The Romans 1 Party Platform

If you haven’t seen these already, every Christian should take a the time to listen to these two recent sermons by Pastor John MacArthur.  MacArthur provides not only a clear critique of the moral direction of our country, but is also an example to us of proclaiming the truth in love without trying picking a political fight.

This is also a good example of not allowing ceding “biblical issues” to the world as “political issues.” If the Bible speaks to something, it’s a biblical issue.

 

Part 1

 

Part 2

Decision 2012 – Our Next President

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As this year’s election draws near we are again faced with an important choice.  I could argue for why it’s the most important choice of our lifetime, but that would be cliche at this point.  Whether this is just another election, or the most important of all time is frankly of little relevance.  The reality is that we have a duty to vote, and furthermore, we have a duty to be informed and vote wisely.

I fully realize that passions run high in such a discussion, and I respect those who have carefully considered the facts and come to a different conclusion than I have.  In fact, I would add that our vote is a matter of conscience, and we have a duty not to violate our conscience. (Rom. 14:5, 23)

I also realize that many people feel like we’re again faced with the option of picking between the “lesser of two evils” in terms of the two major party candidates.

Having said that, I would still encourage you to vote for Mitt Romney for President.  I am fully aware of the arguments both for and against Christians voting for Romney – if there is a point or a counter point to be made on this topic, I’ve probably heard it.  My goal here is to sort through some of the main issues that seem to come up repeatedly in Christian circles as we seek God’s wisdom in this decision.

Mitt Romney – Used by Permission through Creative Commons license – Click image for full credit

Let me also briefly state what my goals are not.  My intent today is not to compare the two major party candidates.  Likewise, my point here is not to sway my libertarian-minded friends considering a vote for Gary Johnson.  I’ll try to take up the Democrat vs. Republican and Republican vs. Libertarian comparisons another time.

My intent is address the following questions individually in three separate posts:

First, the elephant in the room (pun may be intended) for many evangelicals is should a Christian should vote for a Mormon candidate?  More broadly phrased, to what extent should the religion of a candidate be considered when deciding how to vote?

Second, should a Christian vote for a candidate who is less than 100% pro-life?  Can we vote for a candidate whose principles don’t perfectly align with the Bible without compromising those principles ourselves?

Third, is voting for a third party candidate a viable alternative?  Often, there are minor party candidates (or write-in candidates) who may more closely match our ideology than that of the two major parties.  How should these candidates factor into our decision?

There is much that hangs in the balance this election, and there is no perfect candidate.  But that only make our need for wisdom that much more critical.  Let me implore you to make wise use of your vote this November.

– Jeremy

P.S.  As always, I welcome your comments on this and the three posts to follow.  If you’re like me though, you might want to read this post before responding.  (And I’ll do likewise before I respond to your comments :)

Part 3 of 3 – The Imperative of Maintaining a Proper Christian Testimony in our Political Discourse

This post is the 3rd in a 3 part series:

Part 3 – The Imperative of Maintaining a Proper Christian Testimony in our Political Discourse

We’ve established that, as Christians, we have a responsibility to be engaged in the political process.

We have also been reminded of the importance to use the Bible as our source of authority in all situations – including what our society often deems “political issues”.

However, this may lead us to an uncomfortable place. Simply scan your Facebook stream and you’ll find plenty of well-meaning Christians offering less than edifying political commentary.  And before anyone points it out, yes, I’ve been that guy on occasion.  Next time, you can call me out on it.

I’d like to make two observations regarding the typical tenor of the political debate, even amongst Christians.

First, from a pragmatic perspective, we don’t actually change peoples mind by engaging in the typical cable news style political discussion.  Are we trying to win the argument or win the war?  We may well be right about the issue at hand, but will the vitriol convince anyone else that we are right?  Probably not.

If you’re going to engage someone about a topic, seek to change their opinion – over time, not win the argument.  Angering someone on the other side of an issue will only harden their position, not bring them to your point of view.

Typical reaction when someone insults your political party. Used by permission – click for full credit

I think all of us wish to persuade others to our various points of view, whether it’s to support your favorite sports team, vote for a particular politician, or agree with you about who has the best BBQ.  After all, it’s human nature to want others to agree with us.  So then why do we so quickly employ the yelling, sarcasm, and snark?  Quite simply, this doesn’t make sense.

Let’s keep the focus on actually persuading, instead of auditioning for CNN.

