By: Stuart Kellogg
What would we do without all these political pundits? There are as many conclusions from November’s midterms as there are journalists, commentators and retired politicians. Here’s a question for the evangelical Christian community: If you’re looking for salvation of any kind from the political arena, are you Christ centered?
“The Savior doesn’t come in Air Force One”—-Chuck Colson
Chuck Colson was the presidential advisor known as the hatchet man for his bare knuckled approach to President Nixon’s enemies, real and perceived. Colson also illustrates the power of Christ to redeem all sinners. This highest of high achievers—-Ivy League education, U.S. Marine officer and right hand man of the most powerful person in the world—-faced a humiliating fall for his part in what is called “The Watergate Scandal”. His conversion to Christ shortly before prison, and his commitment to follow Him as Lord, led Colson’s heart to reform the prison system. Prison Fellowship was born shortly after his release and the saving grace of Christ brought behind bars around the world. The fruit continues to flourish through this ministry. Colson, once among the most feared and hated men in politics, was redeemed in the eyes of Christ and man.
I had the honor of studying under Chuck Colson at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He never advocated a retreat from the world, including politics. Far from it. BUT, he never allowed politics to take the place of Christ at the center of his life. Unfortunately, that’s now the reality for far too many Christians today in America.
Can anyone forget the 2012 Democratic convention scene as delegates booed God?
At that convention, Democrats purposely took out any reference to God in the party’s platform. When some folks objected, leadership rammed through the reinsertion of His name into the document, and the cacophony of boos from the floor provided an indelible touch point that illustrated the Democratic party’s quickening retreat from the religious mainstream.
Nor can anyone forget that serial adulterer and habitual liar who demeaned the least fortunate in the most un-Christlike way being embraced as a savior by evangelical Christian who cursed the godless Democrats. Oh, well, we were told, all those Christians backing Donald Trump would bring him to the faith. No, it was Trump who discipled far too many in the church.
Christ followers make a mistake when they retreat from the marketplace of ideas. We’re called to speak truth to power—the Truth that is the Gospel. I’ll never forget my first up-close look at the squishiness of one-way outrage in the political square. Evangelical Christians were understandably outspoken against President Clinton’s serial adultery and sexual liaison with a young intern in the White House. Yet, in the state where I lived at the time, those same upholders of the moral order were silent as their married senator with an ailing wife in a nursing home carried on an open affair with a long time “friend”. What made such a difference in how these well known politicians were treated by those conservative Christians? The senator had an R after his name.
When the desire for political power is paramount, then it’s easy to allow this secular worldview and allegiance to a man shape your world. We’ve seen the consequence of this action in the midterms. So many Republican primary voters followed the wishes of the former President in nominating men and women who could parrot the stolen election line, but had little expertise to offer the independent and Democrat voters looking for a change from an out of control progressive government. So, the Senate stayed with the President’s party.
The expected red wave in the US House was a muted trickle. Why? Well, there were some examples of the GOP losing seats because sitting Representatives who dared to take on Trump and were defeated in the primaries by candidates who couldn’t appeal to a broader base. What I see as a bigger issue, however, is abortion. This is a perfect example of an issue that was politically better for the pro-life side only when the politicians were protected by Roe. Once the issue was sent back to the states, pro-lifers had to stand on their beliefs in front of the majority of Americans who favor abortion. For far too many pro-lifers, talking about Roe was easier than explaining to the culture why life matters.
Politics is downstream from culture. And culture is downstream from religion. Yes, the political battles during the last 50 years were important because abortion was restricted in many states. Yet far too little of the hard work was done persuading those naturally inclined to allow a woman’s right to choose to trump all other matters. The result: A minority of Americans were in favor of abortion in 1969, when Roe became the law of the land. Now, almost two out of three are all for it.
Beyond the political fights, the biggest issue for the church is what the overly politicized environment has done to its mission. When an entire body of Believers is lumped into a political pile in the mind of half the country, what do you think that does to our call to make disciples? If the lost and hurting see Christians as first and foremost backers of a person or party, how hard will it be to share the Gospel? The biggest loss is not getting beaten at the polls or losing the levers of power in Washington. What’s lost is the the ability to witness for Christ. He weeps.
The midterms surprised many because historically a sitting president overseeing such an economic collapse faces a humiliating loss of Congressional support. That didn’t happen. Perhaps, while the party pros huddle to figure out what to change for 2024, the Christ followers can huddle up and commit to making their faith the guiding light of their lives. No matter what the world thinks or says.
Stuart Kellogg, author of The Post Covid Church: An Action Plan to Thrive Not Just Survive, can be reached at email@example.com.