“Before we’re Americans, we’re Christians. And so we have to be informed by a certain moral sense, which means that we need to speak up for moral principle and for gospel principle regardless of who that offends.”
“Before we’re Americans, we’re Christians. And so we have to be informed by a certain moral sense, which means that we need to speak up for moral principle and for gospel principle regardless of who that offends.”
“On Tuesday, citizens across America will commit of the most egregious of civic sins: they won’t vote. If their transgression becomes known they may suffer scorn and derision. They will be chastised for having let down their country and for failing to perform their civic duty.
Regrettably, much of this disrespect will come from Christians. In America, Christianity and civic religion frequently mixes into a peculiar syncretism where allegiance to God-and-Country becomes intertwined in ways that are harmful to our faith.
A prime example is the issue of voting.
Few Christians will state directly that choosing not to vote is an actual sin against God. But all too many are willing to imply that we have a moral obligation to vote that is rooted in Scripture.
The right to vote is an enormous privilege that should not be taken for granted. But while the Bible includes several moral obligations for us as citizens, Christians are under no moral obligation to vote—especially if doing so requires us to violate our conscience. Voting can also be a positive moral good that we can nonetheless refrain from exercising for certain legitimate reasons.
Understanding my argument requires that we clarify whether voting is a civic right, a civic duty, or a civic responsibility. The term “civics” is a Latin word meaning “relating to a citizen,” so a civic duty, right, or responsibility would therefore be a right, duty, or responsibility related to being a citizen. Unfortunately, there is no clear agreement on what these terms mean or what they include. For the sake of clarity, I propose the following definitions:
The reason we must make such distinctions is because not all citizens have the same rights, duties, or responsibilities. For example, while a 17-year-old worker has a civic duty to pay taxes, they do not have the civic right to vote. Such distinctions are necessary for understanding where and how Christians possess biblically mandated obligations as citizens.
The reason we must make such distinctions is because not all citizens have the same rights, duties, or responsibilities.
Christians are obligated to fulfill civic duties because they are backed by force of law. Paul said those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God (Rom. 13:2). If voting in the United States were legally mandated (as it is in such countries as Argentina and Luxembourg), then American Christians would have a biblically mandated obligation to vote. But voting is not legally required, so we have no biblically mandated civic duty.
Many of us nonetheless do have a civic right to vote, but there is no biblical mandate that this right must be used. Paul had rights based on God’s law of which he deliberately “made no use” (1 Cor. 9:15). If we are not required to use our God-given rights, we are not morally obligated to use our state-given rights simply because they are rights.
Now, do we have a biblically mandated civic responsibility to vote? Answering this question in a consistent manner is more difficult than you might imagine. If civic responsibilities are as binding on Christians as are civic duties, then we have an obligation to fulfill all civic responsibilities. But few Christians would insist that civic responsibilities are moral obligations.
Consider, for example, the responsibility to defend the nation. “For most of U.S. history,” say Lt. Gen. David Barno and Nora Bensahel, “serving in the military during times of war has been seen as a fundamental obligation of citizenship.” Those who become citizens by the process of naturalization are even required to take an oath to “bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; or perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; or perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law.”
Most Americans, though, are under no such obligation. Since the end of military conscription in 1973, the country’s military defense has been carried out by volunteers, men and women who choose to serve but who were under no legal obligation to do so. Military service, at least in times of peace, is considered a civic responsibility rather than a civic duty. But if civic responsibilities are biblically mandated, then all able-bodied Christians would have a moral obligation to serve in the military. Even Christians who believe military service should be mandatory do not follow the logic of their argument to that conclusion.
Why, then, do some of those same people say Christians are required to vote but aren’t required to serve in the military? The reasons given are usually based more on pragmatic criteria than on biblical rationale. For instance, they might say that voting requires much less commitment than serving in the military. That is certainly true, but not relevant to the point. Are we only obligated by Scripture to carry out civic responsibilities that don’t require much of us?
