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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Politics and the pulpit

It’s an election year again and I’m reminded of my unending personal debate. I’m fairly conservative religiously compared to the general population, but fairly liberal otherwise. I grew up listening to my dad, my parents’ friends, and even sermons in church say and imply that the Republican party offers the most Godly platform and positions and candidates and so we Christians should vote that way. The sermons generally wouldn’t say vote Republican explicitly, but you could tell what they were getting at. In my parents’ house, with their friends and to some degree among the Christians I grew up with, liberal was a dirty word- used almost like a slur.

For the Christians, including my parents, that I speak of I have the utmost respect and I agree totally with them on matters of Scripture. I do take issue with when Bible and Christianity mix with religion, though, and I hope if any of them happen to read this that they don’t take offense or think me disrespectful. I’m still trying to muck out my political position exactly. There isn’t really a party that captures my beliefs perfectly, no candidate that I can feel passionate about supporting.

I have a problem with saying candidate or party A is against abortion and gay marriage and the Bible is against them, therefore I must support A. I believe and can provide Scriptural support for their (and my) position that abortion and homosexuality are sin, but I think the fact that you must support candidates that have that position is opinion because it’s not that simple. Let me explain my thought process.

What was and is Jesus’/God’s goal or desire? That all would come to Him, that is, believe and live faithfully. 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 say this quite well. When we look at Jesus’ example, he didn’t want to change (inside or outside the set process of government) the government even though the Romans were quite harsh on Christians and it was far from Godly. His focus was on individual responsibility because that is how we’ll be judged- John 12:48 and Rom 2:6. While I can see some value to having Christian leaders of a country, there are problems, too. One being the issue of having religious influence in government such that laws would be specific to certain denominations or something like that-the slope is slippery and I fear that myself and those who believe like I do wouldn’t be in the majority, so we’d be at their mercy.

One way to accomplish this (Jesus’ desire), some might say, is electing Christian officials to enact Christian laws and ones that don’t violate God’s law. This seems a little backwards to me, though there is some truth to the expression “fake it til you make it”. Another, the opinion I hold for now, is to focus on spreading the gospel individually such that people choose not to have abortions, rather than go the more authoritarian route. I think everything has a moral issue to consider whether it’s the abortion stance, how well he will handle money (money God blessed me with and I am to be a good steward of), or whether he will attack countries at will, killing innocent people for no real reason. The point is, is that how to accomplish God’s desire is opinion. Sin is sin and there is Bible proof for that, but who you elect, whether you are pro separation of church and state or against, and other political issues are open for debate. There has been a movement in the past decade to politicize certain religious issues, which has removed the necessity to think for oneself. Not to say that those who disagree with me aren’t thinking for themselves-far from it-but the propaganda doesn’t help us talk intelligently and freely about these issues.
I also have an issue with the fact that the abortion ban poses some problems. It is murder when used as birth control and even in the case of rape and incest (on which most Republicans will take exceptions BTW), but what about ectopic pregnancy or other instances that I can’t think of where the question is to save the baby or mother or both are in danger? Will an abortion ban account for those, albeit, small number of cases? Should it, Biblically? Since I can’t answer that, I have a hard time with saying ban abortion absolutely and vote for those who will work to ban abortion. Never mind the fact that the so-called family values candidates are willing to murder a baby when the mother was raped. It’s a hard situation for sure. Would I make the right decision? I don’t know. But there is a right decision there and Republicans and Christians who support Republicans as the Godly choice have no problem with murder in those cases (or they must not because they say they can’t support a pro choice candidate because he leaves the door open on murder).

Also invoked in election years is how the country needs to get back to its Christian roots. I don’t think we want state established religion, do we? That’s how we started. If you didn’t attend twice on Sunday there were a set of consequences that involved the gallows at sea. And if you weren’t the “correct” denomination, there were harsh consequences including but not limited to prison. Founding Faith is an interesting book to read on this subject. The Founding Fathers and others of the time (who weren’t part of the state enforced denominations) tended to believe, with some exceptions, that separation of church and state would be good for both in different ways. Now, religious folks often look at separation of church and state as evil, worldly, and trying to take God out of schools, etc.

