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Time for Christians to Make a Choice

I’m ready for this election to be over. As with most hotly contested campaigns, it’s been full of half-truths and outright lies. And, while I have my opinion on the source of the vast majority of deception, the casual observer may simply see partisan bickering and endless gamesmanship. The result can be a cynical electorate who loses interest in the whole political process. I’ve noticed many Christians who seem to fall into this category. Already suspicious of politicians, they hear the hypocrisy espoused in the campaigns and no longer trust either party to be a viable part of the solution.

In an attempt to transcend the right and left, it can be tempting to avoid making any choice at all, leaving less scrupulous elements to pick our leaders and determine our policies. It’s true; Jesus sidestepped politics. He talked of feeding the poor and showed compassion for the sick and suffering. He admonished us to take care of the least of these and warned about the love of money. He even paid taxes without complaint. At the same time, he avoided questions about Roman rule. Of course, Jesus had a much more important mission; one that takes place in hearts and souls.

Once we have responded to the gospel, we should have a desire to do God’s work here on earth. For me, this involves trying to support causes that reflect his love and mercy in all aspects of life: families, communities, culture, and yes, politics and government. So, shouldn’t we want a government that more closely aligns itself with the principles that Christ exemplified? Do we want to cut social programs to the poor while giving tax breaks to the wealthy? Do we want to turn our backs on the uninsured? Do we want an economic model that is based on survival-on-the-fittest? What are real Christian values?

These are not just ideological questions. They are real to a mother who has been cut from her health care provider. It’s real to a boy who can’t afford a school lunch, much less a decent education. It’s real to a dad whose job has been shipped overseas. It’s real to a grandmother who worries she’ll outlive a voucher to cover her end-of-life expenses. It’s real if we find ourselves in another war and thousands are sent off to fight. It becomes real in the wake of a natural disaster. Even if you are not directly affected by any of these issues, hopefully, you still care about them because they do affect real people – your neighbors.

The government cannot be all things to all people and we must make some hard choices. We need to discuss how we can reasonably reduce the debt; however, surely, the most marginalized are not the first that need to be asked to pay. If the richest 1% controls 40% of the nation’s wealth (and certain wealthy people are paying less than 15% in taxes), maybe they can do a little more. Let’s discuss how we can reduce abortions, including all the ways to lower the number of unwanted pregnancies. Let’s talk about gay marriage, and how can give all people equal rights. While I know no politician or party is perfect, I don’t hear a willingness to talk about both sides of an issue from the right.

Religion can transform a person’s life, but government can help feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and provide basic shelter for the homeless. It can heal the sick. It can educate the young, providing a brighter, safer future for all of us. It can help ensure that the strongest don’t take advantage of the weakest. I believe these are all worthy goals of a society. God has given us the free will to determine what kind of world we want to live in. Hopefully, Christians will not lose their faith in a flawed system, and be willing to make the tough choices.

This article also appeared on Patheos Faith Forward and Provoketive Magazine.


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14 Responses to “Time for Christians to Make a Choice”

  1. Sherwood MacRae says:

    At 83+ years of age, a man who has had the extreme joy of walking through life for the past 37 years, hand in hand, with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I am appalled – yes, deeply ashamed of the behavior of far too many of those claiming to be my brothers and sisters in the faith who now cling to their political beliefs – pretending, yes pretending that they are more important than the assigned task of Christians to actually, love one another.

    Please don’t talk to me about politics. After fifty plus years of being active in political affairs, I have yet to meet a religious appearing person who understands the Bible, especially that portion of the Bible that teaches us how to behave in this present age.

    But I do believe that each of us will stand before the throne of God to explain our lives and our pledges to follow Him – as opposed to following the crowd. How anyone who has made an effort to walk as He walked, to treat others as He treated all, can relate Biblical appeals to political aspirations amazes me.

    I came to the Lord after asking God what Jesus meant when he called on us to repent – and having realized the many reasons I had to repent, I began a life that is really life, not just the imitation of life as promised by our politicians. Let me assure you, there is a world of difference between the two.

