I’ve been a Republican longer than I’ve been a Christian. I gave my heart to Christ at age 11, but by that time I’d already gone through a couple of years of conservative devotion. In grammar school, I found a stash of souvenirs from my father’s trip to the 1968 Republican National Convention and became enamored with an autographed 8 x 10 glossy of Barry Goldwater. I actually hung it on the wall beside my bed for a time.
Other girls could have Scott Baio and Ralph Macchio. I had more serious concerns.
Daddy explained to me why he was a Republican: he was a Christian, and he felt that conservatism aligned most closely with his Christian values, and Republicans aligned most closely with conservatism. In that order.
But somewhere along the way we’ve gotten confused on the hierarchy of things. We had good intentions when in the 80s we founded the Moral Majority to harness the power of Christian voters and increase impact on government, in the hope of shaping our culture. But two distinct problems have emerged: political investment has yielded almost no discernible positive impact on our culture (look at the stats—we’re actually going backward), and the focus on the effort has distracted us from our real calling, which is to deliver the gospel message to the lost so that they might be saved.
The hyper-focus on conservative politics in the church has convinced many in our midst that achieving and maintaining political power is our first calling, and that political success is the primary way we impact our culture for Christ. Not evangelism. Not service. Not serious reflection on our own sins and subsequent repentance. Not the cumulative effect of many hearts brought to Christ and lives subsequently transformed, resulting in a more Christ-like culture. Just win on election night…at all costs.
I remember when we said, and said often, that the good character of a leader was an absolute essential. Then 2016 happened. Suddenly, the bar had to be lowered because we couldn’t possibly be faithful to God when the stakes were so high, right? God surely didn’t expect us to trust him and refuse to align with those whose lives are in direct conflict with much of his word in times like these, did he? Because our God absolutely has to have the House, the Senate, and the White House to accomplish his purposes, right?
So we held our noses, walked into the voting booth, and did the dirty deed. We told ourselves that this was a special (read: horrific), once in a lifetime circumstance, and that we’d never have to stoop this low again. This election was our own Sophie’s Choice. Do it just this once.
One of the most nefarious things about a sin is that once you’ve broken the seal and done it, it’s easier the second time.
Our obsession with politics is the stealthy way the enemy is rotting us from the inside. By elevating its importance to stratospheric heights, we become vulnerable to all sorts of moral and spiritual equivocation to preserve our golden calf. Conservative columnist David French of the National Review put it this way:
“I’m sorry Evangelicals, but your lack of faith is far more dangerous to the Church than any senator, any president, or any justice of the Supreme Court. Do you really have so little trust in God that you believe it’s justifiable — no, necessary — to ally with, defend, and even embrace corrupt men if it you think it will save the Church?”
Now here we are again, on the horns of the same dilemma in Alabama. Do we vote for a man whom 30-plus sources are willing to go on the record to tell us is a sexual predator of the creepiest sort, or do we allow this Senate race to go to Democrat Doug Jones, who “stands with Planned Parenthood.” Both options make me want to gouge my eyeballs out.
The upside to this train wreck? It’s a short term. One seat going to a freshman senator who’ll have little influence in those first three years, either way. Three years, and then a do-over.
Here’s where we are: the GOP has come to understand that Evangelicals are trained seals. We show up and clap for any clown you can slap a Republican jersey on. It doesn’t even have to be a godly or wise person. Our votes are a sure thing, and we’ll turn out and vote for problematic or corrupt GOP candidates far more consistently than non-religious conservatives. So come to terms with the fact that the church isn’t influencing diddly squat, not even in our favorite party. To the contrary, the church is the one being influenced -- and our credibility before a lost and dying world destroyed -- because we have believed the great lie about political engagement.
We have all the power in the world, but we lack the faith to exercise it. They own us, because we don’t trust God enough to call the bluff.
Dana Hall McCain writes and speaks about faith and culture. To get her thoughts on current events (plus a little Auburn football), follow her on Twitter at @dhmccain.