Friday, September 11, 2009

Jesus is neither a Republican nor a Democrat

In my job I spend a lot of time in the car, so I listen to Christian radio to pass the time. Lately, with all the hubub over health care reform, I've felt more like I am listening to political radio than religious radio. For some of these shows, it seems that the only thing they talk about is how "wrong" the President's proposals are.

First of all, I've been somehwat disturbed by the lack of repect sometimes shown to our President. Romans 13:1-2 says, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established … Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.” In the interest of full disclosure I am an independent. But as you can probably guess by the content of Ten Minas' website, my political views run a bit more toward the conservative spectrum, at least on many social issues. However, that does not mean that I do not take my obligation to be respectful to our President very seriously. We are free to disagree with him, but not by utilizing the type of ridicule and irresponsible fact-twisting we all have likely come across from time to time. And please don't think I am "calling out" only Republicans on this. Democrats and other political parties are just as guilty sometimes.

Leaving that aside for the moment, though, it bothers me a bit that the message many of these radio shows seem to be sending is, "If you are a Christian, you should be opposed to the Democratic proposals for health care reform." I am pretty sure there is nothing in the Bible about what kind of coverage Blue Cross Blue Shield should be providing or whether or not there should be a "public option."

Yes, it is very important to have an open and honest discussion of these issues. Yes, there are many political issues that also have theological implications (abortion, homosexual marriage, etc.). But I fear that sometimes we take this too far and act as if everything on the politically conservative agenda is also on Jesus' agenda. Don't we as Christians understand that when we do this we only put up one more obstacle between us and non-Christians that gets in the way of sharing the gospel? Do we really want people thinking, "I like Obama's health care plan, so I guess I can't be a Christian"? That may not be what we intend to say, but it is what many people are hearing (see, e.g., the chapter in the book "UnChristian" about how Christianity is perceived by outsiders as being "Too Political").

There is (and should be) a forum for discussing political issues like health care reform, and I certainly have no problem with anyone in that forum being forthright about their love for Christ. But when a program that is purportedly dedicated to teaching and advancing Christian principles spends day after day talking about health care reform, I am left wondering if they have lost sight of their true mission.

Don't assume that everything you believe is what Jesus believes. If you do, you are in danger of creating Jesus in your image. Instead, evaluate what you believe based upon what the Bible says. Then we can allow the Holy Spirit to mold us in Jesus' image. And always remember that there are many areas in life where we can disagree and still belong to the same body of Christ. That's the beauty of Christianity. It can bring unity in diversity. Yes, there still are some foundational beliefs that define what it is to be a "Christian" (as there must be if we are not to slip into universalism). But sometimes I fear that we define those foundational beliefs far too broadly and pick and choose them so that we can exclude anyone who is not "like us." Please be careful. Jesus spent His time on Earth with sinners, and they were definitely not "like Him" in that regard.

God bless you all, and God bless America.


DagoodS said...

Nicely written; well said.

(I fear we sometimes get so caught up in our differences, we fail to sufficiently note when we are in agreement.)

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Thanks DagoodS.

Anonymous said...

Can Christians make comments or take actions regarding, say, the local school board? Is disagreement with and opposition to these local civil authorities in violation of Paul's demand to respect civil authority?

Your observation that Jesus joins no political party is well-taken, as is your reference to Paul's (most difficult) comments on respecting civil authority. The 3600 verses of the four gospels never show Christ offering prescriptions on the ordering of civic life, or the arraingements of men to men.

That being said, the prophetic heroes of scripture called out tyrants for their disobedience to God. There is good claim that Obama mocks scripture and ridicules Christ. Are we to remain silent about this?

At the same time, the president makes claims about executive and legislative actions that conservative Christians find not only mistaken, but abominidable. We observe that the president's agenda leads to greater suffering to bodies and souls. And that his extremism in these views is unprecedented. Are we to interpret Paul's words as a demand to remain silent?

Mike B.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Thank you for your comment Mike. In answer to your question, no, I don't think you should remain silent. That was never the point of my post. I don't think Paul meant his words to act as a muzzle.

My point was twofold:

(1) When you see things that you believe are contrary to God's Word you are free to speak out, but do so "with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15); and

(2) Be cautious. Many times Christians are too eager to make something into a theological issue when it really is only a political one. Sometimes there is cross-over. Many times there is not.

What does it mean to be a "Christian"? I personally believe that the Council of Nicea came up with a pretty good summary of foundational Christian beliefs. Nowhere in that list does it say that you have to be a registered Republican. Yet that is the perception that many people have of Christianity. I think we would all be well-served by examing our own behavior and asking ourselves "Why?".

Our loyalty is to God's Word, not to a political platform. When we blur the lines between the two we run the risk of reading the platform into God's Word instead of evaluating that platform based upon God's Word.

But if you see something you believe needs to be addressed, by all means speak up. I myself have certainly never steered clear from emphatically defending my Lord. But there is no reason we cannot be respectful in our approach. We are Christ's ambassadors to the world. How are we representing Him? That's the question.

God bless.


Anonymous said...

If one believes that the chairman of the school board is dishonest, an aspiring tyrant, a Godless Marxist, a thief, and otherwise displays all the characteristics of a seductive serpent, how does one go about saying so respectfully? I submit that you cannot do this.

One might be incorrect in their assessment of the school board chair, but if the person really is a scumbag, you kinda have to say so.

Mike B.

Ten Minas Ministries said...


The command to interact with the world with gentleness and respect doesn't come from me. That is in 1 Peter. It may be difficult sometimes, but it is what we are called to do.

Allow me to pose the question to you this way:

Do you want the chairman of the school board to be saved? God does.

"The Lord ... is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9

"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Matthew 5:44

Do you believe that you will bring that school board chairman closer or further from Christ by calling him/her an "aspiring tyrant", "seductive serpent", or "scumbag"?

Some of the terms you used are more objectively verifiable (such as "thief"), and I have no problem with asking someone to face up to their own sin with terms like this when they are warranted (even then, though, with gentleness and respect; "The Way of the Master" provides one example of how you can gently show someone that they are a "thief"). But many of your phrases, such as those I cited above, are merely subjective labels. They are expressions of your opinion of this person's personality flaws.

What is a "seductive serpent"? Surely you don't mean that this person is literally a snake. What about a "scumbag"? Again, you do not believe that this person is literally a sack containing refuse. These are figures of speech that you are employing in order to express your utter disgust with this person's actions. As such, they are not necessary in order express your opinion.

Allow me a few closing thoughts from Paul:

"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things." Romans 2:1

"As it is written:
'There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.
All have turned away, they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good, not even one.'" Romans 3:10-12

We are not saved because we are better than everybody else. In fact our sin is just as bad. We are saved because Christ paid the price for our sins on the cross. If anything, reflecting on our own sin and our lost state before we were saved should give us even more patience and understanding for others, not less. But for the grace of God, there go I, so to speak.

Christ never said it would be easy to show patience, gentleness and respect, but it is what we are called to do. So express your opinion. Express your disapproval. But to borrow a phrase DagoodS used in one of our earlier discussions, try to stop short when you feel that fire might be coming out of your fingertips ... or your tongue.

God bless you Mike.