Tag archives: Politics

Christianity Is Neither Left nor Right,” Part 2: Re-envisioning Conscience Issues As Discipleship Issues

by Owen Strachan

September 1, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on the  Center for Biblical Worldview page. Part one of this particular series can be read here.

Many of us have heard for years now that politics is nothing more than a jump ball. Because Christians inevitably disagree over political matters, we should simply ascribe those disagreements to differing consciences and move on. But as it turns out, our convictions matter tremendously. Elections have consequences—sometimes terrible consequences, as we are now witnessing in Afghanistan after the U.S. military’s withdrawal and the Taliban’s swift takeover of the country.

We cannot blink this dreadful situation away. What we can do at present is retool and reload as Christians. We can remember that faithful biblical figures like Esther, Joseph, and Daniel walked faithfully in fallen times. While not swearing unquestioning allegiance to any political party, we can train the next generation to reject the bankrupt “neither left nor right” philosophy. We can do so by lining out several core considerations.

As I will show in this article, numerous matters have been classified as conscience issues when they are actually discipleship issues. Although there are various gray areas in the Christian faith that the Bible does not directly address, the following (often politicized) principles are not gray areas—they stem from the clear teaching of Scripture. Our approach to different candidates and bills may vary to some degree, but our approach to these biblical realities cannot, and it is clear biblical truth that should shape who and what we support in the days ahead.

Life

The Bible is ardently and unequivocally pro-life. It tells us that God created humans in His own image (Gen. 1:27) and knit us together in our mothers’ wombs (Ps. 139:13-14). It gives us a powerful example of an evil ruler putting children to death and doing so in order to destroy Christ, the incarnate King, in his infancy (Mat. 2:16-18). Christianity is not unclear in the least about protecting babies from the hideous evil of abortion. This is a major priority for us and must be going forward: to do all we can to support candidates and policies that will oppose and ultimately defeat abortion.

For a deeper explanation of how the Bible supports the personhood of the unborn, see FRC’s resource Biblical Principles for Pro-Life Engagement.

Religious Liberty

In Matthew 22:21, Jesus says these monumental words: “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” This statement undergirds the essential nature of the church. The church is not ruled by Caesar, but by Christ. By extension, Christ’s words teach us that Caesar must do all it can not to encroach on the God-given spiritual jurisdiction of the church. Caesar did not shed his blood for believers; Christ did. In practical form in the public square, this means that government must recognize the need for religious liberty, for citizens to pursue the worship of God without the violation of their conscience. Religious liberty is thus of major importance. In our time, though, it is imperiled. Christians need to support candidates and policies that back religious liberty and will protect our freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech. If these forms of liberty are compromised, all others will eventually be compromised as well.

Property Rights

The Bible tells us in the eighth commandment, “Thou shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). There is much more embedded in this simple directive than we might initially think. If you cannot steal, that means you need to respect your neighbor’s property and possessions. You might think you have a right to them, but you do not. Christians must stand behind candidates and policies that recognize the sacredness of the individual and the individual’s role in broader society.

Limited Government

Jesus was an advocate of appropriately bounded government. (Think about it: the only perfect human backed limited government!) The God-man taught his hearers that God was due worship, and Caesar was due taxes (Mat. 22:20-22). Jesus threw down with this statement, in reality. The Roman emperors not infrequently viewed themselves as divine. But only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was real; all others were just pretenders. From this starting point, we do all we can in a fallen world to back candidates and policies that rightly limit government jurisdiction to its appointed ends. The government is constituted by God to bear the sword, intimidate evildoers, and bring in appropriate taxes in order (by extension) to carry out responsible public works like infrastructure. There are gray areas beyond such mandates, but the Christian is called from a careful reading of Scripture to track with Christ and support a limited government that doesn’t overstep its God-ordained bounds.

Biblical Sexual Ethic and God-Defined Identity

The Bible begins, in social terms, with a marriage in a beautiful garden ceremony, the garden of Eden (Gen. 2:21-25). Out of the gate, Scripture exalts the lifelong covenantal union of one man and one woman. It never wavers or shifts from this starting point (Mat. 19:5-6). Nor does it shrink back from showing and declaring the wrongness of homosexual and extramarital sex, gender-bending, and forming one’s identity according to one’s unredeemed lusts and impulses (Deut. 22:5; Rom. 1:18-32). Christians should support candidates and policies that advocate for the biblical sexual ethic, recognizing that we are free to back non-Christians in the public square who agree in broad terms on these matters.