Second, and much more importantly, the Bible has much to say about our speech.  Perhaps one of the clearest, most concise commands is in Col. 4:6, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt…”  This applies even when we’re talking politics!  And just a chapter earlier, “You must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” (Col. 3:8)

No matter the topic, we must always strive to have our speech point others to Christ – both in substance and in style.  When this becomes difficult, we would do well to remind ourselves of Luke 6:45, that “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”  Sinful speech starts with sin in the heart.

Let’s keep the focus on actually pointing people to Christ through the way we communicate with one another, instead of just trying to get our point across.  (For more on this topic, Russell Moore’s sermon on Crucifying your Outrage is well worth your time.)

With those two goals in mind, how much of our personal political discourse is based on *either* of these?  Most often, it seems to be based on something totally different – a desire to vent – an attempt to stake our our identity – perhaps even to mock those who disagree with us.  As with many things, much of our problem comes down to our motivation!

But, as I said yesterday, I do not believe that the antidote is for us to remain silent and tacitly cede the Bible’s authority on one issue after another.  Rather, we must crucify our anger and animosity towards those whom we disagree with, and still engage in the discussion with a spirit of kindness and of love… Love for our neighbor, love for our country, and love for our Savior.

– Jeremy

P.S. It may be time for all of us to put this exhortation to the test… next up, thoughts on the presidential race :)

Daily Picks – Oct. 19

4 links that are worth your time…

Nobel Prize highlights stem cell research without need for embryos

The Rise of Childless Americans

Really?  Romney is seen more favorable than Obama

Ann would be first pro-life First Lady since Roe v Wade

– Jeremy

Part 2 of 3 – The Imperative of Acknowledging Biblical Authority

This post is the 2nd in a 3 part series:

Part 2 – The Imperative of Acknowledging Biblical Authority

As evangelical Christians we are typically quick to affirm the truth of II Timothy 3:16 that the Word of God is applicable to every area of our life.  However, there seems to be a disconnect when we discuss politics.  We are quick to acknowledge that God’s word applies to how we treat others, but hesitant to apply it to how we vote.  We are quick to acknowledge God’s Word as authoritative in matters of morality, but hesitant to apply those principles in a broad way that would impact public policy.  We are quick to acknowledge that God gives us direction in our personal finances, but we bristle at the idea that God may have something to say about monetary policy.  Why?

I think the disconnect boils down to this – as Christians, our first inclination when some topic becomes a “political” issue, is to suddenly cede our biblical authority on the issue to the state, wash our hands of it, and claim to be focused on the “Gospel”. 

It will not be long before there is nothing left of the Gospel!  How much can we strip away from “All that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20) before we have nothing left?  By allowing society to marginalize biblical authority on matters across the spectrum of human experience we only contribute to the perspective that the Bible is just for Sunday morning.

We need to have a discussion about what qualifies as a “political issue” vs a “biblical issue”?

  • Is caring for the poor a political issue or a biblical issue?
  • Was slavery a political issue or a biblical issue?
  • Is the education of your children a political issue or a biblical issue?
  • Is homosexual “marriage” a political issue or a biblical issue?
  • Is our relationship to Israel a political issue or a biblical issue?
  • Is the punishment of criminals a political issue or a biblical issue?

All of these are biblical issues.  Just because our government asserts itself into an issue doesn’t change the fact that it is still a biblical issue.  So if these current “political issues” are actually “biblical issues”, then we need to know what the Bible has to say about them.

Unfortunately, while we might be able to produce a verse about the hot button issues of abortion or same-sex “marriage”, what about biblical environmental policy, foreign policy, private property rights, healthcare, welfare, taxes, punishment of criminals, or education?  Do we agree that the Bible speaks to these issues?  I hope we do, but I doubt if we’re prepared to present any kind of cohesive case for what the Bible has to say.

Now I would be remiss if I did not admit that when searching the Scripture, just as with certain theological questions, some issues will be clearer than others.  We can probably come to a consensus more quickly on the matter of preserving human life, than we will on matters of tax policy or often very messy questions of foreign policy.

In fact, on some issues, we will not agree.  Just as I would disagree with my Presbyterian friends on the important issue of baptism, I may disagree with other Christians the precise role government should play in assisting the unemployed or the proper way to address illegal immigration.  That is OK, but let us not disagree on the authority of Scripture to guide us in addressing these issues.

Too often, as Christians, both those on the political right and the political left, we make our arguments based on the exact same logic as the world.  Whether we agree with Barack Obama or Ayn Rand on fiscal issues, there is rarely a mention of the Bible in defense of our position.  Whether we agree with Rick Santorum or Nancy Pelosi on social issues, we rarely invoke the Sacred Word to support the position we’re so loudly advocating.

