Someone referred me to a Facebook post from the Senior Pastor of a large church in the northeast section of the state I live in. The pastor was beside himself in approval for a blog post titled “Church, We Have No Dog In This Fight.” The blog was written by Huffington Post religion writer Chris Gilmore and the pastor could barely contain his excitement as he wrote “Church: if you read one thing on the interwebs today, read this. Read it twice. Pass it on.” So, I read it and yes, it’s about the 2016 election and my stomach heaved and blood pressure spiked. I would advise you to click the hyperlink above and read that blog before continuing with this one. And then come back for my response.
Okay, thanks for coming back. Now, to my response.
Let me begin by stating where Gilmore and I are in agreement. First, I agree that “[w]e are Kingdom people first.” Second, I agree with his statement that “[w]e have the two least liked candidates in our nation’s history…” That’s about it as far as agreement. The rest of the blog is about as wrong as a person can get historically, biblically, and theologically. In my view, the blog is little more than a veiled justification for cowardice. I know, that’s harsh so let me explain.
Let’s start with the title. It is absolutely ludicrous to suggest that the body of Christ in America has no inherent interest in the 2016 presidential election (and even if it didn’t how is disengaging from a fight being faithful to being a peacemaker or fulfilling the role of the good Samaritan?). Are we to understand from Gilmore the only time the Church should venture into the political or activist arenas is when she has a vested interest? How selfish is that? In other words, if you are the man who fell victim to thieves and bandits (Luke 10:25-37) I’d have to know you if I’m going to get involved and help you. Otherwise, I’ll just leave you to bleed out and die because I don’t have a dog in your fight. Wasn’t that the reasoning of the priest and the Levite? No dog in the fight. That’s great practical theology isn’t it?
I guess Gilmore and the giddy pastor feel like the Church doesn’t have a dog in the abortion fight. I guess they don’t have a dog in the assault on biblical marriage fight. I guess they don’t have a dog in the fight with the assault on the Constitution in general and the First Amendment in particular which guarantees religious freedom and liberty outside the four walls of their church. Apparently, in their view if you have no dog in the fight then there is no need to get involved. Too risky. And that’s why I suggest this has to do with a lack of courage.
In an attempt to justify this blatant disregard for the practical and spiritual welfare of our fellow American citizens, the author tries to convince us that the early Christians had no interest in who the current Caesar of Rome was. “Kingdom people have too much to do to worry about who is going to be the next Caesar,” Gilmore says. Umm, I hate to have to be the one to point this out but the early Christians had no say in who the next Caesar was going to be. So, the American Christian who by the grace of God has been granted the extraordinary privilege to cast a vote for his/her leader(s) is in the same situation as the first Christians who were subject to the ancient Roman Caesars who, beginning with Nero, proclaimed themselves to be living gods? Are you serious?
Speaking of that right to vote…
When Gilmore says, “we’re not even going to bother taking sides” he apparently means he’s not going to exercise his right to vote (since casting a vote is actually choosing a side) and thinks the entire church should follow his lead. What a slap in the face of every single soldier from the Revolutionary War to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan! The blood that has been shed to make and keep America free and self-governing is callously trodden upon as Gilmore and his giddy supporting pastor are “not even going to bother taking sides.”
Maybe these guys and all those gushing support for his blog should do a little refresher on the Founders of America rather than the Caesars of Rome. Most of our Founding Fathers were devout Christians who did not neatly and conveniently separate their religious faith from their political lives like Gilmore suggests we do. Consider the following:
- John Quincy Adams (6th President): In the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior. The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.
- John Jay (1st Chief Justice of the Supreme Court): Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.
- Robert Paine (Signer of the Declaration of Independence): I desire to bless and praise the name of God most high for appointing me my birth in a land of Gospel Light where the glorious tidings of a Savior and of pardon and salvation through Him have been continually sounding in mine ears.
- Benjamin Rush (Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution): The great enemy of the salvation of man, in my opinion, never invented a more effective means of limiting Christianity from the world than by persuading mankind that it was improper to read the Bible at schools.
