Monday, September 27, 2004

Is the presidential election another war of good and evil?

I received a "voting guide" that claimed the election, the choice between President Bush and Senator Kerry, is a Christian war between good and evil. Among the many reasons I think this is damaging to the Christian church and cause, here is one:

Christians have allowed the Republican party to successfully capitalize on and co-opt the church as a voting block. We are made to believe this is serving our country and God and children's future well. I'm not sure this is true but I'm certain that these ideas serve the Republican party well.

A friend of mine asked me, "Would you consider voting for John Kerry?"

"Consider--in a democracy--is the key word, isn't it?" I replied. I've had various political conversations with both Republicans and Democrats. Democrats don't believe Bush is fit to lead. Republicans don't believe Kerry is fit to lead. As often is the case, for many it's one of those "voting against" someone or their party campaigns. I don't want my choice of a particular party nominee to be a foregone conclusion without "considering" and weighing the options.

One friend is voting purely on economics and feels Republican economics make more sense. Lower taxes appropriately, increase GDP, bottom line is you actually collect more taxes. Another Christian I know is voting Kerry. She doesn't believe Bush has discernment to lead the country. Some are held up from voting Democrat because of moral issues, believing overall the Republican party "more moral" than Democrats.

Whose set of morals are the benchmark for this?

On the one hand, Republicans advocate "family values" and say Democrats don't. Democrats scoff and say they are for the poor, also a "biblical value" and middle class families in every way. Democrats generally don't support harsh forms of punishment such as capital punishment and advocate social programs to stave off these criminal problems before they happen. Republicans advocate pro-life related to abortion, and many Christians are convinced any vote otherwise is a sin. I'll have to scan and print sometime in my blog the photo I took during the 1992 election of a couple at a Democratic rally for Clinton who were walking around with a poster, "A vote for Clinton is a sin against God."

I don't agree with the sign or the notion that a vote for a particular candidate is a sin against God. This oversimplifies the issues and demonizes those who have thoughtfully differed with the prevailing version of Christianity that would align itself with a political party. While everyone must vote their consciences, we ought to be aware of the possibility that politics might have more influence on us than we on politics. I want Christians to turn that around. To be a Christian in the first place is a political act: we are proclaiming that our allegiance is not to the state but to the kingdom of God.

Is the presidential election another war of good and evil, a battle for Christianity, as the voting guide suggests? What do you think?

10 Comments:

At 4:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greg,
You continue to approach this election from a kingdom perspective which I appreciate a great deal. I've always felt like God is big enough to use whomever we elect to futher His purposes (which doesn't simplify the decision of who to vote for!). This is another of those challenges of living in, but not being of, the world.
Thanks for being open,
Ronnie

 
At 6:46 AM, Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball said...

I know you probably don't have a ton of free time, but if you get a chance, you should check out some of the discussions over on Travis Stanley's blog, specifically the ones relating to church-state/politics type stuff. I personally (and a lot of people I've talked to from my age group), are choosing not to take part at all in the election this year. Voting for any of the candidates seems to be a compromise of morals or values on many issues. I think that the people who raised THIS generation (my generation) did a good job of instilling a Kingdom mindset in us, and I think we're finally realizing that living in the Kingdom doesn't necessarily mean being concerned primarily about which political party is in power in one country out of the hundreds in the world. We're learning that being Christian and being American are NOT synonymous terms. Many of us (and I may be taking a chance by speaking generally), would rather be involved in ministries to the homeless, than worry about which party is more sensitive to the homeless issue on their platform.

The biggest gripe I've heard is from Christians saying that is is our duty as Christians to vote, first of all, and then to vote for this guy or that guy. We don't see Jesus getting involved in partisan politics, but rather being very politically subversive by advocating an alternative lifestyle.

I hope a lot of people read your comments, and will take part in the discussion. As smart and enlightened as we graduate students are (please re-read that phrase with a heavy dose of sarcasm), we can only dicuss things from our perspective, and I think we may miss out on some wisdom from some older, and younger, believers.

Thanks for your thoughts,
Greg

 
At 7:52 AM, Blogger Clarissa said...

Do you believe that there is a way to determine which president would be the best for our country? Or does it seem to be pointless to say one or the other would be better since God controls the placement of world leaders, anyway?

 
At 11:00 AM, Blogger DJG said...

I agree that God can use either person to fulfull his purposes. I have a personal preference but I would never doubt someone's Christianity or sincerity if they believed the other person was better. I have flipped parties before myself. I think what we believe at one place and time in our lives can be the polar extreme of what we believe at another time. We can never allow politics to dictate our morality. If we are not opposed to the majority its hard to believe we are being "a peculiar people".

