Category: Government & Politics

Praying for political leaders makes a difference

A former Texas legislator told me the other day of sitting in his chair on the House floor, considering a bill, and thinking about what the Bible says. This man is not a regular churchgoer now, but that day in Austin he remembered the Bible talking about loving the children. He voted for the children of Texas in a vote that shocked some people and promised to cause him political difficulties.

I don’t share his name because we were just visiting about different matters, and this was a passing part of the conversation.

He next said something important for today. Someone complained to him recently about one of this year’s presidential candidates. The former legislator asked the complainer if she had been praying for the candidate.

Two good points come from this brief conversation. Let’s go backwards from what is said above.

It’s important that we pray for people running for office and for those who win, even if we don’t like the winner. When we honestly pray for someone, we begin to identify with that person. We think about his or her struggles, abilities, and opportunities. We begin to feel a genuine closeness with the person.

I have heard public prayers for public officials that are more political statements that entreaties to the God of the universe. Prayer, at its best, includes deep humility. The Creator is allowing me to have a conversation. That’s amazing. That should be humbling.

God understands our world, our nation, our state, and our communities better than we do. God is sovereign, so we should not act like we are.

One of the things I’ve told my now-grown kids is that Jesus is never on the ballot. We are voting for flawed individuals in need of God’s grace and guidance.

We pray for politicians because it matters to them. The men and women we elect are thinking and working to do the best job they can for their constituents. Your prayers may ignite a reminder to care for children, pursue justice, or restrain evil in the mind of a legislator or other official, as it did with the former lawmaker I cited above.

The issues governments address are massively complex with all sorts of unintended consequences to actions. Government has an important responsibility, but it is never going to solve all of our problems — never. We invest time and money in pursuing good government because anarchy is destructive and dangerous. The Bible notes that God uses government to restrain evil. But it is wrongheaded to think government can solve all of our problems.

What all of us need most in regard to politics is humility and civility. (Click here for a CLC resource about civility.) None of us have all of the answers. We need God’s help and guidance.

Let’s put our faith in God, not politicians, but then let’s pray for and work with the politicians to pursue the wisest courses possible. It’s part of God’s plan and our responsibility.

(This post originally appeared on the Texas Baptists website.)

It’s January, but March 1 is coming

Things are about to get crazy in Texas – or crazier. It is less than two months before the Republican and Democratic primary elections here (March 1), and early voting begins Feb. 16.

No party speaks for God. There will be committed Christians, as well as others, running in both parties. Some of them will actually use language that connects deeply with those of us who seek to follow Christ.

Language is a powerful tool for good or evil, right or wrong. As a result, we Christians need to listen with all the intelligence and wisdom we can muster through the help of the Holy Spirit. We listen with the ears of Texans and Americans, but we also seek to turn up our spiritual hearing aids in order to hear with the ears of Christ.

The CLC has prepared a document on civility in public discourse from a biblical perspective. Please check it out, share it with friends, or preach and teach from it in church. If you do the latter, please send us a recording or copy of what you do. For a copy of this CLC resource, click here.

Our Micah 6:8 Conference speaker Jen Hatmaker recently exhorted Christians to use our words for good and be kind even when we passionately disagree with one another. Her words serve as a reminder as we enter election season that we can disagree without being disagreeable.

Let’s be at our best as we exert this high privilege of voting to determine our local, state, and national direction in regard to government. Many people have died so we would have this privilege.

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29 NRSV).

(This post originally appeared on the Texas Baptists web site.)

 

Religious liberty and oneness at the core of U.S.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump said Monday we need a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

It is sad that a candidate for president would say something so contrary to the founding and sustaining principles of this great nation. Religious liberty stands at our nation’s core, and openness to immigrants has filled our population with a diverse people unparalleled anywhere on earth. America is at its best when it allows people to pursue their religious beliefs and when it treats all people with respect and dignity.

These principles of liberty and openness are also reflected in Scripture, which is the ultimate source of authority for Christians.

If we impose a religion test regarding Muslims in this regard, a religion test regarding Christians could be applied to some other case.

Let us pray for a more appropriate response to the threat of terrorism than that suggested by Mr. Trump.

(This post originally appeared on the Texas Baptists web site.)

 

Beyond fear and anger in politics

A friend of mine told me recently he’s afraid to put an Obama sticker on his car for fear the vehicle will be vandalized. I suspect there are Romney supporters with similar fears. Such is the state of political “discourse” in our country right now.

It’s gotten angry, and the anger has come from fear. Chicken Little has come to politics and run amok. “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.” I hear this from friends on both sides of the Presidential contest.

The sky will not fall after the election, no matter who wins. Those who put their hopes in Obama or Romney have put their hopes in the wrong place. They seem to have forgotten that Christ is the only one worthy of our hope.

I’m reading a book about how people of different faiths relate to one another. It is not about American politics, yet it has some words that can be applied to political differences as well as to religious ones.

Gustav Niebuhr, in Beyond Tolerance, speaks of a “sign of hope” in inter-religious relationships. “The sign of hope has to do with the willingness of people to take one another seriously, to acknowledge the vitality of the beliefs that separate adherents of different faiths rather than their lethal potential.”

The connections to our political situation are obvious.

A Catholic theologian told Niebuhr  “Can one admit differences without being adversarial? Now, that’s a radical thing in the world–that you’re not me, and I’m not you, but that doesn’t mean a threat.”

“Radical it is, indeed,” Niebuhr said. “It cuts directly against tribalism, an impulse to which most of us are prey.”

As we cast our varied votes, I pray we will not demonize one another or the candidates, that we will not fall prey to the tribal political forces which can devour us.

Democrats and Republicans both love this nation. Jesus said to love our “enemies,” and love is not just a feeling; it expresses itself in the words we say and the actions we perform. Vote and love.