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U.S. POLITICS: “A NEW LOW”
by ProfDave, ©2020
(Oct. 3, 2020) — [Editor’s Note: The following is a continuation from Part 1 here.]
Western democracy rests on the Christian doctrine of the Imago Dei, the creation of all mankind in the image of God. God, not the King, not the parliament, not the judge, not the scientist, not society gives each human being his/her value. Our rights come from God, not the state. If the state gave you your rights, it could take them away at its convenience. If others gave you your value, you would be co-dependent. If you gave yourself your rights – watch out, world! – you would be a sociopath. If society gave you your dignity, it could be lost at the drop of a hat. Inalienable rights can only come from God.
Intrinsic worth does not mean that everyone is equal in ability, achievement or wisdom. Persons are equal in value, but their ideas may be foolish or their behavior wrong. There is no intrinsic right to success, and “there is no rest for the wicked.” Our extrinsic financial net worth can go up and down, and we may achieve different levels of education and career, position, family and friendships. Intrinsic equality does not mean extrinsic sameness. We are all fallen and we are all equally (if we choose to accept it) objects of grace. God sent His Son to die for each of us – that is how valuable you are.
In an election year, serious Christians will reject candidates and parties they feel deny the intrinsic worth and sacredness of every human life. The majority of Evangelicals believe that a baby is human before it is born and in 2016 were deeply offended by one candidate’s commitment to free and unrestricted abortion. But that is not the only issue of human dignity.
Christians reject racism. It is no accident that the movement against black slavery was led by Evangelicals and that Martin Luther King Jr. was a clergyman. There is only one race in the Bible (and in science) – human. King’s vision was for a color-blind nation, integration and unity. I made a vow in college to not allow myself to be classified by race but to write in “human.” Unfortunately, non-Christian forces introduced the racial politics and mutual hostility we see today. This anti-Christian attitude ruined the hope that Obama’s election would mean the end of racial conflict. We recognize and honor distinctives, we see different solutions to problems, but we categorically reject prejudice and hatred toward anyone who bears the image of God.
It should not be a surprise that the majority of “Evangelicals” find abortion and racial thinking offensive to human dignity. The same can be said of suicide, euthanasia and the mistreatment of the sick and handicapped. We see the imago dei even in the broken. If Genesis 3 means anything, we are all broken in one way of another. Jesus set an example of compassion for the weak in contrast with the religious elites of his day. We care for them, not dispose of them.
Christian values of human dignity, morality and truth converge in the treatment of women and children. In Genesis God made male and female in His image – distinct but equally sacred – while the New Testament makes them equal before God. The honor given to women in the Gospels and the early church was unprecedented in the ancient world and in any other faith-culture today. Real feminism was the fruit of a Christian worldview. Today’s version of feminism is not necessarily Christian because it does not always value women as women – for their unique contribution to humanity rather than for being the same as men.
Jesus-followers are particularly concerned about the way in which our culture disrespects women (men, too) by treating them as sex-objects rather than persons. The Bible does not mince words about sexual morality. Pornography, trafficking and the whole sex industry is morally wrong and toxic to society. Any Christian who is not compromised by addiction himself (and many of those who are) is deeply offended and politically opposed to this plague and its assault on women and the family.
In this election year serious Christians find much that is offensive on both sides of the political divide. There is plenty of arrogance and hatred on both sides, a desire to destroy rather than heal, and contempt for women and children in particular. We applaud the “Me too” movement but deplore the hypocrisy of elites who have been glorifying lust and ridiculed morality for decades and then react in horror to those who act on their values. Morality is important to Evangelicals because it reflects what is real and healthy.
You see, Evangelicals believe in a real Creator who made all things and knows better than we do how things work. His moral law is not arbitrary but reveals what is best for human flourishing. Our rebellion against Him, throwing off what we think are restrictions in search of alternative life-styles, leads only to destruction. Because of our fallen nature, we desire what is not good for us. He invented sexuality – sacred and complementary. He invented marriage and the family – monogamous, permanent and heterosexual – as the optimum means of raising children and continuing the human race. We depart from His design at our own – and our children’s – risk. When we attack natural marriage we attack human flourishing.
At the same time, Jesus has compassion on the fallen and the rebellious and so must His followers – for we are fallen, too. He hated the self-righteous, not the sinners.
In an election year, Jesus-followers, Evangelicals and other serious Christians bring their moral judgement to the ballot box. Morality makes a difference. It is hard for us to vote for candidates and programs that we perceive to be in some way immoral – a violation of what we believe is right. Morality matters. We believe that God knows best. What He forbids is bad for us and for human flourishing. Immorality should be discouraged, treated, and prevented – certainly not popularized and taught to our children.
