Thursday, December 27, 2007

"The Gospel According to Reed, Robertson and Falwell"

As the obsessions of cultural Christianity shift this week from materialism to politics, I thought I'd continue to try to beat to death with a couple more articles the horse of evangelical hope in political influence.

The first is Nate Busenitz's post from earlier this month at the Pulpit Magazine blog. Nate makes some of the same points I've attempted to advance here, and adds some incisive comments about the fool's errand of seeking political influence:
The truth is that Christianizing (or moralizing) government has never had the long-lasting, God-honoring effects its promoters so deeply desire. Time and time again, Christian political efforts have resulted in, at most, some immediate political gains. But these gains are only external, lacking any power to change the hearts of fallen people. They are equally temporary, eventually resulting in both spiritual confusion and moral decline.
The second piece is from David Sanders of the Arkansas News Bureau. He describes his own journey out of the politics of the religious right. I can't think of a better sentence to summarize my own concerns than his statement about his own experience of obsession with political Christianity:
The downside wasn't that I became any less conservative, but that I became less Christian.
He expands on this notion, saying:
Some Christian conservatives ignore this valuable history lesson. Their activism and political involvement have become primary expressions of their faith, leaving the (wrong) impression that the nation's salvation and abundant life for its citizens can be realized through temporal means - by supporting certain policies or backing particular political candidates. Many times their evangelical zeal is for advancing a political agenda.
I couldn't possibly agree more. If you think the cause of the gospel and the future of America and the world is well-served when pastors or institutional presidents endorse candidates and align themselves with political parties, even purportedly as "private citizens," I would ask you to read and consider these articles. For the sake of the name of Christ and the cause of the gospel.


Don Johnson said...

Hi Ben

I wonder if you are mistaking my point of view and that of many others. I am not at all confused into thinking that the cause of the gospel is advanced by political involvement. Of course it is not.

Where we seem to disagree is on the question whether it is right or wrong for Christians to make such endorsements. Or at least "unwise" or "not best". I suppose that is a debatable point, but I just don't see how expressing a political opinion makes a difference on the negative side either. [i.e., political endorsements by a Christian = a hindrance to the gospel] I also fail to see how a Christian must give up all political aspirations or influence simply because he is a Christian.

That seems to be the alternative that you are arguing for. Am I missing it?

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ben said...


In no way is this post targeted specifically at you. I'm not going to take more time to explain the relationship between pastoral endorsements and the gospel. I think both articles do a fine job explaining how those actions and many more can be harmful.

And I'm certainly not arguing that Christians should not pursue political careers. I've said that before, so I'll not elaborate again.

Don Johnson said...

Hi Ben, sorry, I used too many personal words in that last post. But I do think we fundamentally disagree on this point. I don't make much of politics in my own local ministry - usually we have abominable choices. However, I have no problem with the notion of anyone including pastors or other religious leaders choosing to exercise their influence politically in a democracy.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3