This is America where not only can everyone have a political opinion, but everyone should – it is simply a part of being a good citizen. That includes Christians. For most of Christian history that was not the case. There were emperors and kings, potentates and powers, that left the average joe with little to say in matters political. It is truly wonderful to live in a time and a place where I have the freedom to have a political voice. Goodness knows, writing on this blog, I am not afraid to use it.
But that said politics are not everything. So when this article, “The 7 types of evangelicals — and how they’ll affect the presidential race,” popped up on CNN over the weekend my reactions were mixed. For the most part, it is a reasonable political taxonomy of the Evangelical spectrum. I am grateful to see that for once a media outlet is beginning to understand that Evangelicals are not a giant bloc vote lead around by their nose like a herd of sheep. But to try and categorize guys like Tim Keller and John Piper, or even Rick Warren, in political terms is missing the point of what they do. It is trying to make a political point where politics is not the point. It also, on some levels, appears to pit the different categories against each other, which could be problematic.
Now, of course, the political press sees everything through a political prism. And to many in the country politics is a religion, so such people are not gong to “get” what goes on inside Evangelicalism; they are only going to see the politics. That such a piece gets written is unremarkable. But how Evangelicals react to it, or do not, is of vital import. We should not allow ourselves to be defined by our politics. Yes we have our politics, but they are not what define us, something else is.
By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
We are not to be known by our stance on same-sex marriage or abortion. Nor by the tax reform we desire. The thing that marks us as Christians is love. Not love as the world defines it, the permissive-all affirming, you-can-do-no-wrong love. But the love of Jesus, sacrificial and desiring what is best.
There are few books that I reread frequently, but C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” is one of them. A constant theme throughout the book is Screwtape urging Wormwood to tempt his “patient” with something that is almost like Christianity, or some subset of Christianity, as Christianity. It is far more seductive to have a false idol that looks and feels like what you are supposed to worship than something in apparent opposition. That is the risk we run when we allow ourselves to be defined by our politics. This CNN piece is precisely the kind of thing that would have set Screwtape salivating.
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
That latter set of characteristics is what the the world should see when they look at us, not who we are going to vote for.
How do we respond to an article like this one? Guardedly. Please, by all means, have a political opinion and use your political voice. But I beg of you and pray for you and myself, to not let it define who we are as Christians. The minute that happens Screwtape stops salivating and starts eating.