Why Evangelical Christians Must Vote Against George W. Bush

INTRODUCTION

How should Christians interact with politics? That is a question with which Christians have wrestled since Jesus walked the earth. Jesus' response is well-known to Christians and non-Christian alike in the western world, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." (Matt. 22:21) But beyond paying taxes, do we owe anything else to "Caesar"? What about our allegiance? Do we pledge allegiance to the flag or to the cross? One fundamental problem that American Christians have is that we confuse our nouns and adjectives: are we Christians who live in America or are we Americans who believe in Christ? There is a world of difference between the two, and that difference is life and death (Matt. 7:21-29). Christians who live in America pledge our allegiance to Jesus Christ - if there is a difference between the demands of America and the commands of Jesus Christ then Christians who live in America will obey Jesus Christ's commands instead of the American demands, while Americans who believe in Christ will follow the American demands instead of Jesus' commands. It is a question of submission - to whose authority do we submit? Jesus said that no man can serve two masters - either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other (Matt. 6:24). Jesus' immediate context was money, but the same is true of ultimate allegiance - if there is a conflict in commands and expectations, will we side with America or Jesus? Everyone must choose for themselves whom they will serve, as Joshua told the children of Israel (Josh. 24:15). Paul tells us that this world in which we live is evil (Gal. 1:4) and that we must not be conformed to this world - we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:2), setting our minds on the things above, not on the things that are on earth (Col. 3:2). Yet, as Jesus' ambassadors to the world, Christians must be in the world but not of the world so that we may transform the world. That means that we must be involved in the world and its politics - even though politics cannot in and of itself transform the world - and we must do that in such a way that God is glorified and the Kingdom is advanced.

Christian politics must flow from and be informed by our theology - our perspective on the nature and character of God. God created all that is ex nihilo - out of nothing - including earth and mankind (Gen. 1-2). Mankind was created good but, through man's disobedience to the will of God as revealed through the Word of God, mankind fell from that good state (Gen. 3) such that it is now natural for us to choose that which is opposed to the nature and character of God (i.e. sin). Nevertheless, God demonstrated His own love for us in this - while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. The Just died for us, the unjust, to bring us to God - such that to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God (Rom. 5:8, 1 Pet. 3:18, John 1:12-13). The only way that a Christian can view the world is through the lens of Matthew 28:18-20 which says:

"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'"

There are a number of directives from this passage that should inform any political decision that a Christian makes:

  1. All authority comes from God through Jesus Christ
  2. Christians are to make disciples of all nations
  3. Christians are to baptize these disciples in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
  4. Christians are to teach these disciples to obey everything that He has commanded
  5. Jesus is with us Christians until the end of the age

All authority comes from God through Jesus Christ
Democracy is the best structure within which human beings may be governed by human beings. Capitalism is the best system for exchanging goods and services. However, neither of these systems is infallible or indispensable. They are useful - extremely useful, but merely useful. Democracy and capitalism are to Americans what grace and mercy are to Christians - the means of interacting with our sovereign and each other. The secular world believes capitalism and democracy to be that for which they would fight and die - that power is wielded legitimately only by the consent of the governed. Jesus, however, posited the source of legitimate authority elsewhere. When Pilate wondered why Jesus wouldn't answer his inquiries, he asked Jesus, "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above." (John 19:10-11a) Pilate was a governor, appointed by Caesar. You would think that Pilate's authority came from Caesar - Pilate certainly thought so - but Jesus posits ultimate authority in God. Jesus retorts earlier, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28) This parallelism that Jesus employs emphasizes the fact that our loyalty to God should outweigh our loyalty to the "gods" of this world such that it seems like we are ignoring George W. Bush and the Republican Party, but it does not mean that we should ignore the government or our stewardship of our civic responsibilities. We must render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's (Matt. 22:15-22), and in our cultural context Caesar's share includes our political involvement as well as paying taxes.

The failure to be involved is similar to the failure to pay taxes - the effective operation of our government as it was designed is dependent upon our participation as well as our tax dollars. While Jesus' teaching does not imply - or even allow for - isolation from the world, it does mean that we must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, such that all other things will be brought into line (Matt. 6:33). This means that whenever we begin to think about an issue that faces this society we must remember where the source of authority lies - it is not in the consent of the governed; it is not in an act of Congress; it is not in an executive order; it is not in the latest ruling of the Supreme Court. All authority is in Jesus Christ - all authority - and that must be the starting point of any discussion of political issues.