The motivation to view voting as a biblical obligation is rooted a noble, but misguided, attempt to apply biblical commands. For example, the Bible does tell us we are to do what is just and right (Jer. 22:3) and to act justly and to love mercy (Mic. 6:8). Those are all commands we must obey. But Christians can disagree on the best way to fulfill those commands. Those commands require us, for example, to oppose abortion. Does that mean every Christian is morally obligated to participate in sidewalk protests or volunteer at crisis-pregnancy centers? No. Most believers would agree that while opposing abortion puts requirements on us, what those requirements entail may differ for each Christian.
Also, when it comes to this issue, we should not confuse God-given commands with “opinions” or “disputable matters” (Rom. 14:1, ESV and NIV respectively). Since, as we’ve seen, voting is not commanded in America, it’s a disputable matter to be decided by the individual. It’s similar to Paul’s instruction in Romans 14:5: “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” If we shouldn’t divide over observing religious rituals, we should be even less focused on enforcing our view of civic rituals.
If we are convinced that voting is an important way to love our neighbor, there are many options we can take. We can persuade people to vote. We can explain why it is a useful practice. We can even encouragethem to vote for a specific party or person. But what we should not do is lay burdens on the consciences of fellow Christians that go beyond what Scripture allows.”
Anyone who knows me, knows I’m no fan of our President, much of his rhetoric, and some of his policies. However, I want to be fair and promote truth and charitable discussion. Pastor Jesse’s post here is worth reading, even by those of us who disagree with his final choice and who cannot stomach voting for Trump. We should still thoughtfully consider Jesse’s arguments. -Erik
“As those who know me can attest, I did not vote for President Trump 4 years ago. I did not believe him when he said he would draw troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, nor did I believe him when he said he would appoint pro-life judges. Moreover, I was afraid that if our nation had a president who flaunted his sexual immorality such as Trump had, it would lead to a downplaying of that sin by Christian conservatives.
This year I plan on voting for him, and my reasons are all connected to why I refused four years ago. First, he did substantially draw down our nation’s troops from those indefinite wars. Second, he did indeed appoint pro-life judges; in fact, not only pro-life judges, but judges that uphold religious freedom. It is no coincidence that Capitol Hill Baptist won their right to re-open in DC from a judge who graduated from Wheaton and was appointed by Trump. “Elections,” as President Obama often said, “have consequences.”
But the third reason I plan on voting for Trump next week is the one that hits me the hardest. Four years ago, I was afraid that a president who spoke like President Trump speaks would lead to a growth in brashness, pride, and sexual immorality in those who imitate the president. Call this the “John Piper reason for not voting for Trump.”
Yet the truth is, in the last few years I have seen nearly the opposite problem. While certainly I have encountered my fair share of people who do imitate Trump’s anger and spite, and make poor attempts at copying his vitriol and pride (all of which are sinful and shameful), I have seen many more people who—out of opposition to Trump—have sought to downplay the sinfulness of abortion. They minimize abortion by saying things like “Republicans are only pro-life until the baby is born, and then they don’t care” as a means by which they justify voting for a candidate who supports (and is supported by) Planned Parenthood.
This leads me to California’s Kangaroo Court.
Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris is no run-of-the-mill, middle-of-the-road member of the Democratic Party when it comes to abortion. She was the Attorney General in California when journalists made undercover videos of Planned Parenthood violating federal law by selling body parts from aborted babies. When those videos were leaked, rather than encouraging a federal prosecution of Planned Parenthood, she initiated a prosecution of those that made the videos.
In other words, she used the full force of the government to prosecute pro-life activists for exposing the criminal activity of one of her biggest donors.
Of course the eventual “trial” of those activists was one act of injustice after another. The State asked for a gag motion to keep the “defendants” (the pro-life activists) from talking about their case. The state also seized their videos and their cameras, and made it impossible for them to release more footage. Their federal trial was held in front of a judge who used to be on the board of a local Planned Parenthood, and whose wife who is one of Planned Parenthood’s biggest fundraisers. That judge, by the way, was appointed by President Obama. He did not go to Wheaton.
