During an interview recently about the upcoming election for President of the United States I was asked what I would say to those who admonish Christian voters to remember that they are not choosing a pastor. It reminded me of an episode during my campaign against Barack Obama. One day I was told that two pastors whose churches I had visited wanted to meet with me to discuss the campaign. I had visited with both before, including an evening event with one of them where I spent two hours or so conversing and answering questions from him and his Congregation. Both had expressed appreciation for the fact that my approach to every issue clearly took account of God’s Word.
Somewhat to my surprise, at the meeting they were bent on persuading me to stop giving first priority to issues like Obama’s stand on abortion, which went so far as infanticide, since he insisted that babies born alive despite an attempted later-term abortion should simply be left to die. From day one of my campaign I had made it clear, as I did during my Presidential campaigns, that the destruction of America’s moral foundations was at the heart of our nation’s crisis on every front. I never failed to address that fact when dealing with any issues.
The pastors repeatedly made the point that I was running to be a U.S. Senator, not a pastor. And I repeatedly made the point that the survival of Constitutional government of, by and for the people of the United States depended on respect for the founding premises of God-endowed right and rights, including liberty; that we were in the midst of the crisis that would determine its fate; and that, since Barack Obama exemplified on every front the abandonment of those premises, upholding them was the primary reason I had accepted the Illinois GOP’s invitation to run against him.
These days my meeting with those pastors often comes back to my mind. It exemplifies the reason that, in a nation founded explicitly on premises that reflect the Christian understanding of liberty and self-government, its Christian citizens have been displaced from what was once their pivotal role in determining its political course. America’s founders repeatedly identified what Madison call the “scheme of representation” as the reason to hope that government of, by and for the people would succeed in the United States even though it had failed repeatedly throughout the experience of mankind.
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To justify their confidence, they also pointed to the character engendered by the religion of Americans. So did Alexis de Tocqueville in his justly famous discussion of American self-government. What is the connection? St. Paul’s words (Galatians 19-21) offer a key to understanding it:
For I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Galatians 2:19-21)
Let nothing be done through contention: neither by vain glory. But in humility, let each esteem others better than themselves: Each one not considering the things that are his own, but those that are other men’s. For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; …And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (Colossians 3:16-17)
Paul’s words affirm that those who live by the faith of the Son of God become, as it were, representatives of Christ. But Christ was priest, prophet and King. So those who act according to His mind, whatever their vocation in the world, have the calling to perform those good offices which Christ has from God. But since they have these offices not on their own account but on account of the presence of Christ in them, they are called to fulfill them not on their own behalf, but on behalf of the One in whose name they are exercised.
So, if in this worldly life a Christian is called to be the sovereign of a great nation, would he (or she) be the one to live out that vocation, or would it be Christ within him? The answer is Christ. As American voters, we act as members of the sovereign body of the people of the United States. So when we cast our vote, should it be on our own or on behalf of Christ, in whose name we profess to live (else why consent to be called Christians?) The answer is Christ. But Christ also said “Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19)
The President of the United States is the Chief Executive officer of the government. But Christ said that “as the father has life in himself, so he has granted the son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.” But if Christ does as the Father does, and as Christians we are called to represent Christ, as acting in his name, if we were elected to be President of the United States, who would live out our calling? The answer is Jesus Christ.
Though we cannot, each of us, serve as President, yet as members of the sovereign body of the people on Election Day, we are empowered to decide who would best represent us in the executive office of government. By Christ’s presence in us, we are empowered to act for him, and therefore for his Father God. So whom should we prefer? The answer is Jesus Christ. Even though we are not voting for a pastor, would any believer be justified in refusing to vote for Christ as President of the United States because “we’re not electing a pastor? Why then should we refuse to vote for someone who, like ourselves, is called to represent Christ, but whom, in humility, we esteem better positioned than ourselves to answer that call at the moment?
So it was, in the early days of the Church. When there was need to choose disciples to minister to widows who “were being neglected in the daily distribution”, the Apostles left it to their brethren to “pick out from among you seven men of good repute” to execute that good office. (Acts 6: 1-6) And the congregation was pleased to do so, choosing among others the man, Stephen, who would suffer martyrdom for Christ’s sake. Is this ancient election not the paradigm of Christian citizenship, in which the power of election in the hands of the faithful becomes the power to lift up witnesses to the glory of Christ and God?
There is fateful irony in the fact that, when Christians fail to do this in their selection of candidates, on the plea that they are not choosing a pastor, they set the stage for an election in which they are told they have no choice but to vote for the lesser of evils. Abandoning the standard of God by their own choice, they are driven to the standard of evil (for lesser evil is evil still.) This pattern of abandoning the mind of Christ when they act as citizens has led to a government that abandons the standard of God in its conduct. We begin by “not electing a pastor” and end up wondering whether we did not assure the choice of Satan or Beelzebub, whichever way we vote. And so we proceed toward the final demise of the Constitutional republic, which was never to be sustained without Christian administration…And dare to wonder “Why?”
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.