Christians are to make disciples of all nations
In 1992 James Stockdale, Ross Perot's running mate, opened the Vice Presidential debate with the humorous quip, "Who am I? Why am I here?" It was humorous because he was not a politician, relatively unknown, and yet he was in the political spotlight. The question, however, is quite profound, and we need to ask ourselves, "Who are we? Why are we here?" This questions drives philosophers to dream and minstrels to sing - each inquiring about that one thing: "Who are we and why are we here?"  To answer that question we must look to Him who created us. David inquired of God, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; what is man that you take thought of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" (Ps. 8:3-4) Who are we and why are we here?

Christians are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that we may declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). This language that Peter used to describe the Church is taken from Exodus 19:5-6 when God cut a covenant with the children of Israel. Israel was chosen, elected if you will, for a purpose - namely to reconcile the world back to God. Israel, however, failed to fulfill the purpose for which she was elected. Israel did not minister to peoples in order to share the grace of God that was given to them - they separated themselves from the rest of the world and considered themselves to be something special that outsiders could only hope to be. They wholeheartedly embraced the "chosen people" and "a people belonging to God" while rejecting - or terminally neglecting - the "royal priesthood" and "holy nation" parts. This rejection caused the northern kingdom of Israel to be destroyed by the Assyrians and the southern kingdom of Judah to be destroyed by the Babylonians. Today, salvation is free to you and me since in Christ Jesus there is neither Gentile nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female, circumcised nor uncircumcised (Gal. 3:28, Col. 3:11). Our situation in life is not the determining factor in our relationship with the Father; it is our relationship with the Son, and our primary purpose as Christians is to make all nations - all people-groups - disciples of Jesus Christ. We must extend a horizontal connection to our neighbors in order to facilitate their vertical connection to the Father through the authority of the Son in the power of the Spirit. Any position that we take on a political issue must keep this primary purpose in mind - reconciling the world back to God must remain the main thing.

Christians are to baptize these disciples in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
This is the point where Baptists have historically emphasized baptism by immersion, and while that is the mode of baptizing employed by the apostles in Scripture, it is not the emphasis of this passage. The emphasis of this passage is bringing people into the community of faith by a public declaration of their faith. In whom is this faith placed?

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of the Father, that is, from the substance of the Father, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father, through whom all things were made, both in heaven and on earth, who for us humans and for our salvation descended and became incarnate, becoming human, suffered and rose again on the third day, ascended to the heavens, and will come to judge the living and the dead; And in the Holy Spirit. - From The Nicene Creed

As we ponder public policy we must remember to keep our mission of global reconciliation back to God as the main thing, and we must remember by whose authority we operate. Our mission is to facilitate people coming into relationship with God through Christ in the power of the Spirit. Our mission is not to get people to live moral lives, although that should be an outworking of people coming into a relationship with God (Matt. 5:16, Gal. 5:22-23). Our mission is not to create a just society where people can realize their full potential, although that should be an outworking of people coming into relationship with God (Rom. 12). Our mission is to facilitate people coming into relationship with God through Christ in the power of the Spirit, and to bring them into the community of faith. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their sins against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg the nations on behalf of Christ, "Be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:19-20). That is our mission. That is the main thing.

Christians are to teach these disciples to obey everything that He has commanded
What has He commanded? The first and foremost command is for explicit faith exclusively in Jesus (John 14:6). It is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone that we are saved (Eph. 2:8-9). All of human destiny centers on the person and work of Jesus Christ, and apart from Him there is no salvation (Matt. 10:32-33). We are first of all commanded to publicly place our faith in Jesus for the salvation of our soul. Jesus summed up all other scriptural teaching in Matthew 22:37-40 when he answered critics by saying:

'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets.

The Jews of the 1st Century AD referred to the scripture as having three parts: the law, the prophets, and the writings. Sometimes they would refer to the whole of scripture as the Law, or the Law and the Prophets, while other times they would refer to the individual sections. In this text, Jesus is referring to the whole of scripture hinging on these two commandments - love God and love your neighbors. Jesus was asked what the single greatest commandment was - they asked for one commandment - but Jesus gave them two. The vertical and the horizontal are intricately linked - you cannot separate the two. If we love God with all that we are then that will manifest itself in our love for the people who God loves, namely everyone. (John 3:16) If we don't love God fully and our neighbors unreservedly then we will quickly fall into legalism - just following a list of rules - such that on that day Jesus will say, "I never knew you." The vertical relationship cannot be decoupled from the horizontal relationships - we cannot emphasize personal piety over social concerns or social concerns over personal piety. The two are intimately linked, and what God in Christ has joined together, let no man tear asunder.