I suggest we change that, starting today.

But wait, I already hear the wails bemoaning that we are going to drag the name of Christ through the political mud for the sake of our pet issue.  Unfortunately, this is a valid fear as Christians have often slandered the reputation of Christ while genuinely seeking to advance a biblical cause.  This should never be.  However, I do not believe that the antidote is for us to remain silent and tacitly cede the Bible’s authority on one issue after another.  If indeed God has spoken, then why would we remain silent?

The answer is for us to crucify our anger and animosity towards those whom we disagree with, and to engage in the discussion with a spirit of kindness and love… Love for our neighbor, love for our country, and love for our Savior.

I’ll take up this topic again next time…

– Jeremy

Daily Picks – Oct. 18

5 links that are worth your time…

Opinion – I am going to vote.  (John Piper)

Contrary to popular wisdom – 77% chance of Romney winning the popular vote.  (Univ. of Colorado)

Just the facts – Compare the platforms, excerpts.  (Wallbuilders)

Media Check – Candy interjects herself in debate for Obama.  Later says Romney was “right in the main”.  (Free Beacon)

Perspective – Immigrant compares USA direction to Eastern Europe.

Part 1 of 3 – The Imperative of Christian Participation

Before I even attempt to bring up public policy, candidates, political parties, or this 2012 election cycle, there are three foundational issues that we must come to terms with first.

Only after we have agreement on these three foundational issues will we be able to have a fruitful discussion on the finer points of our political involvement.

Part 1 – The Imperative of Christian Participation

What role, if any, should Christians have in civil government?

I would submit to you, that if you are a Christian, who also happens to be a citizen of the United States, you have at least three sets of biblical obligations as they relate to this discussion.

First, you are a Christian.

Let’s start with something we all agree on.  You and I are responsible to live a life becoming of a disciple of Christ.  As an ambassador of the kingdom of God, your first loyalty is to the heavenly kingdom. (Phil. 3:20)  And in the event this loyalty is challenged by the two following obligations, then we affirm that we must make our obedience to God’s commands the first and only priority.

I think we’re in agreement on this point, so I’ll move on.

Second, you are a Citizen.

God has providentially determined where you will be born, what country you will call home, and what government you will live under.  For those of us in the United States of America, this means we have been put here as citizens of this country and under a democratic form of government. (Though not a Democracy per se.)  This presents us with various obligations:

  • Obey the Law (Titus 3:1, Romans 13:5, I Peter 2:13-14)
  • Pay Your Taxes (Romans 13:7, Luke 20:25)
  • Pray (I Tim 2:1-2) – Specifically, we are to pray for our leaders, and that we may live and worship in peace.
  • Be Salt of the Earth (Matthew 5:13) – The very presence of believers in a society has a positive effect on those around them. (We see a similar dynamic in I Cor. 7:14.)
  • Make Use of the Rights Afforded by our Citizenship (Acts 22:25)

What about voting?  I would argue quite vigorously that voting should be seen as the duty of all Christians who have such a privilege.  The following points serve to draw our attention to at least some of the biblical principles that would support this view:

  • We are commanded to fulfill our civic duties. (Matthew 22:21)
  • The Bible is replete with verses emphasizing the importance of wisely choosing your leaders – it seems that the application to voting would be quite straightforward.  (Deut. 1:13, Exodus 18:17-21, I Samuel 12, Hosea 8:4)
  • Wicked leaders bring about suffering, while righteous leaders bring prosperity. (Proverbs 29:2, 11:10)
  • We are to love our neighbor, and based on the above point, a vote for righteous leaders is an expression of that.

We could unpack this further, but since I suspect that most people reading this already agree with me regarding our basic duties as citizens, I want to take this a step further.

Third, you are Caesar. 

Yes, you read that right.  You are Caesar – or at least one of the “all that are in authority” in II Tim. 2.  Now don’t get a big head.  There are, after all, millions of others who should also claim this mantle.

You see, in the American experiment, where the government is for the people and by the people we have been entrusted by God with a certain level of responsibility as not just citizens, but as leaders.  We have each been given a small measure of authority in the operation of our government.  Most of us are quick to acknowledge the privilege this is, but we are often leery to accept the responsibility that it places on us.

