The church I grew up in had a special guest one Sunday morning who was running for president. I don’t remember his name, but I do remember that everyone was encouraged to vote for this candidate because he was a Christian. I thought that sounded like pretty sound advice as a youngster, but now… I’m not so sure.
Let’s get one thing straight; I don’t usually blog about politics. It’s generally a very divisive topic. As a pastor, I’m taking my cues from Jesus who repeatedly refused to engage in political arguments. On one occasion, the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus into answering an impossible question, “is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” Jesus response revealed his divine wisdom and serves as a guideline for his followers, “give back to Caesar what is Caesars, and to God what is God’s” (Mt. 22). Jesus seemed to promote the very first “separation of church and state” position. Not in the sense that he would be against prayer in schools, but he does seem to indicate that there is a healthy distinction to be made when it comes to faith and politics.
After watching Donald Trump stumble through a 2 Corinthians quote a few weeks back at Liberty University, I couldn’t help but think we’ve reached a new low in political pandering to the religious audience. Don’t get me wrong; it’s great to see public figures profess their faith. However, it can be uncomfortable when they begin presenting the virtues of faith right alongside their new healthcare program. Choosing a candidate based on religious preference can be tricky. First of all, every president we’ve ever had in the U.S.A. has been a Christian (at least officially), so how are we supposed to figure out who is genuine and who is just grandstanding? Presidential candidates will make all sorts of promises and claims in order to get elected. Being an evangelist to certain religious groups has proved to be an effective political strategy. Both George W. Bush and Barrack Obama capitalized on their popularity within certain faith communities. It has become a tried and true method to win votes for the election.
I’ve heard some suggest that we can discern whether or not a candidate is a genuine believer based on their morality and their policies. I have a hard time accepting this. Frankly, I’m beginning to think it impossible to find a candidate who is committed to meeting the needs of the poor (a Biblical mandate) who is also committed to protect the lives of the unborn (another Biblical mandate). Furthermore, I’ve noticed that there are an equal amount of R’s and D’s in front of the names of disgraced politicians who have failed to meet basic moral standards. Maybe you’ve noticed this too?
It might sound like heresy, but I’m not convinced that God selects world leaders based on their faith in him, or lack thereof. The scriptures seem to indicate God selects world leaders (Psalm 75:7; Daniel 2:21), however, they also seem to suggest the Pharaoh was his choice, and that Nebuchadnezzar was his choice. I’m not saying we should throw our values out the window when it comes to supporting one politician over another, but neither should we give a hall pass to the candidate who carries a big King James Bible and sits in a pew on Sunday morning. Perhaps more important than electing potential candidates for office is our duty to pray for and honor the ones we have (1 Tim. 2:2). If we spent more time and energy doing this, rather than getting tangled in political debate, our country would be much better off.