Two Neocons Solving the Worlds Problems

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Where's the Line?

Today one of our pastors gave a message on voting according to Biblical principles. He had done his homework on how far a pastor can go without crossing the line of separation between church and State, and he intentionally came right up to it. According to the demographics of our congregation, he was mostly "preachin' to the choir." He set up his points using Scripture that illustrates how God is not partisan, but has standards. He reminded us to be "salt and light." He urged us to vote without compromise for candidates who stand for financial freedom, moral clarity and religious freedom. And he went into quite a bit of detail about abortion, gay marriage, the role of government versus the church and inidividuals in caring for the poor. It was very clear which candidates he was supporting, even though he never mentioned any candidate by name.

During second service, I and the rest of the music team were in the lobby waiting to lead music again at the conclusion of the message--we'd already listened to the sermon during the first service. A man we all know well walked out in tears, just devastated. He said, "This church has been the best thing that ever happened to me. But if this is the direction it's headed, then I don't belong here. This is right wing bigotry."

I don't think it was the church's stand on abortion, gay marriage, etc., that distressed him--those could hardly have been a surprise. I think he feels that the pastor, by encouraging him to vote accordingly, was crossing a line.

I would be interested in your thoughts and advice on how to reach out to this man and his family so that we don't lose him from our church family.

Here's the sermon if you'd like to hear it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

OUr pastor concluded a five part series on voting biblically today. One woman got up and walked out during the first installment. He was pretty much preaching to the choir too but I heard people commenting that they appreciated having the biblical underpinnings explained.

-- Dan Benson

October 31, 2004 at 7:39 PM

Blogger Stephen Gordon said...

Take any characteristic of a church member you can think of (age, race, political affiliation, etc.) and there will be a mainstream within a church, and there will be outliers.

A church should always be sensitive and loving to the outliers. If the church tends to be populated with young adults, they should not forget the senior adults.

When it comes to politics this consideration should obviously go beyond the concern for a church's tax exempt status.

That said, I don't see any problem with pointing out where the candidates stand on the issues.

Saying that Kerry has supported partial birth abortion is a nonpartisan fact. If I were a Democrat I would be crying about that fact - not that my preacher was the messenger. I certainly wouldn't be throwing a loaded word like "bigotry" around.

Politics may be dirty business, but elections influence the course of our country. When Christian ministers are disengaged, Christian participation in Democracy is muffled (bad for society) and the Church becomes less relevant (bad for the church).

Ministers must be wise in their discussion of politics from the pulpit, but it sounds to me Kathy, like yours did it just right.

November 1, 2004 at 9:20 AM

Blogger Joseph Horan said...

As a minister myself, I try to be gentle regarding others political beliefs. I am a very outspoken person and there are times when my human mouth outpaces my spiritual calling. Without being there, it does seem as though your pastor made every effort to tread the ice gently. What I find is that most Americans (including a large portion of Enagelicals) like to disconnect their faith from their public affairs. This allows them to "vote their pocketbook" instead of voting their morals. When confronted by even the most careful thought of faith-based political action, these idividuals will feel both threatened and betrayed. They will say as this man did, "If this is the way the church is going I'm out.", yet in reality they have never allowed Christ to have full reign in their lives. Is this bad or a sin? No, it's normal. We all have areas of our lives that we haven't surrendered to Jesus' lordship. The only difference is that those who feel uncomfortable entertaining the notion of God's role in their political life are usually reflecting an underlying struggle to acknowledge his action and sovereignty in their personal life.

How then is one to love these spiritual family members and make them feel more comfortable? The answer is to only do the first thing: love them. Love them as Christ loves them and encourage them to seek God's face about their decisions and God's role in those decisions. Beyond that, only the Holy Spirit can intercede and overcome the feelings of threat or betrayal they are experiencing.

November 1, 2004 at 9:40 AM

Blogger Phil said...

Feeling excluded can be a painful experience, especially in one's own community of faith. I would imagine it was the fact that most of the congregation was nodding along with your Pastor that got to the guy. "Bigotry" is, of course, an ugly word, and probably more indicative of how upset he was than any attempt at a rational assessment of what happened. But it's one thing to be told that your political views are wrong, quite another to be told that they're sinful.

Politics is supposed to be one of those things we get to argue about; being told that if we persist in arguing, we'll only be arguing with God, is bound to be pretty off-putting to some. Personally, I would be more inclined to walk out of church laughing than crying should a member of the clergy attempt to tell me the "correct" "Biblical" way to vote.

Let's face it: the only political systems advocated in the Bible are theocracy and monarchy. And (thank you very much) I'll pass on both until they show up in their true from.

For today's voter, the Bible provides very little in the way of specific instruction as to whether, for example, we should privatize Social Security. Without having heard your pastor talk about it, and meaning no disrespect to him, I also don't see how you can find an idea like "financial freedom" in the Bible without carrying a bias to do so into your reading. I'm not saying the Bible is opposed to financial freedom; I'm saying that there may be some things that the Bible doesn't address. And interpreting it to provide the exact political answers we were looking for is a dangerous game.

I agree with Stephen that the Bible doesn't leave much lattitude on issues like partial-birth abortion. It's pretty straightforward, and I have a hard time understanding how Christians can come to a different conclusion on that one. But all this economic stuff? I've encountered devout, Bible-believing socialists who take Acts 4:32 very, very seriously. I think they're in error, but I'll give them one thing -- at least I find their interpretation challenging to my own political preferences. And that's what I would expect from the Bible.

With that in mind, maybe your upset friend got more out of the sermon than ayone else. If he gets past his feelings of rejection, he might take a moment to reconsider his political views in light of his religious beliefs. If he does, he's ahead of the game -- whatever conclusion he reaches.

November 1, 2004 at 12:00 PM

Blogger Beyond Words said...

Gorgeous graphic, Stephen. Phil, what Joseph said about "voting with your pocketbook" was one of the subpoints my pastor was making about "financial freedom." Maybe it wasn't the best phrase to describe what he meant...and Stephen, the pastor did say something to the effect that these issues are more important than the tax-exempt status.

Joseph, you said, "those who feel uncomfortable entertaining the notion of God's role in their political life are usually reflecting an underlying struggle to acknowledge his action and sovereignty in their personal life." That is well said. Until I did that (and I realize that there will always be areas that I haven't surrendered), I was confused about the ideology of the Left and found all kinds of rationales to excuse their stand on moral issues. But God didn't set me up to judge them. All that's left for me to do is "Love them as Christ loves them and encourage them to seek God's face about their decisions and God's role in those decisions." And let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

November 1, 2004 at 6:52 PM

Blogger Beyond Words said...

I updated the post with a link to the mp3 file of the sermon. Thanks to Scott Hanson, the Sound Guy.

November 1, 2004 at 7:21 PM

Blogger Stephen Gordon said...

Kathy, I like how your pastor expressed the duty of Christians to make a difference in the secular world. He quoted:

Matthew 5:13 - Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

As we say down here in Louisiana, "That'll preach." :-)

November 1, 2004 at 7:55 PM


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