Originally posted October 29, 2008
First of all, if you’re looking for a direct, specific answer to the question in the title, I’m sorry, but you’re going to be disappointed by this note. I actually hate that question; it’s part of the problem I’m addressing, though, and it seems to have done its job by getting your attention! Now that you’re here, you might as well stick around and read the note anyway! You may want to come back to it later, though, if you’re short on time. There’s a lot here…
One thing that frustrates me more than just about anything else is the misquotation/ misrepresentation of Scripture. Misquoting can mean adding to God’s word, subtracting from it, or (worst of all) using it out of context. It happens all the time, by Christians and non-Christians alike. I’ve certainly been guilty as well. Still, it’s never more frustrating than when used in conjunction with politics.
Every day I hear reasons to vote for a candidate because he (or she) is the candidate who “will lead America to a spiritual revival so that God can truly bless America” (Joe Gibbs, on John McCain at the Republican National Convention). Who are we kidding? Our country has never elected a president who did not claim to be a follower of God. While it is becoming increasingly politically incorrect to stand up for God’s truth (or to even claim that such a thing as absolute truth exists at all), it has certainly continued to be politically expedient to campaign as a Christian.
One thing that politicians and pundits do manage to get right (even if by accident) is opening the Word of God in search of answers. The answer to EVERY problem is found in God’s word… it’s just rarely the answer we want or expect. Unfortunately, much wrong has been perpetrated in the name of God using His own words out of context.
Is it right and proper for Christians to be politically active? Sure. We just have to be very careful not to confuse our patriotism with our theology. It’s okay to take a stand for issues that are important, but we must be very careful when trying to quote Scripture for political gain (note: “careful” doesn’t mean there is no place for Scripture in politics).
We are told in 2 Corinthians 2 that the truth contained in the Word of God is revealed to us through the Holy Spirit, and that it is folly to those who are not believers. We can righteously point to Scripture until the Lord returns, but if it is not done in a spirit of compassion, all we do is stir up trouble. We’ll never make an impact in people’s lives until we are more concerned with the salvation of souls than we are with being right.
The truth is, politicians, regardless of party affiliation, are always going to pander for Christian votes. Hard to blame them; it’s a pretty large demographic. The only difference is how they approach Christians. Republicans tend to aim for the vote of “values” Christians, while Democrats go for the “compassionate” Christian. I’ve yet to read where Scripture discerns a difference between the two.
This presents us with some choices that are not always so easy to make: we must resist the urge to give in to division within the Church. We must resist the urge to judge the salvation of others due to their political affiliation. We must resist the urge to let politics (or anything else) take a higher priority in our lives than our faith in the redeeming love of Christ.
How do we combat these temptations? We are responsible for being diligent in our study of God’s Word so that we can recognize Truth from half-truths and lies. 2 Timothy is a letter of encouragement that is particularly applicable here. Go ahead and read it now… it doesn’t take long!
We should not be surprised when people, even those who may appear godly, say things in God’s name that appeal to our sensitivities, which fail to pass the Truth test when observed carefully with regard to Scripture. Satan earns his title of “the great deceiver” every day with these pseudo-gospel messages. He knows that it’s easier to accept a half-truth or near-truth than an outright lie (after all, misrepresenting Scripture is the tactic Satan himself used to tempt Christ in the Wilderness). Anything but God’s absolute Truth accomplishes Satan’s schemes. Resist the wiles of the devil!
In this presidential election, both major parties are guilty of misrepresenting God’s Word. For two men who claim to be Christians (again, it is not for me or anyone to judge whether they are truly saved; only God judges), neither one has a great track record of standing firm on God’s commandments. Is one candidate’s platform further from the Lord’s teachings than the other? I think so, but it is foolish to use that rationale to attempt to tie God to the political party affiliation of his opponent.
Obama’s campaign is perhaps guilty of one of the most obvious misquotations of Scripture. He has frequently referred to the Matthew 25 Network, a faith-based network of Obama supporters. A lot of what they say sounds great, but upon closer inspection, you’ll see that, while they say their Scriptural foundation is Matthew 25:30-40, their material fails to take this entire passage into account, instead choosing segments of it that can be conveniently applied to Obama’s social and economic policies. When Jesus spoke those words, it was in the context of teaching charity as a directive to the Church, not state-mandated wealth distribution.