True Biblical Justice

Today, justice is corrupted. As I have covered elsewhere, so-called “social justice” is not about encouraging true equality (often called equality of opportunity) but a false one (often called equality of outcome). Social justice seekers often end up opposing private enterprise, traditional society, and the free market.

A society driven by social justice will end up with no justice at all. Our judicial system, for example, will judge people in reparative terms (softening sentences due to an offender’s tough background, for example), not moral terms (holding them to account for their actions). Biblical justice is impartial, moral, retributive, and anchored in the character of God himself (see Lev. 19:15; Ps. 82; Rom. 4-5). Christians should stand with candidates and policies that advance true impartial justice, not social justice, and this includes both justice in our own country (in the courts) and also foreign policy that will, we pray, yield some measure of justice and opportunity abroad.

The Free Market

The Bible supports the payment of workers what they are due (1 Tim. 5:18). It emphasizes hard work, thrift, wise investment, the multiplication of resources, and cheerful giving (Prov. 6:10-12; 12:11; 13:4). Christ himself taught the parable of the talents, a spiritual lesson that depends upon the reality of exponential growth of the value of tangible resources (Mat. 25:14-30). In sum, the free market is supported by the Word of God, which frames all economic activity in theocentric (God-centered) and ethical terms. In history, the free market has been an incredible engine of flourishing, lifting whole countries out of poverty when embraced and allowed leash. Christians should line up behind candidates and policies that encourage the free market.

Conclusion

Probably the first response some readers will have is this: “I agree with you on these principles, but I struggle to find viable mouthpieces of my Christian convictions.” This is an understandable response. We are not in a perfect world. We Christians have no perfect political candidates before us. Different parties and movements fail in certain respects. Further, Christians not infrequently are catered to in the runup to elections and then forgotten once candidates take office.

But I submit this: we have two duties. We must oppose what is evil. And we must stand for what is good. The Lord does not expect us to form a perfect Christian political party, nor find perfect political candidates. The Lord expects us to do the best we can with the hand we are dealt. We should do everything we can to oppose policies of corruption and evil. We should do everything we can to promote biblical truth in the public square and back candidates and policies that come the closest to aligning with our convictions.

This will never—I repeat, never—be easy. It will always be messy. It will often be frustrating. But it is necessary, nonetheless. We have no guarantee of saving America; we know our identity as believers is ultimately the new heavens and new earth. But until we can put that zip code on our envelope, we must be salt and light in this place and in this season (Mat. 5:13-14).

Like Esther, we have been placed here for such a time as this. 

For further consideration of how Christians should think about politics, see FRC’s resource Biblical Principles for Political Engagement

Owen Strachan is the author of Christianity and Wokeness (Salem Books). A Senior Fellow with the Center for Biblical Worldview at FRC, he is Provost and Research Professor of Theology at Grace Bible Theological Seminary and hosts The Antithesis podcast.

Christianity Is Neither Left Nor Right,” Part 1: Why This Phrase Is Misleading

by Owen Strachan

August 11, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on the Center for Biblical Worldview page.

It is a phrase so common today in evangelical circles that you barely notice it anymore. “Christianity is neither left nor right.” Thoughtful people say it. Unthoughtful people say it. Many say it, but hardly anyone evaluates it. It’s an important question, though: is this phrase true?

Before considering its truthfulness, we need to consider how the ubiquitous “neither left nor right” claim is used. Typically, we hear it a great deal come election season. Instead of getting entangled in partisan politics, many Christians lamenting the divisiveness and mean spiritedness of the season choose to opt out entirely. Regardless of whether they are right or wrong, “neither left nor right” seems to give them an out.

The same is true of some pastors and Christian leaders. Instead of wading into hard issues that can be controversial in churches, a good number of pastors today use “neither left nor right” to disentangle themselves from the entire shebang. They’re not there to win an election, after all; they’re called to preach the Word and help the church fulfill the Great Commission.

In one sense, this is a commendable instinct. No one should want a politicized church where the gospel is sidelined for a worldly message. No one should embrace the hijacking of a pulpit. The church truly does have the highest calling: to make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:16-20). Preaching the truth of God from the 66 inerrant books of the Bible is the fountainhead of this grand vocation. Church leaders have to work very hard to prioritize this otherworldly emphasis, lest it get lost.

But a question naturally emerges here. If a church wants to honor the Great Commission, what does such an emphasis consist of, exactly? It’s worth looking at the Commission directly to remember the specific words of Christ to his disciples:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20).