Everyone agrees that murder, theft and perjury are wrong – and all the candidates accuse each other of such things. But adultery is up for grabs. Biblical Christians believe that God knows best. The majority of Evangelicals feel it the duty of the church and the school to reinforce marriage and sexual health and wholeness as God ordained it – for the sake of society. Sin has victims. The state, in its duty to restrain evil, has a role. As we follow Jesus, we may not condemn the prostitutes and “sinners” but we do say “go and sin no more.” We have compassion for the broken and confused, but there are legitimate concerns about the impact of the pornographic flood and of the LGBT educational agenda on the innocent.
In an election year, sex is a delicate issue for followers of Jesus. The Bible is unambiguous. The owner’s manual for humankind forbids any sexual activity – even imaginary – outside heterosexual marriage. It violates your warrantee. The Law of Moses even forbids cross-dressing, which seems innocent to me. But America is a free country. Christianity recognizes free moral agency: you are free to be wrong and to do wrong – and to suffer the consequences. How much should you be allowed to wrong someone else? Probably a majority of Evangelicals draw the line at reorganizing society – education K-12, religious teachings, adoption agencies, wedding providers, dress codes, restrooms and showers. Real Christians are tolerant and merciful, but there are victims – our children, for example. They will remember on election day.
We have seen that Evangelical voters are concerned about human dignity and morality. Both directly involve human flourishing, their love for God and for neighbor. Politically this tends to show itself in the issues of life, marriage and religious freedom – things about which the parties currently take opposite positions. However, these are not the only ways to love neighbors.
Christians are also concerned about social justice: the fair and equal treatment of the poor, the sick, the minorities, the prisoners. Human dignity and flourishing are goals here, too. Not many Evangelicals subscribe to Liberation Theology, but they read the gospels and see how Jesus sought out the marginalized. A huge proportion of private charity is faith-based – Evangelical or Roman Catholic. Jesus-followers do not hate the strong, but believe it is their duty and ours to help the weak. Jesus-followers are just as uncomfortable with images of refugee camps and children in cages as our unbelieving counterparts – more so, since we know how our Lord values each one of them as much as ourselves. We care.
In this election year, issues of social justice divide Evangelicals. For example, compassion moves them to welcome refugees and immigrants, although the role of law and the state in protecting “the domestic tranquility” is also recognized. Evangelicals are divided on which policies and parties will be most fair and kind to strangers.
“America First” sounds selfish to Evangelicals. As the richest and most powerful nation in the world, some feel that we are obligated to help those less fortunate, to assist developing nations and to intervene for oppressed peoples. But again, Evangelicals are divided on which policies and actions are just and right.
It is the same at home. Neither capitalism nor socialism is found in the Bible. Wealth and property come from the Lord and are not to be stolen by individuals or by the state. They are given to be shared, neither conspicuously consumed nor confiscated. “The poor you will have with you always,” Jesus said, and it is good for us to assist them. The question is how. The Law of Moses cancelled debts every seven years. Hmmmh. No candidate is suggesting that!
In an election year, Evangelical voters are going to be concerned with the rule of law. Jesus taught us to “render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar” and St. Paul instructed believers to obey and pray for authorities of all kinds. In the United States the citizen is both Caesar and subject. We help determine what the law is – as ordained by God – and we obey the law as we obey God. Christians are concerned that the law of the land does not conflict with the law of God, but in principle we find lawlessness an offense against God and human flourishing. Wrong laws need to be changed, not ignored or flaunted. Because Evangelicals are used to taking their Bibles as written, they are inclined to take the law and the Constitution as written and to appreciate leadership who follow the same principle.
What are Jesus-followers to do in an election year? Serious biblical Christians, Evangelical or not, see themselves as dual citizens – of earth and heaven. They may be registered Republican, Democrat or Independent, but they are registered. They may be progressive or reactionary or somewhere between by temperament. In the voting booth they are motivated by love for God and neighbor – not hatred or prejudice – but they are concerned for three things: character, values and the public good.
In 2020 the Democratic platform and candidates have made it difficult for Evangelicals to vote for them by their stands on life, marriage and conscience rights. Will it become costly for serious Christians to live according to their consciences, to uphold Christian morality and to raise Christian children? Likewise, the President has made himself odious to many Evangelicals by his arrogance and seeming lack of compassion. He may be doing the right thing, but his spirit seems so wrong. The tone of politics has sunk to a new low and both sides have contributed. Evangelicals long for the Kingdom of God – revival, a return to Christian values and/or the return of Jesus Christ. Some believe that it is up to them to make the world better, others that things must get worse first. But all have read to the end of the Book and know that Christ wins. Maranatha – come, Lord Jesus!
David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College. He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020). He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.”