Yes I know: I am a glutton for punishment. I am writing about the two things one is not supposed to discuss in polite society: politics and religion. But here I am, talking about both. So call me a sadist, I guess.
But the two topics happen to be extremely important. Christians especially should have no problem talking about politics. For most of the church’s 2000 year history, it was natural to see Christianity expressed in various ways in the political and social arenas. But there has been a bit of an anomaly during the past century or so.
For various reasons (historical, theological, and eschatological) many believers – especially evangelicals – have tended to shy away from the political process. I have discussed elsewhere these reasons, and why evangelicals need to get over their historical amnesia and recall that Christianity has always had a social and political voice.
The case is most clearly made by Jesus himself. In Matthew 22:21 Jesus commanded us to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. The former would surely include, among other things, doing our civic duty to vote in a responsible and informed fashion.
Sure, Jesus could say ‘my kingdom is not of this world’, and yes we do have a heavenly citizenship. But that is not the end of the matter. We are also citizens of this world. All Christians have dual citizenship – we all hold two passports. We are members of God’s heavenly realm, but also members of this earthly realm, with biblical duties and obligations to each.
Most Christians take seriously their heavenly responsibilities, but many totally ignore their earthly ones. This ought not to be. Remember that Jesus taught us to pray for His kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). We are involved in making his Kingdom a reality on planet earth. Thus when we prayerfully consider who we should vote for, we are helping to fulfil this prayer of Jesus.
Obviously if a presidential candidate is radically pro-abortion and anti-family (as is Obama), and he gets elected, then it seems it will be a lot harder for God’s will to be done on planet earth, at least in these areas. Not all rulers are equal, not all parties are equal, and not all politicians are equal. Sure, none are perfect, and none are harbingers of God’s kingdom, but some line up more closely with biblical principles than do others. That is important, and we Christians have a very solemn obligation therefore in such matters.
But unfortunately too many Christians have simply washed their hands of politics altogether, and somehow believe that it is unspiritual or ungodly to be involved in politics. But the opposite is in fact the case. Our lack of political and social involvement simply means we give our opponents a free ride to carry out their often-times ungodly and anti-God agendas.
Thus we are losing the culture wars and the various battles of the day by default, simply by not being involved. We complain about how bad things are getting all around us, but fail to see how our lack of involvement is a contributing factor to the overall mess. We often have only ourselves to blame for the ever-darkening times we find ourselves living in.
On being “one-eyed”
But at this point I can hear my critics (ie., my leftist Christian friends) complaining, “yeah but Bill, you conservative Christians have got to stop being so one-eyed. You guys are hung up on single issues, like abortion and same-sex marriage. You need to broaden your outlook, and focus on things that are really important, like social justice and human rights issues.”
This is not the place to get into a lengthy examination of things like social justice, which tend to be fairly loaded concepts, and the flavour of the month in some circles. Suffice it to say that while we should be concerned about these various areas, some rights may well be more important than others.
That is, it seems that the most fundamental of human rights is the right to life. Without that right, all other rights are rather pointless. After all, if you are dead, cheap health care or clean air really does not mean all that much. If you cannot even make it out of your mother’s womb, then talk about nuclear-free zones or affordable housing is simply much ado about nothing.
Not that these other issues are unimportant. But the idea that something like minimum wage laws are as morally important as the right to life seems to be simply incorrect. So a bit of prioritising may be in order here.
Let’s take all this back to the recent US elections. There have been plenty of Christian Obama supporters, and when confronted with the fact that Obama is probably the most militant pro-death politician around, they will blurt out something like, ‘yeah but he’s black and it is important that we work toward racial harmony, and having a black President will do so much good for the world’.
OK, then let’s go back to their complaints about conservative Christians being “one-eyed” and hung up on single issues. Strangely enough, but the exact same charges would have been levelled against William Wilberforce a few centuries ago. He spent over four decades working toward the emancipation of slaves and the abolition of slavery. That sounds like being “one-eyed” and hung up on single issues to me.
Also, that sure sounds like a social justice and human rights issue to me (just as the pro-life issue also sounds that way). Yet Christians back then complained about Wilberforce being fixated on this single issue, and often worked against him.
Fortunately for millions of black people – both back then and on up to today – Wilberforce politely ignored this unhelpful advice from his critics, and went right on ahead being stubbornly single-eyed. He toiled day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year on this fundamental issue of human rights. And three days before he died he saw the fruits of his labour come about.
Let me take this back to the US elections and Barack Hussein Obama yet again.
I may be the first person that I am aware of to make the following statement: “If it were not for Wilberforce and his half century-long battle against slavery, Obama would probably not be the President-elect today. I think that this connection can be made, however indirect and tenuous it might be. If it were not for the Christian political involvement of William Wilberforce – and others like him – the history of blacks would be far different than what it has been for the past 200 years.”
So Obama really owes one to Wilberforce. And those Christian critics who hounded Wilberforce about his narrow single-issue crusade really owe him an apology. On this issue at least, they were wrong and he was right.
And maybe all those Christians in the US who felt it was a waste of time getting involved in this election may need to apologise to God for not fulfilling their biblical mandate to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. In a day such as this, we need far more Wilberforces, not fewer.