Often it is those most affected by a decision who get the least say in it. Think about the London Mayoral election. The Mayor has been able to impose a congestion charge and also has powers over how the London Underground functions but who is most affected by those decisions? Well arguably it is the many commuters who travel in to London everyday to work. Similarly, the EU referendum in 2016 excluded the many EU citizens who reside in the UK. Going back to 2014, and potentially looking forward to a similar event in the next few years, Scottish independence referendums fail to consult the many Scots who now live south of the border in England but have relatives and interests north of the border and so would be affected by the direction independence takes. If people who are substantially affected by a decision don’t get a say in it, it is important that those of us who do take time to consider them when exercising our own democratic right.
Next week, the US goes to the polls to elect a new president, or to re-elect Donald Trump. The decision they make will affect all of us around the globe. The President isn’t referred to as the leader of the free world for nothing. His foreign policy decisions will determine whether or not there is peace or war in many places, his environmental policies will help determine whether or not attempts to combat climate change are successful and his economic policies will affect the rest of us too. I would also suggest that if the US doesn’t manage to get COVID-19 under control then that will have a detrimental impact on the fight against the pandemic. I would encourage American friends to consider these things as they place their ballot.
There is another way in which American politics affect us all. As we come in to election time, we’ve heard a lot from men like John MacArthur and Wayne Grudem and something from John Piper too. Up and down America, Christian leaders are pitching in with their opinion of the current president and their view on which way people should vote. Not only that but these men have spoken up loudly over the past year about things like how the church should respond to coronavirus and the issues of racism and social justice.
When John MacArthur decided to defy the law on church gatherings in doors during the pandemic he received quite a bit of criticism. I remember at the time that his supporters were quick to tell those who were criticising GCC to keep their noses out. It was nothing to do with the rest of us, the decision was for GCC alone and perhaps the opinions of Christians in that bit of California should be heard too. I’m not sure whether or not MacArthur’s cheer leaders were given the same message. The point is this, MacArthur was not some random unknown pastor hitting the local headlines. He is a Bible teacher who has written books, produced a study Bible and spoken at conventions around the World.
Whilst we may not have a formal international church leadership structure, these men hold a lot of soft power amongst evangelicals. As international Bible teachers they are seen to have influence and they are seen to represent. Now their primary calling is to teach God’s Word and that’s the primary influence they have. The reason they have that influence is because they are genuinely gifted as preachers and teachers. So, what happens when they get bogged down in partisan politics? Well, two things happen. First of all, those outside of evangelicalism prick up their ears. These men are seen to represent us, to speak for us. They are seen as typical of evangelical Christianity. Secondly, evangelicals are listening. They are making judgement calls about whether or not to pay attention to the Bible teaching of these men. If they see inconsistent and questionable, hypocritical even, attitudes in their political pronouncements, then they are less likely to listen to their Bible teaching. They risk voiding the ministry that God has called them to for the sake of making their views known in an area that they have not been called to.
It is important for me to emphasise here that I’m not saying that these men shouldn’t have political opinions or share them. What we believe affects how we live and so all of our life should be under the rule and reign of King Jesus. On this blog I’ve engaged with political issues because Christians have things to say on these matters. What I am saying is that when Bible teachers speak on these issues they should consider who is listening, the affect their words will have and the potential cost to the ministry they have been called to.
As my American brothers and sisters engage in the debate about who should be the next POTUS and as they cast their votes next week, I would encourage them to think deeply and prayerfully about how their decision will affect their brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.