Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Would you vote for a candidate who agrees with you on every issue, except that he's a white supremacist?"

Guest host Russell Moore asks this question and others related to Pat Robertson's endorsement of Rudy Giuliani on Monday's Albert Mohler radio program. Moore argues that denying the humanity of and basic human rights to a whole category of human beings ought to be enough to make such an endorsement unthinkable for a Christian.

Moore also said, "I don't even have a candidate yet. And if I did I wouldn't tell you. It just wouldn't be appropriate." Doesn't it seem ironic that the author of The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective and director of the Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement would take a stronger stand against political endorsements than some fundamentalists?

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

No.

carpediem365 said...

I'll answer your second question (Doesn't it seem ironic...) with a hearty, "Yes."

Don Johnson said...

The first question is irrelevant since it isn't a reality. The second question? Oh, please! Not ironic, just a little smug and self-righteous.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Glorygazer said...

Don, I don't think that first question's irrelevant. It's a counterexample to something like, "Would you vote for a candidate who agrees with you on every issue, except that he isn't anti-abortion?"

And Ben, on the second, I think you're right on. It seems there are folks who are more concerned about staying "in the club" and not getting anywhere near anyone who wouldn't practice secondary separation as they do, but their shopping, investing, and voting choices don't undergo the same scrutiny as their ecclesiastical decisions. It seems to be quite inconsistent. It seems odd that those who would call men like Mohler and MacArthur compromisers would endorse in the political sphere men who actually do not take a strong enough stand on certain moral issues. They decry pragmatism in the church but must beat the 'dems at any cost.

Don Johnson said...

yeah, glorygazer, that Grudem and Robertson... what a pair of hypocrits! How dare they be so inappropriate as to offer political endorsements! Who do they think they are? ... citizens, maybe???

This whole little exercise is a desire to pile on to two men who for whatever reason have decided to endorse a particular candidate for president. There is nothing wrong with them doing so, although I am not certain I agree with their choices... though their aren't a lot of real good choices out there.

It is, however, smug and self-righteous for preachers to pat themselves on the back by saying that it would be inappropriate to exercise their rights as citizens. If they don't care to do so themselves, fine. But who are they to say it's inappropriate?

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ben said...

glorygazer,

Many people have been critical of the Jones/Taylor endorsements because of Romney's faith or his political stands. To clarify, I'm not nearly as concerned about that as I am about using credibility harvested from gospel-related ministry and spending it on political influence.

I think that's Moore's point as well. Leaders who are leaders because of their Christian faith should not be using that influence in this manner.

Ben said...

Don,

I think I disagree with everything you say, even the parts in which you respond in such a way that makes me think you got a little bit of my original point.

Dave said...

Perhaps Ben could clarify, but I don't believe that his second question had anything to do with separation. It had to do with the oddity of having fundamentalists (who supposedly decry the social/cultural agenda) make political endorsements while new evangelicalism (who openly applaud the social/cultural agenda) refuse to make them.

Somehow, I made the opening comment anonymously (I thought I put my name by it). I don't find it ironic in that I am not sure that the political endorsement issue sufficiently captures the differences between the two groups. Moore isn't contradicting his engagement position by not endorsing, he is trying to practice it wisely. The endorsing fundamentalists, however much I disagree with them on this point, aren't advocating an agenda for the church qua church, but merely urging citizens to exercise civic responsibility.

So, I don't think that either of them is doing something which betrays a reversal of roles.

As to the separation issue, there is nothing at stake in terms of ecclesiastical separation in endorsing a particular political candidate. That kind of logic would demand that a fundamentalist only use fundamentalist plumbers, architects, etc. The main criticism against the moral majority and Christian coaltion was about the formation of those groups, particularly the latter (i.e., by using the name Christian it implied something theologically).

So, if the folks who have endorsed Romney want to have a prayer meeting with him, then it would be a real problem. Endorsing him as a political candidate is at most an apparent problem, i.e., it leaves people wondering what they think about his Mormonism. But they've made that clear--it is a non-issue in their minds because it's a president, not a pastor. Disagree with them if you want, but it doesn't work to argue that this is inconsistent regarding separation. Apples and oranges.

Glorygazer said...

I guess brevity did not help with clarity, in my case anyway. I hope this comment is a bit more clear. My point was not to attack Grudem/Robertson as hypocrites although I do disagree with their public endorsement of candidates (especially Robertson's!).

