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"Follow Your Heart - Commentary by Joseph C. Phillips"
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I received a rather rude email from a local minister who took umbrage with my failure to support Barack Obama for president. I was disappointed that rather than do what Jesus would have done and offer a reasoned and well-thought out rebuttal to my column, this man of the cloth simply called me a bunch of ugly names. I am certain this was just one of those moments a good man failed to put his best foot forward. Although something tells me he is even now wishing he had talked about my mamma. There is, I am sure, a great sermon somewhere in this episode just waiting to bust out one Sunday morning to thunderous applause. Maybe I’ll get an invitation.
The note did, however, bring to my mind a few questions I would like to ask my Christian readers. If you are not a Christian, please feel free to continue reading and if you are so moved to share your thoughts as well.
Note to all: If you wish to call me names afterwards, please limit your notes to 25 words or less and please use spell check.
Americans are blessed to live in a society where we have the freedom to choose our political leaders. We have the freedom to debate, to question and to disagree, even to change our government because ultimately our leaders are beholden to “we the people.” This incredible blessing is more than America’s experiment with democracy; it is God’s gift to the world. As such we have a responsibility to be both politically involved as well as religiously faithful.
Politics, of course, demands compromise. However, as Christians, we are taught to be uncompromising. In all things we have, as a friend of mine put it, “an obligation to surrender our will to the will of Christ in our lives. One's spiritual/religious beliefs should direct every decision that is made. There is no decision too small to surrender to God.” To help discern God’s will, we have help in the spirit that speaks to us through prayer, and scriptural study.
How then do we as Christians reconcile our religious beliefs with our support of political candidates that engage in immoral behavior? What of candidates that endorse policy that is in direct contradiction with our Christian teachings?
The Bible, of course, is full of great leaders that were guilty of huge moral failings. In many ways, the Bible is a commentary on man’s transgressive nature and the willingness of God to forgive us in spite of our failings. Christians learn early on that none of us is without blemish, that we are redeemed by faith and the grace of God. Judging a candidate based on his or her falling short seems, well, unchristian. The sins of a man’s past ought not disqualify him from leadership or public service.
More problematic is when a candidate continues a pattern of immoral behavior. Such a leader has betrayed both the public and our Christian trust and should be voted out of office.
Of more concern are candidates that express political beliefs and propose policy that is counter to tenets of Christian faith.
The political world calls them wedge issues, the most obvious examples being abortion and homosexual marriage. But for Christians, aren’t these more than distractions? Are not the sanctity of life, the origin, purpose and nature of marriage and the requirement for believers to defend our families from those who would destroy them the essential fruits which our saving faith produces?
All of us – regardless of our political affiliation -- attend Bible study during the week and sit in church on Sunday praising God and his word. We then go to the voting booth to pull the lever for candidates that promise to work against those things we claim to believe. We feel a responsibility to vote and writing in a candidate with no chance of winning seems a waste of that responsibility. We shrug our shoulders and say it was the lesser of two evils, but it was evil nonetheless. We console ourselves that we simply followed our hearts knowing the heart is a notorious liar, which is why we are instructed in all things to follow Christ.
Will we look back and wonder that perhaps it was our Christian voices that did the devil’s own work?
No doubt my inbox will be full of responses. Maybe my minister friend will be one of them.
Joseph C. Phillips is the author of “He Talk Like A White Boy” available wherever books are sold.