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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Thoughts and clarifications--let's still love each other!

I’m writing this on the fly. So here goes. My post entitled “I’m a pro-life Christian, that’s why I’m voting for …??” has generated some passionate debate and has obviously stirred some raw emotion in a lot of people. Some have written me and/or commented that just because I feel that a person can be a genuine, bona-fide, Spirit-filled, born again Christian and vote for Obama, that somehow means I’ve either backslidden or I’m one of the “elect that’s been deceived.” Others feel that I’ve taken a condescending attitude towards McCain supporters, as if I somehow feel that my world travels allow me to sit on an intellectual high horse and stare my nose down at everyone else. Looking back at what I’ve written, I can see why some would feel that way. The truth is I’m still figuring a lot of things out as to how to live a Christ-like life, caring about the things that He cares about, confronting important issues head-on, and speaking the truth in love. Jesus was an activist par excellence for the poor and the downtrodden (more on that in another post) but He was also able to speak truth to power in such a way that He stayed above the fray of partisan politics. That’s how He could have a Herodian and a Zealot as part of His apostolic team—without the two killing each other! I haven’t quite figured out how to speak my mind the way that Jesus did. I invite all who love me and care for me to pray that I’ll have the mind of Christ in all matters—especially when it comes to when and how to speak my mind. I also invite you to examine my entire life and ministry before making personal accusations against my motivations and character.


Some feel that I’ve lost my moral bearings because I believe that Christians should expand their definition of what it means to be pro-life. Others have said that I’ve downplayed abortion as an important issue, so let me clarify. I believe that when it comes to how Christians are actually supposed to live and the values that we are supposed to espouse in the Body of Christ, we always, always, always, always, always, must side with life over death. So, if a 14 year old girl comes up to me and tells me she’s pregnant but fears that if her father finds out then he’s going to molest her and kill her, because of my conviction I’m going to have to tell her “I’m sorry, but as a Christian I can not counsel you to have an abortion.” If a married woman suspects that if she keeps a pregnancy, then her husband is going to make the child’s life a living hell (use your imagination), then I’ll still have to say “I’m sorry, but I can not as a Christian counsel you to have an abortion.”

When it comes to preaching an ethic of life and living an ethic of life on the part of a Christian, I believe that Christians should always side with life, and yes, that includes other areas besides abortion. From the womb to the tomb. That’s what I mean by a consistent ethic of life. I realize there are a lot of Christians that disagree with me that the term “pro-life” should extend to issues such as war and the death penalty. I haven’t laid out my case for that, so I don’t expect the bulk of my readers to understand. For many, it's a perspective they've never heard. All I’m asking for right now is to give me a listening ear, be patient, and after I’ve made my case, decide whether you agree with it or not, and then embrace me as a brother if you continue to disagree.

Here’s where things get difficult. It’s one thing to say that I as a Christian must always choose life in matters of my personal behavior and how I would counsel others to live. It’s quite another thing to say that I as a Christian have a Biblical mandate to translate these convictions into public policies that force others to agree with my convictions. My point is that the values that Jesus lays out for the Body of Christ don’t necessarily translate into public policy without nuance and ambiguity—and neither were they intended to. That’s why elections are usually about choosing the lesser of two evils. One can not translate the values of Jesus into public policy without a considerable degree of compromise.

Take for example the issue of abortion. Some have written me and said that John McCain believes that humans are entitled to human rights at the moment of conception. Actually, that’s not completely accurate. John McCain favors abortion in the case of rape or incest. Apparently John McCain doesn’t believe that a baby conceived as a result of rape is entitled to human rights. Why not? Maybe he feels that it’s wrong to put a rape victim through the emotional pain of childbirth. Maybe it’s a political compromise. I don’t really know. Obama on the other hand is the first democratic candidate that has actually made it a part of the Democratic party platform to institute policies aimed at reducing abortions. Is he sincere about that? Maybe he is. Maybe he’s not. A sincere Christian can go to the polls and ask himself or herself a question. Is my vote about making a moral statement or is it about actually saving human lives? Some say that from a purely pragmatic point of view, given that conservatives already have a majority in the Supreme Court and haven’t overturned Roe V Wade (and even if they do, abortion will still not be illegal) that the best way to save unborn babies is to elect someone who will institute policies to make it economically feasible for a woman to keep her child.

