Category Archives: Politics

The Problem Of Voting “Biblically” In Babylon

MB PostsMy cultural tribe is of the evangelical persuasion. And within my tribe there is an interesting and sometimes entertaining nomenclature related to the social life of the tribe. We say things that others who are not from within the tribe may fail to translate properly. For example when an evangelical says, “I echo that” it has nothing to do with shouting into valleys or performing a medical test. When we say, “She found Jesus!” we don’t imply that Jesus is the Waldo of the world and people try to find where He is, but rather we mean just the opposite in that the “she” was lost and Jesus found her. Yeah, it can be a bit confusing at times, especially in an election cycle.

It seems every four years (because let’s be honest, who gets excited about off-year elections) evangelicals begin ramping up with phrases such as “vote your conscience” or “vote biblically” or my favorite “it’s your obligation to vote.” Now everyone one of these in and of itself isn’t a wrong idea. I actually find myself sympathetic to all of them in some form. But the challenge Clan Evangelical faces is that most of these phrases are pre-loaded with a particular implied meaning. Thus when the expressions are used the implied translation is, “and by that we mean vote for the conservative Republican that espouses our social priorities since all other options are neither biblical nor conscionable.” In other words we all know what constitutes a truly “Christian” vote (insert wink and nod here), but let’s use ubiquitous words such as “conscience” and “biblical” as code for politically conservative voting.

Now believe it or not this is not where I find the problem. I do believe there are times where particular politicized issues reflect transcendent Christian virtues. But voting biblically (which should be concerned with matters far deeper than ideology alone) is not as simple as a matter of assessing platform or party. In fact I would venture to say that what might even be more critical than the platform of a candidate is the character they display. And when that is factored in you may find yourself in a biblical conundrum when a person with questionable character who advocates a more “biblical” platform is running against a person with stronger character and yet a weaker “biblical” platform. So then which is the more biblical vote, the vote for character or policy? Or to complicate it more, what happens if we find that both sides are a mix of biblical and unbiblical policy and character (also known as the Republicans and Democrats)? Should we want to claim that we are voting biblically when we know that our vote also empowers unbiblical priorities at times?

Perhaps toughest of all what happens when both candidates are unbiblical, but for different reasons? This is where we employ a new phrasing, “voting for the lessor of two evils.” Now for the record I don’t think it’s an easy case to make that voting for evil is biblical, even if it’s a lessor one. Yet I think this phrase occurs because we are told, “it’s your obligation to vote” implying that to refrain from voting is in and of itself more unbiblical than casting a ballot for Mr. Sinister to stop Mrs. Wicked.

Now there are some, in order to fulfill their binding obligation to vote but not wanting to vote for evil, stay with their model of voting based on their conscience and they write in a “really-quality-biblically-minded-totally-obscure-never-will-win-but-has-great-values” candidate only to be told by others how they threw away their vote and thus bare a repentant-worthy culpability in handing the country to Mrs. Wicked. I experienced this first hand when confronted by my fellow evangelicals for “throwing away my vote” in 2012 when I voted for JESUS in the Presidential election. It’s a weird experience when you vote JESUS and you’re told by fellow Christians that you sinned against the country and squandered your vote. It was there I found that within our evangelical jargon voting “biblically” according to “conscience” only counts if it’s also realistic and practical.

I could go on, but all of this illustrates the problem of exiles seeking to vote with a biblical conscience in Babylon – it’s not as clear-cut as it first seems.

  • For some, voting biblically will mean looking at the personal character of a candidate more than their platform.
  • For some, voting biblically will mean backing the platform of a particular party even if the person who represents it is lacking.
  • For some, voting biblically will mean centering on just one single topic because they feel it’s a topic God is profoundly clear on such as life, poverty, peace or family.
  • For some, voting biblically will mean casting a vote against a greater evil by invoking a lessor evil.
  • For some, voting biblically will mean voting for someone who cannot win but who is honorable and thus they are honored to support them.
  • For some, voting biblically will mean writing in JESUS as an act of prayer and offering to God asking that He might heal our culture.
  • For some, voting biblically will mean not voting at all because they feel to vote is to endorse and to endorse is to give approval to that which they do not approve of.
  • For most, more than one of these methods will be employed in an election cycle as their options thin out and thus their biblical vote adapts.

