candidate for us this year from either of the two major political parties. This is a first for us.

This election has made me acutely aware of a weighty burden that I feel for my country and for my children. If evangelicals have felt at ease in Babylon until now, that ease has passed. Our culture is post-Christian, and so are our politics. We are strangers and aliens here (1 Pet. 2:11). That is nothing new. Indeed it has always been the case. But the contrast between the church and the world is becoming increasingly stark in our nation.

The burden I feel is not that Christians have lost the culture or that we need to figure out how to recover some pristine era in the past (no such era ever existed). The burden I feel is for preparing my children and the church that I pastor for the world that we live in now. To be in the world, not of the world, for the sake of the world is what God has called us to (John 17:13-21). To love our neighbors and our enemies and to do so faithfully and joyfully in the face of open opposition and cynical indifference—that is the burden of our time. And that is what we must prepare our children, our churches, and ourselves to face in coming days.

We live in sad times. But the debacle of the 2016 presidential election is not the cause of our times. It is the sign of our times. And we need to have our eyes wide open to the world and our hearts full of gospel joy and our feet swift to our great work. This does not mean a retreat from public life or from our democratic stewardship. It just means that we know where we have pinned our hopes for this life and the next. And believing that, we bear witness to a coming King who will one day make all things new (Rev. 21:5). For here we have no lasting city, but we are seeking a city which is to come (Heb. 13:14).

Is Trump accelerating evangelical break with the GOP?

The video package above was produced by Jon Ward for Yahoo News. There are a variety of personalities that appear in it. What struck me while watching it is how the label “evangelical” is being pulled apart at the seams.

The apparent break-up with the GOP is but one sign of a larger conflict that evangelical Christians are facing in post-Christian America. As we move from “moral majority” to prophetic minority, we are feeling more uneasy in Babylon. That is not altogether a bad thing. Christianity’s contrast with the world is becoming more evident and will compel us to theological clarity. And that is happening now.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Should “headship” determine who we vote for in the presidential election?

I taught 1 Corinthians 11:3 this morning in my New Testament Survey class at Boyce College. One student asked what implications a text like this one has on our thinking about the presidential election. If the Bible teaches male headship, should a Christian vote for a female running for president? I want to share how I answered that question, but before doing that I should stipulate that what follows should not be construed as an endorsement or non-endorsement vis a vis the current candidates for president. I should also stipulate that the Bible has much more to say on this question than is contained in a single verse. Still, it is instructive to think through what this text means and how it might relate to our thinking about our democratic stewardship. Here’s the text:

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. –1 Corinthians 11:3

One thing that is clear in this text is that “head” refers to a relation of authority (cf. Eph. 1:22; 5:23; Col. 2:10, also see BDAG). Thus to say that “Christ is the head of every man” is the same as saying that Christ is the authority over every man. Likewise, to say that the man is the “head” of the woman is to say that man is the authority over the woman. Continue Reading →

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Is there a need for “sexual orientation and gender identity” laws?

Over at The Public Discourse James Gottry argues that these laws are an answer to a non-existent problem. According to the article, there is no evidence of systemic discrimination against gay or transgender persons. These laws then have the effect of coercing people who hold traditional views to violate their conscience. You should read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt:

In recent years, laws that provide special privileges to individuals based on their self-proclaimed gender identity or sexual preferences have emerged across the country. Commonly known as SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) laws, these legislative undertakings are typically fueled by activist groups and represent a subversive response to a nonexistent problem. Available data confirm there exists no significant social pattern or practice of unjust discrimination against these groups. This is not only because the vast majority of Americans already respect each other and are fair-minded, but also because anyone engaged in baseless discrimination faces the prospect of social and financial consequences brought on by public pressure and boycotts.
SOGI laws, however, use the full force of the law to punish individuals who seek to live peacefully and to work in a way that is consistent with their consciences. Elaine Huguenin, Barronelle Stutzman, Jack Phillips, and Blaine Adamson are just a few of the small business owners who gladly serve all people without exception, but who also face legal punishment because they declined to participate in certain events or to create custom art that would have violated their consciences. In Elaine’s case, she politely declined a request to use her expressive photography skills to tell the story of a same-sex commitment ceremony. Her attempt to remain peacefully true to her faith’s teachings about marriage led to a seven-year court battle that culminated in a ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court against her and her husband, Jon. One justice stated that the Huguenins “now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,” and added that this compulsion “is the price of citizenship.”

