Formerly editor-in-chief of Christianity Today
The answer, of course, is both yes and no.
First the no. Especially in democratic societies, Christians would be irresponsible not to vote or to refuse to champion candidates and bills that bring greater justice to society. In other words, politics is one way to love the neighbor. So this nearly goes without saying.
On the other hand, there is a case to be made for toning down the intensity of our politics, if not in Norway, certainly in the United States.
Two political phenomena
The sign of our times in the US can be seen in two recent phenomena. The first happened at the beginning of this year, when a group of conservative Christians banded together and formed a political group called They immediately held a rally in Florida to support Mr. Trump, which he attended.
The second took place just recently when another group formed They distanced themselves from the Democratic Party’s Platform on abortion (which is solidly pro-choice) but then went on to explain the various reasons they support Biden.
In both cases, they have put the word evangelical into the service of a political candidate. That may go unnoticed by some, who have equated the word with political activism. But anyone who knows the meaning and history of the word, it’s a cause of deep sadness.
Good news for who?
Evangelical comes from a Greek word that we translate evangel, which means good news. It refers to the good news that Jesus Christ died for the forgiveness of sins and the promise of new life, in this world and the next. It speaks to the church’s long history of reaching out in love to the four corners of the earth, and announcing this incredible news to men and women, rich and poor, slave and free, left and right, and people of all ethnicities and races. It is a message and a mission that transcends all the things that habitually divide us.
In recent history, the group that has been most enthusiastic and active in this mission have been called evangelicals. But today, instead of offering a message that can bridge our divisions, evangelicals in America are threatening to make them deeper than ever. Instead of being people for the evangel of Jesus Christ, they have become evangelicals for one candidate or another.
Mr. Trump and the right
These moves are perfectly understandable. The right saw in Mr. Trump a candidate who championed many causes that drive them. As the Evangelicals for Trump website puts it, they want to ensure that pro-life initiatives, religious freedom, and the appointment of conservative judges are kept as a top priority for four more years.
The left was naturally aghast at this, believing Mr. Trump morals and character have undermined the credibility of the presidency and created more rancorous divisions than ever. He may be formally pro-life, but everything he does and says—especially as he denigrates opponents and speaks derisively of women and ethnic minorities—is anything but pro-life. Since the nation has more or less identified evangelicals with the political right, why not stand up and show that there are evangelicals with decidedly different views?
Time for evangelical Christians to shut up?
In one way, each group is trying to bolster the reputation of Christianity. The evangelical right is reacting against the mainline churches that have habitually championed liberals causes. The right is essentially saying that real Christians have a different political outlook. The evangelical left is reacting against the evangelical right for the same reason.
What the nation sees, however, is that Christians care a lot about politics and use their faith to justify their political proclivities. What the nation sees is that Christians are just as divided as the rest of the country. And what the nation fails to see is anything that transcends the politics and culture wars of the day.
I wonder if it’s time for evangelical Christians to shut up and be silent for a while. I fear that we’ve allowed our political activism to drown out the person and message of love that should characterize us.
READ INTERVIEW WITH MARK GALLI: Fekk dødstruslar etter sin siste leiarartikkel då han hudfletta Donald Trump
The priest and Mother Theresa
A young priest, already deeply devout in his prayer life, was surprised when Mother Theresa encouraged him to spend even more time in prayer. He told her that he expected her to perform more acts of charity. She chided him, saying,
Do you think that I could practice charity if I did not ask Jesus every day to fill my heart with his love? Do you think I could go through the streets looking for the poor if Jesus did not communicate the fire of his charity to my heart?... Read the Gospel attentively, and you will see that Jesus sacrificed even charity for prayer. And do you know why? To teach us that, without God, we are too poor to help the poor!
I suspect that if my politically active friends are anything like me, we all need to spend more time in silent adoration of Jesus to fill our hearts so that we can better communicate the fire of his charity.
Something crucial is at stake
That may seem odd and hypocritical for me to say that, given my Christianity Today editorial last December that strongly denounced Mr. Trump’s character and called for his removal from office. But one big reason the editorial went viral was precisely because Christianity Today rarely speaks out on partisan politics but instead has a history of trying to bridge differences and speak to issues on a higher plane. Consequently, when it does speak out, instead of readers rolling their eyes thinking, There goes CT again advocating its brand of politics, they turn their heads to listen, suspecting that if CT is speaking out at this moment, maybe something crucial is at stake.
Perhaps something crucial is at stake in this presidential election, and this is why the two sides have formed their groups to champion their respective candidate. Then again, I’ve lived long enough to hear it said in every presidential election (of which I’ve witnessed eleven) that This is the most important election in the history of the United States!
A message that can heal and bring hope
One also wonders if evangelical involvement will make a difference. As I write this, Mr. Trump’s campaign is hemorrhaging badly and many pundits are predicting a landslide victory for Mr. Biden. The relatively few votes that the evangelical left and right can muster will be lost in the deluge.
Yet let me be charitable and say that maybe this is the one, rare election that evangelicals have needed to speak out on. Okay. Then after voting on November 3, why don’t we tear off our bumper stickers, and take down our lawn signs as well as our websites, and once more take up the cause of the evangel, not for this candidate or that, but for the One whose life, death, and resurrection brings a message that can heal and bring hope like no politics can.
The article is also translated to Norwegian: Bør kristne forlate politikken?