And I would say that all of these are legitimate ways in which Christians can properly vote with a biblical conscience since the Christian conscience is not a one size fits all. In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul faces this very problem and asks, Why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?” Indeed! How Scripture, Spirit, context and conscience collide in regard to culture can have different outcomes for different Christians and yet each still remains biblical in their orientation.

However what is not biblical is when our vote is motivated by fear, greed, anger, bigotry, idolatry, guilt or power. Thus it’s equally possible to vote for the most biblical platform in the most unbiblical way. For to be truly biblical in our earthly citizenship is to remember that we must be loyal to a greater eternal citizenship. This world should receive from us primarily gospel, grace, service and love of neighbor and enemy alike because we know the systems of this world are frail, broken, unreliable and ultimately doomed to judgment. Therefore where we have the opportunity to be most biblical in our personal vote is in our awareness of and confidence in the truth that God is sovereign over the affairs of humanity in the collective electorate. The consistent narrative of the Bible is that God alone “removes kings and sets up kings”[1] for a larger sovereign purpose. In this way, to vote most biblically is to cast a ballot with confident joy in His provision and then respond with courageous contentment regardless of the outcome. Or as Paul put it in Philippians 4,

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

To vote biblically is ultimately to vote unto the glory of God without relegating our hopes, fears or faith to the politics of man.

[1] Here is a list of passages that shows God Himself is ultimately the one who sets up the kings of the world. Daniel 2:20-22; 37, 4:13-17; 25-26; 31-32, 5:21, John 19:10-11, Luke 4:5-8, Romans 9:17; 13:1-6, 1 Peter 2:13-17 and Revelation 17:17.

An Open Letter To My Pro-Choice Friends As To Why I Have No Choice But To Be Pro-Life.

MB PostsOver the last few months there has been no lack of social commentary regarding life, choice and reproductive rights. A good portion of that commentary, escalated by the release of several Planned Parenthood videos, has billowed from political hopefuls, seeking to secure the praise of their party’s base. Because of this, I find their words are not as concerned with a clear explanation of position, but rather are intended to besmirch their opponents. It’s the “red meat to the lions” endeavor that seeks to spread the impression that those who hold an opposing view are nothing more than pro-misogynist Terrorists, if on the right or pro-infanticide Feminazis, if on the left.

My intention here is not to supplement to that kind of bombast. Nor is it to orbit around all the political leveraging on this topic. Rather, what I am seeking to accomplish is why I am pro-life and how being so does not stem from some twisted desire to be anti-rights, anti-choice or anti-women. Now in writing this, I have no illusion that your mind will be changed if you are pro-choice. I do hope that with the absence of prickly sound bites and over-the-top name calling, people who do not hold my view can at least understand why people who are pro-life hold the view they do.

1st The Science Points To Human Life

I’m an evangelical pastor that has a serious appreciation of modern science. I see it as an ally to what I believe, not an adversary. With this, I believe the scientific evidence proves that biologically we are dealing with human life at the event of conception. Now we can debate if this equals personhood (I’ll get to that later), however there is no debate that the genetic materials involved at conception are by all quantifiable accounts human. For when two human gametes couple to form a human zygote, it is human life that is underway.

