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Who Turned Up the Volume?

October 30, 2012

Man, it’s loud.

Lately it seems someone turned up the volume. Most election years naturally excite enthusiasm and rancor. However, the volume seems particularly acute this year. Politically speaking, the country appears more divided than I ever remember it being. From those who bleed democrat blue to those who rage with republican red, and the graduated shades of independent gray in between, it seems the noise of contention and animosity is at an all time high.

According to most political enthusiasts this is one of the most important elections in our lifetime (though I hear that analysis every four years). I will grant it is the most important only because it is the one happening right now. Nevertheless, it is fresh on everyone’s mind, and as near as the radio, television, Facebook, or after church conversation.  Everyone, in one-way or another, is talking about it. And with the election officially one week away, I wanted to share a few thoughts about how I process some things. I pray they are helpful to you.

First, beware of being “a one issue voter.”  Many people find themselves so engrossed in a single political issue that they dismiss or disregard many other important policies. For some it’s the economy and poverty alleviation. For others it is immigration and the treatment of foreigners. Still for others it is healthcare or education. Even more, for many of us it is scourge of abortion.

As one who takes the abortion issue serious and desires for the scourge to be removed from our society (and church), I sympathize with my brothers and sisters in Christ who tend to make this issue the sine qua non of their balloting. In fact, many Christians find themselves so appalled and offended by the abortion industry in our country, that they are ready to vote for any candidate who gives a smile or a nod in the pro-life direction. Believe me, I understand. I have found myself leaning in that direction from time to time. However, as one seeks to be shaped by the whole of biblical thinking, I am also cautioned as a Christian not to view the world or politics myopically

We must beware of oversimplification because neither the Bible nor our God lends himself to such simplifications. In other words, the Bible is not a one-issue book, and more importantly, our God is not a one-issue God.  Therefore, as Christians, I believe we must guard against being one-issue citizens just as we guard against being one-attribute theologians.

For example, to emphasize God is love (1 John 4:8) is right and biblical. However, to overemphasize God’s love to the neglect of his other attributes is not just wrong, it’s sinful. As we know, God is love, but He is also holy (Isa. 6:3), righteous (Dan. 9:14), sovereign (1Tim. 6:15), good (Psa. 119:68), wise (Rom. 16:27), and true (John 17:3) et al. If we simply focus on one attribute and neglect to give equal weight to his other attributes, our understanding of God is skewed and we easily begin to worship a god of our making rather than the God who made us.

Consequently, as Christians and citizens we should understand that God is pro-life (Jn. 10:10). Yes!  But God is also pro-justice (Isa. 61:8), pro-prosperity (Psa. 90:17), pro-peace (2Thes. 3:16), pro-equity (Psa. 98:9), pro-education (Dt. 11:19; Pr. 4:13), pro-fatherless (Psa. 27:10; Dt. 27:19), pro-immigration (Lev. 19:33-34), and many other “pros” that should cause us to rethink the idea of being a one-issue voter.

Secondly, beware of being a “non-voter.” There are Christian brothers and sisters who would suggest that absent a candidate that provides their preferred moral and political emphasis, the best option for the first Tuesday in November is to opt for the no option and not vote. While understanding why some of my brothers and sister may sit out this presidential election, I would suggest to you that is not the wisest course of action. In fact, I would agree with John Piper when he writes, “It seems to me that the good that can be done, presumably by the protest of not voting, is mainly done by talking about not voting rather than by not voting.” (read more)

In fact, I would argue that those who refuse to vote resign themselves to be governed by fools.  Admittedly, someone will say, “We will be governed by fools anyway.”  Perhaps.  However, by surrendering our vote we also surrender our right to complain and thus silently perpetuate the hierarchy of the fools.

So let me encourage you to vote. I have no particular party agenda, or am I seeking to warm you to one candidate or the other. I just want to encourage you to stay involved in the process. This is political system God has ordained for us at this moment. No, it is not perfect. Imperfect men and women, elected by imperfect men and women, run it. Nevertheless, I believe not only do we have the right, but we also have the responsibility to change what we can change, and a non-vote is not going to change anything.

Consider Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who died in 1968. If he had lived, today he would be the same age my mother is. His children are of the same generation that I am – that Barack Obama is. If you had told Dr. King that one of his children would be elected president of the United States, he would have looked at you and said in the common vernacular of his day, “Negro, you crazy!”  And yet it has happened!  This country elected a black man president one generation after the sacrifices and indignities suffered by Dr. King and others. How? By people doing what Dr. King would have encouraged us all to do – voting!

Don’t misunderstand; I am not stumping for Barack Obama, just the process. If you don’t agree with President Obama, vote against him. If you want him to continue for four more years, vote for him. I simply want to encourage you to vote. Change comes when we vote, not when we sit on our hands. Christians above all should know this.

We worship a sovereign God, who governs all things.  Yet, we pray and then we get to work. We even work out our salvation, knowing that it is God sovereignly at work in us to bringing about his good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13). I don’t believe God calls us to be passive. On the contrary, I believe he calls us to pray for the candidates and the leaders of this country, and with informed consciences vote and trust God to work his will through the process he has ordained for us.