The eternal Son, given “all authority” by the eternal Father, issues a definitive mandate for his people. They are to go everywhere, all over the earth, and make disciples. They are to baptize these Spirit-born believers in the triune name. This is where many modern evangelical presentations of the Great Commission stop. The whole Christian enterprise, therefore, seems to be about missions and evangelism. But although the Great Commission starts there, it does not end there. Christ next unfolds the duty of transformational teaching: “teaching them to observe [or obey] all that I have commanded you” (emphasis mine).

What an explosive reality this is. It reframes all our thinking on discipleship. Discipleship is not about simply getting someone to pray the prayer, with no regard for how they will later live and think. Discipleship is about leading people into a life of grace-driven, comprehensive obedience. Every last charge of Christ, all that he has commanded, is to be followed. Nothing is too small. In Great Commission discipleship, everything matters.

What does this discussion mean for “neither left nor right”? It means that this phrase needs very careful appraisal. If everything Christ—and the biblical authors—have taught is to be observed (within a new covenant framework), then we need to recognize that Christian discipleship is not fundamentally a minimalist enterprise. On the contrary, it is a maximalist enterprise. Christ has claimed all of life. He owns the rights and has the title to the cosmos in his pocket.

Consequently, there is no part of life for the Christian that is sealed off from Christ. We are not living our own self-directed life; we are living the life given us by God for the glory of Christ. All that we have, we have from God, and we have for God. We live life coram deo—unto God. We work for God’s glory. We raise children for God’s glory. We give to missions for God’s glory. We engage in politics for God’s glory. We speak up in the public square for God’s glory. We think for God’s glory.

Yes, you read that last sentence rightly. Thinking, and building a Christian worldview from the Scriptures, is deeply doxological (meaning “glorifying to God”). Such a commitment is not driven by self—by what you and I want to believe. That is how the world lives. The Christian’s commitment is driven by God. We are called to observe all that Christ has commanded. We are not intellectual free agents with a “get out of hell” pass in our wallets. We are slaves, servants, and priests to God (1 Peter 2:9-10).

In my next post, I’ll explore the implications of these truths. The preceding discussion is all groundwork for what is to come. In that post, we’ll look at several issues that show us where Christians line up biblically on different matters. For now, though, it is enough to remember that believers do not opt out of hard ethical, theological, and political issues. We do not have the option of obeying some of what Christ has commanded. Further, we cannot find our identity in the world, nor in staking some sort of holier-than-thou middle ground that will mean no one dislikes or disagrees with us. We have a charge from God. We must holistically obey the teaching of Christ and the biblical authors, all of them inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is not optional. This is a mandate.

Where Scripture speaks, we listen. Not only that: leaning on the grace of God, we obey.

Owen Strachan is the author of Christianity and Wokeness (Salem Books). A Senior Fellow with the Center for Biblical Worldview at FRC, he is Provost and Research Professor of Theology at Grace Bible Theological Seminary and hosts The Antithesis podcast.

Discerning the Differences Between Good and Bad Christian Citizenship

by Molly Carman

September 29, 2020

Most people are citizens of someplace, either by birth or by choice, and with citizenship comes certain responsibilities. But what does it mean to be a good citizen? And how should Christians balance their primary allegiance to the kingdom of heaven with their earthly obligations to their communities and countries? This six-part blog series, produced under the direction of David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview, aims to explore how Christians can best steward these responsibilities from a biblical worldview. Learn more at FRC.org/worldview.

This is part 2. Read part 1.

Sometimes, one of the best ways of understanding something is understanding what it is not. For example, we can better understand light when we compare it to darkness, and hot when we compare it to cold. The same is true of citizenship; Christians can grow in our understanding of good citizenship by understanding what bad citizenship is.

In the first blog of this series, we discussed two flawed Christian views regarding citizenship. The first says anyone who does not obey or uphold the governing authorities’ values and principles is a bad citizen. The second believes everyone is a bad citizen unless they are a Christian living in a Christian nation. As we discussed before, both schools of thought are flawed.

According to the first view, anyone who hid Jews in their home and did not report them to the Gestapo were bad citizens of Nazi Germany. However, defying the authorities in this case and refusing to participate in genocide was the right thing to do, even though it made such people “bad citizens” in the eyes of the government.

No government is entirely Christian. Therefore, if we held the second view, we would be forced to conclude that no one qualifies as a good citizen, not even Christians. This second view is flawed, because people can be good citizens even if their governments are flawed.

