Wednesday, August 10, 2005

'Only Christians in Office'? WRONG!

I live in the suburbs of Cincinnati and I'm now watching that city's mayoralty election with renewed interest since our special congressional election ended on August 2.

Among the contestants to succeed Democratic Mayor Charles Luken, whose politics could probably be described as moderate and on some issues, conservative, is an African-American, conservative Republican (and pastor) named Charles Winburn. Winburn was on Cincinnati's City Council at one time and has always been a somewhat controversial figure.

Now, statements he made in a book some sixteen years ago are being condemned by the chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, although his Democratic opponents in Cincy's non-partisan mayoral primary are not commenting on the whole matter.

As an article in today's Cincinnati Enquirer tells it:
As the new pastor of a small church then known as Ridge Acres Christian Center, Winburn wrote a religious tract titled "Ruling and Reigning in the '90s." In a 250-word passage on the political system, he said it was the job of Christians to "elect only born-again Christians to public office."
Tim Burke, the county Democratic leader, calls Winburn's statements "un-American."

Apart from partisan or even, as Burke suggests, patriotic considerations, the statements are deeply disturbing to me as a Christian.

Jesus once told a parable in which a farmer allowed wheat and tares--or weeds--to grow side-by-side until the harvest. Jesus was saying that within the fellowship of the Church over time, there would be people who genuinely believed in Him as well as those who only pretended to do so. But God wouldn't hack down the phonies. He would allow them to continue to exist next to authentic believers, in part with the hope that the weeds would change their ways. But Christians weren't to make judgments about the salvation of those they might suspect of being weeds. That is only to be done by God--the farmer--at the end of history.

A genuine "born again Christian," a person concerned, to love God and love neighbor, however imperfectly enacted the concern may be in their life, would certainly be a compelling candidate for public office. But there's no foolproof way to know that candidates are authentic articles and I have no desire to instate a kind of religious litmus test by which candidates are examined to determine their Christian authenticity.

But at a broader level, there is absolutely no reason why a Christian could not or should not support candidates for public office who don't share their faith. The Old Testament recounts the stories of several just foreign rulers who didn't share the religion of the Judeo-Christian tradition, persons who sought to do well in accord with the law the Bible says God has written on every human heart.

As a Christian, as I have written on this blog many times before, I want to share Christ with everyone with the aim of inviting them to follow Him too. That's something that Christ has commissioned us to do. But nowhere does He commission us to be prejudiced toward those who don't share our faith.

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