For the record, I disagree with John Piper on several issues (I'll let you guess which ones...not all are mentioned in this video). However, I was incredibly encouraged to listen to his message. If only more conservative Christians sounded like John Piper, rather than like Focus on the Family Action with their "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America," which I hesitate to even link to because I know it will only make a lot of people angry. Feel free not to read it. I am not recommending it.
Now, John Piper is not theologically very different from the Focus on the Family people. He believes God designed men and women to fulfill different roles. He believes homosexuality is sinful. But those aren't the only things he believes.
He believes there is hope in Jesus. He believes that God is in control, even of hard-fought democratic elections. He believes that we in the church should be about being Christians -- an astoundingly radical thought in an era when so many church leaders are deeply invested in being pro this or that piece of legislation. He insists that the church's mission is to "spread the gospel." Again, this should not be a radical claim, but somehow, right now, it is.
Christian involvement in politics is a complicated matter. Personally, I subscribe to the "sin boldly" school of Christian political thought (yes, I just made that school up). I believe that since Jesus is not on the ballot, I will be implicated in sin and evil and corruption no matter who I vote for. We are only human, and so are the candidates. Because I am human I must operate on limited information; I cannot predict the future. I will not be able to choose perfectly because there is no perfect option, and it is not altogether certain what even the "okay" option might be. I would have voted for George W. Bush in 2000, and today I would say I would have been wrong. Voting is not easy, and we should not imagine that either side has clean hands.
However, I also happen to believe that it's important to vote. Not to vote would be an abdication of my civic responsibility. And I do believe that important issues and ideas and even lives are at stake here. This election will affect the future of our country, whichever way it goes. It's important.
It's important, but it's not easy. Now, for honesty's sake here, I should clarify what I mean by "easy." I made up my mind in January, and I have not changed it. In fact, you could say I made up my mind sometime in late 2004, when I heard Barack Obama speak at the Democratic National Convention. I liked him then, and I like him now. I believe he will make a good President, and maybe a great one.
So in a real sense, this decision is very easy for me. I say it's not easy, though, because I still have a seed of doubt. I will enthusiastically vote for him, but I'll try to keep both eyes open. Doubtless there would be consequences of an Obama Presidency that would be negative, and it's impossible to tell now how significant those negatives would be. I am hopeful, but not without doubt. Trusting, but not without cynicism.
I think my posture is about as good of one as a Christian could have (um, humbly). Mostly, I hope, because it tempers the self-righteousness that comes with being on the obviously-superior-side (whichever side that is). I hope my seed of doubt leaves me more respectful of people who disagree with me. I know they have their reasons.
I wish we had more arguments about politics in church. I mean honest, respectful arguments, which are hard to have. It's easy to conclude that the people who disagree with you are stupid, crazy, evil, or some combination of the three. It's harder to listen to them and keep in mind the fact that your opponent is yet God's child, your sibling, no matter how different they are. No matter, even, how wrong they are. For Christ's sake, let's remember that our salvation does not hinge on how we vote.
When I remember Christ my Savior, I am less anxious about who to vote for. Sin boldly, said Martin Luther, the reformer who kick-started Protestantism 491 years ago today. Sin boldy because God is merciful, because you know not what you do. Sin bodly, as you cannot help but sin; yet nevertheless, live and love and risk and act and vote in the confidence that Christ lives to offer you forgiveness, to always invite you home.
What I appreciate about John Piper, I think, is that he comes to a similar conclusion. I hear in the background of his thought one theme: Jesus is my hero and defender, not John McCain. Jesus is my hope and reconciler, not Barack Obama. I could not agree more.
I am posting the "long version" of this video because it gives more context, even though in the short version he says fewer controversial things. I don't want to portray him as anybody other than who he is, and my whole excitement over this video depends upon Piper's theological conservatism. I would ask you to watch the whole thing -- but if you can't stand it, skip forward to about 2:44 seconds in. He's worth listening to. I wish more Christians would.
For more on voting from John Piper, read this.