Christian citizens must come to terms with the reality that sometimes being a good citizen of heaven may require being a “bad” citizen in the eyes of their government and countrymen. Christians are simultaneously called to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:39), honor the governing authorities (Romans 13:1-7), and honor God above man (Acts 5:29). Because our ultimate allegiance is to God, complying with earthly laws that go against God’s law is entirely out of the question for us.

There are three primary disciplines that Christians must practice when discerning whether they must choose to be a “bad” citizen of earthly governments in order to be a good citizen of heaven.

First, consider what Scripture has to say about what is being asked of you. In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose not to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue because this went directly against God’s command, “you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image” (Deuteronomy 5:7-8). Scripture should always be our guide when decerning whether to obey earthly orders.

Second, consider what your fears are and how they influence your decisions. Sometimes, complying with the governing authorities is the easiest option but not the most God-honoring one. Christ told us, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Choosing to be a good citizen of heaven will often require sacrifice, pain, and courage.

Third, seek counsel and pray for wisdom. Jesus promised his disciples and all future believers that, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13). Because we are citizens of heaven, we can have confidence that we will not be led astray as long as we seek Christ.

Christian citizens should implement these three principles into our thinking as we engage politically. Even though our fear, uncertainty, frustration, or apathy might make it tempting to mentally check out of this fall’s election and not vote, we must choose the hard thing and engage. We should do so, remembering that “if anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

We are not automatically good citizens—of earthly governments or of heaven—simply because we are Christians. And sometimes, being a good citizen of heaven can look like bad citizenship in the eyes of the world. Thankfully, we have an opportunity to be good citizens as we read God’s Word and listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we seek to discern good citizenship from bad.

Should Christians Vote?

by David Closson

September 22, 2020

Today is National Voter Registration Day, so it is an appropriate time to consider an important question: do American Christians have a moral obligation to vote?

During the last election, one Christian leader expressed his discomfort with hosting voter registration drives and providing voter guides to his congregation. Although this leader believes that “voting is a good thing,” he nevertheless believes it is imprudent for the church as an institution to do anything beyond praying for candidates and preaching on moral issues. Despite this pastor’s good intention to safeguard his church’s mission and witness, this approach falls short of what fully realized Christian discipleship requires. If the gospel has implications for all areas of life, including politics, should not pastors strive to ensure their members are equipped (i.e., registered to vote) and sufficiently informed to faithfully engage in the public square?

In a constitutional republic like the United States, the locus of power is the citizenry; the government derives its authority from the people. As Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist Paper 22, the consent of the people is the “pure original fountain of all legitimate authority.” In the United States this principle is foundational to our government and provides citizens with incredible opportunity and responsibility. Unlike billions of people around the world, Americans, through the ballot box, control their political future. Indeed, we are stewards of it, as we are stewards of everything else God has given us.

For Christian citizens, the implications of America’s form of government are even more significant when considered alongside Paul’s teaching on the purpose of government in Romans 13. According to Paul, government is ordained by God to promote good and restrain evil. God authorizes the government to wield the sword for the administration of justice. As one theologian recently explained, “The sword is God’s authorized gift to humanity for protecting life.”

From these considerations, a truth with far-reaching implications for Christian political engagement emerges: Voting is an exercise in delegating God-ordained authority. Because power resides with the people in our republic, when Christians vote, they are delegating their ruling authority to others. In other words, by voting, Christians are entrusting their “sword-bearing” responsibility to officials who will govern on their behalf. Seen from this perspective, voting is a matter of stewardship; failure to vote is a failure to exercise God-given authority.

Therefore, if the act of voting is the act of delegating the exercise of the sword, pastors should communicate to their members: “This is what Christians should do.” Given the unavoidable role of politics and the direct, real-world impact that government decisions have on people’s lives, downplaying the responsibility to vote amounts to a failure in Christian discipleship and loving our neighbors comprehensively.

Now, some might push back and argue that this conception of voting and political engagement overly prioritizes the political arena. When reflecting on the Christian obligation to love our neighbors, they might argue that political engagement is only one way of loving our neighbor and trying to be a faithful presence in the culture. This is true, but we must not minimize the significance of government and the role it plays in people’s lives. Love of neighbor must be embodied in all aspects of life. Can Christians really care for their neighbors well if they are not engaging in politics, the arena where a society’s basic rights and freedoms are shaped?

