I wonder what position politically active evangelical leaders like Tony Perkins and Dr. James Dobson would have taken on a candidate for governor a while back who, by all accounts, was a calculating, insensitive man who cared more for his own ambitions than for his constituents.
This otherwise unspectacular individual, whose time in office was marked with civil unrest, is credited with overseeing a few public works projects, even as he dealt harshly with the malcontents of his day. The record tells us that he was especially intolerant of people of faith, and that the devout who stepped out of line would almost certainly endure some manner of punishment meted out by his hand.
Would the Family Research Council or Focus on the Family have used their influence to support or oppose this governor? Would they have used the scriptures to motivate congregations to action? Would they have called for his removal on faith-based grounds?
The man to which I refer was Pontius Pilate, Roman governor of Judea for a brief time during the first century AD. And while he is given credit for building an aqueduct and for brutally quelling a handful of religious demonstrations, he is best known for presiding over the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
He might not have been very popular with the religious people of that day, but for all his faults, Pontius Pilate was the man God wanted on the throne at that particular time in history in order to ensure His will was carried out.
God’s ways are inscrutable to mankind. We cannot fathom His mind, but are instead commanded to live by faith, believing that He is in control.
So I am disturbed when religious leaders purport to be doing the Lord’s work when they endorse political candidates. Upon what special revelation do they believe they act? Has God somehow shown them that either Barack Obama or John McCain is the one whose hand should be on the tiller guiding America’s ship-of-state?
Among the major voter groups up for grabs is the one made up of evangelical Christians, usually stalwart supporters of the Republican Party, but this year expressing discontent over Senator John McCain’s nomination. McCain, it seems for some evangelicals, is not socially conservative enough; for others, Senator Barack Obama’s oratorical skills appear attractively sermonesque as to elicit sufficient comfort and put significant numbers of us in play come November.
Both men are working feverishly to prove to us that they are deserving of the evangelical vote, and many believe that McCain’s choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was, among other reasons, designed to sway us back to the GOP.
Not to be outdone, Barack Obama has also been hard at work trying to curry favor with Christian voters, wooing so-called left wing evangelicals on issues of social justice and environmental stewardship, while also pledging $500 million in new funding for the faith-based initiative program enacted under President Bush (a program I’ve railed against in the past).
The campaign to capture the evangelical vote has not been without its hiccups for both McCain and Obama. McCain’s clear lack of comfort with religiosity will never satisfy many of the evangelical ilk. Obama, on the other hand, speaks the language, but espouses policies that influential Christian leaders find objectionable. His recent halting performance at Rick Warren’s Saddleback church over the question of when life begins was damning, and earlier references to “confused theology” riled Dobson.
I don’t mind when candidates target evangelicals with promises and rhetoric – it’s part of the game. But I do mind when evangelical leaders try to influence the process.
Jesus reminded Pilate that it was God who had put him in his throne, and the Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the church in Rome that “the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”
By engaging in political power brokering, we’re telling God that He needs our help to pick our leaders. That’s not acting on faith.
If evangelicals want to change the country we should do it the way Christ and the apostles did it – one soul at a time – by simply teaching the scriptures, showing people the way to God, and equipping them to make sound choices in all aspects of life.