This means that your activity in the political realm must now be viewed, not just as that of a Christian and a citizen, but as a leader.  This would be a whole study in and of itself, so let’s just remind ourselves of some basics in regard to what biblical leadership looks like – thought this list could be ten times as long:

  • We are to serve others
  • We are to consult God and his word in decisions
  • We are held accountable for how we lead

So now I ask you, as an American, who God providentially placed in this country, and by extension, whom God ordained (Rom. 13:1) to be a small part of the government, how will you rule?  Will you rule as a despot who cares only for your own comfort?  Will you be a lazy disengaged leader who doesn’t wish to be bothered with matters of state?  Will you be a wicked leader whose choices bring about suffering to your fellow citizens?  Or will you lead in righteousness?  What does this look like?

If simply being a citizen compels us to vote, then what additional responsibility is conveyed upon us as Caesar?  I’ll leave that as an open question for now, but I think it deserves our careful consideration.

Yes, as a follower of Christ in the United States of America, you are called to be a Christian, a Citizen, and Caesar.

– Jeremy

P.S. I’d love to hear what you think!  Just be sure that your comments are examples of Christian charity, and I welcome your accountability that I do likewise!

2012 Ballot – Colorado Issues

I’d like to take a quick detour and address an item of immediate importance – your 2012 Colorado Ballot.  Below you’ll find my very brief thoughts on many of the random issues you’ll find on your ballot this year.

Federal & State Offices
I’ll be addressing the Presidential race at a later time, but I don’t plan to post anything in reference to the other state and federal offices.

Judicial Retention Elections
This is unquestionably the most difficult aspect of your Colorado ballot as finding good information to base a decision on is exceedingly difficult.

I would hasten to note that while I believe judicial retention elections are very important, we have to also realize that apart from a formally organized opposition, they are barely more than a formality.  As we saw in 2010, even with a well organized opposition to specific judges it is still very difficult to unseat a judge or justice.

Regarding the Court of Appeals, I will be voting YES for Casebolt, Graham, and Webb.  I will be voting NO for Miller.  I have left the others blank.

I’m also inclined to vote YES for Coats on the Supreme Court.  Although his record is less than stellar, I suspect that any replacement for Coats would be no better, and perhaps worse.

If you’d like additional information, you may find Clear the Bench Colorado to be a useful resource.

Constitutional amendments on the 2012 ballot

Amendment S – Constitutional
Undecided – this is the last item on my ballot to fill out.  Feel free to leave information or links in the comments that would bring some clarity to this issue.

Amendment 64 – Constitutional
NO – I have to respectfully disagree with my libertarian friends on this one.  I do not wish to have the use of marijuana legalized in Colorado.  I’ll try to address this issue in more detail sometime, but my vote is definitely no.

Amendment 65 – Constitutional
NO – I do not support any further attempts to restrict campaign donations or spending.  We’ve seen how misguided attempts to restrict campaign contributions have resulted in the rise of 527 organizations (PAC’s) that are unaccountable to voters.  This has made the situation worse, not better, because the money will always find a way to influence elections.  I support 100% transparency in campaign contributions but I am absolutely opposed to restricting donations or campaign spending.

1A – El Paso County
NO – The Sheriff has asked for a tax increase because he needs more money.  The problem is, when don’t our elected officials need more money?  After reviewing the expenditures the new taxes would be spent on, I’d suggest this is a situation that calls for a little belt tightening – not raising taxes.

1B – El Paso County
YES – This simply reverses the previous deceptively worded ballot language which extended the term limits.  My motivation here is not even that I would have necessarily opposed the term limit extension, but that I’m opposed to deceiving the electorate to accomplish it.

5A – Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority
YES – Our city is in need of additional transportation and infrastructure improvements, and this extension of our current tax will not change tax rates.  Although I don’t like paying taxes any more than the next guy, providing infrastructure is one of the appropriate roles of government.  I believe that this is an investment that will more than pay for itself in the long term.

– Jeremy

1992, The Beginning

I still remember the election of 1992.  It was a rarity in American politics as we had a competitive 3-way race for the presidency.  And after all, why wouldn’t I have been following the election closely – just as any good citizen should?  That is, any other American boy who had just turned 10.

(Among my more vivid memories, I remember the frustration I felt with the parents of one my soccer teammates who had the audacity to spend their vote on Ross Perot even if it meant a more likely victory for our mutual opponent, Bill Clinton.  Perhaps this event in my formative years helps explain my lifelong aversion to voting for a minor party, even if I do believe they have a useful roll to play.)

What would prompt such strange behavior in a 10 year old boy?  I don’t know.  But I do know that the sphere of politics and government has always held my attention like few other topics.  More specifically, as a Christian, I’ve always been intrigued with the relationship between my Christian faith and our civil government.  How does our faith and the Bible relate to politics, to government, and to our role as Christians in this Constitutional Republic?

These are the questions I want to explore on these pages.

– Jeremy