Further, given the United States’ far-reaching influence in the world, how can American Christians love the people of the nations well without having a vested interest in how our government approaches the issue of religious liberty and human rights worldwide—issues which go to the heart of seeing people around the world as created in the image of God? By voting, Americans determine who will represent the United States abroad as well as the values our country will export around the world. Will America’s ambassadors be stalwart defenders of religious freedom overseas? Christians who support missionaries should care about the state of international religious freedom, an area of advocacy in which the United States exerts significant influence. Will abortion, under the euphemism of “family planning,” be funded overseas by American taxpayers, or will U.S. foreign policy value the life of the unborn? Again, American believers, by exercising their right to vote, have a direct say in these matters.

In light of these considerations, pastors should exhort their members to be involved in the political process and to vote. But voting is not enough. Pastors should also help educate and equip their members to think biblically about moral issues, candidates, and party platforms. Much of this equipping and educating should be accomplished through the regular rhythms and liturgies of the church (preaching the Word, corporate prayer, hymnody, etc.). However, for the sake of robust political discipleship, additional steps should be taken. For some congregations, this might mean providing access to voter guides and other educational material. In others, it might mean hosting workshops or Bible studies on political engagement.

Many Christians might get squeamish at these suggestions; if so, we must recall a proper understanding of “politics,” as discussed previously—that of deciding how best to organize the affairs of the community and love one another. When we realize politics is, at its core, about how we love our neighbor as we live and order our lives together, we understand there is no reason to shy away from becoming informed about how to vote. Rather, we must embrace the question. We must make room for thoughtful discussion and respectful disagreement on certain issues within the body of Christ, but we must not avoid talking about them altogether. It is not enough to espouse concern for human dignity but not support policies and candidates who will fight to overturn profound moral wrongs. In a Genesis 3 world plagued by sin, Christians are called to reverse the corroding effects of the fall wherever they exist. Our decision to cast an informed vote is an attempt to do just that.

This blog was adapted from FRC’s publication Biblical Principles for Political Engagement.

A Two-Kingdom Perspective: Christianity, Politics, and Eternity

by Zachary Rogers

January 31, 2020

With the 2020 election season underway, it is wise to reflect upon the lessons learned from the 2016 election. After President Trump’s election, thousands of progressive voters admitted they were emotionally devastated. This phenomenon has been described as “post-election stress disorder,” and it apparently impacted numerous people.

This exaggerated reaction points toward a temptation to replace Christian principles with a progressive ideology that attempts to “immanentize the eschaton,” or create a heaven on earth, and to react in extreme ways when these efforts fail.

The Christian worldview offers an alternative perspective from the crushing angst, fear, and anger that frames much of our political discourse. Christianity calls people to fulfill their duties to God and their fellow man with the appropriate level of concern based on their understanding of the world, sin, the sovereignty of God, and the end of history. Christians understand that they are to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14–19).

The Christian worldview includes four basic components:

  1. An understanding that God created the universe and mankind.
  2. Man chose to try to become like God, resulting in sin and the Fall.
  3. Christ died on the cross to redeem us from our sins and rose again to conquer death.
  4. Christ will return in glory to judge the living and the dead and restore all things.

These theological commitments comprise the Christian worldview and influence how Christians see and engage with the world.

A high view of God and the gospel will inevitably affect one’s approach to politics. Christians, for instance, should be mindful of the tongue and strive to engage rationally, clearly, and without lying. While politics is important, only a few things are of eternal significance. For example, the souls of our fellow citizens, both Republicans and Democrats, are of eternal significance. The truth and sound policy must be pursued in a manner that will not destroy our Christian witness.

Christians should support good policies that align with biblical values. Unfortunately, many politicians are guided by an ungodly fear of man. Even Christian leaders are often tempted to take the easy way out. However, politics often requires hard decisions that are often unpopular, and every politician, Christian or not, Democrat or Republican, must do his or her duty for the common good in accordance with the structure of the Constitution.

Christians must distinguish the important from the ultimate. The goal of life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. This purpose should guide and direct every area of our lives. The state of our souls and the souls of our family and friends must be our chief concern. Jesus himself said that the second greatest commandment was to love “your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). The stability and order that is afforded the Christian by having a clear understanding of the purpose of life and the standards for good living provided by God in the Scriptures allow him to clearly see that love of neighbor ought to guide Christian political engagement.

God gave man reason and a knowledge of what is required for human flourishing through the natural law: limited government, the rule of law, the necessity to work in order to provide for our families and those in need, and the right to religious liberty.

On many issues, the platforms, policy positions, and rhetoric of the two major political parties in America represent radically different visions for human flourishing. While neither party is perfect, it is clear that one party values the sanctity of marriage, the life of the unborn, and an understanding of gender as divinely created while the other does not.