I’m very aware that some Christians have sought to downplay President Trump’s sin in order to justify their vote. Trump was wrong to question President Obama’s legitimacy—that was racist and sinful. He is wrong to insult his opponents with lines like “Don’t ever use the word ‘smart’ with me; there is nothing smart about you Joe.” That is brash, arrogant, and sinful.
I’m also aware that no matter who wins next week, it will be someone with a history of making raciststatements, as well as someone who has been credibly accused of sexual assault. No matter who wins next week, it will be someone who is openly in favor of government recognition of same-sex marriage. I wish our country had leaders for whom those things were not true, but we don’t.
Yet I’m also aware that President Trump’s administration has been a reprieve for Christian schools, Christian universities, and for churches. If you are not in administration at a church or university, it is really hard to understand how difficult life was getting under the Obama administration. Their revamped Title IX procedures were nearly impossible to deal with, and severely crippled Christian school’s ability to operate. Biden has vowed to reinstitute them if he is elected.
In this election the difference in how the candidates view Christian education is on full display. Karen Pence teaches at the school affiliated with the church I pastor, and both Karen and the Vice President have been vocal proponents of Christian education. Meanwhile Biden and Harris have vowed to pass the “Equality Act” which again would put a monumental burden on religious liberty and specifically Christian Universities.
I affirm that people should be able to worship together and be in full and harmonious fellowship in the Lord together who share different political calculations. I want Immanuel (the church I pastor) to be a place where both Democrats and Republicans feel welcome—and I know many who do feel that way!
But at the same time I want to make sure people understand that Kamala Harris has already demonstrated her willingness to use state power to arrest pro-life activists, whereas President Trump spoke at the March for Life. Biden wants restrictions on Christian schools, and I cannot find a single abortion restriction he is in favor of. That is not to say that President Trump is a qualified leader—his conduct is publically sinful and harms our nation. But ultimately I’ll be voting for the candidate who appoints judges that protect the right to worship, and who affirms the pro-life cause. Here is Mohler making this same point—it’s worth quoting at length, and I’ll leave that as the last word:
“Let me be as clear as I know possible: President Trump’s behavior on Twitter and his divisive comments and sub-presidential behavior are an embarrassment. Constantly His arrogance and ego and constant need for adulation drive me to distraction…but character is some strange combination of the personal, the principled, and the practical. I cannot accept the argument that a calm man who affirms the dismembering of babies in the womb has a superior character to a man who rants like Genghis Khan but acts to preserve that life. In my ideal world, I would vote for a candidate in whom the person, the principled, and the practical earn my admiration. I do not live in that world. I live in this world, and I must act accordingly.”
“What if America is just like all the other empires? What if America’s power and wealth aren’t a mark of divine favor, but merely a byproduct of empire-building?
And what if, by mistaking the fruits of empire for God’s blessing, Christian nationalists have gotten confused about what sorts of things God favors—confused about the features of our civilization that believers should make an effort to cultivate and amplify into the future?
For example, what if it’s just a very, very bad thing that our government systematically slaughtered and dispossessed indigenous peoples and desecrated their sacred places? What if that’s just all there is to it: no manifest destiny, nothing redeeming about it—just really bad?
And what if it’s just very, very bad that a lot of America’s early wealth issued from labor that was straightforwardly stolen from people who were kidnapped and sold into slavery. What if that’s just evil, full stop?
Read the Exodus account and ask yourself where you fit into the narrative. If you’re a white American evangelical, you’re not among the Israelites—plainly, you’re with the Egyptians. And why think the American empire is any different from that of Egypt, or Babylon, or Rome?
I don’t understand what Christian nationalists are up to, theologically speaking. I just can’t imagine the early Church concerning itself with Rome’s GDP or reputation on the world stage. The greatness of the Roman Empire was perfectly irrelevant to Christ and his followers.
Of course, as an American, I might concern myself with the American economy, national security, etc. But my concern for such things will be tempered by my Christian faith; it certainly won’t be a consequence of my faith.
The notion that Christianity stands in a special relationship to America makes about as much sense as the idea that Jesus took on flesh to make Rome great again—which is to say, it makes no sense at all: it misunderstands what Christianity is about.
