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As the schedule would have it, election day in the U.S. coincides with my turn here on The Twelve.  I spent a long while Monday morning staring into space, wondering what to write. It would be great to bracket and ignore the political situation.  But on this particular day that feels odd. It feels like sharing with you a recipe for a good lasagna even as I know my kitchen is actually on fire. True, not everyone is caught up in this moment. Those of us who care deeply about such things are not necessarily typical.  There are plenty of people who are not absorbing every Op-Ed, poll, or cable news show they can.  Still, it seems that far more are invested in all things political just now, a fact that may be proven by this day’s end in terms of voter turnout. Midterms rarely generate crowds at polling places.  This year may be somewhat different.

And so as election day dawns and then unspools as you read this blog, I’d like to be able to say that now it’s all over except for the shouting. But alas, I doubt that. We live in shouting times. We live in a perpetual election cycle when the next campaign for President starts about two minutes after a new President is sworn in.  Today’s midterm election comes 21 months since Trump was sworn in.  But I well remember that countdowns to this day were heralded early on and ever since.  “Good evening,” Anderson Cooper or some other news show host might say, “Well, it’s Tuesday and it is exactly 20 months until the midterms and . . .” If it feels like we are forever on the cusp of a critical election, it’s because that is how we have been made to feel.

We live in shouting times. In the main a lot of churches are contributing to this in various ways. This past weekend the New York Times ran an article on what it calls “God’s Army.”  I know that I and other writers here on The Twelve have often been criticized for being “too political.” Usually here that also means too political in a leftward direction because when the politics runs rightward–as the Times article shows–most evangelicals are just fine with that.  Indeed, one pastor quoted in the article said that for Christians the only thing more important than getting the Supreme Court right is the “Supreme Christ.” If I had to think about it long and hard in terms of making a priority list of things Christians should care about, I cannot imagine any human institution coming in a close second to Jesus. In fact, I would hope such institutions would not even make the cut on a list of Christian priorities.  It could certainly change your average creed if you actually believed that. “I believe in God the Father Almighty and in Jesus Christ, our Lord. And I believe in the Supreme Court and in its Justices . . .”

But that is where things are at for many in the American church. Exit polling two years ago showed that the reason most Christians voted for the otherwise morally odious Donald Trump was control of the high court. Everything else–and it does now seem to be most everything–got sacrificed on that particular altar. Every morally objectionable or flat out immoral (and amoral) thing this President does or says is worth it to get us a Gorsuch and a Kavanaugh and maybe one more before it’s over.

All of us Christians have to navigate complex and perilous waters when it comes to figuring out how to think and act and also vote in all things secular.  There is and never has been and never will be one clear set of Christian boxes to check when you step into a voting booth.  We all make compromises, we all put up with some things we dislike to get at other things we deem important. I am probably as inconsistent historically as anyone you could name. I do not wish to try to claim some moral high ground on this election day or ever.

But I could wish the church in this land could make it clear on a more consistent basis that there is much about which to be passionate, that more issues, not fewer (and not just one) matter a great deal. I know that “church” is a broad term but here I am referring to one of the largest segments of one of the more visible parts of the church in the U.S. and that is the evangelical church writ large. Maybe the church does not want to contribute to the shouting in these shouting times but insofar as we have a voice to lend and a message to proclaim, surely we can validate that welcoming the stranger, generating compassion for the suffering, standing up for the abused, advocating for justice, caring for creation, having keen eyesight with which to spy the marginalized are all deeply Christ-like traits we wish to embody individually and corporately as the Body of Christ.  Surely it is also Christ-like to stand against falsehood, to rebuke fearmongering of “the other,” to call racism and anti-Semitism and white nationalism what they are: evil, signs of a fallen creation that are decidedly not characteristics of the renewing work of Christ in our hearts.

I could wish that on this day we as a church could send also those messages in how we vote. But as it stands, that seems unlikely.

We are fast getting to the dreary part of Autumn, the part where trees are more bare than colorful, where the leaves that have fallen become sodden piles on sidewalks and in streets.  That matches the mood of at least some of us just now. Even so, in Christ there is always hope, there is always resurrection, there is always the restless Spirit who will keep trying to lead all of us to lives of both grace and truth. My hopes in all that are not dependent on election returns tonight or any night.  All of any of us can do is keep witnessing to the truth as best we can see that truth even as we follow the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Scott Hoezee

Scott Hoezee is Director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary.