Christians in America should be actively engaged in politics while recognizing that our ultimate hope is in heaven. Christians, and especially Christian leaders and pastors, must approach politics from a Christian worldview and make sure our engagement honors the Lord and follows principles outlined in His Word. In this way, we can shape government so that it in turn shapes the environment in which we raise our children and live our lives to the glory of God.

In a nutshell, Christians must have a two-kingdom perspective: we must do the will of God in every aspect of life, including politics, so that we can live with Him forever in the next.

Zachary Rogers is a graduate of Hillsdale College and is a former intern of FRC, the Kirby Center, and the Claremont Institute. He is currently working in education in Northern Virginia.

The Influence of Social Media on Politics

by Peyton Holliday

February 22, 2019

For most of us, social media has become a routine part of our day-to-day lives here in America. This reality is now taking hold in politics as well. Scrolling through social media pages such as Twitter and Instagram, I have seen videos of candidates and elected officials dancing in their offices, visiting the dentist, drinking beer, and all manner of day-to-day life being shared with the public. With videos posted by Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others, the political spectrum is changing.

I personally don’t want to see a video of a politician going to the dentist—I would rather see a video of them explaining their stance on abortion or border control. I want to know what the candidate stands for on policy instead of how cool of a dance move they can do. We are losing professionalism in the political world. It seems that we are now electing people because they have nice dance moves or seem relatable on an Instagram video. This makes me wonder—how will our future elections be shaped through social media?

In the 1960 election cycle, well before the era of social media, the debates between JFK and Richard Nixon were televised for the first time in American history. The looks, poise, and smooth actions of JFK helped him to win the votes of millions of Americans. The medium of television set a new precedent for an era in which politicians worried about their image as much as their messaging. These televised debates marked the beginning of a new type of political media that would shape the outcome of elections for years to come.

Now, we are in a new era where the political scene is changing again. Americans can now stay up to date on the day-to-day thoughts and actions of political figures through videos, pictures, and posts on social media. The political landscape is becoming more and more based on marketing and image rather than actual policy positions. If you can market yourself better than your opponent, you have a better chance at winning. If your social media page has millions of followers, you can get more attention than appearing on national television. Candidates don’t even have to set up an interview with a television station to get media coverage anymore—if a social media post goes “viral,” it will be all over both television and the internet.

Social media is clearly a useful way to make candidates more visible to the world. Social media is already shaping the outcome of elections. In future elections, social media will undoubtedly begin to play an even bigger role. Similar to what happened in the 1960 election, the actions, online presence, and relatable image of a candidate can hold more sway than their policy positions in the minds of many social media-addicted voters.

Future elections will be shaped by the online presence of the candidates. As for me, I would rather see candidates use social media to present thoughtful positions on policy issues rather than try to be hip.

Peyton Holliday is an intern at Family Research Council.

Think Again: Evangelicals in American Public Life

by Family Research Council

April 3, 2012

USA Today recently published an important opinion piece from Tom Krattenmaker called “Evangelicals seek positive change.” (The title does make one wonder what kind of change we’ve been seeking up until now, but I digress.) The article is important, I believe, not for its times are a changin conclusions, but for its presuppositions about the intersection of evangelicalism and politics.

The crux of the article consists of excerpts from an exchange Krattenmaker had with blogger and author Jonathan Merritt, one of the key expositors of “a new kind of thinking” as Krattenmaker describes it. Quoting Merritt:

Americans are tired of the incivility and the partisan divisiveness on both sides. Regardless of how much longer the culture wars are going to continue, Christians need to transcend the polemical, partisan, power-hungry battles that stymie the common good. If my intuition is wrong and the culture wars continue to rage on, my hope and prayer is that Christians will take a higher road as they seek to be faithful in the public square.”

Christians cannot join the ranks of the politically apathetic. But we aren’t forced to choose a human-formed party with a systemized divide-and-conquer agenda, either. We can stand in the gap and claim loyalty only to Jesus.”

First of all, there’s much to like in Merritt’s thinking. Christians must not be uncivil in private or public life, nor should our politics be strictly partisan. We cannot be politically apathetic and our loyalty is first to Christ. Amen and amen.

On Merritts power hungry battles, Id simply add the distinction that conservatives are not seeking to wrest power from one party and transfer it to another. Rather, youll most often find us trying to wrest power from the federal government and return it to the proper subsidiaries: the family, the church, the people, etc.

