As a born-again evangelical who believes the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, I am troubled by the assertions I have heard throughout this campaign season that God is a Republican, or that one cannot be a Christian and vote for John Kerry.
The Bible upon which I build my understanding of God definitely says there is only one litmus test for a Christian, and it is not how you voted in the 2004 presidential race. Rather, it is whether or not you have accepted Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death for you as the ground for your personal relationship with God. End of story. Nothing else. Period.
I take issue with the notion that the character and agenda of God can be embodied by any entity other than the church. That concept is clearly unbiblical.
To place God in a human-conceived political category is dangerous. The church has a unique voice in American society; one of redemption and change. The church must be careful not to cede its God-mandated territory to political/governmental entities. We lose our opportunity to be thoughtful, reflective critics of society when we believe a political party can speak for us.
Trying to link Christian theology with anything other than the peculiar mission of the church and the unique relationship of Christ to humanity will ultimately lead one to make dangerous compromises. Is the mission of a Christian to aid a society in becoming the best it can be or in building a church that offers society another way?
A fundamental mistake many on the religious right make is to believe that America is God’s agent of change in society; it is a Christian nation, and therefore America rightly belongs to them.
Not only does this notion run rough-shod over democracy, it is a historical myth; and again denies the unique call of the church as God’s agent of change in society.
No government can legislate redemption. Efforts of many Christians become misguided when they believe a certain law or amendment or court ruling can somehow advance or prevent God’s redemptive action in history.
Indeed, no action can be taken by any government, no matter how noble, that can accomplish what the death and resurrection of Christ has accomplished for us. It is not the government of men but the body of Christ who can point society in the right direction.
All of society should lament that many who claim the title of Christian have allowed their political activity to call more attention to a person and a political party, rather than their Lord and his church.
My concern is not whether you vote for one candidate or another. I am fully convinced that God is able to bring his plan into being through the collective voice of the electorate. He is not dependant upon a lock-step, homogenized form of group-think from his people.
What concerns me is that we, the church, might be looking to institutions of government or to a political party to embody Christ in the world, and that is singularly unbiblical.
Vote your values. But expand your definition of your values beyond two hot-button issues that have been thrust forward with marketing savvy.
Let your Christianity inform every moment and every decision of your life, including your vote. But don’t purport to know which American political party embodies God. The answer is neither.
Wayne Dean of Blue Springs, Mo., works for the Missouri Baptist Foundation.