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Religion, Politics, and the Choice of a Nation

Written by  Tim Cole Wednesday, 12 October 2016
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Americans live in the greatest country in the world.  As a believer in Christ - a Christian, and as one who has had the privilege of modest travels abroad, I wholeheartedly believe in the truth of that statement. Not because this nation is Christian; it is not.  While many of our founders were Christian, ours is a secular nation founded on freedom from oppressive government, specifically from the financial fleecing of its people in the form of irresponsible taxation, and from an elitist ruling class deciding for everyone which religious beliefs are legal and reasonable.  In my opinion, our current government is on the verge of both.

Some would argue that those of us who hold strong spiritual beliefs should not bring those beliefs into the public arena. They would argue that the separation of church and state provides a clear divide that should not be crossed.  Sadly, this entirely misses the point our founding fathers felt necessary to make.  In their view (and mine), the separation of church and state was not at all about the silencing of spiritual voices in our public discourse (and I would argue this is true especially of their influence on our politics and process – precisely the reason for the 1st Amendment to the Constitution); it was about the safeguarding of those spiritual voices and entities against the encroachment on their beliefs that inevitably comes from any society ruled primarily by progressive reason.

While secular progressives work overtime to hide themselves from a real discussion with spiritually minded Americans, it is almost equally telling for the future of our country that believers seem to seek the same “cover” of separation from the secular elements of the process. The struggle for the believer is in finding and maintaining a place at the table without comprising the beliefs and integrity of our spirituality.  So whenever things get messy and worldly, believers tend to withdraw altogether, leaving those without faith to fashion our laws and shape our culture.  I don’t think that is what Jesus meant when we asked us to “go and make disciples of nations” (Matthew 28:18-20).

We are nearing the end of a very contentious, extraordinary presidential campaign.  It is an unprecedented election because of the polarizing figures running and the complicated nature of the very real issues we are facing. To make the waters even more muddy, there are few who think either candidate is a good choice and there are real questions about integrity, morality, and policy on both sides. But don’t let the “unprecedented” and “complicated” adjectives glaze your eyes over or cause you to withdraw from the fight for our nation.  The choice is actually rather simple and amazingly clear for spiritually oriented voters. Will we move our country forward on the foundations upon which it was founded, or will we withdraw from the debate and decision because we have not yet learned how to be in the world but not of it (John 17:15-16).

Amid obviously vulgar [private] comments made by one of the candidates that were perhaps illegally recorded and dispersed without legal permission, I am amazed by the reports of some who are considered “leaders” of conservative values who are now bailing on the only choice that is available for this election cycle, which is a decision between the top two candidates.  Self-righteousness and self-preservation have clouded their minds to conclude that abdicating their responsibility to lead us in a choice is more expedient than the challenges it demands, personally standing for the what is right AND being able to accept and embrace a current choice that leads us down the right path but may not check all of our spiritual or conservative “boxes.”

Leadership is a privilege, an immense responsibility and a lot of extra work.   Real leadership is not measured by what you take a stand against but by where you lead those who are following you.  If conservative “leaders” lead their followers away from the binary choice in this election because they are working hard to stand against something that does not represent their values in the candidate that is most closely aligned with them, they are actually leading away from the future they say they are fighting for.  History will judge their leadership not by their principled stand against a flawed conservative candidate, but by where their stand led our nation – into the future progressive liberals dream of.

Have we forgotten Cyrus was an unbelieving ancient ruler that, despite his ungodly life, was chosen by God for divine purposes (Isaiah 44:28)?  God was able to sift through to the heart of the matter and make a courageous choice to use the people that were available to Him. Likewise, it is going to take courage to lead in our day of shadows and shades of grey; courage that can sift to the heart of issues and put a stake in the ground to mark its location for others.  In the end, our nation needs a leader willing to do the hard work of leading, which includes being willing to wade through association accusations in order to secure the best option for the future of our nation.

I would urge my fellow believers to understand what our role is in the political and cultural decision presented in the election that’s about to go down.  We are not voting to bring our nation closer to a theocracy. If we were, then abstaining from voting for either of the flawed major candidates might be an appropriate protest. But democracy and theocracy are not the same.  We live in a democracy and our vote or non-vote (either way we are responsible) will determine the immediate and mid-range future of our country.

Our role is not to create gridlock in government by demanding all or nothing for our principles. This posture only results in a future where we are driven completely out of the decision-making processes of our government. In what universe is it godly or principled to turn the reigns of our country over to someone we know has stated agendas contrary to a kingdom worldview simply because we didn’t want to be accused of endorsing the ungodly behavior of the candidate that is more likely to position our country back toward our founding principles.  What are we thinking, anyway? Do we really believe their sin will taint us? Are their failures enough to trade our responsibility?

I believe we have come to the kingdom for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).  God is looking for a people who are no longer willing to surrender the public discourse over self-righteousness or self-preservation.  The stakes are too high, and the issues too important.  I believe God wants us to actually learn how to be in the world yet not of it, and if we can to that, we just might get to learn how to disciple nations and fulfill the commission of Jesus on our lives (Matthew 28:18-20).

Last modified on Thursday, 19 January 2017
Tim Cole

Tim Cole

Tim Cole, along with his wife Dawn, are Lead Pastors of Destiny Community Church in Lexington KY.  A revivalist, apostolic voice, speaker, author, and life coach, Tim is committed to fathering this generation into wholeness, maturity, and fruitfulness so they can bring heaven to earth.

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