When I was in elementary school, I was a good kid. I listened in class. I did my homework. The teachers liked having me in their class.
One teacher thought so highly of me and my character that she had me sit beside the class trouble maker, hoping that I would be a positive influence in his life.
I don’t remember any of the specifics of what happened, but I will never forget my teacher coming to me and saying, “I put you beside of him because I thought you could help him and make his behavior better, but instead he has made your behavior worse.”
I think today we are in danger of the same process with Christianity (particularly Evangelicals) and Politics.
If there is one person you can count on to return Evangelicals to the meaning of it all, to the reason we are called Evangelicals, it has to be Billy Graham.
USA Today has an op-ed about the distinction that Graham brings to politics and his faith. While I probably don’t agree with their motives for the piece, I do agree with most of what they said.
I am sure the editors at USA Today long for the 60’s and 70’s when Christians (at least socially conservative Christians) were largely silent in the political realm. They viewed it as something to avoid at all cost, not wanting to sully the image of the Church, the image of Christ, with a political controversy.
You can feel their desire for those days to return and for Christians to simply preach in the church and shut up on election day. Or better yet, return to the days when Christians were the driving force behind the Democratic party.
Despite what I feel are their motives, they bring to light many points that are well worth discussing.
Although they mangle Graham’s message (they seem to imply that Graham does not believe in hell), they do present him as a stark contrast to the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons, who have long left real, active Christian ministry and turned to political activism. That is their choice, but as the column points out that comes at a price.
When you so closely tie a faith (Christianity) or a segment of a faith (Evangelicals) with a political party or cause. You run the risk of destroying both. The world would not be at too much of a loss if the Republican party ceased to be. Those who alligned themselves with it for whatever reason would simply go to another party or form a new party. But if Christianity had its image damaged beyond repair, no amount of political spin could repair what was done.
The op-ed points out that politics is, by its nature, a “messy, controversial, full of awkward compromises and sometimes corrupt” place. Those should not describe Christianity. Those do not describe my relationship with Jesus.
The opinion piece flows from a feature article on Graham and his preperation for his 417th crusade that will take place in New York. In it, you see a man consumed by his passion – his love for the Lord and his heart that others come to experience the same joy he has.
When asked how they can be prayed for, Graham and Ruth, his wife of 62 years, answer, “That God’s will be done and God be glorified.” That simple, that profound.
No call for the appointment of conservative judges, no call for the election of a Republican president, not even a call for the end of abortion – simply, profoundly seeking God’s will and Him glorified.
The relationship between faith and politics is a truly tenuious one. If people of faith back totally out of politics then their values are not represented and the country moves farther away from any standard of right and wrong. If people of faith jump in with everything and entangle their faith with their politics, the two become inseparable and their faith becomes polluted with personal and political desires.
I don’t know where the balance lies. I don’t even know if the path that Billy Graham is right for everyone. I don’t believe he even thinks that (he supports his son’s ministry that has become more politically involved). But I do know one thing, he is allowed to share the Gospel with virtually no restraint and almost everyone respects and listens to him because of the consistently moral and Christian life he has lived.
Hopefully, Evangelicals will not have to learn the hard way like I did. If God gives you a chance to impact someone or something, don’t change who you are for them, but change them with who you are.