In continuing with the Our Emptying Church series, I am exploring the six most common negative perceptions of the church (in order, they are: antihomosexual, judgmental, hypocritical, too involved in politics, old-fashioned, out of touch with reality). You can check out this earlier post that refers to The Barna Group’s research. Stay tuned next week because I’ll be diving into what has become known as the super sin of homosexuality. But in honor of the upcoming election day, I am weighing in on the 4th most common perception of the church: it’s too political.
The common perception is that Christians are overwhelmingly associated with the political right wing and that because of issues such as abortion, Christians have no other choice but to vote on the conservative side of the fence. This absolutism has been my personal experience with the church.
I have frequently heard men preaching that voting for a Republican is voting for Christan morals and that we, as Christians, have no other choice. I’m sure you have heard something similar, if not from a pulpit, then from a bible study or conversation. In fact, I’d be surprised if in the last month, you hadn’t been told who you must vote for because of your faith. Even the Billy Graham Association, via Franklin Graham, recently not-to-subtly endorsed Mitt Romney. The organization’s tax exempt status preempted a full out endorsement of Romney.
Recently, a middle TN pastor made the local news for his outright indignation of President Obama. In his church newsletter, he wrote: “I am doing everything I can to see the Obama socialistic, anti-American, anti-Christian, and anti-Israel program is defeated.” Clearly, he has an agenda as he leads his congregation.
This generation of Millennials is becoming increasingly skeptical of the church’s use of political power to promote and protect its agenda. Millennials tend to shy away from such absolutism and often grow to resent being told who they must vote for simply because their church says they must. Let me be clear, you cannot legislate morality. You can legislate equality. And there is a big difference between the two.
I’m not writing to push a political agenda on this blog; my goal is not to ostracize and contribute to the diabolically opposing sides of the hot topics I write about. My goal is to encourage the opening of our minds and hearts to talking with each other instead of over each other.
We’ve got to stop making sweeping generalizations about our brothers and sisters who choose to vote for whichever party we oppose. We’ve got to realize how arrogant it is to live in such absolutism. Because you see, in our pursuit of political absolutism, we lose. In our politically-laced sermons and vehement opinions, we lose. We lose sight of Jesus. We lose sight of loving our neighbors when we can’t even sit at the same table with them.
The church sometimes tends to engage in militaristic terminology speaking about winning this and that battle, which is, in all fairness, contextually derived from the book of Ephesians; however, it’s extrapolated into an “us-them” mentality of winning a cultural war. “We must stand up for what we believe in or they will win.” And it is this cultural war that leaves wounds on any of us who seem to be on the outside.
I think it’s important to remember that Christians first seek to love God and love their neighbors and no political platform can legislate this. It’s important to remember that no one leader can change this country as change often comes from a dedicated grass roots effort. And lastly, it’s important to remember that one can love God and vote for Barack Obama on Tuesday, just as much as one can love God and vote for Mitt Romney on Tuesday (or any other candidate).
Because political affiliation does not automatically translate into biblical fidelity. Loving people does. And until we realize that, we lose, we inflict wounds, and can say goodbye to many Millennials.
How have the church and politics intersected for you?
This post is the seventh in a succession of the series Our Emptying Church. The purpose of this series is to explore why millions of Millennials are leaving the church. Check out these recent posts: Our Emptying Church, When Christianity Sometimes Looks UnChristian, Interview with a Millennial #1, Interview with a Millennial #2, OEC Interview #3: You’re Losing Us, OEC Interview #4: One Last Chance