20 Comments

  • Jan Price says:

    So well said Scott. Thank you. I couldn’t agree more.

  • Steve Van't Hof says:

    Well done, Scott.

  • Daniel J Meeter says:

    Thank you for this Scott. Much appreciated.

  • June A. Huissen says:

    Thank you.

  • James Schaap says:

    it was a joy to read you on THIS morning, Scott–thanks!

  • Rodger Rice says:

    Thanks, Scott, for helping my head to stop spinning and my heart to focus on what is important on this Election Day. May the Lord bless you and keep you.

  • Marty Wondaal says:

    “I do not wish to try to claim some moral high ground on this Election Day or ever.”

    Your very next paragraph was a panzer-like attack where you attempt to take a whole continent’s worth of moral high ground.

    But, I’m not a shouter, and I don’t want to offend you again, so I will refrain from trying to change your mind, or to at least see us conservatives as morally valid.

    But I will say that those of you in Michigan have a wonderful opportunity to vote for a really good candidate for US Senator who happens to be black. God bless John James!

    • Lewis DeKryger says:

      So well said….could not have said it better. Thanks for saying what I suspect many others were thinking but were reticent to express……

  • EMILY JANE STYLE says:

    my reading of your piece dovetailed with my learning about this study. which italicizes for me the still untapped & so needed white-on-white evangelical conversing about how our white racial identity can factor so deeply into our beliefs. thank goodness for all the ways that people of color evangelicals can and do teach us white folks. but some of this white racial identity terrain is, in my view, definitely ours (as white evangelical christians) to work hard at deepening & widening in inner & outer ways so as to minister to & challenge our white selves. not with shame, blame or guilt but certainly with awarenesses, plural. onward! https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/white-evangelicals-race-immigration-diversity_us_5bda1fb1e4b019a7ab5a04be?ncid=engmodushpmg00000003&fbclid=IwAR1Q5DtXlJvWJ7zcituQcNFJaDaZXTmp2jAJf_HMxwgusythfpQNctoMo70

  • Eric Van Dyken says:

    “Maybe the church does not want to contribute to the shouting in these shouting times but insofar as we have a voice to lend and a message to proclaim, surely we can validate that welcoming the stranger, generating compassion for the suffering, standing up for the abused, advocating for justice, caring for creation, having keen eyesight with which to spy the marginalized are all deeply Christ-like traits we wish to embody individually and corporately as the Body of Christ.”

    It’s not really the principles that trip up unity in the church so much as the outworking in practice (at the personal level) and policy (at the governmental level). The church is actually quite in concert in desire to welcome strangers, have compassion for those suffering, stand up for abused, care for creation, etc. If you care to look with the eyes of grace, these attributes are displayed regularly (though imperfectly) throughout the church; yes, even by (oftentimes especially by) deplorables (interesting how anyone can be “othered”). What is not helpful for the unity or witness of the church is for the eye to say to the hand “I don’t need you”, which occurs when one corner of the church says to another corner that they must emphasize and support the same policy preferences in order to be considered one who is welcoming, loving, compassionate, or stewardly.

    At the core, there are some fundamentally different ways to understand questions such as “who is a stranger?”, “what is welcoming?”, “who must welcome?”, “what does it mean to be marginalized?”, “what does God’s justice entail?”, “what is a just public policy?”, “what is compassion?”, “is it good for government to attempt to be compassionate?”, “what does care for creation look like?”, “is consumption of the resources God has placed on earth evil?”. Both sides of public policy debates have things to learn from the other. So, yes, by all means, let’s all seek to love God and our neighbor in all facets of life. Let’s advocate for public policy that is just. But let’s not act as if we have cornered the market on righteousness. Politics now is the same as it ever has been – a filthy and corrupt enterprise. There is no moral panic now that is not manufactured. The heart of man remains the same today as it ever was – hard as stone unless softened by God himself. No amount of Supreme Court justices, affirmative action policies, or whatever preferred other public policy will change that enduring reality.

