Christians need a serious reminder eight months out from our national election, and still deep into the Democratic Primary season, that neither of our two major political parties are God’s political party. I write a great deal about political subjects but I wish to remind people, left and right and everywhere in between, that your political brand or ideology is not God’s party or brand. As Sojourners magazine said a few years ago: "God is not a Republican, and he is not a Democrat either." (The only problem with this slogan is the ideology behind it. The virtual endorsement of certain views and parties by Sojourners, especially by Jim Wallis, would lead one to conclude that they prefer the Democrats most of the time!)
There is a fine line here I suppose. I am an Independent who counts himself a moderate conservative on most issues and a moderate liberal on a few. I often vote Republican but then I have made some consequential exceptions. I am pro-life, and think that this issue happens to a very important. But I will vote for a non-pro-life candidate on certain occasions, if other issues warrant that response. I do not favor a Constitutional revision on marriage, which makes some religious conservatives very unhappy. I also favor certain kinds of gun control (automatic weapons, background checks, etc.). I further believe that our approach to immigration, at least from the conservative right, is way out of balance. It is sadly like our response to other large immigration waves in our past and clearly lacks the compassion that God revealed to Israel in the Old Testament Scriptures.
I also am much more cautious about engaging in foreign wars and thus did not favor the Iraq War. (I also believe we should finish our task now that we are there and not run away as soon as possible. The instability that will follow is unacceptable, at least to my mind.) I favor NAFTA, CAFTA and open world trade. (I also believe problems need to be fixed in this whole area since we are losing a great deal in the present scenario.) I am a globalist thus I believe that we must work with the realities of the new world and not simply be a protectionist nation that is reactionary toward the wider world. Free markets will work but they need to be free and they require virtue to work correctly. In addition to all of this I also want to see a leader who leads not so much from an ideological check-list as by his character and good judgment. So I do not fit into many of the categories created by the left or the right. I read magazines and arguments from both sides every week. The radical voices on both sides are the ones I most avoid.
I say all of this not to promote my own views at this point. I see this blog as a place where I try to stir people to think a bit outside their comfort zone. I also see it as a place for sane and reasoned ideas. I am not always right and readers often correct me. I have made some great friends via this blog. On almost every trip I make people introduce themselves to me who first began to read me via this blog. That is deeply encouraging.
I say all the above because I am exercised about how the Church has moved away from her primary agenda by what is about to happen in the next eight months. Frankly, the essential task of the Church will not be altered one iota by who is elected in November. The New Testament tells us to pray for those in authority, not to make them our messiahs, our targets or our enemies. (Remember, a Roman Caesar was in power when this was written!) I will pray for our President, regardless of who he or she is after November.
What makes me profoundly sad is how religion is being used for partisan gain in another election year. Democrats decided they had to inject religion into the campaign after seeing how it worked so well against them in 2000 and 2004. Now the issue for many conservatives is: "Who is the real Christian?" Interestingly, of the four candidates remaining in the race all of them are practicing Christians who are baptized members of Christian churches. I know what some of you will say: "There is no way Clinton, or Obama, or even McCain is a real Christian." The problem here is simple–you have no authority to decide that matter. Further, it reflects a kind of sectarianism that is killing our witness to the larger world.
So multitudes of evangelicals vote for Huckabee because he is the real Christian! And James Dobson would not support Fred Thompson, a real conservative Republican, because he was not a real Christian! And Ann Coulter, another professed Christian, just acts like an immature child in every possible way, all the while telling us that she knows all Democrats are brainless and irreligious. The beat just goes on and on. It is, put mildly, disgusting.
A lot of us are sick of this whole debate and the way Christians continue to make themselves look bad in the process. Evidence abounds that younger evangelicals are not taken with this kind of approach at all. I for one welcome the changes that seem to be coming. Remember, this election will not choose the messiah.
(Some wise voices from the Democratic side ought to tell a few of the zealots for Obama that this is the case or he will be profoundly harmed by them if he does get elected! There is no way he can live up to the hope he has generated. The office will humble him and frustrate his followers. I am not suggesting that he is arrogant by what I mean here by humility.)
In the end the person who wins will not make a huge difference. Ours is a government that does not give the president too much power for a good reason. I am sure the election will matter, but the apocalypse is not on the horizon just because of an election in America in November 2008. The mission of Christ remains our primary calling. This does include our work in the public square for sure but that work is not primary for the Church, whose mission is to proclaim Christ in word and deed so that all, conservatives and liberals, might come to him as Lord.