The child was sick so they killed him. And it’s legal.

The stakes couldn’t be any higher or more grave than they are in this report:

A terminally ill minor has become the first child to be euthanized in Belgium since age restrictions were lifted in the country two years ago, according to several sources.

A Belgian lawmaker told CNN affiliate VTM that the physician-assisted suicide happened within the past week.

The child, who was suffering from an incurable disease, had asked for euthanasia, Sen. Jean-Jacques De Gucht told VTM. The identity of the child and age are unknown.

“I think it’s very important that we, as a society, have given the opportunity to those people to decide for themselves in what manner they cope with that situation,” said Gucht, a supporter of euthanasia legislation.

According to the BBC, the child was 17-years old. Lest you think this is far removed from us, just remember that physician-assisted suicide is already legal in the states of Washington, Oregon, California, and Vermont. We are not so far behind.

What does this precedent mean? Like in the United States, a child cannot decide by himself that he wants to die. According to the report, the child must understand what euthanasia is and the parents must also give consent to let it happen.

But what does it mean for a child to know what euthanasia is? Does he really understand death and mortality? Do his parents who must give consent even understand? Do they understand that every life is sacred because it is created in the image of God? Do they understand that “consent” does not nullify the dignity that God has given to that precious life? Do they understand that if we only value lives that meet a minimum threshold of “quality,” then none of us are safe? As a society, do Belgians (and we) understand that just because consent is required today does not mean that it will be required tomorrow?

If life is only reckoned as valuable based on utility or quality of life, then when society deems such lives unworthy of living consent may no longer be required. Utilitarianism can be a conscience-crushing, life-destroying moral argument. And we must oppose it wherever it raises itself up against the image of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). This is a slippery slope that we must not go down, but it appears we are already on the move.

Lord have mercy.

The disappearing “middleground” and the coming conflict

David Gushee has written a column for Religion News Service arguing that the “middleground” is disappearing on LGBT rights. He writes:

Middle ground is disappearing on the question of whether LGBT persons should be treated as full equals, without any discrimination in society — and on the related question of whether religious institutions should be allowed to continue discriminating due to their doctrinal beliefs.

It turns out that you are either for full and unequivocal social and legal equality for LGBT people, or you are against it, and your answer will at some point be revealed. This is true both for individuals and for institutions.

Neutrality is not an option. Neither is polite half-acceptance. Nor is avoiding the subject. Hide as you might, the issue will come and find you.

Gushee is no doubt right about this. Those pushing for LGBT “rights” do not mean to offer any accommodation whatsoever to those of us who dissent from the moral revolution overtaking the West. All dissent must be eliminated, and those who continue to defy the revolution must be marginalized as morally retrograde bigots. There will be no hiding. No compromises. Everyone will eventually be smoked-out. And those who resist will be crushed. That is their aim. Continue Reading →

A sober warning about “The Transgender Contagion”

If you haven’t read David French’s article “The Transgender Contagion” yet, let me encourage you to do so. One paragraph in particular is worth highlighting. French writes,

We’re not far from the day when a child will be taken from a loving home simply because the parents refuse to believe that their little girl is actually a little boy. We’re already living in the days when telling your girl child that she shouldn’t undergo treatments that will render her infertile and painfully mutilated is deemed to be intolerant. And we refuse to believe that such behaviors are at all influenced by peer groups or social trends. Instead, your daughter is simply “trans,” just as she is either black or white.

