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Archive for the ‘Christianity and Politics’ Category

Though more along the lines of what not to do… Thabiti Anyabwile looks at Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s latest controversial comments and shared some very important lessons for pastors to learn from Rev. Wright’s shameful conduct on the public stage.

It’s a cautionary tale for us younger pastors. Here’s a man that’s served the same congregation over thirty years, who has no doubt learned many things in that time. He’s perhaps forgotten more than I know. And yet, when he is supposed to be retired and out of the public light, seems so taken with himself and his view of the world that he’d beat the sheep rather than feed them and risk overturning perhaps the most significant bid for the presidency in American history.

The lessons are legion. Here are five from my perspective:

1. Feed the sheep, feed the sheep, feed the sheep. For the sake of argument, even if Obama was wrong in his Philadelphia comments where Wright was concerned, the appropriate response from the pastor isn’t a series of interviews but Galatians 6:1-2, gently pulling the erring brother aside. Insofar as Wright still regarded himself as the stronger brother and Obama’s pastor, he was obligated to bear with the weak (Rom. 14:1; 15:1-3) and to teach with all patience (2 Tim. 4:2). This, no doubt, is easier said than done when we’re feeling personally attacked. But our call to heal and lead the sheep trumps our “right” to self-defense.

2. Be willing to suffer reproach for doing good. Wright sees himself as a servant of the marginalized and oppressed, a role he asserts Jesus assumed. If he really believed that, he should willingly and joyfully suffer for doing good (1 Pet. 2:20-24; 3:13-17). To this we are called. While I think Wright’s theological and political commitments are wrong-headed, his life illustrates for me the importance of my being willing to suffer for what I think is right–the Lord, the gospel and the sheep.

3. Think carefully about a separation of church and state principle in my own ministry and public comments on public issues. This, I think, is a serious weakness in some quarters of American Christianity, with social gospels on the left and the right. Wright interprets the critical comments in response to his sermons as an attack on the black church. The comments fueling all of this were pretty clearly political comments, not gospel, Christian, or church-related comments. That he doesn’t see the distinction is quite alarming. Now he is in the public square assuming that his detractors at the least don’t understand the entire black church and at worst are anti-black church. Whenever or if ever I am called to speak on some public issue, I need to do the hard work of knowing where the Bible stops speaking, where my opinion begins, and where either state concerns are over-running more fundamental biblical concerns or vice-versa.

4. Seek counsel before speaking. That hardly needs any elaboration, except to say that on stages as large as this, and on a thousand smaller ones, we either help the cause of Christ by speaking well or hinder it by speaking poorly. “No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Surely we should count the costs before waging war, seek counsel before advancing plans. And beyond seeking counsel, heeding it. I can’t imagine that any godly persons advised Wright to make these appearances, or they did that Wright kept their counsel. A good rule of thumb I learned in a different context: if you seek someone’s counsel and you decide to do something other than what they counsel, at least make yourself accountable to the counselor and the counsel by advising the counselor that (a) you’re going to do something different than what was counseled, (b) the reasons why, and (b) before you act.

5. Pray and war against pride. I don’t want to judge Wright. I don’t know the man’s heart or motives in all of this. But it looks like the same kind of pride that lurks in my heart, seeking to control the assessments I make of myself, my own importance and influence, and my reaction to situations and people who don’t think more highly of me than they do themselves. It’s been said a lot. And most of us have read or heard C.J. and others on the dangers of pride. But is it not ever with us? Does it not always threaten us, our relationships, and even our ministries? Had Wright never said a word in his own defense, many people would have judged his life of ministry on a wider set of factors, some favorable and some not. But now, it seems pride may have ruined a reputation after the public ministry was completed. It can do as much and more damage in all of our lives.

Be sure to read the whole post.  I appreciate the wisdom and humility shared in his post.

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I am going to do something unusual for me, I am going to post Chuck Colson’s entire commentary from yesterday.  It was good, and I don’t want you to gloss this post over because you don’t want to go to a different site.

Politics, the Church and the Common Good” by Chuck Colson

If you’re like I am, your New Year’s resolutions seldom make it to the end of January. So rather than lay out resolutions today, I want to simply share some thoughts about the New Year—a year that will be dominated by this year’s presidential election.

The official kickoff is tomorrow, with the Iowa caucuses. I am almost relieved. It has been a long, tiresome campaign that began the night the 2006 election returns were coming in. I am sure many of us are so tired of the perpetual campaigning that we are tempted to think, Please let it be over, no matter what happens.

But that is the wrong attitude. We have to care. In the Old Testament, God appointed leaders. But in modern democracies, we elect them. Therefore, we are God’s agents in choosing God’s people. In a democracy, we get the government we deserve.

But I am struck by the advice that Jethro gave Moses when his leadership burdens became too great. Select capable men—today we would say men and women—who fear God; trustworthy men who hate dishonest gains.

Two adjectives jump out at me—capable is the first, which means the person has to be able to do the job. That person might be a Christian or not. If you are going to have brain surgery, you want the best surgeon, whether or not he goes to church. That is why Luther said he would rather be governed by a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian.

But this year, the second adjective really leaps out at me—trustworthy. I do not think there has ever been a time in American history when integrity counted for more.

Our political system has been corrupted by Democrats and Republicans alike. Trustworthy men who hate dishonest gains, as Jethro put it, would not engage in earmarking just to get reelected—pouring $60 billion into pet projects to pay off campaign donors and constituents.

I have not decided how I am going to vote, and if I had, I would not say so. But I could get very excited about any candidate who could promise to clean up the cesspool that Washington has become—and who would have the courage to stand up to the special interests.

But no matter whom we elect, the country will not be governable unless people have a renewed sense of the common good. Christians of all people ought to understand this. Jesus came for the least, the last, and the lost. He cared about the prisoners and the blind. He cared deeply about the good of all people, and therefore, we should. St. Augustine said Christians ought to be the best citizens because we do what we do out of the love of God.

As I said on “BreakPoint” recently, too, we need to take stock of ourselves. I believe Christians these days belong on our knees: repenting of our self-indulgence; repenting of going to church but not making any difference in our society; repenting of the fact that we have not learned how to defend and live out our faith.

I would like to say that the Church is a beacon of light to the culture today. But I am afraid it is kind of a dim light. If I were to make a New Year’s resolution, it would be to help Christians clean up our act so that we really are transformed and live in such a way that we transform the world around us—starting with the voting tomorrow.

It has happened before; why not now?

Amen to that.  I ordered Chuck Colson’s book, God and Government and should be getting it soon (it it an update version of Kingdoms in Conflict).  I’m looking forward to reading that and blogging my way through it.

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Somebody is sending letters to pastors who are supporting Mike Huckabee saying that their activity is illegal.

According to the Des Moines Register:

Some Iowa pastors who support Republican Mike Huckabee for president say they have received letters warning them that getting involved in politics could endanger the tax-exempt status of their churches.

Several pastors who have publicly backed Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister who has support from many evangelicals, said they have received the letters, which have no return address. They have arrived in the weeks leading to Thursday’s precinct caucuses.

Read more.

This is clearly a political trip as the rules for pastors’ involvement in the political process are quite clear.   Pastors may publicly endorse any candidate of their choosing, they just can’t use their pulpit to do so.  They can encourage their congregation to vote and to be a part of the political process to go vote their values.  They can provide non-partisan voters’ guides to those in their congregation that share where the candidates stand on different issues like abortion, gay marriage, poverty, education (or really whatever – it depends on who is providing the voters’ guide).  To read more about what pastors and churches are allowed or not allowed to do, check this site out.

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