So when, as Christians, we see our nation pursue policies that threaten the well-being of orphans and immigrants in our midst, we really don’t have any business asking whether these policies are good for America. That’s not our concern.
Our concern should be for the ones oppressed, regardless of whether that concern is consistent with ephemeral notions of what makes America great.
Christ has no use for the cultural nostalgia of white American churchgoers: he doesn’t much care for the films of John Wayne. Christ simply doesn’t care whether America is great, or ever was or will be again.”
A few days ago, I received a newsletter from a missionary which used the phrase “Chinese virus.” Here was my letter to them as I sought to urge them to reconsider their use of this phrase.
Grace and peace to you [names redacted],
I have been receiving your newsletters for over ten years and just unsubscribed today. I have been so thankful and grateful to God for your ministry for so many years. Your faithfulness and perseverance have been used by our Lord and the fruit God has born to you and though you is precious in His sight and rare in [the country in which you serve]. I was blessed to visit [the city in which you serve] in [year redacted] and was blessed [details about the trip redacted] and seeing your heart for our Lord.
I just read your recent newsletter and was horrified to see you use the phrase “Chinese virus”. I must confess that I have not read every issue of your newsletter, and may have missed previous uses of this phrase.
Calling COVID-19 the Chinese Virus is inflammatory and shocking behavior from a Christian. The new heavens and the new earth will be filled with millions of our brothers and sisters who are of Chinese ethnicity and who were of Chinese nationality. Using xenophobic language is unacceptable for all believers who bear the name of Christ. It does not sow shalom but breeds hate. We are called to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been reconciled to God and are called to be reconcilers of others to Him. The gospel of reconciliation should also make us reconcilers between other people as we are conformed into the image of Christ.
Using inflammatory language to demean another country or nationality does not bring reconciliation and is especially troubling coming from those who are supported by churches and tasked with the mission of spreading the reconciling power of the gospel of our Lord to other countries. I am concerned that the politics of a temporal nation, which we may love, but which will possibly fall—if Christ tarries long—is superseding your witness of the kingdom of Christ which will never fall. Churches are supporting you in gospel ministry so that the Church of Christ will be built and strengthened in [the country in which you serve] as the Lord uses you. I am worried, that you may be damaging the witness of Christ in [the country in which you serve] by using such hurtful and xenophobic language. I would be horrified to hear that you had used that phrase among believers or unbelievers in [the country in which you serve]. I must confess, that I am deeply troubled to see it used in your newsletter.
Furthermore, we have no credible evidence that the Chinese State is responsible for the virus. Eugenics was greatly developed in America and encouraged by agents of the United States government, but we don’t call the Nazi evil, which copied many American Eugenics beliefs, the “American philosophy” or the “American evil.”
COVID-19 may have originated in China but calling it the Chinese virus doesn’t lead to shalom among Christians, rather it sows division. We are called to love God and love our neighbors, and not only are millions of Chinese men and women our brothers and sisters, but all Chinese men and women are our neighbors.
I hope God blesses your ministry, but am shocked by such political and xenophobic language from a missionary. I want to be charitable and so deeply hope that you were unaware of the troubling nature of the phrase “Chinese virus.” I deeply hope that you aren’t xenophobic and didn’t mean to disparage our Chinese brethren.
May the remainder of your time in these United States be restful and rejuvenating and may God bring you in safety back to [the country in which you serve]. Please, for the sake of the witness of the church and for the sake of the reputation of Christ which you bear, consider using language that reflects our unity with our Chinese brethren rather than language which demeans and alienates them and their ethnic brethren.
Grace and peace from God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by God the Spirit be abundantly yours.
As a woman who worked at a Planned Parenthood facility for 8 years and was their health center director, I feel like I need to address something. This is for people who say Planned Parenthood provides so many services for women. Here are the facts. Planned Parenthood should NEVER be your “go to” for healthcare.