I hesitate to post this as some will probably think it heresy or worse, but this is a pet peeve of mine-politics from the pulpit- and I don’t always say what I want and don’t always have opportunity to say it, so I’ll write it here and move on. I hope you can do the same. I apologize if anyone reads it and it’s hard to follow or if I don’t explain myself clearly-I did my best with the time I have.

I guess I'll post it. Here goes...

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jennifer,

    Wow, I have spent the better part of the last hour reading up on the musings and rants (if I may say) of a generally quiet pew filler that is a member of the same church I am. Boy, do I know you better now.

    I especially appreciated this post and wanted to say so. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and willingness to seek out what seems right, rather than what is spoon fed. That is a tactic we should employ in both politics and religion. While, to be honest, it seems we disagree on the surface about a number of things, I have a strong admiration for your zeal.

    These comments encompass thoughts spawned by several of your posts but I'll leave them all here for efficiency's sake:

    For most of my life I have always wondered why the US unconditionally supports Israel. While I am quite factually ill-equipped to effectively debate either side, the very notion that unquestioned support is assumed has always seemed strange. I look forward to looking for more answers and maybe we can talk again about it one day.

    As far as this election season goes, I really wish I could stay home. I could not be any less of an Obama fan but the more I look into McCain, the less enthused I am. I have been wrestling with the same "should-abortion-make-my-decision" issue that you seem to be familiar with. I don't wrestle so much out of wondering if I should vote for Obama (I know that I can't) but whether I should vote at all. The only thing that plagues me is the Supreme Court issue. I am so scared by the possibility of two Obama judges being appointed in the next four years and wreaking havoc on all pro-life issues for the generation to come. When thinking about my responsibility to country and general government interference in such an issue I always think about Matthew 18:6. If Jesus thought it would be better for you to be drowned at sea than to cause a child to sin, how angry is He over condoning the death of one? That alone may get my hand to pull the lever for McCain.

    My other reason for opposition to Obama is his (not that McCain is one bit better on this) approach to the economy. In my life, I am first and foremost a Christian, but after that, I'm a believer in the free market. His policy proposals smack of undue regulation that strike the very core of what I think government should be doing. Which is minding their own business. That was one of the reasons I held open ear to Ron Paul, although lots of other things about him scared me. I strongly believe the prominence, innovation, and leadership of the US has been a direct result of capitalism. And I'm just scared of anything that seems to threaten that. I do think the economy needs attention, however, I just see real no solutions in either candidate but I see catastrophe in Obama.

    Amen to everything you said about the mortgage mess. These people are not innocent victims. When LeAnn and I were in LA, we saw the beginnings of this mess with all the people flocking to buy homes that we both knew they would not be able to afford in a few years when rates went up. Call me cold but I feel no sympathy for anyone who signed on the dotted line of a sub prime mortgage, predatory lending to blame or not. If we do not preach personal responsibility and expect it from everyone, we will learn nothing. And when the government swoops in and saves everyone from this mess, we'll just be ready to set the steps in place to do it all over again.

    Perhaps my favorite of your musings was about parental leave. I wish we had a better system. While I'm envious of a lot of Europeans in that regard, the realist in me admits I do not want their taxation rates that help make such time off possible. But there has to be a way. The best this country can be will come at the strengthening of our families.

    I'm running out of time now and must head home but thanks again for the insights into the real Jennifer. I one tried to talk to Mike Williams about politics and such and he declared that I shouldn't talk to people about certain things, like elections and such. I think that's ludicrous. Disagreements or not, unless we start seeing different paths to salvation or start preaching different gospels, we can discuss radically opposed political ideas and still be happy as we head toward heaven together. I hope you feel the same.