In a document released on May 7, many prominent evangelical Christians urged fellow evangelicals to focus on theology instead of politics. The statement provides a refreshing voice in a time in which faith often is reduced to a political tool and Jesus is demoted to being just a running mate. As the document declares, when “Christian beliefs are used as weapons for political interest,” Christians become “useful idiots.”
As an evangelical who regrets how the Bible has been misused as a magic wand to quote in hopes of gaining a few more votes, I commend the efforts of those who encourage evangelicals to refocus on living out the teachings of Jesus instead of attempting to codify them. I hope and pray that more evangelicals will take these words to heart in order to focus on sharing the love of Jesus instead of promoting a false partisan gospel of a political party.
The Manifesto (which can be read at anevangelicalmanifesto.com) laments the confusion about the term ‘evangelical’ and argues, “Contrary to widespread misunderstanding today, we Evangelicals should be defined theologically, and not politically, socially, or culturally.” Can I hear an “amen”? By focusing on partisan politics, many evangelicals have sadly replaced the cross with a stained glass elephant or donkey.
Christian musician Derek Webb warns in a song that we will not find “a Savior on Capitol Hill.” Although Christians should work to impact society for the better, we should not place our faith and trust in a specific politician or political party. We are saved by grace, not legislation. Our hope lies in Jesus, not the ballot box.
The Manifesto also calls on evangelicals to focus on a larger biblical agenda since issues such as poverty and racism are often ignored because of the polarizing debates about abortion and homosexuality. It explains, “We call for an expansion of our concern beyond single-issue politics, such as abortion and marriage, and a fuller recognition of the comprehensive causes and concerns of the Gospel, and of all the human issues that must be engaged in public life.” In essence, the Manifesto is calling on evangelicals to quit gerrymandering the gospel in order to distort it into being a partisan document.
If the church is tied to one political party, then that party’s scandals and failures also hurt the image and mission of the church. Hopefully, the Manifesto will help more evangelicals recognize that our biblical duty is to prophetically challenge all leaders and not to be married to one political party. After all, God is not a Republican or a Democrat! Likewise, evangelicals should not be married to one party. To do otherwise is to prostitute the gospel in a quest for political power. The Manifesto will not solve the overpoliticization of churches and ministers, but I am praying that it helps.
Brian Kaylor, a Baptist minister, is author of For God’s Sake, Shut Up! and a doctoral candidate in communication at the University of Missouri.