That’s a legitimate, honest debate and I don’t think that Christians should slander each other for whichever decision they make in this regard. And neither do I think that Christians should blindly believe every single forwarded e-mail because a candidate doesn’t toe the party line on a narrow set of issues.

So why have I decided to write about this? Because I’m bothered by the fact that so many Christians are questioning other Christians’ salvation based on how they vote. This is a serious error, and given the way some have responded to my post, it’s a pervasive error. We all say that “God is neither a Republican or a Democrat” until it comes right down to it and we actually meet a Christian on the other side of the political aisle. That’s when the gospel all of the sudden becomes faith in Jesus + vote for John McCain. I thank God that my pastor hasn’t fallen into this error, but that’s the way it is in many churches. And that’s also the way it is beneath the surface even if it isn’t necessarily lambasted from the pulpit. There are a lot of sincere seekers out there that feel they can’t join an evangelical church for fear that they’ll be mocked and slandered if they don’t toe the party line. While we’re busy slandering each other for our political opinions, babies are dying and people are going to hell. And that’s not okay with me.

I haven’t said all that there is to say, but I hope this is enough to create an atmosphere of grace for Christians to disagree on important issues without fear of slander and personal attacks.

Stay focused on Jesus!

Aaron

9 comments:

Katie said...

I don't doubt your salvation for a moment, cousin. I love you dearly and am satisfied to graciously disagree with you. I know you love God with all your heart and I admire your attitude in all this.

Michael Dixon said...

IT IS CRYSTAL CLEAR FOR A CHRISTIAN "WHO HAS EARS TO HEAR".

We are all accountable to God for what we have been informed of. If we haven't been told, then we can't be held accountable (Read: Old Testament Law).

Can a person, once being informed (as you are about to be as I continue further with my comments below) really be pleasing to God, and in clear communication with Him, by voting for Senator Obama???

Born-again Christians should vote in a prioritized manner for moral issues, first and foremost. They should vote for the moral issues that historically have shown to be the greatest adverse effect on the stability of a nation.

Born-again Christians do not vote for a personality. If the issue we support/don't support falls in line with a particular candidate/party then that's how we vote.

Here's a breakdown on 9 MORAL issues out of 14 election issues that God is very clear on, as found in scripture:

(1) Traditional Marriage in Federal Law (supports Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA))

GOD: STRICTLY "YES"
JOHN MCCAIN: "YES"
BARACK OBAMA: "NO"

(2) Opposes Judicial Activism (supports Originalist Supreme Court Justices)

GOD: STRICTLY "YES"
JOHN MCCAIN: "YES"
BARACK OBAMA: "NO"

(3) Homosexual Education (supports curriculum that promotes homosexuality)

GOD: STRICTLY "NO"
JOHN MCCAIN: "NO"
BARACK OBAMA: "YES"

(4) Human Life (supports protecting the lives of children who are born alive and survive a botched abortion)

GOD: STRICTLY "YES"
JOHN MCCAIN: "YES"
BARACK OBAMA: "NO"

(5) Business Freedom (opposes laws forcing business to favor homosexuality)

GOD: STRICTLY "YES"
JOHN MCCAIN: "YES"
BARACK OBAMA: "NO"

(6) Opposes Gay Pride (refused to support gay pride celebrations)

GOD: STRICTLY "YES"
JOHN MCCAIN: "YES"
BARACK OBAMA: "NO"

(7) Youth & Abortion (supports transporting minor girls across state lines for a secret abortion without parental knowledge)

GOD: STRICTLY "NO"
JOHN MCCAIN: "NO"
BARACK OBAMA: "YES"

(8) Opposing Partial Birth Abortions (opposes partial birth abortions)

GOD: STRICTLY "YES"
JOHN MCCAIN: "YES"
BARACK OBAMA: "NO"

(9) Traditional Marriage in States (supports State Marriage Amendments in CA and FL)

GOD: STRICTLY "YES"
JOHN MCCAIN: "YES"
BARACK OBAMA: "NO"

As you see it just so happens that the aged man with white hair supports/doesn't support these strictly moral issues, right in line with what God supports/doesn't, in accordance with scripture.

In like manner, the guy of "change" is in direct opposition to each and everyone of the 9 moral issues that God directly and specifically supports/doesn't support. If they switched bodies right now, I would vote for Senator Obama in a heartbeat.