    • Jeff says:

      Thanks for ALL the comments. Respect and appreciate your thoughts Sherwood.

      I’m not sure what to make of the links in the next post… It doesn’t surprise me that Cornell West felt dissed by President Obama. Romney came across testy and defensive.

      A politician can say anything… and anyone can say anything about a politician. It’s by their fruit you will know them.

      For the most part, Obama has meant what he said and said what he meant…and, for the most part, I agree with him.

  2. Joy Scudder says:

    Thank you Jeff for sharing this. Matthew 11:15 “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” KJV

  3. Karen Langford says:

    Great article as usual, Jeff! And I see that two of my friends have posted comments above. They’re good people, as are you.

    I have to be honest. I don’t call myself a Christian any more. I’m done with labels. Labels are limiting and it’s too easy for people to judge those labels. I, too, am ashamed of what so many people who call themselves Christians are saying and doing today. It’s appalling! The hate, bigotry, and ignorance! Ministers spewing forth hate from the pulpits and people just believing whatever they say! They are NOT speaking for God; they are speaking for their own personal judgmental agendas.

    Personally, regardless of the label, I choose to look at someone’s heart. I don’t care if they’re Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or an alien from outer space. I look at how much love they have within and how much love they have for their fellow man. This is what Jesus and all the other great spiritual teachers throughout time, as well as for those today, taught and teach. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again. If you’re not speaking words of love, compassion, kindness, and oneness for all people, then you’re not speaking for God.

    Again, Jeff, great article! Keep speaking your truth! You’re planting seeds!

    • Debbie Lincoln says:

      Lovely, well said and a pleasure to read the article and above comments. You all warm my heart.

    • D. Lowrey says:

      I applaud the article and especially the comments. It makes my heart glad to know I’m not the only who feels that Jesus did not stutter or cover his mouth when he said “Do this…”. For that matter…other great spiritual leaders say the same thing…”Do”. Working with third graders in my job…they understand what this verb means…rather than many others having no idea. It means taking action, rather than flapping the lips for someone else to do something.

  4. Thomas G. Dahl says:

    This article reflects basic bible truths as taught & lived by Our Lord and Savior. Businesses & corporations were not in the story of creation, because they occurred after the fall. They are concepts of fallen man. We need to place individual human lives & families above businesses. Why? Because Jesus said the great commandment is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” “This is the first and great commandment.” “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mt. 22:36-40)

  5. Ed Barker says:

    Thank you Jeff for all you are doing to promote a vision of Christianity free from accusation and fault-finding, and saturated in grace and mercy even for the weakest in society. I took off work today and tomorrow and will be working to help get Pres Obama re-elected, at least in Colorado.

    God bless you!

    • Jeff says:

      Hey Ed… I think we can all make a difference, but you’re really on the front line. Thanks for all you’re doing in Colorado!

      • Ed Barker says:

        Hi Jeff:

        I am so happy that Obama won! Now lets pray that the Republicans in the House will make some effort to find compromise solutions.

        By the way, “compromise” is not a dirty or un-godly word. It is, in fact, the only real way anything important gets done in Washington.

  6. Elizabeth DuPont says:

    Thought you might be interested in this–I found it on my desk while cleaning up. Jim Wallis of Sojourners is the author.

