Kevin’s Conversations: Partisan Politics, the Rapture, and the National Day of Prayer…
Last week in the “Linkathon!” we had a video clip of Greg Laurie exhorting us to pray for our country on the National Day of Prayer.
He called for people to pray for our president and our nation’s well-being. Certainly all good things to do and nobody can justifiably argue that it is wrong to do such things. Surely anybody would want its country and its people to be protected and for its leaders to rule with righteousness.
In familiar fashion, Laurie starts his exhortation by making a connection to the End Times. For me personally, this schtick of injecting the End Times into seemingly every subject and conversation grows quite tiresome. Especially when assertions are made such as the Bible says Iran will be involved in the End Times. Last time I looked, I can’t find the name “Iran” in my Bible. Yes, I know that some interpret certain prophetic passages in the Old Testament to be speaking to that time period right before Christ returns and one of the lands included in those passages is thought to be where modern day Iran currently exists. So put two and two together, and if Christ were to return sometime soon, then Iran could very well be involved in some End Times scenario. I am even inclined to believe that this is a real possibility. Yet, what if Christ were not to return for another thousand years or more? Chances are the current day nation of Iran would be long gone by then, replaced by some other nation or succession of nations that took control of that land. Then people a thousand years from now would be looking quite silly if they were still asserting that the Bible says that Iran is going to be involved in the End Times. And that’s even without mentioning the challenge of interpreting the prophetic passages of the Bible and how there are many other orthodox believers who interpret them differently than this. So, there is the appreciable possibility that one’s interpretation could be wrong and such circumstances should keep us humble from making definitive proclamations on things that aren’t quite so plain in Scripture.
But that’s not really what I’m writing about. Because something else concerned me even more in that message and that was the uneven and politically partisan digs at our former president and administration. I have previously expressed here in my writings that I was no fan of President Obama. Yet at the same time, I also grow very tired at the way that people will sometimes take just about every opportunity to criticize the man, while subsequently holding back on most if not all criticism of their preferred politician. This, often times in situations where it would be more judicious to forgo the inclusion of partisan politics. All the more so when this type of behavior originates from pastors or Christian leaders, especially high-profile ones, as their speech and actions can have greater and wider influence on people’s thoughts and greater chance to produce replicated attitudes and actions.
First in Laurie’s video is the dig at the terrible deal Obama made with Iran. For the most part, I actually even agree with his opinion on the deal. But this video was supposed to be an exhortation to pray for our nation. Why does there need to be any mention of this past deal when making a current plea to pray for our country? Why does there even need to be any mention of Iran in the first place….. oh yeah, End Times.
The second dig is about there having been no observation of the National Day of Prayer by the White House over the last eight years. Why is there any need to even mention this? Why not instead mention that the current President didn’t follow through with the annual Easter prayer breakfast that President Obama had started? Because surely as Christians, remembering and celebrating the most important day and event in all of human history should be of much greater prominence than any day focused on a temporal earthly nation. But of course, this wouldn’t fit with the politically partisan message that is desirously and not so subtly infused in the call to pray.
Now, ultimately, this isn’t about Greg Laurie. He is just the easy example because he is well known here and his video was posted for us just last week. The man has much to be praised for, however, that video pushed a couple of my buttons and activated my thoughts to be put to written word. This type of stuff goes on all the time all and all over the political map. It certainly isn’t just the political conservatives who do such a thing, but since that is the world that I primarily live in and am mostly exposed to, that is what I speak to.
Why do we need to muddy our plea to pray to our great sovereign God for the welfare of our nation with sneers at those with whom we have political disagreements? Does it embolden us to pray harder or more righteously or more effectively when we are reminded of the “bad” things done by those we see as our political foes? What about our brothers and sisters who may lean more politically liberal? Do the insults made to their favored leaders encourage them to join in the call to pray? Notably when the unrighteousness they see in other political leaders is left unaddressed or sometimes even justified. Might the unbalanced contempt expressed at their political persuasions instead cause them to be distracted and not hear the message of the great privilege we have to pray to our Maker and King?
So… might our need to take a political swipe divert attention away from our call to pray? Can our focus on partisan politics cloud the gospel message we also advocate? Especially when these politics and the gospel are simultaneously included in the same sermon or message or conversation?
Tangentially, the Johnson amendment and the restrictions it places on churches and those formally speaking for the church in endorsing or opposing political candidates is a current topic of political conversation. While it can be argued whether or not the government should impose such restrictions, the amendment presumably serves to protect some churches from themselves. Churches that otherwise would get hung up on partisan politics at the detriment of the gospel message. Now some churches already display a disregard for the law and do whatever they want to anyway. But other churches may hold back to some degree in respect of the law. And I think this is likely a good thing.
Now, I am not saying that a pastor or church leader or even a “regular Joe Schmo” Christian should never espouse their political beliefs or opinions. Sometimes it may be very needed and appropriate to call out unrighteousness that is taking place in our land. But we need to show some prudence as to when and how we do it. Taking multiple swipes at a former president when calling a nation’s people to pray serves no good purpose. Having a focused condescension on certain politicians or political parties in the same sermon that is sharing the gospel is likely only going to distract from the gospel message. Mocking someone’s political beliefs or their preferred politicians on social media or in conversation in one breath while in the next breath trying to tell them of their need for Christ is probably not going to be very effective. All the more so when we regularly criticize those who we see as the political enemy while concurrently and habitually protecting those on our own political side, even when there are many valid points of criticism of our own side. The uneven scales thing does not go over so well, except with those already on our “side”.
We are all guilty. At least most of us, anyway, I would presume. At one time or another or more, we have failed to hold our tongue on a political issue/candidate/party when it would have been wiser to do so. We end up causing distraction or offense which take away from the eternally greater things we would have to share.
Lord, help us to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves. Help us to discern when and how to best speak in a loving and righteous manner on political issues and people. Help us to do so in a manner that does not distract from You and Your Gospel.