I just read one of the most intellectually dishonest pieces of Christian political thinking I’ve come across for a little while.
It was one of those pieces written by the kind of Christian who clearly would have voted for the American baby-killers before he would have voted for the Orange Man Bad who didn’t have the right character traits.
He wrote in January 2017 that President Trump was “manifestly unfit for office”, implied faith in the conspiracy theory that Russians rigged the election, and equated President Trump to “countless examples of leaders who are mad, bad and dangerous to know”.
This all in an article advising honour and prayers for the President.
This week’s vacuous nonsense made many errors typical of lefty intellectuals: assuming the worst of “socially conservative” Christians and worse, arguing them as if by defeating their errors it supports the lefty errors. He quoted without qualification:
“…Socially conservative evangelical churches in the US have been deeply damaged by their uncritical support of Donald Trump.”
There is an assumption by Lefties that all or even most of evangelicals who supported Trump had no criticisms of him. This is willfully ignorant. The ability to separate a politician’s past behaviours and ongoing character deficiencies from their professional competence and political agenda is a skill which amazes and confounds lefty Christians.
And that was the point being sold by this week’s article in The Age: that “God is far more interested in integrity than policy”.
I say, “Poppycock!”
Such intellectual absolutism is the mark of the age – not the former newspaper – but the times in which we find the culture incapable of nuance or holding two opposite truths in tension. For example, I think a man who is homosexual can be an excellent father and everything his children need him to be (with obvious exceptions). I do not think two or even more such brilliant fathers can fill the void in a child’s life of an absent biological mother married to their biological father. Two things in tension can be true at the same time.
Likewise, every Christian I know who recognised the profoundly evil platform of the American Democrat Party and the unfortunate character flaws of Donald Trump, had no trouble holding both things as true at the same time and voting against subsidised and industrialised child-sacrifice and voting for the chance of a few more Constitutionally-faithful Supreme Court justices.
Personally, I can’t fathom how anyone with the mind of Christ found the choice difficult either time, 2016 or 2020.
The author claimed:
“It’s one thing to reject the Democrats, as many evangelicals do, but to promote Trump as God’s man seemed cognitive dissonance.”
More facile, intellectual absolutism. Can lefties not comprehend the difference between “God’s man” and a godly man? No, because they’re projecting. They think, as a political leader, you need to be nice, even if your policies are anti-people and anti-Christ. You can channel Molech in policy, as long as you’re polite to your opponents and respect women. They’re looking for someone who reminds them of a kindly old pastor who never pounded a pulpit.
Then the writer begins his plainly false teachings, by claiming:
The Bible does not back political philosophies or parties. The trend in Australia towards politicising faith is troubling, and a symptom of deepening divisions and intolerance.
That’s not all false, and so it is more dangerous to the average pew-warmer than if it were. Christians in Australia are, by and large, very uneducated on political theology, and so the vacuum left for the past century of pulpits is filled with belly-button fluff, feelings and rainbows. Lump ideas in with individuals, just like the cultural Marxists, and wring your hands at the idea of “division and intolerance”.
Let me start with the one thing in that last quote which is true. The Bible does not back political parties, and I have long taught this from Joshua 5:13-14. Joshua asks God if He’s “for us or our enemies”, and God says, “No”, before proceeding to explain He is His own side which the wise man would get on board with. Then God smote all Joshua’s enemies with a defeat as devastating as it was miraculous.
What is manifestly false is that the Bible is apolitical, or backs no political philosophy.
It is very clear what the Kingdom of God will be like, is like, and that Jesus modeled a prayer for us which petitioned God for His will to be done and His Kingdom manifest here and now as it is in Heaven. Jesus quickly followed that up with the imperative to actively seek that Kingdom.
If anyone thinks that the Gospel and Kingdom are all for their personal benefit and future hope alone, they are eviscerating both. When Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah and literally defined the Gospel, He said:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
I could be wrong, but that seems to be all about others, not me. Of course it’s primarily a spiritual salvation, but it is also quite profoundly a present, physical implication for what kind of difference we should be making in the world, and not just for those who become Church members and pay their tithes.
In the parable, was the “Good Neighbour” one of the ones who bypassed the stranger left for dead on the side of the road while they went about their religious duties, or was it the one despised by the stranger who, entirely practically, invested his time, effort and resources in the stranger’s immediate and long term welfare?
Shall I spell it out for you, almost as if Jesus commanded us to illuminate like light and flavour like salt the present world we find ourselves in, including the public square?
God is very interested in the welfare of both believers and unbelievers, and is very interested the qualities of government directly affecting people. The Bible absolutely back political philosophies, and defines what they should look like.
God believes justice: objective and impartial to identity, the same measure for rich and poor. He is opposed to exploitation of the defenceless by the powerful, but He does not set them against each other or pretend there won’t always be that inequality. He is a huge fan of voluntary generosity, and within small communities like families and churches expects it to be standard practice.