    One of the greatest failures of Christians in this country is when they don’t think and act as Christians first. Instead, they think first as Americans, consumers, partisans, and sometimes even as Red Sox fans. This leads to bending over backward to justify un-Christian behavior and attitudes to fit these other identities. The biblical name for this behavior is idolatry.
    Now, Christians can and do identify as Americans, consumers, partisans, and even Red Sox fans (the latter being my particular temptation!). But, it should never be our first or primary identity. Those other identities should all be subservient and accountable to our identity in Christ.
    A piece by Michelle Goldberg in Newsweek chronicles some evangelical voters in Iowa trying desperately to contort their values in order to justify supporting Newt Gingrich. She quotes Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council as saying, “Under normal circumstances, Gingrich would have some real problems with the social-conservative community… But these aren’t normal circumstances.”
    In other words, this guy clearly doesn’t stand for our values but we are ready to jettison those in order to make sure our party wins the 2012 election. Newt Gingrich’s three marriages – serving his first wife divorce papers while she was suffering from cancer, and cheating on his second wife while leading the impeachment battle against Bill Clinton for lying about his sexual sins – would normally be disqualifiers for family values conservatives. Later in the article, Ralph Reed discusses evangelical support for Ronald Reagan, our country’s first and only divorced president, and says, “These voters believe in forgiveness, they believe in redemption.”
    In other words, some people are willing to forget anything and turn a blind eye toward what they would otherwise see as moral failures, as long as they can count on faithfulness to political or party ideology. Moral consistency is the clear loser in such political calculations.
    Unfortunately, many people who go to church on Sunday are more influenced by what they see on cable TV than by the Bible. I hear that lament from pastors all the time. Too many of their congregant’s political priorities are determined by a party or ideology – not the Word of God. Their identities are shaped by marketing and media campaigns that manufacture a view of the world in order to maximize their own power and profit.
    The antidote is simple. Christians need to read their Bibles more. It makes a difference.
    I was surprised, as were many others, when a headline in Christianity Today a few months ago read, “Survey: Frequent Bible Reading Can Turn You Liberal.” While many studies have shown a correlation between frequent church attendance and conservative political views, a new study from Baylor shows that frequent Bible reading increases opposition to the Patriot Act and the death penalty, while broadening one’s concern for social and economic justice.
    In fact, Baylor set up a five point scale to measure Bible reading frequency. Participants were asked, “How important is it to actively seek social and economic justice in order to be a good person?” Each point moving up the Bible reading scale correlated with a 35 percent increase in Christians who would agree with that statement.
    Frequent Bible reading doesn’t correlate with any neat political category. Concern about abortion and gay marriage also increase with regular reading of the Bible. Christians must and should engage, struggle with, and be accountable to the scriptures. It is what keeps us honest, ensuring that we are Christians before we are Americans, consumers, partisans, or Red Sox fans.
    The good news is that while stories about Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed, and other evangelicals ready to jettison their core beliefs in pursuit of political power tend to make headlines, it’s not all evangelicals.
    A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service asked what different Americans favor or oppose when it comes to reducing the federal deficit. Here is what’s surprising: 58 percent of white evangelicals now oppose cutting federal programs that help the poor, 72 percent oppose cutting federal funding to religious organizations that help the poor, and 60 percent favor raising taxes on those that make more than $1 million a year, in order to help reduce the deficit.
    Those startling results are very important and should cause Republicans to reconsider their position on deficit reduction and begin listening to a significant part of their electoral base. Even more importantly, it might get them to start reading the Bible more.

    • Jeff says:

      Thanks so much Elizabeth. I really like Jim Wallis – and there is encouraging news about shifting evangelical beliefs. I do believe that Bible reading has a tendency to make you more liberal. (Maybe Bibles should come with warning labels). It’s very hard (if not impossible) to reconcile many of Jesus’s teachings and commandments with the Republican agenda. The way many justify this is to dehumanize the victims of poverty – or the uninsured – or the “takers.” And, of course, that is an even more indefensible position, especially for a “Christian.” Thanks again!

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I grew up in Franklin Tennessee, just outside of Nashville, where I attended a charismatic church that sincerely tried to follow Christ's teachings and actively sought the gifts of the Holy Spirit. During the summer of 84, I interned in DC with the Reagan-Bush Re-Election campaign and was indoctrinated in the dark arts of neo-conservatism. After graduating from Pepperdine University in Malibu, I worked in the financial services industry in Atlanta; then I drifted back to Southern California for a few introspective years before eventually moving home to Tennessee. Along the way, I began to question some of my longstanding beliefs and attempted to reconcile my political and religious views. Increasingly, I became saddened and angered with how Christianity was so often misrepresented for personal and political gain. Hometown Prophet was written out of that frustration.

- Jeff Fulmer