    • Scott Hoezee says:

      Thanks, Eric. You raise good and valid point–and counterpoints–that I really appreciate and take to heart. You are right that in various corners the church stands up for many of the things I mention. At the same time, probably at least some Christians are among those who attend Trump rallies, including the one in Montana where the President celebrated a criminal physical assault on a reporter. Were the Christians there–pro-life to the core–among those who laughed and cheered? Meanwhile this President has demonstrably pulled back from creation care, casting doubt on how necessary it is, even as so very many people in this country–not Christians necessarily but many people–have felt emboldened somehow in areas related to racial hatred, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism. But I don’t hear much lament from evangelicals that all this is so because . . . well, that whole SCOTUS thing makes it worthwhile somehow. Of course, Obama did some things with which I as a pretty traditional Christian might also disagree so some of this is hardly unique to Trump vis-a-vis how we in the Church need to parse things. But in its louder public voice, it seems that a good bit of the churches of this land have been saying only one thing and giving a pass to all else. Not everyone, not everywhere, not all the time. But enough to give me pause for concern. But again, thanks for thoughtful comments here.

      • Eric Van Dyken says:

        “But in its louder public voice, it seems that a good bit of the churches of this land have been saying only one thing and giving a pass to all else.”

        Respectfully, I don’t think you are reading/listing/observing broadly enough if this is your impression.

        I will also assume that you are equally vexed at the portion of the church that stands by or encourages hatred of our President (which is rampant), as I am sure you agree that God abhors all hatred, whether of those in low or of high position.

        • Scott Hoezee says:

          Donald Trump troubles me in more ways than I can count. But I do not hate him. I pray for his safety, I pray for his family. It seems that many Christians embrace and would even say they love this man and what he stands for. I cannot quite figure that out, especially since many of those same people had/have a hatred for Barack Obama that seems to defy all reason, including the Christian man who on a recent Facebook string of comments directly called Obama a “POS.” Hatred of Hillary (and of Bill) also runs deep, deep, deep among Trump’s Christian evangelical base. The comments I have read astound me. Surely you, Eric, abhor this as well.

          • Eric Van Dyken says:

            I don’t doubt that you yourself do not hate Donald Trump, but many do, and express that freely. Have you ever read the comments sections at mainstream leftist sites such as HuffPost? The hatred is no more veiled than any white supremacist site, and it fills our national discourse. Can you show me where you have expressed public repudiation of this? If not, by your standard is it ok for me to say that you are ok with it (or put another way, it is “worth it”)? Would it be ok for me to say that you “give it a pass” if I don’t find that you have repudiated it to my satisfaction? That is surely not fair.

            Yes, I abhor hatred in all its forms, especially that which lurks in my own heart. You’re attempting to play tit-for-tat here, and I think you are doing so to avoid your own introspection. Truth is, you have a platform that is greater than most of ours. And you are modeling *exactly* what you decry in others: namely, that of selective outrage or indignance. You have become what you disdain, only in a mirror image. This site is replete with examples of the same. And no matter how many times it is pointed out, defensiveness is what is returned by the authors here, with a retreat to party lines. I would think that this site here and the authors would want to model a better way forward. I cannot see that they have.

            I acknowledge here fully: I need you as a brother in Christ. I can, do, and will learn from you. Whether you intend to or not, the message you repeatedly send concerning brothers and sisters in Christ is decidedly not that message. That saddens me.

    • Beth Jammal says:

      You stated well what was also in my heart. Thank you.

  • Fran Siems says:

    Are those pesky Evangelicals God’s children also? Whew! Good! Then let’s love them, and stop criticizing, blaming, showing such disdain for them, and then, in your own words, “witness to the truth as best we can see that truth.” I said a prayer for you this morning in your sadness.
    Eric, I totally agree with you.

    • Scott Hoezee says:

      If they were not God’s children who, along with the rest of us, try to represent Christ to the world, I would not be terribly concerned. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul seems to believe that rebuke would be a pretty common facet in the Church as we all try to hold each other accountable to being Christ-like. In any event, Paul mentions it pretty often. If one cannot do that without being accused of “criticizing, blaming, and showing disdain,” then there is little place for the give-and-take Paul seemed to think the church would need. It is not loving to be silent when the Church is amiss or when things are said that disturb shalom. That’s true when commentators here think they need to rebuke me or at least call into question what I wrote. It’s true in the larger church, too. That is not to say our every rebuke is on-target. But to allow virtually no place for it only ensures the perpetuation of error and heresy.

  • Bonny Sue Mulder-Behnia says:

    Thank you for your wise words. My heart is so sad about the shouting, and the defense of a reprehensible man in the office of president doing damage that will take decades for this country to recovery from. Sigh.
    Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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