Thursday, September 25, 2008

On Theology, Politics and Morals

As we get closer to the election- it is not only 40 days away- I am getting more and more tuned in to current events. I think that this is a natural phenomenon and I hope that I am not the only American who is paying more than the normal amount of attention to the race, the issues and all their implications.

One thing that has come up is a little troubling though. This is not a new situation, but I have become especially aware of it recently. There are two things that are very related. In the first place there is a general negative feeling toward the church in general and Christians in particular. People of faith, at least the Christian faith, are often marginalized, ignored or dismissed in the public square.

This has happened because so many Christians, particularly those who are adept at getting the attention of the media, are seen as narrow-minded, bigoted and judgmental. There is little tolerance in our "tolerant" society for negativity or hate. Christians are lumped together and the assumption is that we all think that we are right, and everyone else is wrong. And since God is on our side, everyone else must be condemned to hell. It is no wonder that Christianity has an image problem.

The second, and related problem is that the term "evangelical" has come to have a political meaning. Historically and traditionally evangelical has served as a designation for a school of theology that maintained a high view of Scripture, the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus and a lifestyle that reflects Christ-like value. However, in today's climate evangelical has taken on new meanings.
  • Evangelical is now a political term, a voting constituency. Those who are a part of the most conservative part of the Republican party and are also Christian, are considered evangelicals. The reverse of this assumption is that if you are an evangelical Christian, you must be a Republican.
  • Evangelical is now a moral term. Evangelicals are those who follow a particular code of morals. In recent years those morals include an opposition to abortion and gay marriage. Although there are other issues that these "evangelicals" are concerned with, these two are the most important and significant to them.
  • Evangelical is now a social term. Where once we knew that evangelicals were united by their theological beliefs, now they are united by their political activism. Evangelicals are a group, a voting block.

There is nothing wrong with evangelicals becoming politically aware and active. In fact, it is a good sign when Christians are culturally involved. However, we must be careful to never let a political ideology hijack what is essentially a theological word and world.

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