Monday morning before President Obama was sworn in, Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, sent the following tweet: “Praying for our president, who today will place his hand on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know.”
Shaun King, founder and CEO of HopeMob and former pastor of Courageous Church, called out Driscoll on Twitter using some not-so-charitable words, but he later apologized for losing his cool and using inappropriate language. Shaun, however, maintained his conviction that Driscoll was out of line sending the tweet in the first place, as were the 3,200+ people who retweeted the sentiment. Shaun eventually showed humility, but to my knowledge, Driscoll still hasn’t apologized for what he said.
Tuesday morning, Adam Hamilton, pastor of Church of the Resurrection near Kansas City, gave a moving sermon at the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service calling on President Obama to cast a vision that would unify the country. He also cited ways his own congregation has bridged the partisan divide within their own church in order to serve their community. During the sermon, Adam seemed to come across as a voice of reason to the nation, and I even got a real sense that his words were edifying the president.
The question is, how did we get to the point where so many Christians seem to be making politics a test of orthodoxy? What happened to giving people the benefit of the doubt? Why would a prominent pastor publicly question the faith of the President of the United States—and on Twitter of all places? I’m not saying we shouldn’t hold our leaders to a high standard—especially the ones who claim the name of Jesus Christ—but isn’t doing it on a social network under the guise of offering prayer way too cynical?
I’m no fan of some of President Obama’s policies, but his predecessor and I didn’t see eye to eye on everything either. I watched for eight years as George W. Bush’s political opponents, even some of the Christian ones, vilified him mercilessly. President Bush could do nothing right in their eyes, and I heard many Christians question his faith over the course of his presidency. When President Obama was elected four years ago, I had hopes that he might be treated differently. Oh, I knew the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys of the world wouldn’t show him any mercy, but I expected the average, garden variety conservative evangelical to do better.
I was wrong. It hasn’t happened. There have been some glimmers of hope, like this one, but they’ve been few and far between. Not only does it seem like we’ve become two Americas, we’ve become two churches as well— not because of theology, but because of politics. How sad is that?
But the President is pro-choice, you say.
I hear you. That’s one of the issues where I sharply disagree with him. But think about it—aren’t we more likely to do more to reduce the number of abortions if we work together in those areas where we do agree? What good is defending the purity of our pro-life stance by refusing to associate with anyone who doesn’t see things our way? There’s a lot of talk in church circles these days about numbers and accountability. At the end of the day, do you think God is going to hold us more accountable for the unborn babies we could have saved or for remaining rigid in both our position and our methodology?
So I have a challenge for believers of every political persuasion. Stop assuming the worst about others. If someone claims Christ as their Savior, extend them the same benefit of the doubt that you’d want extended to you. And when a fellow believer holds a view that you find absolutely abhorrent, instead of grandstanding or taking your ball and going home, address the disagreement together as both friends and brothers or sisters in Christ. And pray for all of your political leaders, including the President—not in a condescending way, but with humility.
On Monday, after reading Mark Driscoll’s tweet and Shaun King’s reaction to it, I tweeted this: “Tired of political division between Christians. Aren't the body & blood of Christ more powerful than allegiance to political parties?”
The answer to that question is yes. And Christians have an opportunity over the next four years to set an example for the nation by coming together to do God’s work. We don’t have to like each other’s politics, but we do have to love and respect each other. It's one of the responsibilities that comes with being part of God's family.