One thing that we cannot forget is who it was that Jesus commanded us to teach to obey all that He commanded. It is those from all nations who, by the authority of Jesus Christ, have been made into disciples and have publicly professed their faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that we are to teach to obey all that Jesus commanded. We cannot expect those who are not Christ's disciples to act like Christ's disciples. We must stand up for what is right and stand against that which is wrong in society, but we cannot expect people to abide by the commands of One to whom they have not pledged allegiance, to whom they have not submitted. That would be like Russians expecting Americans to abide by Russian law here in America. As we consider public policy, Christians must strive to create an environment in society that facilitates the furtherance of the gospel - keeping the main thing as the main thing. All else should be considered as a pile of fecal material (Phil. 3:8).

Jesus is with us Christians until the end of the age

Jesus said that there would be wars and rumors of wars, but we must see to it that we are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver Christians to tribulation, and will kill us, and we will be hated by all nations because of Jesus' name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the son of man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth his angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Matt. 24:6-14, 29-31)

People often wonder just how soon the end will be. Christians are facing tribulation in many places in the world, even death. Even in America Christians are hated as being intolerant zealots. Many of us know people who used to profess faith in Jesus Christ and are now agnostic or functionally atheists. There has been a significant falling away from the truth already, such that we even have to argue about what is epistemological truth. Theological conservatives often display animosity toward theological liberals who hate the conservatives right back. As to false prophets leading people astray, TBN is proof positive. The law in America, and especially in international relations, works on a sliding scale in favor of the haves and the have-mores, with cronyism and cynicism currently more common than breathable air. These are not the best of times.

One may wonder if the end is coming upon us as a thief in the night, but we are called to persevere to the end - something that we can do because He promised that He would be with us until the end of the age. He delivered on His promise to send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who helps us to stand firm in the struggle (John 14:26). We understand that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, we must take up the full armor of God, so that we will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm then, having surrounded yourself with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:12-17). For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5). As we consider public policy we must understand the nature of the warfare into which we have been thrust so that we can maintain our focus on the main thing - facilitating people coming into relationship with God through Christ in the power of the Spirit, growing them up within the community of faith to stand firm in this evil day.

APPLICATION

So, how do we apply this perspective to presidential politics in 2004 here in America? We must first ask ourselves, "Which candidate would help facilitate the spread of the gospel?" Or, to put it another way, "Which candidate would harm the spread of the gospel least?" As president, neither candidate could overtly preach the gospel - they are running for president, not pastor of the United States. However, America has projected itself to the world as a "Christian nation" - even though America has never officially confessed Jesus Christ as Lord - and it is often taken to be Christian nation. That is especially the case when the president of the United States self-identifies as a Christian. As such, the behavior and policies of such a president not only reflect on himself and America, they reflect on Christianity. That may not be fair, but that is the perception, and perception is reality.

If the main thing is to convert non-believers into believers, then we must ask ourselves, "Would either of these candidates make nonbelievers less receptive to the gospel?" John Kerry regularly attends Catholic Mass and George W. Bush is a Methodist, but would either of them hinder the spread of the gospel? While John Kerry is Catholic, he does not self-identify as a Catholic. John Kerry does not self-identify at all - he presents himself as different things to different audiences - and while he certainly deserves criticism for that (as does every other politician who panders to whatever group is in front of him/her at the time), he is not identified specifically as a Christian, thus his actions do not reflect on Christianity as a whole. In other words, John Kerry cannot adversely affect the spread of the gospel by his personal example to the world.

Does George W. Bush adversely affect the spread of the gospel? Bush strongly identifies himself as a Christian, and an Evangelical Christian at that. As such, his actions reflect upon Christianity as a whole. All professing Christians are implored to be careful of our witness - the way we live, the decisions we make, and the way we treat our neighbors from the greatest to the least of these our brethren reflects on Christianity as a whole. It's what we call "maintaining our witness" and it is essential to the spread of the gospel, because whether or not we ever open our mouths to share Jesus with someone, the lives we lead display what we believe. The more prominent the Christian, the more important it is for them to maintain their witness because the light that they shine will be seen by many people.

Has George W. Bush maintained his witness? Do people see Bush's works and glorify God in heaven? (Matthew 5:16) George W. Bush has displayed character that is unbecoming of a Christian, and that adversely affects the spread of the gospel. It is said that you can see the true character of a man in how he behaves when nobody is looking - a man of integrity behaves the same way in public and in private, while a scoundrel does not. When he thought nobody was listening, when he thought the microphones were turned off, George W. Bush leaned over to Dick Cheney four years ago, pointed out a reporter and called him a "major-league @sshole" -- Bush's words. When a reporter from the Hartford Courant once asked what he and his father talked about when they were not talking politics, born-again George W. Bush replied, "P*ssy." Bush's words. That kind of conversation may be what the Bush family values, but it certainly does not respect the sanctity of marriage. The adulterous activities that would lead to such a conversation may separate "girlie-men" from worldly men, but Bush supposedly self-identifies with the person and teachings of Jesus Christ. George W. Bush has shown that he will not be called a girlie-man, such that when Condoleezza Rice was meeting with some Senators in 2002 about Iraq, Bush poked his head into her office and quipped, "F*ck Saddam. We're taking him out." Bush's words.