- Daniel Webster (Secretary of State): [T]o the free and universal reading of the Bible… men [are] much indebted for right views of civil liberty
- Thomas Jefferson (3rd President and author of the Declaration of Independence): God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God?
- Patrick Henry (Revolutionary Orator and Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution): It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.
I wonder what this nation would look like right now had these men followed the advice offered in the “No Dog In This Fight” blog? “What if we said, you know what, these candidates are so flawed, do disingenuous, so other-kingdom focused, that we’re not even going to bother taking sides?” Have those who love the “No Dog In This Fight” blog ever even heard of the Black Robed Regiment? Indeed, the Black Robed Regiment consisted of clergymen who encouraged the patriot cause to their congregations. The British themselves acknowledged American preachers who beat the drum against England and her king played a vital role in the success of the American Revolution. Again, this is part of why I call this more an issue of cowardice than theology or politics.
Finally, let’s take a brief look at scripture. Do we find in the pages of the New Testament this notion that if the players in life are so deeply flawed the Church should just wash her hands of the issues they are involved with? I think not.
Did John the Baptist shrug his shoulders at Herod for committing adultery with and marrying his brother’s sister? Talk about a character who was deeply flawed. Not even close. There was no concept in John’s mind that preparing the way for Christ was in no way related to the politics and policies of the time. According to Gilmore, John should have realized that he and Jesus had no dog in that fight. And yet John was eventually executed for sticking his nose into sordid political affairs.
What of the many prophetic words of Christ concerning persecutions many of which would end up in martyrdom? For goodness sake, the final beatitude is “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matt. 5:11). Doesn’t the reality of persecution against Christians imply some kind of recognizable activism? Who gets persecuted for being “Kingdom people [who] have too much to do to worry about who is going to be the next Caesar”? Yeah, we’ve got too many bake sales and Sunday School Christmas parties to plan to be bothered with discerning which flawed politician would do the least damage to our Constitution and country.
And what of the notion that if people are flawed and “other-kingdom focused” they don’t deserve our participation in their lives and doings? Gee, if we are discouraged from mixing it up with those people, who on Earth are we supposed to engage? Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” In the New Testament I believe that’s called discipleship. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “For if you love those who love you what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?” (Matt. 5:46-47).
Gilmore has some final advice for the American church: “Don’t feel like you have to pick between the lesser of two evils. Pick Jesus.” Outstanding! Except Jesus isn’t on the November ballot, guy. And because you and those who think like you have been sitting out the last few election cycles (George Barna has well documented that Christians stayed home in droves in 2008 and 2012) America has moved dangerously close to socialism, moved from a democratic republic to a judicial oligarchy where judges overrule the will of the vast majority of people, and class and race hatred have multiplied exponentially. All because people like Gilmore pat themselves on the back for being Kingdom people.
Christians are supposed to bring light into a dark world. It seems to me that the idea that Kingdom people shouldn’t get in the mud with the hopelessly flawed people is antithetical to Christ’s words “Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket” (Matt. 5:15). You can dress it up in flowery religious righteousness all you want but advising Christians to “not feel the need to pick a candidate” in the 2016 presidential election under the pretense of loving Jesus too much to be soiled with seriously flawed candidates sure looks a lot like an unwillingness to engage the culture where it’s at and “[f]ight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim. 6:12) to me.
What I find so repugnant about Gilmore’s blog is that it suggests that Christians can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. That I can’t set my mind on things above (Col. 3:2) and simultaneously be an overcomer in this world by claiming the blood of Christ amid fallen and flawed people (Rev. 12:11). No, his advice is to just withdraw from the entire process and “put out a yard sign or bumper sticker…that says, ‘I’m with Jesus.’”
Your November vote will help decide where our country comes down on issues that are important to Kingdom people while we’re still resident aliens on this earth. Things like religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, national security, and personal security (2nd Amendment). To suggest these things don’t matter to Christians because we are followers of Jesus is naïve at best and terrible stewardship at worst. More Christians need to get informed and involved in the political process. Visit www.AFAAction.net for voter education resources.