The endless campaign for President finally comes to an end today—or maybe it does. With the possibilities of recounts, voter fraud and looming litigation the election may not be over for a while longer. I certainly hope that’s not the case. I’m worn out by it all.
My wife and I went to the polls the first thing this morning. We’re both Christian from an evangelical perspective, which puts us in the bull’s eye of one of the key national constituencies that will probably end up deciding the election.
In the sophisticated campaigning methods candidates now employ, evangelicals alongside Catholics, labor, singles, retirees, blacks, Hispanics, gays, upper income people, lower income people, the middle class and many other specific demographic niches within the national population receive individual attention. Candidates and the high-priced consultants who direct their campaigns tailor their messages to connect with every special interest group imaginable.
Politically speaking, evangelicals are just one among all the other groups, a position both awkward and compromised. Our Christian witness is lessened when we act as though we’re on the same playing field as groups that have little in common with our core convictions. To allow ourselves to be viewed, say, in the same fashion as an atheist homosexual retiree may make political sense but it dilutes the distinctiveness of our beliefs.
Further, any evangelical impact on the government is almost always an illusion. The heyday of the Moral Majority during the presidency of Ronald Reagan is an example. While that well known group had more access to the center of power than any evangelical group before or since, it failed to have much long term impact on our nation’s direction. That’s why Chuck Colson, who knew more about church and culture than anyone in recent memory, advocated in his later years for churches to be less involved in government and more focused on the Kingdom of God.
What I'm trying to point out is that evangelical Christians are in the strange and uncomfortable position of fervently preaching the Kingdom of God while investing our energy and resources in political action. We love heaven but seem more concerned with earth. We advocate service to the world but often come across as more interested in power over the world.
Some would say our position is hypocritical or even cynical. I don't believe that's the case at all. We're just trying to figure out how best to live out our faith in a complicated age.
Anyway, my wife and voted this morning. And loved doing it. How could we do otherwise? This is a momentous election and there are important issues at stake that the next President will certainly influence. Legalized abortion is one of them. The defense of biblical marriage is another. Freedom of religion yet another. Without aligning ourselves too closely with a particular candidate or party, evangelicals still have a powerful mandate to engage in the political process. Jeremiah 29:7 says, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you to exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
Here are ten principles I’ve carved out for myself in trying to figure all this out. Some of them seem contradictory, but this is the best I can do:
· God is ultimately in control of all earthly governments. I can’t always figure out how His authority works in human events but I believe with all my heart that it’s true.
· As an evangelical believer my focus must always be more on God’s Kingdom than on human governments.
· Human governments can’t change human hearts. Only Jesus can do that.
· I’m deeply grateful to God for His blessings to our nation.
· Evangelical faith has played a crucial role in the history of the United States. To deny our spiritual heritage is to be cut off from our roots.
· Our nation today is in deep need of repentance and spiritual renewal.
· Our right to vote for our political leaders is a privilege most people on earth don’t have. I’m grateful for that.
· Praying for our government—whoever’s in power—is a biblical mandate that we ignore to our peril.
· The moral issues our nation faces are more threatening than our economic crises. The evangelical voice is as crucial to resolving the one situation as courageous political leaders are to the other.
· For evangelicals to preserve our witness, we must be careful of too much entanglement in politics.