Could it be any clearer?

Rae said...

I am passionately against abortion- in EVERY case. I have studied and written in depth research papers on it. I understand that it is not a clear issue of "life" for many pro-choicers. The issue is whether or not the baby is a baby at conception. It's all about education.

But for those that are so passionately aganist abortion, please make sure that you are educated and can help provide resources if a young girl or women of any age came to you with this disasterous plan.

Usually they are seeking abortion because they feel there is no other way out.

Simply stating "but you can adopt the baby out" does not provide help for the moment. Are you willing to take them into your home if they have been kicked out of theirs? Are you prepared to take them to their doctors appointements because they do not have transportation? Are you willing to stand in line with them for federal aide because they don't have health insurance? Are you willing to hold their hand while they go through labor because their family has forsaken them?

There is so much more to being passionately against abortion. Are you ready to do more than cast a vote?

Just had to say something. Bit of a hot topic for me.

Joseph Craig said...

Well said Rachael I believe most Christians have a watered down view of what it means to be pro-life. Michael Dixon I am sure you are a wonderful person and truly love the Lord but man you thinking you can speak for God via yes or no answers is apauling. While I agree with much of the views you presented I do not believe our Lord shares a yes or no view as you have stated.

toby said...

Aaron,

Great response post. You're totally right about many conservative Christians equating voting Democratic with murder or throwing away your faith. I'm getting tired of that kind of thinking.

Voting is about priorities. If you think abortion, gay marriage, and war and/or security are the most important issues, then please vote that way. But don't condemn or judge the motivation/salvation of others because they prioritize other (legitimate) issues and vote a different way. Say that you disagree with their priorities or political views; don't say that they're letting God down (or disobeying!) by not voting Republican. Let's not confuse the kingdoms of the world with the kingdom of God.

As far as pastors commenting on who to vote for, just about every pastor that I've heard speak about it will say either implicitly or explicitly that voting republican is morally the right thing to do. I'm sorry, where in the Bible does it say anything about that? I know, michael dixon, God and McCain sure to seem to be on the same page (please don't post that list again). But again, we're talking about two different things here: earthly kingdoms and God's kingdom.

Where in the Bible did God command us to vote? Where does the Bible say anything about earthly leaders except that we as Christians should obey them and pray for those in authority over us? (Aaron has pointed out in other posts that Jesus set an example of having nothing to do with earthly power. Also, the Bible does speak of God bringing both godly and ungodly leaders to power. Also, Christians should prioritize obeying God over obeying man if a conflict arises.)

When God judges us, will He ask us who we voted for in each election? Won't He instead test our hearts and our actions to determine whether or not we obeyed Him in our life on this earth?

Rae said...

"Let's not confuse the kingdoms of the world with the kingdom of God."

Good word Toby!

Anonymous said...

Dear all,
I hope that those who voted for McCain do not become angry or discouraged but remember that their only true and faithful ruler is Jesus Christ.
Now is the time to prove that the Church is alive and well.
Let's not put our faith in men or nations. Jesus never did and neither should we. Let's turn back to His Word and obey His commands:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'There is no commandment greater than these."
He said it not I. Should we question God's commands?

This is how all the nations will see that we belong to One Greater than any ruler on earth and they too will seek the Kingdom of Heaven.

Aaron, I applaud you for being steadfast, and seeking God's wisdom. Your life is indeed showing you are a humble servant of our dear Lord Jesus.
Huguette

Adam said...

