The defining feature of evangelicalism is disregard for the institutional church.
I was disappointed to see this proven again by “Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden”, particularly with the signatories Richard Mouw and Samuel Logan. This group argues in three paragraphs that Joe Biden’s policies reflect a more biblical, pro-life ethic than Donald Trump’s, abortion notwithstanding and evidence not provided. Citing the parachurch organization, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Pro-Lifers for Biden state, “‘Faithful evangelical civic engagement and witness must champion a biblically balanced agenda.’ Therefore we oppose ‘one issue’ political thinking because it lacks biblical balance.” What are the additional pro-life issues that policies on abortion need to be balanced against? Poverty, healthcare, climate change, racism, and, yes, that pressing issue, smoking.
My concern is not with the political question of the importance of these issues, but the way in which the church has been sidelined by this group in favor of an equalizing idea of “balance.”…
The protest outside the White House was apparently cleared by police using tear gas and grenades so that President Trump could go and have photos taken outside St. John’s Church. Leaving aside the question of the propriety of a President using police to disperse a lawful protest for a photo-op, there was no communication between the President and the church prior to his visit, and the church was relegated to a set piece in the midst of turmoil. But worse than that, the police used tear gas and concussion grenades to clear away the church’s clergy from the church property. A President used agents of the state to remove pastors from a church (who were tending to injured people) so that he could pose with a Bible in front of a place of worship. This is despicable.
I grew up in an evangelical world that constantly said that character™ mattered, especially for public officials. The character qualities in mind were always Christian and almost always about sexual activity. The world I inhabited also wrote off most Democratic politicians as lacking character™, either due to their stance on abortion, openness on sexual and cultural revolutions, or being theologically liberal or sterile. You needed to vote GOP, either because the Democrats were godless, or because the Republicans were faithful to God.
Then came 2012. Something odd happened in that election…
Much has been made of Vice President Mike Pence’s comments yesterday to a pastors conference in D.C. The fact that the Vice President publicly endorsed preaching the gospel or that the conference was put on by an organization labeled a hate group have occupied most of the commentary. But what has been missed is his characterization of gospel ministry in the life of the nation…
Stephen Wolfe has an excellent piece at Mere Orthodoxy on the consequentialist theory of voting. He challenges the assumption that voting for a candidate is an endorsement of their moral life, and that it is necessarily hypocritical to tolerate immorality for a candidate in a given situation, but not another. His demonstration that the assumption of endorsement is misplaced is strong, but ultimately fails to convince in his conclusion. His principle is,
Voting for a candidate is an endorsement of the candidate’s moral life as it pertains to his external conformity to civil righteousness sufficient to qualify the candidate for civil office, qualifications judged by the likely preponderance of good or bad in the long-term consequences of his term in office determined by his political actions after mediated through the institutional constraints of his office and the checks and balances of other institutions.
The candidate’s ability to enact policies, the details of those policies, and the bearing of the candidate’s morality on those policy enactments are the only endorsement of the candidate’s moral life made by voting. Wolfe in his conclusion states, “And as I argued above, a moral standard as a first condition for vote-worthiness is arbitrary, unless it is shown to be relevant to good civil outcomes resulting from civil actions in a particular time, place, and set of circumstances mediated through particular political institutions…”