How Evangelicals can lead the way now

After the 2012 elections, Franklin Graham stated on CNN that our nation is on a “path of destruction” due to the 2012 election results. In addition Graham said, “If we are allowed to go down this road in the path that this president wants us to go down, I think it will be to our peril end to the destruction of this nation.”

This is troubling talk from one of the most powerful Evangelicals. Millions of Christians regularly take Graham’s lead on matters of politics and moral issues.

This is not the way to lead Christians to reach out and bring about the Kingdom of God. Let me explain.

Graham’s comments on CNN were noble, but there is a better way to change the future of America. His ministry organizations actively block movements in states that try to legalize same sex marriage, fight for prayer to return to schools, and encourage legislation that forbids abortions. Graham’s ministry and organizations regularly court politicians to enact his biblical interpretation on certain issues as civil law. By doing this, Graham only alienates the very people we Christians are trying to reach.

Franklin Graham and I are fellow ministers, evangelicals, and preachers of the Gospel. I thank Graham for his service to our nation and to other nations around the world. His relief organizations continuing give aid to developing nations. I support a number of these organizations. Graham’s heart is for God’s and I commend him for that. He wants to see the world and our nation to come to know Jesus Christ. I agree. Graham wants for Christians to carry out the message of the Bible. I agree. He wants the world to know God. I agree.

However, Graham and I disagree about how to go about making these common Kingdom goals realities. The only way to turn others to Christ is not through our political process, but through a Kingdom Process.

Jesus did not come to lobby Rome, Paul didn’t appeal to political leaders in Athens, and Peter didn’t hold political fundraisers for kings. Christian leaders in the New Testament did not use a political system as a means to achieve moral and societal change. Instead, they ate, sat, discussed, lived, and created space for their detractors. They didn’t alienate those who they were preaching to with hateful speech or disdain.  People loved Jesus because he was the only rabbi that would give them to time of day and listen to them.

Tom McCrossan, another fellow minister, and life long Republican to add, provided a helpful perspective of what is occurring with Christians who want change through politics:

Instead of providing homosexuals with a loving and accepting community in which to encourage and attempt behavioral changes they professed could be made, Fundamentalist Christians condemned homosexuals as perverts and abominations…Instead, they use President Obama as the scapegoat for all they see wrong with the nation, while being in denial of their own responsibility in all this. No wonder conservative Christian values are under attack… No wonder there is such polarization and demonization in politics and society. It will not stop until fundamental, conservative Christian Republicans repent of their own sins of fear mongering, distortion of the truth, demonization of opponents and harsh judgementalism of those with whom they disagree.

The time has come to stop thinking and believing that Kingdom change can be achieved through ballots, politicians, or civil displays of religion. Ancient Rome or modern day Maryland are not nor were ever keepers of marriage — God is. States issue licenses to be married, but to Christians, true marriage is ordained by God and not a judge or a court. If we want to achieve Kingdom goals then we must change hearts, not laws.

The only way for Evangelicals to establish any kind of Kingdom change is to change people from the ground up. Not from the top down. Jesus didn’t legislate his teaching. Rather, he traveled from town to town (much like Billy Graham did) and loved people. Listening to them. Eating with them. Praying with them. Giving them the Good News. Jesus only had his harshest words for hypocritical religious leaders and not the moral “sinners”. Jesus, Paul, or Peter  didn’t blame Rome, Athens, or Corinth for the world’s problems or for three or four key moral issues.

Evangelicals must work together and not think that we can use the government or politics to change the world. We must meet people face to face — not with protest signs but with mutual respect and love of Christ in order to give them God’s message.

Alan Rudnick

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About the Author
Alan Rudnick has been featured on television, radio, print, and social media and serves as the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ballston Spa, NY. He has quickly established himself as a leader, blogger, and commentator in the areas of faith, Christianity, ministry, and social media. He is the author of, “The Work of the Associate Pastor”, Judson Press. Alan’s writing has been featured with the Albany Times Union, The Christian Century, Associated Baptist Press, and The Fund of Theological Education.

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  • Matthew Crockett

    I’ve never understood why some people think that it somehow makes sense to mistreat and antagonize other people. Even if you disagree with someone, you need a positive footing to get people to listen so you can change their mind.

    • Hominid

      Your unstated assumption is that people are rational – they’re not.