Perhaps some of the strongest evidence that a fetus is more than just a ubiquitous housing of tissue comes from the Planned Parenthood videos themselves. What is clear, is that the harvesting of organs and other parts are specifically human organs and human tissues. In other words, the monetary value of the harvested portions derive their value from being human, not merely being tissue and organs. To my knowledge there is not a high demand for fetal otter tissue or fetal hippo organs. It is the humanness of these fetal components that fetch their dollar value. Thus pro-choice science inadvertently agrees with pro-life science that what we are dealing with is a scale of humans. They may be tiny, undeveloped, dependent humans called fetuses (unless they were intentionally planned and then we use the familial term baby), but they are still human and they are still living by every technical measurement. The difference we seem to have is rooted in my second point.

2nd The Economy Of Human Fetuses and Eagle Eggs

I support sensible conservation. I also support making endangered species a protected class. On the flip side I have no compulsion to rescue every spider that creeps into my house. My reasoning is based on the environmental economy of supply and demand. There is an ample supply of spiders and so I think nothing of pushing one under foot, where as the Bald Eagle is rare and so I fully endorse criminalizing any activity when eagles or their eggs are harmed.

Now seeing that the human race has hit the 7 billion mark it seems we see ourselves as spiders more than eagles on the fetus front. We think we can afford to have a different view of our unborn race because our race is in ample supply. If however, our species were down to 100,000, our fetal value and hence protection would sky rocket in the economy of life. Debates about rights and choice would evaporate in light of pro-pregnancy rallies. As a species we would take dramatic steps to protect every fetus like it was an eagle egg. In the face of extinction all sides would agree that fetuses are worthy of protection. But at 7 billion we feel we can comfortably afford the position of pro-choice (some even advocating for it in light of concerns regarding overpopulation).

From this it seems that the pro-choice side views human fetal value as partly connected to population size, as displayed toward policies regarding endangered animals. When supply is low the value increases, but when supply is high the value drops. Conversely the pro-life side sees human fetal value as intrinsic and not conditioned by population density or other environmental considerations. Thus the total number of humans never dictates how valuable a single human is. It is similar as to why we have protective rights for minorities; we seek to protect the intrinsic value of an individual irrespective of an overall population or its biases.

Building on this I would take things a step further and say that all human value is intrinsic, not only irrespective of population size, but also regardless of one’s participatory status in a given population. Thus I move to my third point.

3rd How Human Is Human Enough To Have Rights?

Science proves a fetus is a human fetus. And I believe all humans would be prepared to grant protected status to a fetus if we were endangered (just as we do with endangered species and their unborn), but we don’t because humans are not endangered. Supply and demand is not the only way we measure value. Perhaps another way to look at it is to use the familiar phrase Human Rights. The question I have here is, “Who should be considered protected under Human Rights ideals?” The follow-up question is, “When do Human Rights trump governmental policy?” Is size the issue? Is dependency the cutoff? Is capability the measuring rod? Is gender or race a consideration? If someone is severely handicapped do they have less human value and consequently diminished human rights? When a country adopts a policy that takes dehumanizing action against a segment of their population, do we see that as a Human Rights epidemic? When cultures see women as less then men do we believe it is a moral responsibility to provoke social change and see things right sided toward equality? I think you get my point. When it comes to the handicapped, the incapable, the incoherent, the disenfranchised and those who are on the receiving end of whatever social bias exists, we believe those are Human Rights issues because they assault human personhood.

When I look at this in light of abortion I bring it back to the things mentioned above. Someone is not less human merely due to size, level of dependency or his or her inability to contribute. If a country shows bias against such people we see that as a Human Rights problem regardless of the laws a country establishes over the body of it’s own people. And most certainly someone is not less human, less a person, simply based on whether they were desired or perceived of as equal. Overall both pro-life and pro-choice advocates believe that human status is not based in the perceptions of others, but in the uniqueness of humanity itself. This takes me to my forth point.

4th Every Time Some Humans Concluded Other Humans Were Less Human They Were Wrong.