Planned Parenthood does NOT provide:
-Breast Cancer Diagnostic Care
-Primary Health Care
-Treatment for Elevated Cholesterol
-Treatment for Elevated Blood Pressure
-Care for HIV Positive Individuals
-Natural Family Planning Instruction
-Care for Uterine Fibroids
-Treatment for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
-Uterine Laser Ablation
-Cervical Laser Ablation
-Bladder Disorders and Urinary Problems
-Prolapsed Pelvic Floor Concerns
-Treatment of Endometriosis
-Bone Density Testing
-Treatment of Pelvic Pain
-Treatment of Vulvar Pain
-Molar Pregnancy Follow Up
Planned Parenthood DOES provide:
-First and Second Trimester Abortions
-Limited STD testing
-Pap Smears for Women in Child Bearing Years
-Limited Contraceptive Methods
Just wanted to put some of the myths to rest. Women are just fine without Planned Parenthood. In fact, if we remove money from their facilities, that funding could go to comprehensive health care centers that actually DO provide all of the services on the first list.”
“I’ve been asked why it is especially wrong for Christians to speak of their opponents in a demonizing and dehumanizing way. Historic Christians believe that our sin has made us worthy of condemnation and hell.
From those living respectable lives to those leading criminal lives, all of us fall infinitely (and therefore equally) short of loving and serving God in the way that is due him. Therefore, we can only be saved through Christ by sheer grace.
The Westminster Confession of Faith 15:4 say “As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.” (Rom 6:23; Gal 3:10; Is 55:7; Rom 8:1)
So Christians can never feel morally superior to any one else at all. That means (MAIN POINT) when we call out evildoing in others, as vital as that is, we can never imply by our attitude or language that they deserve God’s condemnation, but we do not.
Therefore: “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth…” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
Right now our very social fabric is tearing apart because of, among other things, increasing, mutual demonizations ON BOTH SIDES. Christians must not contribute to this in any way.”
I’ve attached a very informative article from the New York Times about the life and judgeship of Justice Ginsburg.
In addition, Sheologians, posted this short reminder yesterday morning: “RBG has met the Judge of all the Earth and it is truly a terrifying thing to consider since she did so without the shed blood of Christ.” -Sheologians
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. What shall it profit us us if we gain the whole world and forfeit our soul. We shall all stand before the Judge of all the earth, and he will always do what is right. The death of any image bearer should bring us sorrow and the only hope we can have for Judge Ginsburg now—and for every person at their death—is that she privately trusted Christ in her last hour, for falling into the hands of a just God while covered in Christ, is better than we can imagine.
Lord have mercy on our nation. We thought this year was traumatic. We thought this election cycle was heated. Things just got even more complicated. Lord, give us leaders and judges that act in accordance with your Kingdom. May they do righteously and justly. May they uphold truth, defend the vulnerable, and govern in a way that increases human flourishing for all men, women, and children. Jesus is Lord. Caesar’s kingdom will never last, no matter what his political party. Come Lord Jesus. We long for your promised return to fix all things. Even now, come in your providential workings to bend the hearts of kings and all in authority to do your will. Your Kingdom come; Your will be done.
Grace and peace friends,
Whenever a serial adulterer holds up a Bible but has no testimony of repenting of his sins, does not confess Jesus is Lord, does not evidence humility, and claims he has nothing to repent of, we should be very cautious to applaud his “religiously,” lest we make a mockery of our faith and ignore our Lord’s words that the road is narrow that leads to life. Let’s not ignore the warnings of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: without the washing of regeneration, the justification that comes from union with Christ, and the sanctification of the Holy Spirit which gives rise to the fruit of the Spirit, none of us has hope in the world. Especially anyone who refuses to repent and acknowledge their sin. How deeply we all need a Savior. Let’s pray that our President experiences the life-transforming grace of our Lord.
Christianity in this country is big, powerful, and familiar. We need it to become strange again.
An edifying article by Russell D. Moore.
“I was distracted at the Baltimore Orioles’ game the other night. At the end of the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), my wife and I joined friends at Camden Yards, but a new friend with us there in the stands kept driving my attention to a jail cell overseas.