Gods Work in Americas Public Life

The context of the piece is about how a new generation of evangelicals are unshackling themselves from partisanship generally and the GOP specifically. Krattenmakers sights are trained on the “religious right” when he describes Merritts thinking as indicative of a challenge mounted against the notion that electoral politics is the way to do God’s work in American public life.” [Empahsis mine]

This is key. Krattenmaker (and Merritt?) presupposes that evangelicals who are politically conservative see politics as the way to do Gods work in Americans public life. Having worked for an organization that deals with evangelicals in public policy for nearly six years, I cant name one of my 75 colleagues who believes this.

Most of us who labor at organizations like FRC do so because weve been called vocationally into the realm of public policy. And for better or worse, the values derived from our faith have political fallout. (Thanks Andrew Walker for that gem.)

I and most of my colleagues are family focused and see raising our children as our most important contribution to American public life. And in addition to our day jobs at FRC, many of us are involved in ministries in our local communities that serve the church and the common good. This would include everything from building orphanages in Latin America, to mentoring at-risk students, to distributing food to the needy.

New Thinking vs Old Thinking

In order for a “new kind of thinking” on evangelical political engagement to emerge, the writers must presuppose that a pervasive “old kind of thinking” on evangelical political engagement exists. Well, does it?

Krattenmaker seems to think so:

Seeing many of Christianity’s most ardent and visible followers caught up in the mean-spirited, truth-demolishing aspects of this is one of the more discomforting features of today’s politics.

And yet, as David French has pointed out, you needn’t look farther than the cumulative budgets of evangelical poverty and disaster relief organizations (well over $2 billion) as compared to the budgets of “culture war” organizations (less than $200 million) to dispel the myth that evangelicals are only, or even primarily, fixated on the political as the way to do God’s work in America’s public life.

Over at Mere Orthodoxy, Andrew Walker cuts to the chase:

I would like to know with some degree of specificity who it is that serves as Mr. Merritts foil in the culture war. What pastors are advocating Republican politics? What churches are adopting policies and positions that mirror the Republican Party or the Heritage Foundation?

The questions remain outstanding.

Excess is the Exception, Not the Rule

If the new kind of thinking Krattenmaker and Merritt are describing really means that evangelicals should not be beholden to any particular political party—then we say, hear, hear. FRC president Tony Perkins has reiterated his conviction time and again that Christians should vote their values and not the party line.

Certainly there have been excesses on the right where evangelicals have taken a stand in the public square. Theres the inopportune rhetoric, the occasional majoring on the minors, and our tendency to be outraged at instead of brokenhearted with our culture generally. There is no effort without failure. If my own life is representative of the whole, then there is near constant need to own up to mistakes and make them right wherever we can.

But as Walker contends, these excesses are the exception rather than the rule, and they are certainly no more endemic to conservatism than to liberalism. So on this score, let’s proceed with sober judgment and caution:

Luther surely spoke very good sense when he compared humanity to a drunkard who, after falling off his horse on the right, falls off it next time on the left. C.S. Lewis, from The Worlds Last Night.

A Consistent, Redeeming Presence

In the end, I think what Merritt and other emerging voices are rejecting is a stereotype that no longer existsif in fact it ever did. And I share every bit in Merritts discomfort with it.

Ill wholeheartedly affirm with Merritt and Krattenmaker the idea that Christians have one foot in God’s kingdom and one in the world. Ours is a dual citizenship. But it is an entire foot in each. Not simply a toenail in the latter. Yes, Christians must not trust in princes. But neither should we flee the field.

We are after something deeper than partisanship to be sure; it is a consistent, redeeming presence in American public life. We seek to be the little yeast working through the dough, causing the whole batch to rise.

Hard But Necessary Choices in 2012

by Rob Schwarzwalder

December 22, 2011

It is human nature to want to avoid hard choices, and to get angry with those who would compel us to make them.

In a new piece in Forbes, Bill Frezza wisely observes that the era of what he calls “both/and” is drawing to a crashing close: “The era of both/and was a magical time when the elected representatives running city, state, and national governments never had to make hard choices. To be sure, partisanship wasnt eliminated, but political compromise could always be found. This allowed incumbent politicians from both parties to deliver enough goodies to their constituents to assure themselves reelection.”

Whenever a politician suggests that people be allowed to invest some of their Social Security Trust Fund money into private accounts, or that private sector solutions to health care might be preferable to federally-directed ones (which solve nothing, ultimately, except the unemployment of eager bureaucrats), or that Washingtons menagerie of departments, programs, agencies, and line items be streamlined into some form of reasonable coherence, he is vilified as heartless, a tool of big business, a mendacious and reactionary primitive.