The ancient cultures perceived women and children as being less human. They were wrong. The slave traders and owners of historic America viewed African salves as 3/5 human. They were wrong. The Nazi’s viewed homosexuals, the handicap, Gypsies and Jews as less human. They were wrong. It seems that as a race we are good at dividing up our species into valued segments by which the less valued are expendable or exploitable. And yet every time this happens we can see in hindsight how wrong we were. Thus, since I believe science proves a fetus is a human, that humans have inherent value (a value we would all agree on if the population was at risk) and that such value is not derived from size, dependency, status, gender and desirability; as a result I believe the philosophy behind abortion is on the wrong side of history. Every time populations have rendered a value judgment of “less than human humans” future generations condemn it. This leads me to my fifth point.

5th I Don’t Choose To Be Pro-Life, Rather I Have No Ethical Choice.

Now before you misinterpret the title of this point let me clear the air. I’m not saying that people who are pro-choice are not moral. If you will entertain me for a second let me consolidate my case and from that show what I mean. If I believe science shows a human fetus is in fact human, that all humans have intrinsic value, that such value isn’t derivative from population, size, dependency or desirability but merely from being human, that to diminish such value in any corner of our species is a human rights violation and by extension a breech of individuality and personhood, and that every time this has happened before we were wrong; then I really have no choice to make here. I am bound by a pro-life position in the same way I am bound by human rights at large. To see things the way I do and then turn a blind eye would be no different than any other blind eye I might turn in the face of human bias.

Now if my premises regarding human status were different perhaps I could see my way out of a moral pro-life requirement. But the above points leave me with no option. These various facts constitute the essence of humanity. And just as I believe all classes of humans must be protected under an umbrella of human rights (minority humans, female humans, little humans, handicap humans, incarcerated humans, etc.), so too fetal humans. The location of a fetus no more changes the status of its humanity than Nazi laws and the Dachau camp could alter the intrinsic humanity of a Jewish girl. In my estimation Human Rights always trump the laws of location. This takes me to my sixth and final point.

6th Ladies, I Don’t Want To Control Your Reproductive Rights

I have a wife and two daughters. They are independent, competent and driven. I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to hold them back or make them less. With that said I also have no intention to mandate for them how they choose to handle their reproductive issues in life. However there is a big difference between having the right to “when” and “how” you reproduce and the event in which reproduction has occurred. Reproduction is just that, the genetic contribution of two humans who make a third human. How two humans want to keep their genetic material from coupling is up to them, but once they have produced a scientifically defined human (intentionally or unintentionally) the rights of that human are also conceived in that moment. Rights where population, location, size, dependency and desirability should not be factors employed to discriminate against the intrinsic value of what it means to be acknowledged as human.

Conclusion

As I shared from the beginning my intention is not so much to change minds (though I won’t complain if that happens), but to help my pro-choice friends better understand why this issue is passionate for us on the pro-life side of the fence. I don’t think most people who are pro-life should be likened to misogynistic terrorist who use “Family Values” as a code phrase for suppressing reproductive rights. Rather I see pro-life ideals far more like Amnesty International or other Human Rights advocates. Now in the end you may believe that our definition of what makes one a human is too constrained, but in the spirit of consistency regarding human rights and worth I would advocate we error on the side of caution when it comes to all things human.

P.S. You’ll also notice that while I am a Christian, I didn’t quote the Bible in this article. I have biblical reason as well that reinforce my pro-life beliefs, but I wanted to share my thoughts from a neutral framework where mutual understanding and tolerance is a bit more likely. Aside from this I am also convinced that the pro-life position should not be seen as a viewpoint only for those of a religious orientation, but rather can– and I believe should– a position for all who defend Human Rights around the world.

The Supreme Court, Idols and The Ruining Grace of the Friday God.

MB PostsThe original Good Friday was not so good. In fact it was downright a punch in the gut followed by a brisk boot to the head. By the end of the day a pagan government flanked by a corrupt religion had managed to kill God’s Son, instill fear in God’s followers and give the illusion that God’s plans were buried in the dirt. As night fell on the angst-ridden apostles they found themselves lamenting the end of their movement along with the inevitability of their demise. Yep, it wasn’t exactly a Good Friday from anyone’s perspective: except God’s. For on that Friday many things yet to be seen were transpiring and one easily overlooked reality is that more than one “god” was slain that day.

