If you saw Christiane Amanpour’s three-part special God’s Warriors, and tuned in for the Christian segment, you might have heard Baptist minister Rick Scarborough declare, “Christians don’t lose until they quit!”
Scarborough is passionate about urging Christians to vote, but regardless of how justified he might be, and how insane our culture can be, he misses two big issues:
1. Sometimes Christians lose. Nowhere are Christians guaranteed victory. Jesus did not accomplish victory in any worldly sense. He washed the feet of His disciples, and extended a second chance to a prostitute. He was arrested, beaten, and killed. When He rose from the dead, He chose to leave the earth rather than to occupy it or establish a government. By any worldly standard, Jesus remains a loser. Only the future holds an expression of victory in a worldly sense — but for now, that is not the example believers have been given. The example was one of sacrifice, not triumph. Surely in a democracy Christians love their neighbors by being civic-minded and by being good citizens. Voting is part of that. Scarborough is onto something. But voting is just part of the good work. Which leads to the next point.
2. The primary mission of the Church is to bear witness to the Gospel. Saint Paul said the weapons of his battle were “not carnal,” which raises the question — why is Scarborough and other Christian activists primarily focused on mobilizing believers to take up carnal weapons? In the Christian faith, a change of the human heart is brought about (rather gradually, it seems) by the work of the Holy Spirit. As Saint Paul stated elsewhere, it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance. God’s kindness is understood when the death of Christ on the cross is explained: love, forgiveness of sins, grace, beauty, and adoption into God’s household are made available. Only this begins the course to real change, regardless of how long that course might be. If Christians truly believe the doctrine of the Fall, and really believe the human heart is depraved, they should be amazed that our culture is not in worse shape. Christians cannot hope to change hearts through voting booths.
Certainly the work of the Gospel is not ethereal and abstract. Of course Christians ought to involve themselves in the issues of the day. Of course believers confront the culture of warped values with the Gospel values of repentance, confession, love, forgiveness, and acceptance into God’s household. As believers reflect the Image of God that each holds in their relationships, rationality, and creativity, we make efforts — within the light of Scripture, Reason, and Tradition — to express the Gospel in numerous ways.
But by putting the emphasis on worldly means rather than the Gospel, Christians are only, as the columnist Cal Thomas once told me, “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”
The title of a not-so-recent book by Thomas and Ed Dobson might say it all most succinctly: Blinded by Might: Why the Religious Right Can’t Save America.
Someone by Scarborough a copy.