Aaron,

Once again I completely agree with you on this. I used to be in the same camp of believers who would elect anyone as the President as long as there was even the slightest chance of swinging Roe v. Wade in the other direction. Then, something happened; I researched things for myself. I too know that I am actually more pro-life than ever before.
For too long I was really just going off of what everyone else said that I associated with (in Christian circles & family). Sure, I watched the news and researched as much as any average American, but really my mindset was a product of going along with what I thought was supposed to be the Christian belief on certain issues. I was whole heartedly set on these stances and would very much debate anyone to no end about it. I couldn’t even listen to someone else’s points of view.
After more careful study of the Bible, political stances, and results from political stances, my heart began to change. Most who are still in the mindset like I used to be will read this and with all sincerity say that my heart changing is really a deception by the evil one. I don’t fault anyone for this belief and do understand it, but I live by my convictions which I have to trust are from the Holy Spirit - I just don’t know what else to do. Anyway, as I was studying for myself I started to see the BIG PICTURE of the heart of God and I started to see how (just as you stated so correctly) any candidate we put in office is only a fallen man, not the Messiah. Furthermore, I realized that campaign promises and any given stance on issues will not guarantee results that Christians would like to see. (I.e. there were possibly more abortions under the messiah himself (or G.W. Bush) then under the Clinton administration.) Also, if life is the most important issue, then how could I vote for anyone? Is the answer to not vote? Speaking very generally here, if republicans are anti-abortion yet are ok with allowing the elderly to die because of terrible health care, how can I vote for them on principle? If democrats are the other way around, how can I vote for them on principle? I know that some will say something about the amount of abortions, or the type, or the fact that these babies are so innocent. I completely agree with all that but STILL, that does not get me out of the ethical and moral dilemma. If one single life is lost to the result of bad political policy then that is too much and causes a serious problem for me. I do care greatly about the unborn, I do think that every life should have a chance at life; I also think that every life already living should have an absolute equal amount of passion towards their life as well.
So, how can we possibly answer this in good conscience as Christians? WE CAN’T! It’s not possible; not entirely anyway. For the Christian who casts a vote for a candidate who is “pro-life” yet, knows that this same candidate will most assuredly act against the will of God in any way, shape, or fashion – he/she is just as guilty as the next voter. There is no great or small, amount, young, old, black, white, sick, healthy, American, Arabic, Jew, Palestinian, or otherwise that is any more precious in God’s eyes. Sin is sin; a life is a life, period. This is exactly what dawned on me. Because of this there just isn’t a vote I could possibly cast that would alleviate the ROOT of the problem. This is actually very liberating to realize. As Aaron has been trying to get through to most of our very thick, unjust and unbiblical bias – IT’S ABOUT FAITH IN JESUS, NOT MAN! Never man! No matter what he/she proclaims to believe, they will not be the savior of the nation! The fact is that before someone is elected we just don’t know what their time in office will actually bring concerning issues important to us.
With all this being said, what can we do? Here’s a thought and it’s what I did this year: I took EVERYTHING into consideration, studied ALL the issues and, get this… are you ready… here it comes: I voted for the person I thought would be the best President. Wow, mind blowing isn’t it? I did it in as good of conscious as I could as a Christian man with full faith in Jesus and not the man I voted for. I’m not completely comfortable with this man in all respects, but I am confident that my vote didn’t “displease” Jesus any more than the votes for the other guy. I don’t think we’ll be standing before the Lord and giving any account for our votes for President, by the way. These men will have to give account for their own lives and for how they did in offices God appointed them to. How can God hold us accountable when really all we can do is trust what we read and see on the media about these people? We really don’t know the hearts and minds of these people and since they are all sinful man, God will hold them accountable for that not us.
I don’t have anything against how someone wants to vote but it should be about careful consideration of many, many things and conviction; not things like: One candidate is a God send and the other is the evil one OR the fact that religious leaders endorse a certain candidates OR what the “prophets” say (by the way didn’t prophets who wrongly prophesy get stoned to death in the Bible? Hmmm?)
We must stop dividing ourselves on political issues and any issue that is debatable. Yes, it’s clear that God is for life but being pro-life is not limited to only caring about the aborted. In fact, I question whether or not someone is truly pro-life if they say that any group of lives being unnecessarily taken from this world is more important than the other.
Ok, I’m pretty much done here but wanted to say to Aaron: I’m extremely proud to be your cousin. Please keep living your convictions. In these end times God is going to continue to reveal areas where we’ve been wrong. Don’t be afraid (and I know you’re not) to go against the grain and to make waves within the church. God has had you in His hand your entire life and He’s going to continue to use you in awesome ways. You have it right Aaron concerning this issue – You are more Pro-Life than most Christians; they just haven’t realized it yet and, sadly, many probably never will.
Adam

Amy said...

Aaron,

So i did now finally take the time to read the blogs and your clarifications. Let me commend you again!

Thank you for your carefully considered thoughts and words and your sincere heart. I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments!

best of luck in all you do. maybe we'll meet again along our peacemaking quest!