Ben, I completely agree with your point about the legitimate use of influence. To use influence as a minister of the Gospel to promote a political candidate could easily eclipse the Gospel. It may send the message that the answer to our problems is politics, when it is far deeper. Their well known status makes it well-nigh impossible to be seen as simply acting as a citizen when endorsing a candidate and seems to identify the kingdom of this world with the kingdom of Christ in a way that is not appropriate.

But in our personal voting choices, I wonder if an overly pragmatic mindset in our voting (particularly presidential candidates) doesn't also eclipse the Gospel. (I wrote a little about it here.)
I would love to hear your thoughts about 3rd party candidates, especially since you have some background with politics. I realize that I'm in a minority and that men such as my seminary president would disagree with me.

In regard to separation, I realize that Ben was not trying to bring this point up explicitly. I was just bringing out an observation of my own that was triggered by his words. The identification of the Republican party with conservative Christians, I think, has been a bit of a travesty. Someone should not feel marginalized or pressured to change just because he's not a loyal supporter of the GOP. And while the ecclesiastical separation vs. political choices thing can be an apples and oranges thing, I don't think it is in what I'm talking about. Fundamentalism has had many examples of inconsistency in applying some of its principles, such as disallowing theatre attendance to curb support of Hollywood while buying DVD's (think of Bob III's comments about watching the Passion when it came out later! not that I'm a fan of the Gibson film at all). The principle of separating from error and sin seems to be applied inconsistently, for example, if one ends up voting for a candidate who is relatively conservative except on abortion. I don't see how anyone can justify such a vote, but especially a "fundamentalist" who will break fellowship with someone just because he's a Southern Baptist.

Having a fundamentalist plumber, etc. would be an extreme I don't think anyone would go to. You can fix drains while disagreeing on theology. In politics, we're talking about some very basic moral issues that outweigh the economic and other issues, and not necessarily about the people being Christians per se. If someone won't protect the unborn, why should we expect him to have integrity in any other area?

Doug Smith

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

My main concern would be whether he was the candidate for my preferred party. Secondly, is he or she electable?

Naturally, their opinions are of interest, but I would have no trouble voting for a candidate who held some objectionable views.

But maybe that is because I am voting in the British political system where political parties domminate the scene and individual views count for less.

God Bless

Matthew

Ben said...

Dave,

You are correct that I don't see this as a separation issue in the sense that Jones/Taylor are violating the prevailing independent fundamentalist application of separation by aligning themselves with Romney (as a Mormon) for political purposes.

But that doesn't mean I think this conversation has nothing to do with separation. The reason it does (and the reason I think this juxtaposition is ironic) is because using influence gained from gospel ministry (or leadership of a presumably gospel-centered institution) is absolutely a gospel issue. The fundamentalist critique of evangelicals has clearly been that their actions have compromised the gospel, even when their beliefs have been orthodox. I'm arguing that actions like these similarly compromise the gospel by leading non-Christians to conclude that the kingdom we desire is an earthly one. I don't see how anyone who's observed how evangelicalism is often portrayed today could disagree that this perception is widespread.


So I think Matthew and I are making similar points, now that I've read his expansion and clarification. Endorsing candidates may not be a violation of de facto fundamentalist principles, but I think it is a violation of the fundamentals of the faith as we should see them in Scripture.

Dave said...

Ben,

Help me be clear on what you're arguing. Am I to conclude that if a pastor urges the congregation to exercise their Christian consciences by voting at all, he risks communicating to non-Christians that we are looking for a kingdom in this present world? Or do you make a distinction between news media endorsements and something like what I've suggested?

Also, help me understand how you've drawn the conclusion that an unbeliever would come to this view? Not trying to be a pest, but I am having a hard time seeing the connection--an educator endorses a candidate so lost people will conclude he is endorsing the establishment of a theocracy?

And, for purposes of argument, aren't you implying that those who literally call for the establishment of Christ's kingdom here and now are compromising the gospel?

I am not trying to come after you, especially since I take your basic view, but I am a little lost in how you have arrived at your conclusions.

Keith said...

Dave,
I think I can see the problem you have with a "Christian Coalition" that includes non-Christians. I think that I also would view such an approach as a misguided -- wrong -- effort at "cobelligerance".