  • cken

    If the Kingdom is to come, the first thing organized religion, particularly Baptists, needs to do is some house cleaning. They need to purge themselves of their so called biblical based man made rules and return to the basic spiritual truths taught by Jesus. Paul had some good advise and insights into human nature, but he is not God. Be careful the Bible doesn’t become a substitute god. We are to worship God and follow the teachings of Jesus, not worship the Bible. Regarding Christian values, there are too many Christians who don’t follow them. Christians argue about trivial things, like baptism, drinking, communion, and dancing. Get over it, tolerance and love should be our guiding principles. Did Jesus exclude any but those who didn’t truly believe. True believers, not bottom line membership, should be the ultimate objective. Finally, Christians must learn to fight for their beliefs. I don’t mean in a violent or proselytizing sense; but be proud, not ashamed of what you believe in. Denominations are irrelevant, we are all in this together as followers of Jesus. Support your fellow brothers and sisters regardless of what man made denomination they belong to or differences you may have with how they lead their life. Don’t judge, don’t condemn, that is God’s purview; rather express your support and love. Welcome all seekers and believers into your congregation without insisting they follow your rules, dogma, or even your brand of theology. The spiritualists, the secular humanists, even the atheists are all seeking, but they won’t congregate with you because you insist, rightly or wrongly, your rules, dogma, and theology is absolutely the only one which is totally right. The first religion which can say what God, the Holy Spirit, and the soul are, what they are made of, and where they are will take over the world.

  • Ed Kohout

    How can Graham possibly say that the defeat of a non-Christian like Romney is bad for a nation that has always had Christian Presidents?

    How can an election in a secular nation ever be bad for the nation? Is God now against self-determination? Are Baptists not only anti-choice when it comes to fetuses, but also self-determination of the citizenry that, I assume, we all placed here by God?

    No, what Graham is worried about is the waning influence of his own financial kingdom. He knows that the rest of the reality-based world has grown tired of evangelical extremism and subversion and has rebuked his ilk. He played himself, and lost.

    It is time for evangelicals to do some serious soul-searching. “cken” below is quite right — evangelicals have almost universally forgotten about the message of the Gospels on how to treat others.

  • ChrisSanchez

    So, is it a sin to vote? How about encouraging others to vote the way you think best? What about going to the headquarters of the candidate you like, and doing it in an organized way–you might even witness to a Mormon or agnostic there. And if you don’t have time, can you send $50 to the campaign, instead? You see? Politics is NOT wrong, per se. If you speak wrongly of the people you oppose, that may be a sin. But to get in there and fight hard for what you believe is right is laudable.

    • cken

      Why would you want to witness to a Mormon, they are already Christians. That is like saying a Methodist should witness to a Baptist. Why? We all believe in Jesus and his teachings and that is all that matters. If you don’t agree with that you need to reevaluate the basic teachings of Jesus’ teachings and put aside your man made dogma, which is illconceived by mere virtue of it being man made. It’s the evangelicals exclusionary mindset of I am right and you are wrong which, if it continues, will lead to the demise of many organized christian religions.

  • Greg Taylor

    This 2012 election has damaged the
    ability of the Christian conservatives to wield political power.
    Americans look at us as being arrogant, intolerant, and hateful and
    in large part, we are. By acting that way, we have dragged Jesus
    through the mud and presented that Jesus to our audience. That’s the
    Jesus they see. No wonder they are turned off from our beliefs and
    our religion. They don’t see the real Jesus.

    What to do? II Chron 7:14 is the
    biblical prescription to cure moral and spiritual decay in this
    nation. Notice that the target of change is the church, not the
    nation at large. If the church changes, then the society around it
    will change.

    What’s worth more, a life or a
    soul? Christian political operatives should put witnessing first,
    their family second, then politics after those. What changes people
    the most, explaining why your political belief is superior to theirs
    or getting them saved; getting them saved will dramatically change
    their political beliefs. We should make sure that they see Jesus in
    us first and foremost, the true Jesus. The church should have as
    their primary objective, to win the lost around them, not outlawing

  • Robert Flynn

    All those who believe salvation is by grace through faith without the necessity of sacraments and works are evangelicals, but not all are fundamentalists. The majority of black evangelicals and Latino evangelicals voted for Obama. I think the same may be true of women evangelicals. White, male evangelicals, many of whom are fundamentalists, voted for Romney, changing their position on Mormonism to support a political candidate. Southern Baptists have flip-flopped from their positions on family planning, contraception, abortion, and separation of church and state since the early 1970s to align themselves with the “religious” right. How many other positions are we willing to abandon to maintain our political power and our financial support from nonbelievers?