Maybe you’re a little like me and are longing for the day when the current “presidential” election is over. How low can we go? Of course, the current political mayhem is not without entertainment value, as long as you can avoid launching nearby objects through your new 65 inch SONY X930C Ultra-HD TV. One recent launch-worthy event was the “benediction” offered by Pastor Mark Burns at the Republican National Convention:
[Yelling] Hello Republicans! I’m Pastor Mark Burns from the great State of South Carolina! I’m gonna pray and I’m going to give the benediction. You know why? Because we are electing a man in Donald Trump who believes in the name of Jesus Christ. And Republicans, we got to be united because our enemy is not other Republicans — but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.
Let’s pray. Let’s pray together. Father God, in the name of Jesus. Lord we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We’re thankful that you are guiding him. You are giving him the words to unite this party, this country, that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united, because we are the United States of America, and we are the conservative party under God, to defeat every attack that comes against us. Protect the life of Donald Trump. Give him the words. Give him the peace. Give him the power and the authority to be the next President of the United States of America. In Jesus’ name — if you believe it, shout Amen!
I never knew the Triune God was a Republican! It must have tried even the Trinitarian patience waiting for the centuries to tick by until the immaculate conception of the Republican Party in 1854, so that the forces of evil could be properly turned back. It would seem that Pastor Burns needs a primer on the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. Dr. John Warwick Montgomery adds a bit of sanity to the current political climate in his book Christ As Centre and Circumference:
There are evangelicals who hopelessly confuse biblical religion with conservative politics. They may not believe that no Democrats go to heaven, but they would be surprised if the number was very great! As for socialists-well, they are surely in outer darkness with gnashing of teeth …
Now, I have almost always voted Republican, and I certainly believe that “the best government is the government that governs least” (I’m for less government, rather than more). But this is a far cry from being an anarchist (no government at all) or a libertarian (who may not even want the state to license doctors or lawyers). The facts are that Holy Scripture does not mandate any single form of government and, since original sin is universal, there is no assurance that either Democrats or Republicans will always be right! In some situations, government should stay out of things; in others, government intervention and an increase in legislation can be badly needed. The point is that each policy and each piece of proposed legislation and each legal case needs to be evaluated as such–by biblical standards. Sometimes the “conservatives” will be right; sometimes the political “liberals” will be right. We must not become doctrinaire, lock-step rightists who refuse to “test the spirits” on an issue-by-issue, case-by-case basis.
The same point needs to be made in regard to “Americanism.” There are Bible believers among us who give the impression that the American constitutional documents are a kind of infallible extension of Holy Scripture, and that the founding fathers of our country were all saints. Theologically and historically, this is simply not correct. We are blessed with a constitutional and legal system deeply impregnated with biblical ideals, but this is not to say that ours is in fact a Christian nation. No country is. The kingdoms of this world will all pass away one day and will be replaced by “the kingdom of our God and of his Christ.” Just as in the case of conservative vs. liberal, so in our beliefs concerning our own nation, we need to place everything under the authority of the Holy Scriptures–meaning that we need to judge our country’s actions (not just the actions of other nations) by God’s eternal standards as set forth in his holy word. Often our nation will show itself a beacon light in a dark world; at other times we may need to speak prophetically to its leaders, its legislators, and its judges.
Now is indeed the time to speak prophetically to our leaders, legislators, and judges. It may seem that our political system is in disarray, yet we can rejoice that our Lord remains sovereign. Now is the time to exercise our God-given reason, informed by the Gospel, to be involved in our political system. Don’t give up. Vote. Speak up. Article XVI of the Augsburg Confession tells us that “lawful civil regulations are good works of God. They teach that it is right for Christians to hold political office, to serve as judges, the judge matters by imperial laws….” By exercising our political voice in God’s kingdom of the left, we can protect our free exercise of religion, so that the Gospel can continue to be proclaimed unfettered by governmental hindrance. You may be glad you did, and so will your Sony.
* John Warwick Montgomery, Christ As Centre and Circumference: Essays Theological, Cultural and Polemic (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2012) 581-82.