Saturday surprise: to be evangelical is not to vote one way

At the 2008 National Pastors Conference, I made a tough decision because no one else was going to make it for me. I sat in the seminar with Scot McKnight so I could shake his hand afterward, rather than sitting in the seminar titled “The Relationship Between Politics and Christianity” with a panel of Charles Colson, Greg Boyd, and Shane Claiborne facilitated by Krista Tippett. So, I weighed in with blogger solidarity instead of watching rock stars in live action.

Perhaps it’s timely that I mention it now, with American politics ramping up for the November presidential election between Obama and McCain.

panel with three generations
(photo: Colleen Scheck/Speaking of Faith)

I’m delighted to see that the seminar I missed was recorded and produced by the Speaking of Faith crew and made it freely available. Just listened to the edited radio broadcast version and it’s a profoundly insightful conversation of how Christians can translate their biblical faith into different actions and different votes. Such a stark contrast to how a conservative evangelical voice has dominated the portrayal of all evangelical Christians, when (in actuality) there are many complex differences among people who live out their common faith and shared values.

Three Degrees of Separation from Speaking of Faith on Vimeo.

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6 Responses

  1. rogermugs says:

    yea… but is it something you agree with? at the end of the day would you really suggest to your friends to vote democratic? i’m not saying I wont…. Im just saying there seems to be something about voting for dems that means you’ve given up on abortion and several other issues…

  2. solomon li says:

    i disagree with the point above on suggesting you can’t tell someone to vote dem in good conscience. there are many in our circles who can vote democratic with good conscience because the issues are that complex. in fact, that kind of thinking either way with voting and being a Christian can be a dangerous line to take. for when “Christendom” thrived, there are many times in history when the faith subsided and became complacent and even oppressive… and i think it’s healthy to admit that amongst our Christian friends.

    now, is there a duty to the “city of man”? sure… we can probably make a case that we are to participate in this democracy for the benefit of the people… but to put up a vote because one candidate is a particular mold of Christian i think deters from the real truth… that the Kingdom of God is actually here now among the people of Christ and our King will return to rule… period.

    when reading through the books of daniel and revelation we are assured of an utter victory… but not by our hands at all, rather it is in the hands of the lion of Judah. so i suppose, to apply this to voting today i would simply say that you may vote either way in good conscience… but i really see the result will eventually be the same because neither candidate is Jesus. it is the Kingdom to come which i am most concerned about and excited about. the kingdom of man here is merely a temporary institution which is twisted by sin and must be reckoned with by Christ’s hands… which is one reason why i think the gospel is such great news.

    so whoever wins, the truth must still be preached regardless… just because that person does not represent or serve our particular self interests seems irrelevant compared to the work of Christians for the promiscuity of the gospel throughout the world. so long as free speech is upheld, we can have those who will pass abortion laws and other issues (even though we may be disgusted and appalled by them, as i vehemently am). after all, a case “can” be made that by allowing “gay marriage” we are furthering the interests of the church in continuing free speech and expression for the sake of the gospel… so why wouldn’t a Christian vote for that? that is, if the gospel is really that important?

    in the end, in the words of dr. martin luther, “i’d rather have a smart turk rule over me as king rather than a dumb Christian.” perhaps there is some wisdom to that… especially for a government where parity is of the most important aspect.

    in fact, i think it was niebuhr who said, “because of sin, democracy is impossible to have. but it is because of sin that democracy is absolutely necessary.” (btw…all these quotes are somewhat paraphrased). i’d just end to say, trust in Christ. he is our King, our master, and our Lord… he allows for the appointments of usurping kings all over the world (a la north korea), but he is still the one who will rule in the end… the vineyard story, if anything, reminds us that the master will come and do justice to those who have mishandled the Son and the field. his will shall be done.

  3. Wayne Park says:

    If I may add my two cents to the above comment by rogermugs
    because I received several similar comments on my blog basically asking how I could vote Dem and call myself by the name of Christ.

    The mystery of evangelicalism in America today is that we have gone to battle on issues that have always stood on the fringes. We’ve made such fringe matters into non-negotiables. You may answer “murder is in the Decalogue; how can we call it a ‘fringe matter’?” I would argue that “abortion and several other issues” are not the central battles of our faith. It appalls me that theologians would go to task on these issues while more crucial doctrines are readily assailed today.

    I think one of the biggest things that irks me is when other Christians think we are liberal for voting Democrat. I had one lady ask me if I was even saved and believed in the Bible. Such folks swim in ignorance. If they had even tried to dig into our theology they might be surprised to find that at heart we are confessional, reformed, pietist, augustinian. In so many ways staunchly conservative, orthodox. And yet just because we vote Obama or Hillary all of a sudden we’re in heresy. Ridiculous.

  4. I catch speaking of faith weekly as well. It was so interesting to hear Dr. Colson sorta depicted as the ‘right winger’-because to me he’s not. In some ways, he reminds me of John McCain- as he’s sorta the maverick of the Christian mainstream. I’ve heard Dr. Colson speaking up this past year about not being married as a person of faith to a particular political party.