Earlier this week the Christian Post published an article in which Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, called those who would refuse to support Donald Trump “fools”. He went on to say that any Christian who refuses to vote for the Republican nominee is “being motivated by pride rather than principle.” I found his inapt comments to be problematic for several reasons.
His comments highlight the unhealthy alliance between evangelical Christians and the Republican party. Pastor Jeffress, who pastors a Southern Baptist church of over 10,000 people, basically said that only prideful fools will withhold their votes from Donald Trump if he is the GOP presidential nominee. The ramifications of such rhetoric must not be ignored. He seems to be more concerned about preventing Hillary Clinton from becoming president than staying in his biblically defined lane as a pastor. Pastor Jeffress is certainly free to his political opinion, but his words were incredibly irresponsible for someone who holds the office of an elder in the local church. The insinuation is clear: If you are a good Bible believing Christian, you will cast your vote for whoever the Republican party nominates. Just get in line and support God’s favorite party. This type of sentiment reeks of idolatry and it is a major hindrance to the spread of the gospel.
The Scriptures teach plainly from beginning to end that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and he is faithful in his redemptive work to bring about his purposes and plans for his glory. He cannot and will not be contained or constrained by our man-made political structures and classifications. When we do not live under the peaceful and comforting reality of God’s sovereignty, our only other alternative is to look to something or someone else besides him for salvation and security. This idolatrous endeavor takes our devotion away from the one true God and it takes our attention away from the ministry of the gospel. Why should our hearts stir anxiously as we await election results as if there is no one who sits enthroned in the heavens? The second psalm in the Book of Psalms tells us plainly who reigns. We have placed messianic expectations on the office of the president instead of on the Messiah himself. This is the height of foolishness and pride.
I am weary of the culture wars and I know that I am not alone. Since when did our primary mission as Christians become preventing the Democrats from taking over? The culture war is one that is waged from a platform of fear and this fear coupled with the pandemic of biblical illiteracy has hindered the relevancy and effectiveness of our ministry. Where we should be boldly speaking the truth in love, we are coming across as incredibly insecure and in many cases downright callous. Ideologues on both ends of the political spectrum know this all too well and are more than willing to keep feeding into the fear, insecurity, and hate of the masses. If you do not believe me, just take a look at the displays of anger and hate at some of the political rallies and debates that have taken place. Substance and truth are painfully absent. Pastors should be faithfully feeding the flock of God from the Word of God, but we have far too many pastors echoing stump speeches instead of preaching the Word.
Apparently, in Pastor Jeffress’ world there is no room for a Christian to withhold his or her vote for the sake of conscience. The Baptist Faith and Message says that, “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate…The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends.” Pastor Jeffress should refer back his denomination’s statement of faith. I long for the day when the divorce between evangelicals and the Republican party is final. There is way too much work to be done for the Church to be beholden to any political party. We have to wrestle with the reality that voting in line with biblical values may mean casting no vote at all.