A few hours earlier, that new friend, Naghmeh Abedini, had joined me on the platform of our gathering of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. I called the SBC to stand with her husband, Saeed, an American citizen who is imprisoned in Iran for his evangelical faith. As we ate hamburgers and watched umpires call balls and strikes, I wondered what was happening, at that very moment, to Saeed. Was he being beaten? Was he, like Paul and Silas of old, singing hymns behind the bars?
I couldn’t help but wonder if we were living a parable.
After all, before and after we had prayed for Saeed and the persecuted church on our knees on the convention floor, we had prayed for awakening and revival in our American churches. Southern Baptist baptism rates are robust compared to tanking mainline Protestantism, but they are anemic given our history and our aspirations of reaching our neighbors with the gospel.
It would be easy to assume that American evangelicals are the “strong” ones, standing up for our “weak” brothers and sisters imperiled around the world. In one sense, that’s obviously true. We can pressure the State Department to act. We can send relief to communities in peril. We can use information technology to alert the global community to what is happening to religious minorities (not only Christians) due to persecution.
But more and more American Christians are recognizing that we should not only advocate for our persecuted brothers and sisters; we should also learn from them how to live as Christians.
Evangelical leader Francis Schaeffer warned in the 1970s that affluence is spiritually dangerous for Christians. He pointed to the ancient words of the Hebrew prophets and said that those who need never to wonder where daily bread will come from soon stop praying for it — and turn to immorality.
It’s hard to question his diagnosis, especially since it echoes Jesus himself.
For a generation, American evangelicals have talked quite a bit about “faith” and “values.” We want “faith-friendly” movies and we build coalitions of “people of faith.” We talk about “traditional values” when it comes to policy questions. But “faith” and “values” aren’t necessarily praiseworthy. Jesus told us there are all sorts of faith responses to the Word he was preaching. He compared these to seeds that fall on different kinds of soil. The seed that falls on rocky ground, Jesus said, appears to be vital, until persecution comes and then the hearer walks away.
But what happens when there is no persecution?
We have grown accustomed to an American civil religion, nominally Christian, where in many places it does someone social good to join a church. To say “I’m not a Christian” has been in those places the equivalent of saying “I’m not a good person.” This has inflated membership rolls, yes, but it has done so at the expense of what Jesus calls the gospel: the call to carry a cross.
Moreover, this nominal Christianity has emphasized the “values” and “meaning” aspects of Christianity while often downplaying the “strangeness” of Christianity, namely the conviction that a previously dead man is alive and returning to judge the living and the dead.
This Bible Belt experiment will not long survive the secularizing of American culture, where increasingly even the “values” seem strange to the culture. The church will survive, and, I believe, flourish — but it will mean the stripping away of the almost-gospels we’ve grown accustomed to.
In the “religion” aisle at any given bookstore, one can see volumes promising “every day a Friday” and so on. Jesus is the totem to acquire what American culture has told us we deserve. This is closer to Canaanite fertility religion than to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have become the people Jesus warned us about.
When we encounter those persecuted around the world, we see a glimpse of what Jesus has called all of us to. We see the sort of faith that isn’t a means to an end. We see the sort of faith that joins the global Body of Christ, across time and space, in the confession of a different sort of reign. We see a gospel that isn’t the American Dream with heaven at the end.
When we pray for those in prison for their faith, we remember that the gospel came to us in letters written from jail. When we plead for those whose churches are burned in Egypt, we remember that our hope isn’t in building religious empires but in a New Jerusalem we’ve never seen. When we weep for those crucified in Syria, we remember that our Lord isn’t a guru or a life coach, but a crucified Christ. That can remind us of the gospel we signed up for in the first place, and free us from our fat, affluent, almost-gospels that can never save.
Maybe at next year’s denominational meeting, we’ll go to another ball game. And, I pray, it’s possible that not only Naghmeh but also her husband can join us — as a free man. We’ll celebrate, and we’ll pray for those still in chains. But then I think we’ll just ask him to preach.
We American evangelicals need our persecuted brother more than he needs us.”