All politics is local

OK folks, I know you hear numerous calls for churches to mobilize their people to vote but sometimes we need to be ashamed that we are so uninvolved. Of course I know that our churches have a primary task that cannot be subverted by political action. We’ve seen some church traditions become so worldly minded that they are no heavenly good. And I am sensitive to the fact that some political operatives would love to have our pastors become local activists for one political party or another. Having given those disclaimers I need to say the other thing. We are disobeying Jesus when we are too lazy or spiritual-ish to use the God-given influence we still have.

A story in our Oct. 1 digital TEXAN refers to the despicable action by San Antonio’s city council to discriminate against those who believe in traditional marriage or in a two-sex human race. The leader of this coup was Mayor Julian Castro, who was elected by 29,000 voters. Now Annise Parker, the mayor of Houston, re-elected by 59,000 out of 920,000 registered Houstonian voters, is considering a similar initiative for her city. San Antonio residents knew who Castro was before he was elected, or they could have easily learned. Houston voters (non-voters actually) knew who Parker was before she was re-elected as mayor in 2011. But those who will bear the burden of ordinances that hinder religious liberty, those who will complain most loudly about the toxic fruit of such initiatives, didn’t take the simple action of voting in any significant numbers—in Houston, one surveys claims that one-third of church members voted in the mayoral election, though I suspect the portion is smaller. They, we, generally don’t invest a couple of hours to research and another hour to practice informed voting each year. Houston, by the way, likely has more eligible voters in three or four churches than the number of people who elected Annise Parker as mayor.

Pastors, I agree with your decision to ignore most of the shrill calls to action that come across your desk. That doesn’t mean that there is no mandate for citizen Christians to do anything with the rights we hold. Sometimes, a thing is not considered an important part of discipleship unless the pastor gives it some emphasis. It is not a diversion to help your members register to vote. It is not a waste of ministry time to remind the congregation of election days. It is not difficult to obtain and make available non-partisan guides that tell something of the candidates and the issues. Once in a while, when you come across Matthew 5:13-16 or Romans 1:32 or Romans 13:1-7 in your teaching through the Bible, preach on a Christian’s obligation to stand for truth in the public square. Don’t do that every week or even as often as you are urged to, but it is part of the whole counsel of God. The results of our inaction are seen in a great number of cultural trends that we regularly decry. When we stand by while key political leaders with strange agendas are elected, we shouldn’t be surprised when they consider their elections a mandate for their agendas. Usually, our influence on a leader once he’s in office is too little and too late. Elections have consequences. I guess that means that staying home on election day has consequences too. 

Gary Ledbetter
Southern Baptist Texan
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