I must share my delightful surprise to see a note from my friend, Philip Yancey, pop up on a previous post, "A Great Gift for Christmas". And then, I found out Sunday that Theresa Underwood reads my blog! I am still on a spending spree of friends!
On to another matter, Don Millican, elder at Park Plaza in Tulsa, wrote a most challenging article in Sunday's Tulsa World. I have felt increasingly uneasy over the years about the portrayal Christians are taking on for ourselves in the political arena. Thus, I pass the article on to you for consideration. If you don't care for the political scene, I'll catch you tomorrow. If you do, take a look.
Readers Forum: Being salt and light to all the world By DON MILLICAN 12/10/2006 View in Print (PDF) Format
I am, though imperfectly so, a conservative evangelical Christian. I make no apologies for that. And, if you are not one, there are obviously significant issues about which you and I will disagree. Perhaps that discussion is for another time, but for now, I invite you to listen in on a conversation with my fellow evangelicals:
Brothers and sisters, it is time for us to no longer allow our political affiliation and views to be presumed or for a single political party to assume our allegiance to the point that they can ignore our interests. And it is time that we cease allowing our views to be marginalized by being relegated to a two or three issue platform, prompting the rest of America to cast us as extreme and irrelevant -- the religious right. How did this happen to us? How did our witness for the teachings of Jesus become distorted so? As is often the case with unintended consequences, I'm afraid that much of the answer lies with us.
We speak, as we should, for morality, and yet do we speak for morality in all its facets? It is clear that Jesus considered morality to include taking care of the poor. One cannot read the 25th chapter of Matthew without understanding the centrality to the teachings of Christ of care
for the underprivileged. He tells us that He is embodied in the poor and the outcast, and warns that how we treat them is, in fact, how we treat him. Is it moral that we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars giving tax breaks to people like me and in executing a war, while the basic educational and health-care needs of the poorest of our society are being inadequately met? Is it moral if workers' wages are inadequate to allow them to reach self-sufficiency or that more and more working families have no health insurance?
Scripture has much to say about the proper treatment of workers and severe condemnation for those who mistreat or take advantage of them. And speaking of workers, is it moral for us to enjoy cheap products if the Third World workers who produce those products are being paid less than a living wage? Where has our evangelical voice been in addressing morality issues such as those?
We say that we want a Christian nation, and yet are we prepared to accept what the hard teachings of Christ would say to a Christian nation? Rather than practicing an "eye for an eye" or "life for a life" retaliation policy, Jesus taught "turn the other cheek" and "love your enemies." Those teachings are unequivocal and cannot be explained away.
Are we really prepared to apply those teachings of Jesus to our foreign policy and our criminal punishment laws such that we are "pro-life" in every aspect of our policy agenda and such that we do not give up so easily on non-violent solutions? Jesus said "I was a stranger, and you took me in." Would Christ be so harsh in His immigration policies as many today would propose? The prophet Isaiah defined "fasting" that God wants from us as "to loose the chains of injustice" and "to set the oppressed free."
Are we prepared to accept from these teachings that civil rights must be a passionately espoused component of any Christian policy agenda, even civil rights for those whose lifestyles and beliefs we might not accept? Do we also understand that any policy platform that we advance must be forceful in its support for international human rights if we are to be true to the charge given us to free the oppressed?
By these comments, I do not suggest for a moment that we abandon one political party and run headlong into another. As E.J. Dionne Jr., said, "If the church causes discomfort only to one political party when both are in need of repentance, it is not being the church."
What I am suggesting, though, is that it is high time that our evangelical Christian voice begins to speak with the prophetic force by which it was first delivered, on the full range of Christ's teachings -- and addressed to both political parties.
If Jesus were walking the Earth today, from his actions and his words, some might understandably describe him as a bleeding heart liberal. But in truth, he is more accurately described as a bleeding hands, feet and side compassionate. And so must we be if we intend to bear his name.