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Not again: A preacher denouncing politics

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It seems there are a few recurring themes that surface in the public arena again and again as if they were part of some invisible merry-go-round. One such theme crossed into my vision field this past week.

My first thought was, “Not again!” But there it was, a “fire-breathing,” preacher denouncing “getting involved in politics” when we should “just be preaching the Gospel!” I was sorely tempted to just ignore it. But then I thought, “If no one answers him, some people might be negatively influenced.”

This idea of an inevitable clash between the Gospel and politics is false and contrived. As Christians, we believe in the innate and invaluable worth and value of every human life. Each human being is someone created in God’s image and someone God loved enough to send Jesus to die a cross kind of death to redeem them from perdition.

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There is a reason that everywhere the Gospel has gone the plight of the weak and the marginalized has improved.

From the earliest Reformation times, God’s people called Baptists were persecuted and struggled for religious freedom and the right to proclaim the Gospel.

Southern Baptists (my own faith tradition) in our confession of faith, the Baptist Faith & Message, proclaim:

“All Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society, means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote those ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.”

Romans 13 tells us that God ordained the civil magistrate and we are to support it “for conscience’s sake.” Among other things, it means voting and voting in an informed manner. And when we vote, we should vote our conscience, not our pocketbook. Our Heavenly Father will hold us responsible for how we exercise the stewardship of our citizenship.

This is never about being Republican or Democrat. It is about being against sin and injustice. God is not a Republican or a Democrat. However, God is pro-life and anti-child abuse.

Take the most recent upsurge critiquing Christian involvement in public policy that was occasioned by those opposed to extending aid to Ukraine. I find this difficult to comprehend. Ukraine was invaded by Russia. In the occupied areas Christians have been persecuted and abused. The Russians have kidnapped between five hundred and eight hundred thousand Ukrainian infants and children and shipped them back to Russia to be adopted by Russian families. What a monstrous crime!

Baptists and Evangelicals in particular have been singled out for persecution by the Russian occupiers. It is even more difficult to understand the opposition to Ukraine aid when you realize they are just asking for the weapons to defend their freedom. What if the French had denied us aid when we were fighting for our independence from Great Britain?

When we turn to American history we see that every major injustice in our society that has been corrected (slavery, segregation, child labor, women’s suffrage, etc.) has been achieved because people of faith came together and determined the best public policies to bring about the necessary change.

American Christians have made it clear that they want their country to be a champion for human rights in the world. One thinks of FDR and the “Four Freedoms” and the defense of freedom in the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

As I was writing this column I received a phone call from a young man I have had the privilege of mentoring in recent months. He reminded me of a comment I had made to him about the fact that if God had not called me into ministry, I would have attempted to be a film director. He asked me why and I told him that Christmas Eve, 1963, I went to the Santa Rosa movie theater in the Old Spanish Trail in Houston, Texas. When I left the theater 3 hours later, having just seen Judgment at Nuremberg, I was a different person than when I had entered the theater 3 hours earlier.

One of the final scenes is indelibly etched on my conscience. It is 1948 and the Russians have blockaded Berlin. An American general is trying to convince the American judge to give a lenient sentence to the German Nazi judges because we need the Germans’ support against the Russians.

The general asks the judge, “Isn’t the goal to survive?”

The American judge responds, “Survive as what? A country is not a rock! A country is not a piece of dirt! A country is what it stands for when standing for something costs! Let the whole world know that this is what we stand for—justice, truth, and the value of a single human being!”

As a Christian, as an American, as a human being, I fervently want this to be what America stands for now and into the future.

That commitment in no way conflicts with my commitment to the Gospel and the Great Commission. If we are not witnessing to Jesus and the Gospel we are derelict in our Christian duty to be light. If we ignore the fact that people we are sharing the Gospel with are hungry, thirsty, or naked, or homeless, then we are ignoring our duty as salt. We are to be salt and light.

Dr. Richard Land, BA (magna cum laude), Princeton; D.Phil. Oxford; and Th.M., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) and has served since 2013 as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Land has been teaching, writing, and speaking on moral and ethical issues for the last half century in addition to pastoring several churches. He is the author of The Divided States of America, Imagine! A God Blessed America, Real Homeland Security, For Faith & Family and Send a Message to Mickey.

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