Again, I am not interested in telling you for whom to vote. I am naïve enough to believe that the church of Jesus Christ consists of democrats, republicans, libertarians, independents, and some I don’t know. In fact, I am convinced that heaven will be filled with former republicans, former democrats, and even a few former libertarians :). These will all be former because in heaven there will be no political parties or caucuses. There will only be one King, and neither you, some political action committee, nor me elected him. He is the Sovereign Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns now and forever over every king and kingdom – even the ones he calls on us to participate in today.  And so I will. I hope you will too.

Oh, and by the way, please forgive me if I got a little loud.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2012 1:57 pm

    Great thoughts! If you can’t bring yourself to vote for Obama or Romney. I suggest you check out the following links. Hope this helps!,_2012

  2. October 30, 2012 2:00 pm

    BTW…When are you making your endorsement? I figure I can’t go wrong if I vote for whoever the preacher votes for.

    • ajcarter permalink*
      October 30, 2012 2:04 pm

      LOL! Endorsement soon to follower. BTW, which candidate is the better golfer? Very important to us, right?

  3. October 30, 2012 3:29 pm

    Remember, you can always write in another choice for the President…if it’s on your ballot (it was in my state)! May God emcompass all of your thoughts and actions!

  4. October 30, 2012 11:10 pm

    Thanks for this Tony! Appreciate you adding your voice to the noise. It’s like a whisper but I hear you loud and clear. Really thankful for your Dr. King illustration. Bless you friend, Trill.

  5. Thabiti permalink
    October 30, 2012 11:54 pm

    Hey bro,

    I appreciate your thoughts here. Good stuff to ponder. I did find this sentence ironic :

    “Change comes when we vote, not when we sit on our hands. Christians above all should know this.”

    I found it ironic given your invoking of King 1-2 sentences earlier, the same King who did a lot of sitting and changed everything in a society largely without the vote. Something to think about.

    So grateful for you bro! Looking forward to March.

  6. October 31, 2012 1:38 am

    Thanks T. Someone once said, “There’s irony in everything a human does.” 🙂

    Nonetheless, I actually find the greatest irony in the sons of King surrendering so freely that for which he and others did a lot of sitting, suffering, and dying.

    BTW, was enriched by the discussion and your message at the conference in Houston. Can’t wait to hear more details about your time there.

    See ya in March!

    • Thabiti permalink
      October 31, 2012 2:32 am

      Hey man, that’s the irony of freedom. The beneficiaries get to live a set of alternatives the benefactors never could, and often couldn’t imagine, as your post points out so well. That often means unintended and unanticipated outcomes–like ending redlining and middle-class AAs moving into historically white neighborhoods, leaving behind neighborhoods of now concentrated poverty. Freedom and responsibility live in tension with one another, sometimes redefining one another. Feels like chaos theory :-).

      A great time in Houston, bro. Really encouraged with the fellowship and the saints–especially the encouragement men are receiving in their calling and roles. Good stuff. March should be fun!

      Love to the family and the saints!

      • October 31, 2012 3:30 am

        Man I agree. And believe me, I understand the nature of unintended consequences – like having a blog and leaving the comment section open :).

        We may need to put this on the agenda for March. Something else to anticipate. Can’t wait!

  7. Thomas permalink
    November 1, 2012 6:16 pm

    Where are you getting the idea that the Bible is not a one-issue book? The Bible speaks of the one issue; sin, and provides the sole/soul answer in every word… Christ. The gospel is the answer to every issue and you would be hard-pressed to defend a differing view within Scripture.

    An endorsement of abortion by a candidate renders all other positions meaningless.

    The false dichotomy here stems from a misunderstanding of what is the mission of the Church. We like to think we’re more involved in change then we are. We preach a foolish message to a marginalizing world and that bothers us; we don’t want to be fools… but we are. The Church’s mission is about saving souls via the gospel. Most, if not all, references to loving our neighbor (orphans, widows, prisoners, etc) are directed toward the household of faith and not a broad stroke where we can feel free to link arms with the social justice aims of the world… it’s just not OUR job.

    Yes, we do good to all men but this exhortation does not mean that because a particular politician professes a good social policy that we can, because of our good intentions and bad theology, dismiss clear endorsements of sin on the part of said politician. Don’t make social justice, something the Church should only be doing as a means to PROFESS the gospel, a moral issue above even the murder of children. The Church becomes nothing but some mangled categorical error oozing out the bile of good intention, and hardly distinguishable from the world when we make “other” issues equal with our single commission of preaching the gospel and discipling the responders. The Church is distracted right now… with “good” things.

    Further, our vote is not something we, as Christians, ought to render to Caesar, it is not in the same category as a tax… and understanding the mission of the Church helps the Christian to know if it is appropriate or not to endorse a candidate. Christians are not about the business of making Heaven on Earth apart from calling the elect via the gospel and making disciples. We are not Americans first, we are Americans by geographical proximity and when we have the luxury of voting for a Godly man or woman… we will.

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