Some questions have arisen in the course of my recent posts on the responsibility of Christian leaders to know where the central evil in our day resides.
In a recent exchange, I said there are many, many bad Republicans, and no good Democrats. I should have made clear in saying this that I was talking about our options on the ballot, and not about the character of every last person in the electorate.
I also promised one commenter that I needed to develop further why there is a discrepancy between how I treat Christians who support Republicans and Christians who support someone like Obama. It is a difference made necessary by the hypocrisy of the Republican establishment, and the sincerity of the true blues in the back ranks who actually believe the party platform.
If you have two political parties, say, and one of them is formally and overtly dedicated to the proposition that every pregnant woman has a constitutional right to kill her baby, and that people who question this are filled with hate. And say that the other party is formally dedicated to the proposition that this practice of abortion should be outlawed. Suppose further that this second party is riddled with hypocrisy, and a bunch of the leaders would happily join forces with the murderous party if they could. But they cannot afford to show their true colors because they have a heavy constituency that is not hypocritical on this issue at all, and genuinely and sincerely wants to outlaw the killing of babies.
Now it can be morally culpable to believe the pro-life protestations of a hypocrite, but that is not nearly as culpable as supporting a man who says outright that the killing must continue. Obama says, as a matter of he thinks is principle, that a million Americans a year must continue to have their lives sacrificed on the altars of our lusts. Only he calls it rights, not lusts. Millions of evangelical Christians supported him, voted for him, and were grateful to God for his election. Their pastors and leaders who enabled them in this folly and blindness are not fit for their office. When they come to this realization, which they must do, the solution is repentance and turning back to the law of love. Christian leaders who refused to take a stand for the “least of these” are those who have abandoned their posts. “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked” (Prov. 25:26, ESV).
Now I grant that the unctuous greasiness of the Republican establishment is a problem. It is a big problem — but it is not the same problem. And the fact that I realize it is a different problem does not make me a Republican shill. This is what I said in the comment thread below.
“On a practical level, I didn’t vote for or support Romney. I voted for McCain because of the energy that I thought Palin would bring to the pro-life issue — which is my screamer issue. I didn’t vote for George W either time. And I was investigated by the Idaho Attorney-General’s office for six months because a complaint had been filed about a comment I made in Credenda about how I would rather be ‘dead in a ditch’ than vote for Dole/Kemp. I don’t remember how I voted with Bush/Qualye the second time, and I think I might have voted for them the first time. I voted for Reagan both times, and am thinking about resuming that practice.”
This means, if I may do the math for you, that in the last five presidential elections, since 1996, I have voted for the Republican presidential candidate once, which comes out to 20% of the time. I am not what you would call a stalwart party member. But I recognize that there are many Republican candidates, on the congressional level, who understand the nature of the national follies that have us by the throat, and many of them also love Jesus. They love Jesus, and vote like it, despite being Republicans. So I rejoice in the 60-70 House members whose presence in that party makes an insurrection — as we have recently witnessed — possible. There is no such possibility in the Democratic party. If there were, I would be cheering them on too.
Most of our politicians, like most of the people generally, are professing Christians. Run a thought experiment then. Suppose that such a professing Christian were a member of your church, and yet they openly supported radically pro-abortion policies. In our church, that politician would be in the middle of a process of church discipline, and conviction would not be hard. All we would have to do is marshal their public statements, and read their policy intentions off their glossy brochures. We would play campaign clips promising to protect a woman’s right to choose the dismemberment of little black children, and then we would play the part that says “I am so-and-so, and I approved this message.” This means that Obama, Biden, Pelosi, et al. would all be excommunicated for approving, applauding, and funding crimes against humanity. They would excommunicated for their high insults to natural affection. They approve it, defend it, pay for it, celebrate it.
If you are the kind of Christian leader who voted for these ghouls, then you are the kind of leader who wouldn’t lift a finger if they started attending your church. You would be kind of honored, actually. Herod shows up at your first service, and you explain to your leadership team later that week that he and Herodias seemed to be deeply in love. You are glad that today was the first day of the rest of their life. If you are this kind of Christian leader, then all I am doing is calling you to repentance. If you don’t know how to remove yourself from a position you are disgracing, then know that the Lord of the church knows how to remove you.
Now put a Republican sleazebucket in your congregation. Every faithful pastor will tell you that it is much harder to deal with someone who will say whatever you want him to. Hypocrisy is a great sin — but it is not the same sin as open wickedness. The hypocrite takes advantage of the fact that a man cannot be convicted except on the testimony of two or three witnesses. And he also can, whenever nailed by two or three witnesses, profess a change of heart. Combine Matthew 18 with Luke 17. What happens to the Matthew 18 process when each time you establish a fault, the person grants it, seeks forgiveness, and promises to be better? So I can imagine an insincere Republican office holder being a member of my church for an extended period of time, and I would categorize him with the perennially angry husbands I have to deal with. He has problems, and he is a problem, but at least he knows enough not to publicly ask for God’s blessings on organizations that specialize in dismembering babies.
Remember that when the Israelites were going along with throwing their babies into the fiery lap of Molech, they were doing so because it was the respected and acceptable thing to do. If you can’t identify that kind of outrage in the moment — as opposed to the outrages of a century ago — you are not qualified to shepherd the people of God.
So I grant to my challengers the point that after we have dealt with the overt ministerial failures — those who voted for the open embrace of evil — we are not done. We have a lot of work remaining. Do not think for a moment that I am satisfied with some kind of generic white bread Republicanism. Not even close.
Think of it as political triage. The fact that I want to deal with what is on fire does not mean that I don’t care about the things that are smoldering. I do have a problem with those firefighters who point to the existence of smoldering things as a compelling reason to not fight the fire.