On Wednesday, November 5, the day after the most recent election, I was at THE meeting, a weekly meeting with some pastor friends. As I sat down at the table with one of my friends, I broke the ice with what we were both thinking. I said, “So what do you think?” Barak Obama had just been elected president, a historical election no doubt. He said, “Well for some people they think the sky is falling and for others they think the Savior has come.” And I responded, “Yeah and I think they both are wrong.”
Religion, politics, and sex. Three subjects on everyone’s mind, but three subjects we are not supposed to talk about publically, although that old adage has fallen out of popularity. Politics are difficult to talk about publically, because people can become so impassioned by their party’s platform, their candidate, their ideology, and on it goes….
This most recently presidential election has been particularly stirring for Christians, and so it has been a great time for us to think and to rethink what it means to be a Christian, particularly an evangelical Christian.
The evangelical manifesto (www.anevangelcialmanifesto.com) was written in May of this year by a steering committee of evangelical thinkers and scholars who wanted to help reclaim the term “evangelical” from a political context and re-establishing it upon a theological foundation. In other words, to be an evangelical means we believe in the exclusivity of Christ, the authority of Scripture, and the necessity of experiential conversion and not that we simply vote Republican.
I signed the manifesto online, because I agree that we as evangelicals need to reform our identity and behavior, especially related to partisan politics.
We do not need to privatize our faith, because our God is personal, but never private.
We do not need to politicize our faith, because Jesus is not an elephant or a donkey (he is a lamb!).
We particularly need to repent and reform of politicizing our faith, that is baptizing one party as the “Christian” party and demonizing the other party. We have to admit that participation in any political party is a part of Christian liberty. There are Christians who will vote Republican, some will vote Democrat, some will vote independent, and some will chose not to vote.
In the evangelical manifesto, the authors write:
Neither privatized nor politicized
Today, however, we Evangelicals wish to stand clear from certain positions in public life that are widely confused with Evangelicalism. First, we Evangelicals repudiate two equal and opposite errors into which many Christians have fallen recently. One error has been to privatize faith, interpreting and applying it to the personal and spiritual realm only. Such dualism falsely divorces the spiritual from the secular, and causes faith to lose its integrity and become “privately engaging and publicly irrelevant,” and another form of “hot tub spirituality.”
The other error, made by both the religious left and the religious right in recent decades, is to politicize faith, using faith to express essentially political points that have lost touch with biblical truth. That way faith loses its independence, the church becomes “the regime at prayer,” Christians become “useful idiots” for one political party or another, and the Christian faith becomes an ideology in its purest form. Christian beliefs are used as weapons for political interests.
Christians from both sides of the political spectrum, left as well as right, have made the mistake of politicizing faith; and it would be no improvement to respond to a weakening of the religious right with a rejuvenation of the religious left. Whichever side it comes from, a politicized faith is faithless, foolish, and disastrous for the church — and disastrous first and foremost for Christian reasons rather than constitutional reasons.
The Evangelical soul is not for sale. It has already been bought at an infinite price.
As followers of Christ, we must remain prophetic and speak on God’s behalf to both side of the political spectrum and avoid the mistakes of hiding our faith from public life and aligning our faith too closely to the ideology of one political party. To hear more on this subject, listen to my message, “ReChristian: Prophetic” online here: http://cornerstoneamericus.com/sermons/rechristian-prophetic/