With two unsavory options on the 2016 presidential ballot for Nov. 8, many evangelicals do not feel represented in the issues they care about and feel increasingly ostracized from political discourse. In a recent interview with Towers, SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. encouraged the seminary community to discuss the various aspects of this complex season, growing in wisdom as the church faces difficult decisions:
“This election cycle is like a bomb that has gone off in the evangelical world. It announces that the easy political decisions made simple by the patterns of the past are gone,” Mohler said. “We have had various theories as evangelicals of having two political parties, but they were following consistent and coherent arguments for the better part of the last 30 years. Now both parties are in the process of flux, and now neither party is a natural home for those who are driven by Christian conviction. So it’s going to call for a new maturity in the face of this complexity for Christian thinking. It’s great that students and faculty and staff of the college and the seminary during this very time are able to talk about this with one another. This is the place to talk about what our responsibility as Christian citizens would require of us and this is a hint of what’s coming.”
In what follows, the Towers team asks some of the seminary’s strongest voices on key issues to start a conversation that can continue in dorm lounges, the J-Bowl, and Founder’s Cafe over the next month.
In our current political climate, we are no longer at the crossroads of simple distinction between party platforms and agendas, but one where both candidates suffer from extreme lack of integrity and moral fiber. That modern evangelicals have dichotomized character and leadership would have been anathema only a decade ago. Sadly, we have subsumed a humanistic view of leadership, which champions the lowest common denominator and justifies deep character flaws via the lesser-of-two evils argument. This argument is premised upon the belief that voting is the only viable means of action, whereas conscientious abstention is seen as cowardly retreat. In reality, the only thing we have retreated on is the expectation that our leaders should be endowed with greatness and moral fortitude.
— PETE BARGAS, vice president for hospitality services (Juris Doctor from Trinity Law School)
As a nation founded upon the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Americans should expect our leaders to uphold the value of life. More specifically, as Christians, our commission is to bring the gospel to bear on every aspect of life, including the sanctity of human life itself. It’s a dreadful reality when lives of image-bearers are caught in the crossfire of political dogma, but that is where we find ourselves. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the most pro-life message the world has ever seen or heard. And as a gospel people, we should look to leaders that value life — both born and unborn — in speech, action, and policy. The complication in this election cycle is that the two leading candidates maintain, albeit in different ways, that some lives are less valuable than others. The question that discerning Christians must ask is whether their vote will say the same.
— ANDREW KING, director of Speak for the Unborn; Ph.D. student, Old Testament
Neither of the nominees for the two political parties has given much assurance that they either affirm our constitutional principles of religious liberty or that they even understand them. Christian voters on both sides of the political aisle are understandably circumspect and holding their nose when it comes to these candidates and their position on religious liberty.
Practically speaking, politics is a lot bigger than the federal level, so evangelical Christians of all political persuasions are going to need a more developed political strategy. Rather than withdrawing from the public square, the issue of religious liberty is going to have to drive us to be more engaged in local politics and state politics. So, if you really want to advocate for religious liberty, it’s not limited to the national level. If we have concerns about religious liberty on the national level, it’s going to require evangelicals to deepen their investment in the cause of religious liberty at the local and the state level.
I believe the political fragmentation we are witnessing brings with it an opportunity for evangelical Christians to find our common ground in the gospel, not in partisan identity or political ideology. What would it look like for gospel-loving, Bible-believing, Jesus-trusting Christians to be willing to charitably disagree with one another on a wide range of political topics (e.g. immigration policy, gun control, tax codes, health care reform, etc.) and to find common ground in “the faith once for all delivered to the saints”? While our political lines may be imploding, perhaps this collapse will draw us back to one another as evangelicals.
—MATTHEW J. HALL, dean of Boyce College and director of the Carl F.H. HENRY Center for Evangelical Engagement
For far too long, the church has turned a blind eye to a degradation of life in American society. The people of God have grown content with segregation on Sundays. God’s people have refused to bear one another’s burdens — particularly the burdens of minority brothers and sisters who have historically been oppressed or on the receiving end of injustice. The silence of the redeemed has often been deafening. We must see that social and political issues are gospel issues, too. Neither a progressive utopia nor a bigoted white nationalism reflect biblical standards, and certainly cannot be indicative of what will make America great again.
Moreover, these ideals cannot be what is best for the liberty and freedom of all people. Now in the face of politics devoid of integrity, morality, character, and conviction, the people of God must display in full force the radical unity we are called to in Christ. We must seek to understand the experiences of brothers and sisters who do not look like us. We must seek grace in difficult conversations. We must humble ourselves to recognize that our personal view of the world is deficient and must be informed by others around us. We must listen to others’ needs and give sacrificially in order that Jesus might be made manifest to a world desperate for his saving grace. We must concern ourselves wholeheartedly with this kingdom work.
The presidency of the United States is a fleeting office, but the kingdom of God is eternal. Therefore, now more than ever, we must devote ourselves to loving one another in order that the world might know Jesus.
—A.J. DAVIS, Southern Seminary student and co-president of ONE
The key to our understanding of refugees is the term “forcibly displaced.” A refugee is not someone who is seeking a better life in some other country because things are just “better” in that place. A refugee is someone who cannot go back home. In the case of most Syrian refugees, their home has been destroyed or is no longer available to them. Their country is no longer a viable alternative to life.
Interestingly, God tells us in Deuteronomy 10:18-19, “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” In Leviticus 19:33-34 he also states, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” If we are to be a light to the world (Matt 5:14), our light must shine best and brightest in our own country as we care for the strangers among us.
Evangelical, Bible-believing churches and the members of those churches have a responsibility to love their neighbors. Jesus told us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” One of those neighbors is of Syrian, Iraqi, Somali, or any number of other origins, and lives down the street or across town from your church. The command is clear, the fields are harvestable, now pray and go.
— JOHN KLAASSEN, Boyce College associate professor of global studies; program coordinator, global studies