If you think this is an overstatement, you are not paying attention. The medical community has embraced the transgender revolution, and dissent from its ideology is no longer allowed. Continue Reading →

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Trump on using nukes: “If we have them, why can’t we use them?”

On “Morning Joe” today, Joe Scarborough was interviewing a former Director of Central Intelligence and ex-National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden. The former director’s remarks were alarming all by themselves. But Joe issued the most chilling report I think I’ve ever heard about Trump, but one that certainly confirms my suspicions about him. This is very important for you to read below or watch above. Joe reports:

Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on international level went to advise Donald Trump. And three times [Trump] asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked… “If we have them, why can’t we use them?” That’s one of the reasons he doesn’t have foreign policy experts around him.

If you watch the video above, you’ll notice the gravity with which Joe delivered this news. All the usual jocularity and lightness were gone, and it was met by the panel with stunned silence. Why?

Because they know the temperament and character of the candidate and because you can’t have that kind of trigger-happy person in charge of the nuclear codes.

Here is a scenario that is not hard to imagine given what Trump has said he would do as president. Trump has said repeatedly that he would call our troops home from South Korea unless South Korea starts paying the United States.

So let’s say Trump is elected and takes office next January. Within a month of taking office, he begins negotiating with South Korea about the status of our forces along the demilitarized zone. Negotiations break-down when South Korea balks at the sum President Trump wants them to pay. They ask for an extension of negotiations. A petulant President Trump says “no” and removes our troops from South Korea.

At some point after our troops are gone, North Korea moves against South Korea–either with an army marching across the line or with missile strikes on Seoul. This wasn’t part of Trump’s “hardball negotiation” strategy, and now he realizes that he’s just been humiliated by North Korean aggression.

Do you think it’s within Trump’s character to clean up his own foreign policy mess (and avenge his own personal slight) with a tactical nuclear strike against North Korea? What if he looks at his generals and says to them the same thing Joe Scarborough just reported: “If we have them, why can’t we use them?”

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Character matters in public leadership

This morning I was thinking about our current political moment and about the nation’s indiffernce to moral character in public leadership. I was reminded of a short essay that John Piper wrote nearly twenty years ago during the impeachment scandal. The essay was such a beacon of prophetic moral clarity then. I think it still is now. And it is relevant to our current moment. 

Piper gives six reasons why he believed that the President of the United States should resign. Each reason has to do with moral character and how the lack of it can make a man unfit for office. Piper concludes with this:

 The president should have known that the stakes of his moral life are this high, and added that to his disincentive to gratify himself at the expense of the nation. This reckless, foolish and faithless behavior unfits a man to be a world leader in this moral context.

It is hard to believe that it has been almost twenty years since this was written, but it is nonetheless relevant. When all of this was unfolding, the President’s approval rating among the American people remained very high, and of course he never resigned. The nation decided that these moral failings didn’t matter. I guess it should be no surprise that so many Americans have decided that such failings do not matter now either.

Our current political alternatives didn’t arise ex nihilo. There’s a long backstory. The culture we make is the culture we must live in. And it is an inescapable conclusion that our alterntives are to some extent a reflection of us as a people. 

And that is why it is all the more important for Christians to be salt and light. 

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 5:16

“Walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” -Ephesians 5:8-11 

Our job isn’t to sit on the side cursing the darkness. We are light. We bear witness to a kingdom that is not of this world—to a Redeemer King who even now is seated at the right hand of God and who will appear again in judgment. This reality has implications for all of life, including the stewardship He’s given us as citizens of a democratic republic. 

Our alternatives may be a reflection of our culture, but Christians cannot give the impression that they are a faithful representation of us or of the Kingdom we represent. Clarity on this point may be difficult, but it is nonetheless necessary. To obscure this point is to cover up everything that matters. And that we cannot do.

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