However, I can still not see how involvement in South Carolina Republican party maneuvering is not a form of cobelligerance. And Don, I am not saying BJ/etc. don't have the right to such cobelligerance. I think that as US citizens they do. I am just saying that it is inconsistent with their opposition to cobelligerancy properly understood.

BJ/et. want a pro-life candidate, so they endorse a Mormon who is prolife.

Others want to lobby against legalized abortion, so they organize a "Right to Life" organization that includes Catholics and Protestants.

What's the difference?

Don Johnson said...

Keith,

I think it is the organization bit that makes the difference, as far as I am concerned.

FWIW, while I am definitely anti-abortion, I do not make that my political litmus test. I am much more concerned about limited government and ensuing religious liberty (not to mention economic liberty). The other issues, if we can manage a coalition to win on them at some point, great, but they are not cause number one.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Keith said...

Don,

1) What's wrong with organization? It's ok to work toward something as long as it's disorganized? On what principle?

2) Why exactly do you think that, in endorsing Romney, Bob Jones is not a part of an organization? He and Bob Taylor are working with/for/in (not sure of the exact relationship) the South Carolina Republican Party. That's a very well organized body -- with lots of fundamentalists working alongside non-fundamentalists.

3) Wisdom can often not be reduced to a single issue litmus test. Nevertheless, I wonder how on earth you can think that a government which protects the murderers of babies can be considered limited. To Christians limited government shouldn't mean "as little civil government as possible" it should mean civil government exercising power within biblical limits. In Kuyperian terms, the government should remain within its sphere of authority. Admitedly, one of the limits should be that the civil governement does not restrain true religion. However, another limit should be that the civil government punishes murderers. If we can't keep it from the latter, why do we think we can keep it from the former?

Don Johnson said...

Keith, we might be in danger of hijacking Ben's blog...

But:

1. It is one thing to exercise citizenship rights in supporting an initiative or a candidate. If a viable anti-abortion initiative were proposed in my area, I might lend my support to its passage but I wouldn't join with the local pro-life society as a member. Obviously your mileage differs.

2. Lending support is not the same as joining an organization.

3. Without a widespread political coalition, anti-abortion will not win in our democracies.

MANY CHRISTIANS HAVE MADE AN IDOL OUT OF THE PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT.

At the moment, in Canada, there is no possibility of winning the day with pro-life politics. There might be some possibilities in the USA, but what happens when the other side gets the political ascendancy?

The only hope of lasting change in these areas, in my opinion, is through evangelism and genuine revival. When that happens, political results will follow.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Keith said...

Yeah, this probably ought to be it from me. Don't want to be a hijacker but. . .

1) I didn't say one must join an organization, just wondered what would be wrong with it. WHY wouldn't you join the pro life society? Because you don't have time? Because you're a loner? Because it's called Christian but admits non-Christians? All of those would be understandable reasons to me. But if it's because you think that joining organizations is, in and of itself, wrong -- why?

2) Last I checked the Republican Party was an organization, and I'd be surprised to learn that Bob Jones III hasn't joined it. I'm all but certain that Bob Taylor is a leading figure in the South Carolina division. They are lending support TO and AS PART of an organization.

3) I don't really have any major disagreement with what you've written from (3) on down. I would just say again, though, that all those words also apply to "limited government" and "religious freedom" issues. Why work on the latter but not on the former? Why is this an either/or discussion? why is it not a both/and?

Don Johnson said...

Hi Keith

To answer this last set of questions:

1. Yes, it is not the issue of joining organizations per se, but especially the joining of religious organizations where there is an implied or stated religious purpose. At some point I find that such an entanglement requires a compromise of convictions I am unwilling to make. Also, I am probably a loner!! (I am a church planter, after all...)

I guess that answers 2 as well.

3. Time and energy are limited, so one must make choices about where and when to expend them. The anti-abortion battle will take care of itself, I think, if the other battles are won.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

christopher said...

Ben,

i'll answer the question posed in your blog post title with a question of my own: isn't that exactly what many professing believers did during the 19th century when they voted for Jefferson Davis for President of the Confederate States of America?

And Don Johnson, perhaps you should re-read Grudem's endorsement of Romney. Grudem did not claim to be speaking merely as a citizen of the US, but "[a]s an evangelical professor of Bible and theology." What a specious appeal to authority! As if his PhD gives him more insight into politics than the ordinary believer.

Ben said...

Christopher,

True, some no doubt did agree with Davis on every issue except that one. But of course, many (most?) of them agreed with him on every issue including that one.