Now, it is true that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It is also true that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) However, it is also true that one who has repented of his sin should bear the fruit of that repentance. Does George W. Bush bear such fruit? The Bible says that "He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion." (Proverbs 28:13) Yet, when asked about his pre-Christian days, Bush conceals his transgressions - he neither confesses nor repents, and he says nothing about his actions being sinful or wrong. George W. Bush's response to questions about his pre-Christian days was "When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible."   George W. Bush has never taken responsibility for his own actions - he has others fight for him and then places the blame for failure on anyone but himself. This is not the kind of character that a Christian should display - least of all a Christian in the highest office in America - but George W. Bush has been consistent; consistently wrong:

George W. Bush might be as consistent as he claims, but being consistent isn't a good thing when he's consistently wrong, and being consistently wrong without acknowledging it or correcting it goes directly to character. If he earnestly believed the things he said to the nation and to the world then a Christian should acknowledge the error of his ways and fix it - his refusal to do so reflects poorly on the Body of Christ. The truth is that George W. Bush isn't consistent either - his own flip-flops are legion, for they are many:

There are many, many more examples of Bush's flip-flops, which is normal for politicians. As Richard Cohen said, "It can be an indicator of an alert mind, one that adjusts to new realities, or it can be evidence of ambition decoupled from principle. With Kerry it's a mix of both. With Bush, who changes his positions but never his mind, it is always the latter."

This leads us to the obvious question, "Is John Kerry any better?" The honest answer is, "No" - but the difference is that Kerry doesn't self-identify as a Christian, and thus John Kerry does not reflect on the Body of Christ. Kerry's Catholicism is like his skiing - just something that he does. It is not who he is. Kerry does not define himself as Catholic, but George W. Bush defines himself as a Christian, so Bush's actions and character reflect on the beliefs, character, and actions of all Christians, which adversely affect evangelism. People who reject Christianity rarely reject Jesus Christ himself - they reject association with the people who call themselves Jesus' followers. Jesus' command to "Let [our] light shine before men in such a way that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father who is in heaven" cuts both ways. If our works are good then men will glorify God, but if our works are wicked, evil, or self-centered then men will curse God and die in their sin. Like Paul said, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg the world on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God. But our character - the lives we lead, the actions we take, and the integrity we display - will affect their willingness to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. George Bush makes that task much more difficult, so John Kerry - whose actions do not reflect on Christianity - would be the lesser of the two evils.

Paul helps us to understand why we should not support Bush in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, "I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler - not even to eat with such a one." With the possible exception of "idolater" George W. Bush fits that description, he has not repented of his past (present?), and he shows no evidence of repentance. Paul says that we should not associate or even eat with such a person who calls himself a brother, so should we vote for such a person? Paul makes clear that he is not talking about non-Christians, but how we should deal with our fellow Christians who are living in sin, who reflect poorly on the Body of Christ. Bush's rejection is for his own good (that it may drive him to repentance), for the good of the Body (that his sinfulness doesn't spread to the rest of the members), and for the credibility of our witness to the world (that they see Christians insist on Godliness within our ranks). It is in this spirit that Christians must reject George W. Bush as president. George W. Bush has used the name of God for his own selfish gain, to appeal to conservative voters under the fašade of being one of us, but by his fruit we know him. Jesus said, "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits." The fruit that George W. Bush bears comes from a vine other than the true vine, and we must not associate ourselves with him by furthering his tenure as president.

Not only is George W. Bush's personal character contrary to the Word of God, but his policies fly in the face of what Jesus claims to be important. Bush has cut funding to programs that clothe the needy, programs that feed the hungry, programs that help the imprisoned and the immigrants. Bush opposes universal health care for the healthy, the sick and the dying. James asks, "What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself." (James 2:14-17) Jesus said, "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matthew 25:31-46) Jesus says that it is important to feed the hungry, invite in the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and love the imprisoned - so much so that it showed the difference between those who were heaven-bound and hell-bound. These are the very programs that George W. Bush is cutting and may well eliminate if given a second term.

Let us not find ourselves like the people Jesus talks about in Matthew 7:21-23, at the Judgment Seat of Christ saying, "Lord, Lord, did we not vote Republican in Your name, and in Your name cast out homosexuals, and in Your name oppose many abortions?" just to hear Jesus say, "I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness." George W. Bush's character and policies directly oppose the commands of Jesus Christ. We cannot support him, his policies, or his candidacy. Christians must vote George W. Bush out of office.