God is massively in favour of civic freedom and against excessive regulation. Just have a look at how Jesus viciously attacked the Pharisees for the way they piled oppressive law upon oppressive law, stifling people in a way the good Law He gave never intended. The Ten Commandments reveal God believes in laws protecting the sanctity of human life as well as private property.
I could go on and on describing the political philosophy of the Kingdom of God, but how any thinking Christian could claim “the Bible does not back political philosophies” is as inexplicable as the claim is misleading and simplistic.
He also claimed, “The trend in Australia towards politicising faith is troubling,” but it is not.
If your faith does not speak to the public square, if your theology does not seek the will and Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven, if your religion does not look after orphans and widows in their distress as well as the dying, disenfranchised and destitute, then you are not preaching the same Gospel as Jesus Christ and the Apostles. It’s about time your faith got some political relevance.
The “deepening divisions and intolerance” the author spoke of are on the part of a world increasingly hostile to Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Christians haven’t changed. We’re still doing what we’ve always done, preaching what we’ve always preached, and the intolerance is from a post-modern generation that doesn’t believe in objective Truth, got too many participation trophies for failing, and reacts violently to the notion that God gets to define sin and they don’t.
Romans 9:33 quotes the prophecy that God would make Jesus “a rock of offense”. Not that it’s any mature Christian’s objective, but if nobody ever gets offended, if no one ever stumbles, what aspects of Jesus Christ, His Gospel and Word must they be compromising?
I think the pearler for me in this whole train wreck being passed off as Christian intellectualism is this sentence from the article:
God is far more interested in character than policy (not that policy is irrelevant, but it is merely a pathway).
As I’ve hopefully already proved by now, God is deeply interested in both personal relationships with Him and national relationships with Him. To in any way permit room for the inference that public policy has less interest for God than anything else is to terribly misrepresent Him.
It’s a common mistake of the bleeding-heart, lefty Christians to conflate Biblical imperatives for individuals with Biblical requirements of governments. A classic example is their use of Scriptures speaking to personal hospitality and generosity to aliens in the land to justify an open borders policy and welfare for every last hungry or homeless foreigner seeking a better life in nations built on Biblical freedom and justice.
But in so doing they neglect the fact that while it’s great to be voluntarily generous with your money and home to strangers you meet, if take that to an extreme and deprive your family of food or education you fall afoul of other Scriptures commanding priority care for your family and extended family. They then extrapolate illogically that it’s godly to fabricate laws mandating generosity with other people’s money to strangers they’ve never met under threat of harm. I call that stealing.
No, God is not interested in a political leader’s character far more than his policy. What an absurdly preposterous thing to say! A political leader with ungodly policy is more useless to God than fly screens on a submarine.
Of course God is deeply invested in every individual’s personal relationship with Him, but many a voter has been duped into voting for a dud who paraded his Christian identity badge and then utterly failed to promote justice, freedom, voluntary generosity, private property, reductions in regulatory burdens, or the sanctity of human life.
To try and convince us to vote for a pastor instead of a President or Prime Minister, the article’s author follows that enormously facile claim with an enormous misuse of Scripture:
The Apostle Paul describes the requirements for leaders in his first letter to Timothy: they are to be faithful in marriage, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not lovers of money.
Leaders, yes, but not political leaders. Paul’s letter to Timothy is about how to be a pastor, not a president or politician. It’s instructions for how to run a church, not a nation. It’s how to be a good Christian, not a one-size-fits-all standard for recruiting and interviewing job applicants or political candidates. The article author even provided a link to the NIV translation which has the heading, “Qualifications for Overseers and Deacons”.
Verse 5 asks rhetorically, “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” Take care of what? The church. Verse 15 explicitly says the reason Paul was giving these instructions to Timothy was so he would know how to run “God’s household”, “the church” – not political elections and parliaments.
His final sloppy slaughter of Scripture is to quote Samuel, where God chose an unlikely shepherd boy to replace the first King of Israel, Saul. Claiming it’s a secret to choosing politicians, he quotes God telling Samuel God isn’t concerned with appearances, but the heart.
Okay, so we won’t care if the candidate is young, short and a blue-collar worker who smells like sheep. What’s that got to do with the debate: policies versus personality?
Now I do not by any means intend to diminish the importance of character, but I would rather a rogue who upheld God’s political philosophies, even if only accidentally, than a homicidal sociopath who loves piling on more regulations, believes the courts should be progressive away from Biblical justice, and that freedom is granted by government.
May we the people of God create a demand for politicians with both godly character and biblical political philosophies. But if forced to choose, does the author believes it should be character over policy? Sure, at your next election for church pastor or pope, but not for a person who holds the physical welfare, liberty, justice and literal lives of millions of people in the power of his policies.
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Dave Pellowe is a Christian writer & commentator, founder of The Good Sauce, convener of the annual Australian Church And State Summit and host of Good Sauce's weekly The Church And State Show, also syndicated on ADH TV. Since 2016 Dave has undertaken the mission of arming Christians to influence culture through events from Perth to Auckland, videos, podcasts and articles published in multiple journals across Australia and New Zealand. [more]