Pastor and theologian Tim Keller had an op-ed in the New York Times last week entitled “How do Christians fit into the two-party system? They don’t.”
In the piece, Keller outlines the complexity of the situation for Americans in the political arena. Keller argues (and I agree) that neither political party perfectly encompasses Christian teaching. This can be a challenging view for people because the temptation can be to look at whatever their party is and think “THIS is where real Christians belong. Honestly, I don’t even know if a person can be a Christian and vote for the other side.”
The conservative platform certainly has elements which more closely align with Christianity including traditional marriage values and a pro-life stance.
It is problematic that the democratic party holds to unbiblical beliefs on these issues.
But they’re not entirely wrong and the republican platform is also not perfectly aligned with Biblical teaching. For instance, the Bible does have much to say about care for the poor, those who society looks down upon, and aliens. Now there is room for disagreement on the extent to which social welfare programs should go, but it’s a conversation where there is often greater empathy on the left side of the political aisle.
Both parties have major flaws. One of the unfortunate issues in our society is that we’re losing the ability to see anything good or any redeeming qualities in the political party we oppose.
That’s why I like Keller’s article (and he’s said similar things elsewhere). Because Christians are doing life in a fallen world and that fallenness most certainly carries over into political philosophies.
Some have opted to go a third route which is to remove oneself from the political process. But even being apolitical is to be political. Not taking a stance on major moral evils is taking a stance.
I’ve been saying for a long time that political values are a common idol in our society. Politics matter. But they’re not the end all, be all. And politics are not our hope for a better world. The gospel is.
Again, the point isn’t to totally withdraw from politics. But I think we need to keep our priorities straight. And for Christians, the objective is not to politically conquer our enemies but to love and serve, to spread the gospel and make disciples. And for those who politically disagree, I think we must be respectful and humble. Another key point that Keller makes is that if we get too concerned about prioritizing political beliefs and giving them gospel importance, we are then adding requirements to the gospel. And that’s wrong.
At the end of his piece, Keller says:
The Gospel gives us the resources to love people who reject both our beliefs and us personally. Christians should think of how God rescued them. He did it not by taking power but by coming to earth, losing glory and power, serving and dying on a cross. How did Jesus save? Not with a sword but with nails in his hands.
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Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.