Wednesday, October 24, 2012

From the Messenger: A Voting Guide, Sort of

The countdown is on, and soon, someone will be elected to lead our nation for the next four years. As we come to the election, I have three things I want to say to anyone and everyone that is in any way connected with First Baptist. All of these are not new things for me to say, but all bear repeating this month.

First, understand that in this election, we should not baptize either candidate just because they are our preferred choice. A few weeks ago, Billy Graham’s organization removed Mormonism from the list of cults, it seems, for the sake of raising the appeal of Governor Romney with Evangelical Christians. I have gone through several emotions on this, anger, disappointment, disgust; it really bothers me. I believe that we must resist the urge to sanitize political candidates and declare them our holy man. That is definitely the case in this presidential election, an election in which Christians have (to use a crass analogy), “no dog in the fight”.

On the one hand we have the option of voting for President Barak Obama, who, while he says he is a Christian, has a set of beliefs that bears little to no relationship to the Christianity of the Bible. Besides the fact that the church he attended for over twenty years made clear that it views its non-negotiable commitment to Africa rather than Christ alone, he has made clear in many ways that he does not hold to the basic tenants of Christianity. In a 2004 article with the Chicago Sun Times he stated that he believed that “there are many paths to the same place”, ie the ancient heresy of universalism. He has also denied the need for evangelism, and the doctrine of hell. Additionally, the faith he has affirmed is works righteousness, rather than Christ’s finished work. In the same 2004 article he stated “What I believe in is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be re-warded.". Furthermore, the president has a long history at this point of taking scripture and twisting it to say things that it can’t mean in context. He also has made quite clear that feelings stand as the primary authority in his life, not the Bible. My point is that President Obama’s words, along with his actions as president make clear to me that what he believes is not Christianity. He may claim to be a Christian, but what definition stands behind that word? You can call a horse a dog, but its not a dog.

On the other hand we may vote for Governor Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon. Make no mistake Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism teaches that God was once a mortal man on another planet who progressed to become a God, and that Jesus and Satan are brothers, that we will become God’s our-selves if we live a good enough life and that truth is determined by feelings. This is all pretty dangerous stuff from a Christian perspective. And Romney was not just a cultural Mormon, guy who sat in the pew because his dad did before him. He was the equiva-lent of clergy in the Mormon church for a time. He is Bishop Romney. My point is that both men are clearly nowhere near being Christians. Lets resist the urge to pretend otherwise.

Second, having eliminated the option of just saying, I want to root for the Christian candidate, understand that you need to think carefully about how each man comes to their conclusions, and think care-fully about the morally and socially pressing issues of the day. What is the logic flow that you have perceived in each candidate, and what kind of moral compass do they use as they make decisions? These issues will affect how the president will lead. with these things, ask yourself who’s policies do you agree with most? What are the things that you see as the crushing issues of the day? Abortion? Gay Marriage and the on its heels antecedent, polygamy and polyamory (group marriage) and the slow destruction of all definitions of marriage? Social justice issues such as poverty and struggling education systems? Crime? The environment? Decide carefully who the best man for the job is, and what values are you looking for in a president, Choose wisely! All these issues will affect how the president will lead, and where they will lead this nation.

Having thought about these things, and answered in your mind the questions of who is the best candidate, vote according to conscience. As you vote, keep in mind that both the president, and Governor Romney are deeply flawed men, and remember that ultimately we are not electing a pastor-in- chief, we are electing a man who will lead the nation for-ward as president. Also keep in mind that each will be friendly and unfriendly to Christianity indifferent ways, and in different places. Don’t doubt that for a second. Consider wisely.
 
Third, remember that there is no salvation in politics. If this is the first time you’ve heard this from me, don’t worry, it’s an oft repeated line for me. You’ll hear it again, because it has become my ironclad conviction. Often we speak in almost messianic terms when we look at candidates, but the only savior is Christ. He lived the life we should have lived, and died the death we should have died in our place and for our sins. He alone paid the penalty for our sins, and he alone can right the woes. No man can. Psalm 146:2-6 tells us “put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever”.

We cannot expect that our nation and our world will be any more just, or fair, or ethical be-cause we vote for candidates X, Y, or Z, and we cannot expect that politics will provide the ultimate solution to the many woes our nation faces (including things like poverty, violence, addictions, terrorism, and the war). We are absolutely foolish if we think that we will get solutions to the major issues our society faces, just because we elect this or that candidate, or vote in this or that party. There are two reasons for this. A, like everyone else, politicians are marred by that pesky sin nature that leans towards the temptation to acquire more and more power and to use the office for their own interests, rather than the interests of the public good. But B, even if everything works out perfectly from a political perspective, and we write the very best laws possible (a big "if"), the problems that plague this nation run far deeper than the political spectrum. The problems that plague our nation are largely ethical and moral issues. An example of that was seen in the economic meltdown of 2008. There were laws in place that made many of the things that happened at that time illegal. But that didn‘t stop these things from happening, because the heart of the issue had to do with ethics and morals. Which brings us back to the point, there is no salvation in politics. Leaders fail and their plans come to nothing. The true source of our salvation comes from God, and if we want to truly see changes that transform our nation, we should not look to the political arena, but to the Lord. He is the only source of true salvation, and it is only through his grace that a society will be changed.

Someday Christ will come back, and right the world. For now, we wait, and we work to do what we can in the name of Christ, remembering that we are sent out as aliens and strangers who know that our sphere of responsibility as God‘s people goes way beyond the political sphere. We work as God‘s people, endeavoring to be agents of change that seek the good of society, people that pray for and seek the peace and prosperity of the city or town that we live in (Jeremiah 29:6-8), and people that show Christ‘s love to our community, in response to what God has done for us. Don’t ever forget, there is no salvation in politics. It’s not the gospel. Politicians may present themselves in the language of savior, but our only salvation is Christ, and his finished work.
 
As you come towards Election Day, I urge you to vote (it is your civic duty). But don’t go in with illusions, don’t go in with false hopes. Choose wisely.

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