Is God a Republican?
The obvious answer is, No. God is not a Republican, or a Democrat, or, for that matter, a flag-waving American.
But listen to the TV-evangelists, conservative talkshow hosts, or Republican candidates for President, and you’d swear that God stopped by the Supervisor of Elections office and signed up as a card-carrying member of the GOP, i.e., God’s Own Party.
On the Camp Meeting (Campaign) Trail
I was in Iowa the weekend of the “Faith and Freedom Summit” at which Senator Ted Cruz declared that there is “no room for Christians in today’s Democratic party.” That will be a surprise to my faithful Christian friends who happen to be Democrats.
(For the record, I also have faithful Christian friends who are Republicans.)
If you want to elect a “Preacher-in-Chief,” Mike Huckabee would be hard to beat. But it takes some real homiletical legerdemain to turn the Sermon on the Mount into “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy” and to use Jesus’ crucifixion as biblical support for capital punishment.
A very conservative and distinctively American version of Christianity has become a litmus test in the Republican primaries, in spite of Article VI, paragraph 3 of the Constitution which says, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
But then, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay recently announced that “God wrote the Constitution.” That would come as a surprise to our founders who began the Constitution with no reference to God but to “We the people…”
Before my Republican friends draft fire-breathing replies, let me say:
1) I celebrate the freedom of political candidates to say any outrageous thing they want to say, though I wish all of them would be more careful about manipulating truth to serve their political rhetoric;
2) I want our leaders be people of humble faith who acknowledge their need of wisdom beyond their own, though I also want them to give the same respect to other faiths as expect others to give to theirs; and
3) I’m equally uncomfortable with politicians who deny the importance of biblical faith in the history and life of our nation, though they are a little harder to find these days than the ones who use their version of the faith as a political weapon.
Concern for the Christian Brand
My primary concern, however, is not political but evangelistic. My concern is the damage these folks are doing to the Christian “brand” in our nation today.
I was an “evangelical” long before that became a political category. I’ve invested my life in interpreting scripture faithfully, communicating the gospel clearly, inviting people to become disciples of Jesus Christ, and helping the church become a vibrant witness to the Kingdom of God in this world.
It’s no surprise to me that when young adults who are outside the church describe Christianity, their most common responses are “hypocritical, judgmental, and homophobic.” When Pew Research confirmed the shocking decline in the percentage of American people who identify themselves as “Christian,” they named one possible reason as being “the politicization of religion by American conservatives.”
Frankly, if I thought the version of Christianity many of these folks represent actually represented the gospel, I might be looking for some other way to experience God, too.
Not Just What We Say But How We Say It
My deeper problem with the loudest “evangelical” voices today is not just what they say (some of which I affirm), but the way they say it.
There is a fear-mongering, resentment-raising, us-vs-them anger in many of them. Some of them are just plain mean, all of which is a striking contrast to Jesus clear command that his disciples are to be known by their love — not just any love, but the love defined by God’s love for all people including the righteous and the unrighteous, the evil and the good, Republicans and Democrats. (John 13:35, Matthew 5:43-48).
What’s A Disciple To Do?
So, how can disciples of Christ be actively engaged in a politically-charged season?
1. Let’s have a vigorous debate. The policy differences could not be more stark on everything from foreign policy to funding for Amtrak. We desperately need thoughtful, honest, reasonable debate about issues without the cheap, shallow, fire-brand rhetoric of personal attack and destruction. Christians who are called to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) should be the people to help make that happen.
Remember Proverbs 15:1-2:
A sensitive answer turns back wrath,
but an offensive word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise enhances knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool gushes with stupidity.
2. Let’s dig deeply for the way biblical wisdom can lead us to Kingdom-shaped convictions that go beyond simplistic proof-texting which abuses scripture for our already-determined political convictions. A simple-to-understand starting point is the “Manna and Mercy” resources.
3. Let’s do all we can to be the living demonstration of our prayer that God’s Kingdom will come and God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, without ever equating God’s Kingdom with the kingdoms (political parties) of this earth.
4. Let’s celebrate and enjoy our heritage of freedom as together we seek “to form a more perfect union” and become a place of “liberty and justice for all.”
Grace and peace,