Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Faith and politics

Richard Land, who is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Commission, has not signed the "Evangelical Manifesto" even though he approves of most of the signers and agrees with ninety percent of the document's argument. He explains why he isn't signing in a Baptist Press article excerpted here:
Lastly, the Manifesto turns to finding "a new understanding of our place in public life." I agree, and have said publicly many times, that as Christians and evangelicals we should never be "completely equated with any party, partisan ideology, economic system, class, tribe, or national identity." I have often said that our ultimate allegiance is to God, never any candidate or political party.

However, the Manifesto acknowledges and lauds the impact and influence of prominent evangelical political reformers such as William Wilberforce and movements such as "the abolition of slavery and women's suffrage." The question must be asked, "How did Wilberforce end the slave trade?" He was a Member of Parliament, and he used the political process to end the slave trade.

Just so, the abolitionists used the political process to end slavery. If the mid-19th-century Democratic Party tried to be pro-choice on slavery while the abolitionists, President Lincoln, and the Republicans were adamantly anti-slavery, did the slavery issue become a partisan issue? If so, whose fault was that, the pro-slavery and pro-choice party or the anti-slavery party?

If these men and groups had stayed above the fray, beyond the reach of the rough and tumble political process, their goals would have been reached, if ever reached completely, over a much longer time frame and after much additional suffering by those being victimized by societal evil. ....

.... In the midst of an eloquent plea for freedom of conscience and religious liberty, the Manifesto declares that "we have no desire to coerce anyone or to impose on anyone beliefs and behavior that we have not persuaded them to adopt freely...."

.... As an evangelical Christian I am also a citizen who has an obligation to be salt and light in society and a right to expect the divinely ordained civil magistrate (the government) to punish those who do evil (Romans 13:1-7). Consequently, it is my duty as a Christian to work to persuade my fellow citizens to enact laws which will coerce the behavior of those who are victimizing and brutalizing others against their will. I do want to support the government coercing the behavior of slaveholders, of pedophiles, of rapists and of murderers. I am not content to allow pedophiles and rapists to continue their bestial behavior until I have "persuaded them" to stop.

I don't think the Manifesto intends to say this, but I can assure you that secularist adversaries in our society will pounce on this statement's lack of clarity to assert that some evangelicals have renounced any legislation of morality. [the article]
Baptist Press - FIRST-PERSON: Why I am not signing the 'Evangelical Manifesto' - News with a Christian Perspective

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