 
At 2:19 PM, Blogger don said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 2:44 PM, Blogger don said...

prior post was removed by accident, so i'll try to reproduce it..

OF COURSE IT MATTERS who you vote for!! Jesus did say to pay our taxes, and give honor to our government's leaders, and that God puts in place those rulers He wants to use for His purposes. However, you and I have been placed in a position that no New Testament era people were in; we are in a representative government, as as such, WE are the rulers He want to use for His purposes. It's a different way of thinking about it, but I don't think we can escape our responsibility to vote for correct moral positions. Be careful how and for whom you vote, as it is an awesome responsibility, and we dare not go and bury the talent we have been given as citizens of this particular place and time.

don

 
At 4:32 PM, Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball said...

Don,
I'm not sure I agree with everything you say...primarily because I think we differ on how we see our government. We are a representative government only in that we elect Congressmen, and our President. They don't pass out ballots for each and every piece of legislation...we elect them, and then hope that they remain true to their platforms. If they don't, we have no legal recourse. Our only option is to NOT re-elect them.

As such, since I do not exercise any direct power over the running of the government, I have to bow out of the whole process. I cannot, in good conscience, vote for either candidate.

 
At 9:03 PM, Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball said...

Some more food for thought...this is just something I came across while doing a little study.

The passage that refers to God establishing the authorities is found in Romans 13. It is odd that in the middle of a discussion about how Christians should live as "ingrafted branches" to Israel, Paul would place a little teaching about submitting to secular governments. Or is it? What if, instead of equating "authorities" with the secular government, we talked about the Jewish synagoge leaders.

For new Roman Christians, coming out of an anti-Semitic Roman culture (this was around the time of the Neronian persecution), there might have been some unwillingness on the part of the new Christians to submit themselves to the rule of the synagogue leaders.

Most of the other early Christian thought concerning secular governments was that they were from Satan (like in Rev. 12, 13 and 18, and others), and that they would be done away with when Christ returns. Most commentaries would agree that the synagogue leaders were established by God to serve as spiritual leaders and interpreters of the Law and the Prophets.

How does a reading of Romans 13 like this change our thoughts about God establishing governments like Idi Amin, or Pol Pot or Saddam Hussein? I think we need to look deeper at the context, and at the situation at the time of writing. If nothing else, it should give us pause for thought before we start placing God's hand where it isn't (or where Scripture doesn't seem to put it).

 
At 8:30 AM, Blogger don said...

Greg, I agree with your latest supposition that the authorities being spoken of may be either the Romans or the leaders of the synagogue, and either case would have been a point of contention for new Christians. This may change the finer points of the argument (or "question"), but as I look at the big picture, I think I am called on to be salt and light in the world over just about everything else. This includes helping those who cannot help themselves, helping those who CAN help themselves to have the information available to them to make the right decisions, and pointing as many as possible to the true Source of light. As I look at the two major parties, both have corrupt members (so do churches), incorrect positions (so do churches), career politicians (so do churches), and honest bona-fide differences about which ways to actually promote their honest bona-fide agendas. (So do churches) Does this mean I don't become involved with a church? Not anymore than it means I should opt out of the whole political process. I would encourage you and your readers (I enjoy your blog and your other writings immensely, by the way) to become involved and actually be salt and light in ANY way possible, including the political process.

The only other disagreement I have with what you said in your first post is that we have no control over the process because we are not directly involved in legislation (I'm paraphrasing what I think you meant). That is correct technically, but we can still look at the party platforms and agendas that we know are in place and predict with a pretty good degree of accuracy which direction that candidate will want to head once in office. This is particularly important in the case of presidential elections, as they stack the bench in the judiciary, which has had an inordinate influence in the cultural changes I've seen in my lifetime.

keep up the good posts. I try to steer away from arguing politics or religion, but you sucked me into this one.

don

 
At 10:20 AM, Blogger Greg Taylor said...

Yes, we're all wrestling with these things--I've posted a few more things that you might be interested in.

Just to clarify, the Greg that's posting comments is not me. You might want to hover over the persons name and see the profile number or click to see who it is. I think at this point most who post are fellow blogspotters.

One belief I have related to this issue is that the very act of baptism and confession of Jesus as Lord is a political act. Therefore, we are participating in politics when we proclaim that our allegiance is to Christ first and country second. This does not absolve us of government, voting, political (in the regular sense of the word) involvement.

I do plan to vote and participate regularly in local politics in the arena of making the community a better place (salt and light) and serving where I can as volunteer in our public school, meet with local council people related to various community issues. And I'll vote my conscience on that first Tuesday in November.

So, I'm involved in the traditional sense and want to acknowledge that my Christian walk is a political statment of where my loyalties lie.

 

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