Misusing the Bible in Politics

While applying the Bible to political decision-making can be tricky, it is by no means impossible. First, I want to focus on how we, as Christians, ought not apply the Bible in how we vote and whom we endorse. As a case study, I do want to go back to Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s recent statements about Donald Trump. I have already described my dissatisfaction in previous posts. As I said in my post titled “Discernment,” I am not confident that the spirit in which I wrote was particularly righteous. Even so, I still believe that there were missteps in how he quoted Scripture in reference to a political candidate, and I want to inspect those statements more closely.

I have said that I was not in attendance to hear the Falwell’s introduction of Trump, but he would make an appearance on Sean Hannity’s television show some time after Liberty’s convocation. When I started watching the video, I began to think that I had jumped to conclusions based on media reports of a speech I had not heard. Then, starting at about the three-minute mark, he says this:

Because the Bible says that ‘by their fruits you shall know them,’ and he may not be a theological expert, and he might say ‘Two Corinthians’ instead of ‘Second Corinthians,’ but when you look at the fruits of his life and all the people he’s provided jobs, I think that’s the true test of somebody’s Christianity, not whether or not they use the right theological terms.

I agree with Falwell in that Christians ought not expect their political leaders to be theologically or biblically acute or accurate with their terminology or even their beliefs. Christians, however, certainly ought to be articulate and explicit when speaking about such topics, especially Christians who are prevalent spokespersons in the public square.

For Christians, it has become a trope to say that we are voting for a “commander-in-chief” not a “pastor/theologian-in-chief.” Obviously, this is true, but neither do we need pastors and theologians who fuzzy up the biblical text in order to promote a commander-in-chief. Asking about any candidate’s position on faith and religion is certainly not out of bounds given how important these things are to many people in the United States. Given the place of religious liberty within the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, we the people do have a right to know their stances on public policy as it relates to religion. But as Christians, we do not need to try and fit our politicians into some religious mold in order to justify our electing them to office.

There have been numerous times when Trump has demonstrated an inability to understand the truth and power of the Gospel. I have seen no evidence (or fruit) that Trump has made a confession of faith. In terms of his viability as a political leader, is that so bad? Of course not. But when Christians misstate the Gospel that is supposed to be their lifeblood in support of such a politician, we witness a travesty. Providing jobs and generosity may be the testimony of a good leader, but confessing Christ as Lord and believing in His resurrection is the true testimony of a Christian.

As Christians, we cannot use the Bible as a blunt instrument in the realm of politics. We can say that a politician may be a good person, but nothing compels the Christian to whitewash that person’s religious views in order to make him or her palatable to Evangelical voters. Whenever Christians do so, we tend to distort the Gospel, which is the power of God to save. Christians can feel free to work alongside nonbelievers without tricking ourselves into thinking that they maybe, possibly, deep-down, actually believe in Jesus. We can cooperate with anyone as we attempt to maintain the freedom that America has always stood for. And if they don’t know Christ, we are free to share the Gospel with them!*

The politics of today have devolved into personal attack rather than reasoned discourse, and Christians can be a light to the world by being open to hearing different opinions. Liberty University and Jerry Falwell, Jr. need to be commended on that front as they have always extended invitations to people from a wide range of backgrounds.**

If we twist the Bible to fit our political goals, then we have betrayed the Gospel that gives us life and offers that same life to a lost and dying world. If the wisdom revealed to and through Christianity is true, then we should be able to convince rational people even when they don’t believe all of the ins and outs of Gospel-centered faith.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that Christians need to force a candidate into the mold of genuine faith when those candidates have demonstrated no desire to do so. And certainly don’t start quoting the Bible as a means of defending a so-called faith that a person does not profess! We endanger souls any time we so manipulate the Gospel.

*If you want the perfect, historical example of this, check out Albert Mohler’s interview with historian Thomas Kidd as they discuss Kidd’s scholarly biography of George Whitefield. Notice how Whitefield interacted with Benjamin Franklin.
**In the case of Bernie Sanders, they proved that those invitations are even genuine! #shocker
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