Re-election is a politicians stock in trade. To be a statesman, one must have an ample quantity of moral courage and the wisdom to know when to act boldly. Thus, given that few politicians have the strength and insight to behave in a statesmanlike way, we can anticipate that desirable change will be at best incremental. And, despite our protestations, we want it that way.

We want governments benefits without its costs. We want its protections without its intrusions. We want its presence in our need and its exclusion in our perceived abundance. We are kidding ourselves, which is to say we are human.

As Frezza argues, we are now at the beginning of an era in which refusing to make hard choices is no longer possible:

… in bad economic times tax revenue craters, leaving massive shortfalls as government spending not only fails to decline alongside revenues, but goes up to pay for safety net expenses, which more people tap into as they are left out of work. This has happened both in California and at the federal level. Even more threatening than these oscillations is the fact that the underlying trend line in federal revenue has gone flat as federal spending entered an unprecedented period of exponential growth. To top it off, the Baby Boomer generation has started its massive wave of retirements, calling in the chits on those unfunded entitlement liabilities. And just when you thought things couldnt get any worse, GDP growth hit its deepest and broadest rut since the 1930s, where it remains mired for the foreseeable future.

We resent it when policymakers, speaking to us like adults, offer necessary and painful choices about policy priorities. Thats why we have long lived in an era of self-delusion and rewarded those who have given it to us.

We cannot abort our progeny and anticipate economic growth. We cannot experience liberty, in its fullness, if we disavow a willingness to fail. We cannot corrode the family unit through divorce, cohabitation, promiscuity, and homosexual unions and say we care about our childrens future. We cannot secularize our society without destroying the unspoken Judeo-Christian moral consensus that always has been the firm foundation of our republic.

It doesnt take a Ph.D. in economics to understand that borrowing from the future will increasingly become not just inadvisable but outright impossible. The future has arrived, and it isnt pretty, Frezza says. He is right.

Americans have long been a brave people. We like to talk about the heroic conduct of our armed forces, and well we should. But just as our men and women in uniform show courage in their sphere, can we show it in ours? It is now time for us to see if we can still summon the personal virtue and political courage without which no economy, or nation, can long endure.

This will mean hard choices. Let us steel ourselves to them, with the concurrent commitment that through the non-governmental institutions of family, church, synagogue, not-for-profit charities, professional associations and small and large corporate enterprise, we will address the needs our sagging Leviathan cannot.

Jesus the Economist? Or Something Else?

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 4, 2011

Christianity asserts that Jesus of Nazareth was a historical person who lived in the space-time continuum. He had a physical body, felt hunger, had full use of His senses, and worked for years as a skilled laborer.

The New Testament also claims that He was eternal God in the flesh, the Savior of the world Whose atoning death and justifying resurrection are the basis of the redemption of all who will trust in Him for forgiveness.

These propositions are striking enough without the other claims being made about Jesus in the political world, which are many. Consider some recent headlines:

Occupy London are true followers of Jesus, even if they despise religion

What Would Jesus Drive?

Best-selling socialist publication of all time remains the Bible

Jesus was a Communist” - new movie by Matthew Modine,

From Jesus Socialism to Capitalist Christianity,

Marx, Capitalism, and Jesus

What Would Jesus Hack?

Was Jesus an Early Applied Economist?

For the record: Jesus affirmed the right to own property and encouraged honest labor. Several of the disciples were in a fishing business that included ownership of several boats, indicating that they were appropriately ambitious and hard-working (Luke 5:11).

Also, it is a tribute to Jesus enduring, penetrating, and inescapable power that political philosophers, economists, and even entertainers are so eager to nab Him for their agendas.

However, my point is not to get into a discussion about Jesus and His teachings concerning business, taxes, or economics generally. Rather, it is this: Should we not summon the moral courage to deal with His overt and profound claims before we wander off into asking if He would drive a Prius, or if He would support budget reductions? At what point do such musings become trivial, even irreverent?

It is wholly honorable to consider the implications of living a Christ-filled life in contemporary times. Yet the effort to claim Jesus for an ideological agenda or to capture Him as some kind of pre-Marxian redistributionist is ludicrous in itself, and also keeps us from the main issue: Was He the God-Man, the Lord of all, filled with grace and truth, or, as one writer has put it, just a carpenter gone bad?

Shouldnt we be asking the main questions first? Remember, Jesus never said, Follow Me, and become a socialist. Rather, His question was, Who do you say that I am? (Matthew 16:15).

Whats your answer?

Archives