Part of the angst of the Apostles on that Friday evening was rooted in a problem they were unwittingly blind to at the time. The problem? They had the right God, but they saw Him in selectively wrong ways. They thought Jesus was to be their partisan judge in an earthly court, their commanding general in a Roman invasion and their kingly monarch in a not-really-so-new-but-at-least-Jewish global empire. In short, they believed in a politically empowered messianic idol more than understood Jesus the Messiah who stands outside yet over all human rulers. Therefore when things fell apart, their idol – by way of God’s ruining grace – was slain. So while every part of it looked like a really bad Friday, it was the beginnings of the first truly Good Friday.

In thinking about this, as it pertained to the SCOTUS decision this last Friday, I couldn’t help but run through some parallels of how we too as Christians may have idolized certain things within our country. For a while I have noticed how we have slipped into a form of idolatrous doublethink regarding political powers. In one sense we have generally affirmed that government is not the solution to our problems, but then every election cycle we roll into sounding like politicians or parties are the key to curtailing the very problems we are certain government can’t fix. Now in saying this please don’t take my words further than I intend. I believe that every American Christian has an important public responsibility to be involved in the political process and some even running for office, but my suspicion is that we have gone further than mere civic duty; we may have set our faith and fear in it. We appear to have gone beyond casting our vote to placing our hope and trust and anxiety and distress in the outcomes of the civic arena; making idols out of platforms, methods, legislation and their aftereffects. Some idols we feared so greatly we made a point to desecrate them as often as possible, alarmed that they will rise up and overpower our rights. Other idols we opted to venerate in the hopes they would stem the tide of the idols we feared. Hence we played a game of “my idol can beat your idol,” and now we sit dismayed at the fact that “their” idols are shoving “our” idols butts in the cultural dirt. Yes, the political arm of Christianity is getting a beat down, but oh what a glorious beat down it will be if we are willing to endure it.

In relationship to times of opposition the Apostle said, It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God.” While some may speak of the need for God to judge America, we must remember that Peter here says judgment comes first to us. The difference however is that for the Christian God’s judgment is not to dole out sinful penalty, but to forge spiritual maturity. In light of this…

Perhaps the events of Friday, and the feared future consequences of those events, are actually the beginnings of a spectacular grace designed to filter out the worldly contaminates that have inadvertently mixed with what is to be an other-worldly faith.

Perhaps God is stripping us of our power, our privilege and our position specifically so all that remains is living by His Power, His Privilege and His Position.

Perhaps the best way we were ever going to love others selflessly was to be stripped of our ability to resist others socially.

Perhaps what our prayers most required, what our faith most desired and what our thankfulness most needed was being socially humbled so as to display Spirit-filled humility.

Perhaps because our idols have fallen, all other idols will eventually follow in suit so that Jesus reigns in the lives of an eternal multitude secured specifically because of the witness of our temporary discomfort.

Perhaps we will find a new found anguish for people who are estranged from God’s grace more than be agitated that they break God’s rules.

Perhaps by not being as focused on winning the culture wars for Jesus we will now be more focused on winning a war worn culture to Jesus.

Perhaps because we gladly pass through the fires of reviling with only blessing on our lips the embers of revival will settle around our country.

Perhaps we will be freed from the fear of all earthly calamity and rejoice in certitude of our eternal certainty.

Perhaps we will now know with steely assurance that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Perhaps what we least wanted we most required to be holy as God is holy.

Perhaps with less and less we will realize more and more Jesus meets every need.

Perhaps with all our idols broken down that is when His Cross, His Gospel, His Church and His Glory will be most lifted up.

Perhaps what feels like a very bad situation will be the beginning of a very good opportunity. It wouldn’t be the first time world changing things sprang from the ruining grace of the Friday God.