The Matthew 25 Network, along with its affiliate page www.putawayfalsehood.com (name taken from Ephesians 4:25), seems to serve as just another site set up with the sole purpose of repeating Obama’s talking points, while supporting and affirming his every policy – some of which are blatantly anti-Biblical.
Another prime example of Obama’s misrepresentation of Scripture (and perhaps even contempt for it) is his “Call to Renewal” speech in 2006, when he spoke on the role of religion in politics. If you haven’t read or seen it, I strongly suggest you find 45 minutes to watch the speech (link is to video of the first of five parts), paying very close attention. His expressions and mannerisms communicate as much as his words.
Of course, McCain is not much better. Granted, while he is not known for actually quoting Scripture (though he did say in an interview of his service in Vietnam: “When I was flying in combat I was rendering unto Caesar”), he has very definitely attempted to portray himself in this election as a conservative evangelical Christian. This from a man who, just eight years ago, called conservative Christian leaders “agents of intolerance”, and whose typical response to questions about his faith is a vague “I pray daily”.
Though it is not nearly so well organized as Matthew 25, nor connected to the actual campaign, this blog typifies the sort of misquotation that is often thrown around by those on the political right who try to portray John McCain as being a “righteous” alternative to Barack Obama. On the surface, this sounds like a bold and noble statement of faith in God to deliver on His promises. That is, until you realize that the main Scripture referenced, Job 22:28, is NOT one of God’s promises, but is rather part of a larger quote from Eliphaz to Job, which God later rebuked in Job 42. Shame on whoever set up this page.
Perhaps McCain’s best-known line from Scripture is his reference to America as a “city on a hill”. Both McCain and Sarah Palin have used this line frequently in an attempt to be more closely associated with Ronald Reagan (who was not the first President to use this figure of speech from the Sermon on the Mount to refer to America; John F. Kennedy used it in a speech in 1961, but even then he was referring back to a sermon given in 1630 by Puritan preacher and first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony John Winthrop). While I think that its original usage in referring to America was valid (it is admirable that America’s colonial leaders sought to forge a country that would uphold God’s commandments and become a blessed nation – as it did), it is ironic that Winthrop was ardently against the idea of democracy (and yes, I realize that America is technically not a democracy but a representative republic… but that’s not what Winthrop wanted, either).
Best intentions aside, I feel that describing America as the “city on a hill” from Matthew 5:14 has now lost any semblance of Jesus’ contextual meaning, and is instead indicative of a sort of nationalistic narcissism that has pervaded our society, particularly among right-wing conservatives. Don’t get me wrong: I believe that America is a great nation which has undoubtedly been blessed by God more than any other nation in recent history, but that doesn’t give us the right to presume that we deserve that blessing simply due to our past faithfulness, which is a mistake commonly made by well-meaning, patriotic Christians. The Old Testament is full of nations blessed (some for far longer than our country’s brief history) for periods of time when they sought the Lord’s will for their country, only to fall into ruin when they stopped relying on God and attempted to do things of their own will (sound familiar?). We cannot risk arrogantly assuming the same will not apply to America.
After a blog that has grown entirely too long, I leave you with these thoughts:
As Christians, we have a responsibility to be an informed electorate. Before you vote, know where the candidates stand on the issues. More importantly, know where God stands on the issues (this includes their priorities – where in Scripture has God valued economics over sanctity of life and marriage?). Realize that you have more than two options; your vote is never wasted when you vote your conscience. Regardless of who wins next Tuesday, we are commanded to make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This will be my prayer for our next President, whether he is my choice or not.
Lastly, realize that whether Obama or McCain (or any other future candidate for that matter) is elected, our security and salvation does not come from the White House or any other political office. Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! We are privileged to live in America, but this is not our home. No matter what happens in the next week or the next four years, God is in control, and all things WILL work together for the good of those who love Him. In the end, nothing else matters.