While it is perhaps understandable, the question of whether or not it will be found excusable by history and God’s judgement remains to be seen.
In their defense, Pastors often live an insulated life. On Monday morning, their best client isn’t going ask them to hide a piece of evidence in discovery that makes them look bad. Nobody is going to threaten the pastor’s livelihood and reputation for questioning a crooked judge. In most churches, nobody is going to try to impose a “gay friendly” disciplinary code upon the pastor as the bar association has upon Oklahoma lawyers. Nobody is going to try to force the pastor to attend a pagan religious service dressed up as “diversity training.”
Nobody is going to tell the pastor install cheap knockoff or even used parts in a car and then charge full price for them as may happen to the mechanic in the congregation. Nobody is going to order the pastor to bait and switch customers to get sales numbers up as may happen to the salesman in the back pew. Nobody is going to tell the pastor to stock the checkout stands with filthy magazines as may happen to the retail clerk in row 6 left. And nobody is going to order the pastor to deliver surgical tools to an abortion clinic as may happen to the medical rep in row 14 right.
But, these are decisions that the pastor’s flock must face and both they and their pastor will be accountable to God for their response. Unfortunately, if you believe Barna and Gallup there is really very little difference between the ethical and moral behavior of self identified Christians and the rest of the world on key moral issues. This is a damning indictment of the American church.
This is not a Martin Luther quote ( http://creation.com/battle-quote-not-luther ) even though it is often attributed to him. But, it is an accurate summary of Luther’s teachings; “If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.”
We have been taught by our pulpits to be politically blind and naïve, to read the scriptures with a political filter that removes the historical context of the historical accounts. For example, John the Baptist wasn’t executed because of a theological dispute. He was executed because he publicly rebuked the sexual immorality of the ruling family. I ask you, did Salome’s private dance and perhaps incest in the palace come anywhere close to the exposure of Mrs. Trump’s fully nude and sometimes lesbian pictures literally being transmitted to the world? The picture shown at right was published in a magazine for the whole world to see and was on the cover of this weekend's New York Post. Only a few people in the palace saw Salome. Yet, the world is seeing the wife of many Christians pick to be the next American president and America’s pulpits are silent?
Jesus wasn’t executed executed over a theological difference. He was convicted of sedition, a political crime. The Sanhedrin could have cared less what he preached until he threatened their political and economic power. Pretender Messiahs had come and gone before without incident. And, when the Sanhedrin passed the death sentence along to Pilate, it was political expediency that sent him to the cross even as a political radical was freed by the crowd. Paul and the other Roman martyrs didn’t die over theology. Rome was pantheistic and you could worship and preach anything you chose so long as you also subscribed to the generic Roman state creed. I ask you, is that not exactly what silent American pulpits are doing now?
The ultimate question here is not who will win the election but how will the souls of men be affected by the election. If the church teaches them to tolerate and accept evil by silence in this great position of responsibility how can it expect them not tolerate and accept it in their own lives as well? Just as children learn not from what their parents say but what they see lived out before them so do churches learn not by what is preached to them but rather by what is tolerated by them. Having said that, the western church for the most part has gotten the strange idea that it can somehow separate government and politics from the so called “Christian life” and still remain faithful to the scriptures. Nothing could be further from the truth. The pietists so called “Christian life” is a sham built of moral cowardice. God gives you a life period. He is either Lord of all of it or He is not Lord. And that life in America of necessity includes politics.
While I have a great respect for tradition I am sometimes frustrated when Christian leaders inappropriately quote historical figures to evade current situations. Quoting an Englishmen talking within the context of the British political system to a modern American is comparing apples and oranges. America is not a monarchy. We rebelled against that system and won. Further, quoting someone like Whitfield in the midst of the current presidential race is a lot like handing an 18th century sailing masters manual to a confused passenger trying to land a crippled 747 after the flight crew have bailed out. Some of the material may apply but there are several hundred years of social and technological advancement (for the good or bad) between the bits of navigational theory that may or may not apply. What the passengers needs is a clear answer that will save his life (or soul). The passenger doesn’t need to hear “steer north by one point noreast, trim sail and make ready to drop anchor.” While that statement may be metaphorically truthful to a certain extent it is not life-savingly accurate at that moment in time. If he is going to survive the passenger needs to hear, “set the autopilot to steer 001 at 250 knots, tune the ILS to 119.1 and engage the auto-land system when you intercept the glide slope.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (like his theology or not) has advice closer to modern times. Concerning the rise of Hitler he observed, ““Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. … The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.” (Essay “On Stupidity,” D. Bonhoeffer) I can’t think of more apt description of the current political climate on both sides at this time and I fear that we are seeing the work out of 2 Thess. 2:11-12 before our eyes. How great will be the condemnation of the church for not revealing this morally crippling spiritual blindness being cast upon all by the political system?
Bonhoeffer’s response to political evil was open and direct: “...there are three possible ways in which the church can act toward the state: the first place, as has been said, it can ask the state whether its actions are legitimate and in accordance with its character as state, i.e., it can throw the state back on its responsibilities. Second, it can aid the victims of state action. The church has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community. "Do good to all people." In both these courses of action, the church serves the free state in its free way, and at times when laws are changed the church may in no way withdraw itself from these two tasks. The third possibility is not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to jam a spoke in the wheel itself.” (Essay, “The Church and the Jewish Question,” D. Bonhoeffer ) Bonhoeffers’ later verbal statements were even more direct, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Bonhoeffer the great preacher and theologian became an agent of the Abwher (German military intelligence) that internally opposed Hitler, operated illegal underground churches and seminaries and helped Jews escape. The “confessing church” far from being a theological oddity was a major player in the resistance movement. And at that, Bonhoeffer was not executed over theological issues. He was executed for being part of the plot to kill Hitler. If the church is silent, who will hold the government accountable? If the church is silent what will it say to God when He asks “What did you do with the talent of freedom that I gave you to speak out against evil?” The only answer can be, “I buried it.”
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
However, this quote from Neimoller is more chilling: “Thus, whenever I chance to meet a Jew known to me before, then, as a Christian, I cannot but tell him: 'Dear Friend, I stand in front of you, but we cannot get together, for there is guilt between us. I have sinned and my people has sinned against thy people and against thyself.” (Über die deutsche Schuld, Not und Hoffnung, M. Neimoller )
I ask you which is better? To bury the talent of free speech and political confrontation and share in the complicity for what follows or to take Bonhoeffer’s path and suffer the consequences with a clear conscience before God?