Thoughts and clarifications–let’s still love each other!
I’m writing this on the fly. So here goes. My post entitled “I’m a pro-life Christian, that’s why I’m voting for …??” has generated some passionate debate and has obviously stirred some raw emotion in a lot of people. Some have written me and/or commented that just because I feel that a person can be a genuine, bona-fide, Spirit-filled, born again Christian and vote for Obama, that somehow means I’ve either backslidden or I’m one of the “elect that’s been deceived.” Others feel that I’ve taken a condescending attitude towards McCain supporters, as if I somehow feel that my world travels allow me to sit on an intellectual high horse and stare my nose down at everyone else. Looking back at what I’ve written, I can see why some would feel that way. The truth is I’m still figuring a lot of things out as to how to live a Christ-like life, caring about the things that He cares about, confronting important issues head-on, and speaking the truth in love. Jesus was an activist par excellence for the poor and the downtrodden (more on that in another post) but He was also able to speak truth to power in such a way that He stayed above the fray of partisan politics. That’s how He could have a Herodian and a Zealot as part of His apostolic team—without the two killing each other! I haven’t quite figured out how to speak my mind the way that Jesus did. I invite all who love me and care for me to pray that I’ll have the mind of Christ in all matters—especially when it comes to when and how to speak my mind. I also invite you to examine my entire life and ministry before making personal accusations against my motivations and character.
Some feel that I’ve lost my moral bearings because I believe that Christians should expand their definition of what it means to be pro-life. Others have said that I’ve downplayed abortion as an important issue, so let me clarify. I believe that when it comes to how Christians are actually supposed to live and the values that we are supposed to espouse in the Body of Christ, we always, always, always, always, always, must side with life over death. So, if a 14 year old girl comes up to me and tells me she’s pregnant but fears that if her father finds out then he’s going to molest her and kill her, because of my conviction I’m going to have to tell her “I’m sorry, but as a Christian I can not counsel you to have an abortion.” If a married woman suspects that if she keeps a pregnancy, then her husband is going to make the child’s life a living hell (use your imagination), then I’ll still have to say “I’m sorry, but I can not as a Christian counsel you to have an abortion.”
When it comes to preaching an ethic of life and living an ethic of life on the part of a Christian, I believe that Christians should always side with life, and yes, that includes other areas besides abortion. From the womb to the tomb. That’s what I mean by a consistent ethic of life. I realize there are a lot of Christians that disagree with me that the term “pro-life” should extend to issues such as war and the death penalty. I haven’t laid out my case for that, so I don’t expect the bulk of my readers to understand. For many, it’s a perspective they’ve never heard. All I’m asking for right now is to give me a listening ear, be patient, and after I’ve made my case, decide whether you agree with it or not, and then embrace me as a brother if you continue to disagree.
Here’s where things get difficult. It’s one thing to say that I as a Christian must always choose life in matters of my personal behavior and how I would counsel others to live. It’s quite another thing to say that I as a Christian have a Biblical mandate to translate these convictions into public policies that force others to agree with my convictions. My point is that the values that Jesus lays out for the Body of Christ don’t necessarily translate into public policy without nuance and ambiguity—and neither were they intended to. That’s why elections are usually about choosing the lesser of two evils. One can not translate the values of Jesus into public policy without a considerable degree of compromise.
Take for example the issue of abortion. Some have written me and said that John McCain believes that humans are entitled to human rights at the moment of conception. Actually, that’s not completely accurate. John McCain favors abortion in the case of rape or incest. Apparently John McCain doesn’t believe that a baby conceived as a result of rape is entitled to human rights. Why not? Maybe he feels that it’s wrong to put a rape victim through the emotional pain of childbirth. Maybe it’s a political compromise. I don’t really know. Obama on the other hand is the first democratic candidate that has actually made it a part of the Democratic party platform to institute policies aimed at reducing abortions. Is he sincere about that? Maybe he is. Maybe he’s not. A sincere Christian can go to the polls and ask himself or herself a question. Is my vote about making a moral statement or is it about actually saving human lives? Some say that from a purely pragmatic point of view, given that conservatives already have a majority in the Supreme Court and haven’t overturned Roe V Wade (and even if they do, abortion will still not be illegal) that the best way to save unborn babies is to elect someone who will institute policies to make it economically feasible for a woman to keep her child.
That’s a legitimate, honest debate and I don’t think that Christians should slander each other for whichever decision they make in this regard. And neither do I think that Christians should blindly believe every single forwarded e-mail because a candidate doesn’t toe the party line on a narrow set of issues.
So why have I decided to write about this? Because I’m bothered by the fact that so many Christians are questioning other Christians’ salvation based on how they vote. This is a serious error, and given the way some have responded to my post, it’s a pervasive error. We all say that “God is neither a Republican or a Democrat” until it comes right down to it and we actually meet a Christian on the other side of the political aisle. That’s when the gospel all of the sudden becomes faith in Jesus + vote for John McCain. I thank God that my pastor hasn’t fallen into this error, but that’s the way it is in many churches. And that’s also the way it is beneath the surface even if it isn’t necessarily lambasted from the pulpit. There are a lot of sincere seekers out there that feel they can’t join an evangelical church for fear that they’ll be mocked and slandered if they don’t toe the party line. While we’re busy slandering each other for our political opinions, babies are dying and people are going to hell. And that’s not okay with me.
I haven’t said all that there is to say, but I hope this is enough to create an atmosphere of grace for Christians to disagree on important issues without fear of slander and personal attacks.
Stay focused on Jesus!