The Call to Discernment: Seeing Through Bible Spouting Politicians

Friday evening, the following Facebook post appeared from Greg Laurie, the high profile evangelist with Harvest Crusades and the Pastor of the mega-church Harvest Christian Fellowship located in Riverside, CA:

This statement was made last night in the Republican debate by my friend, Senator Marco Rubio. Now, before you tell me why you like or don’t like Marco for President please understand why I posted it. Marco was being asked about the Time cover story that heralded him as “The Republican Savior”. To this, Marco responded “There’s only one Savior, and it’s not me. It’s Jesus Christ who came to this earth and died for our sins.” Politics aside, when is the last time you heard a Presidential candidate say something like that? I just want to applaud Marco for this and any other candidate, regardless of party who will stand up for their faith in Jesus Christ. Please do not get into a political discussion here as that is not my point. My point is Marco spoke up for his faith in Christ, which knowing him I can say is genuine. We all should do that more.

Senator Marco Rubio responded to Laurie’s post as follows: “Thank you so much for the words of affirmation, Greg. Truly grateful for the support.” At the time of this writing there were over 85,000 “likes” for Laurie’s post as well as a seemingly endless stream (almost 4,000) of comments mostly praising Rubio for his Christian stand as well as praising Laurie for acknowledging Rubio’s stand.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Laurie’s post was especially interesting to me for several reasons. For one thing, I consider myself to be a student of the political process. As a Christian, I am always seeking ways to represent salt and light in the arena of politics. In addition, I personally know of many who came to Christ through Greg Laurie’s ministry. In fact, when I was a college student at the University of Redlands from 1985‒1989, I regularly attended Greg Laurie’s church. I have also been a long-time listener to Greg Laurie’s radio program “A New Beginning.” I have respected and continue to respect the ministry of evangelist and Pastor Greg Laurie. He has had and continues to have a tremendous impact for Christ, particularly among the young. He reaches a segment of society that, for whatever reason, most of today’s churches and Christian ministries seem unable to effectively reach.

 

However, having said all of this, Laurie’s post regarding Rubio, at least to my mind, illustrates and is symptomatic of a problem that runs deep within Christianity and also within our culture. Thus, I want to take a few moments to address what I consider to be the larger problem here. When it comes to politicians of all stripes, most people, including most Christians, are lacking in discernment. We often give political candidates a pass, regardless of their worldview and despite what they have done in office, merely based upon their public recitation of a few Bible verses or their public acknowledgement of Christ. Christians have been so beaten down in politically correct America that when anyone of public countenance pays Christ some kind of mild lip service we typically fall in love with them, warts and all. Frankly, this is a lousy approach to embracing candidates for office and for discernment in general. Allow me offer two reasons for this.

 

First, politicians do what they have to do in order to win an election. Thus, they often engage in “God talk” or “Christian lingo” in order to pander to a particular base of voters. At the risk of sounding overly cynical, Rubio well knows that evangelicals dominate conservative politics in Iowa. He is involved in the business of trying to win the Republican Iowa primary. Consequently, he says what he thinks is necessary to pander to a particular strand of voters that he hopes will put him over the top.

 

The real test of Rubio’s spiritual authenticity will be whether he will say the same type of thing in other primary venues where the evangelical influence is not as strong. For example, will he say the same thing in the subsequent New Hampshire primary where the evangelical influence is not as great compared to Iowa? Although I would love to be wrong about this, I highly doubt he will. It’s most likely that his focus will suddenly instead shift to other things that that particular base of voters is most interested in, such as lower taxes, less government regulation, smaller government, etc…rather than the spiritual lingo that is so palatable to Iowa voters.

 

I also found it somewhat interesting that while Rubio mentioned the death of Christ for our sins in last Thursday evening’s Republican primary debate, he never made mention of Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead. I realize that Rubio was not seeking to provide an exhaustive theological treatise on the subject. However, mentioning Christ’s resurrection alongside His death would have only taken a few seconds. Any reasonably taught evangelical Christian understands that without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, there is no Christianity. Christ’s resurrection is the heart of the biblical message (1 Cor. 15:14). This conspicuous omission may provide yet another clue revealing Rubio’s spiritual shallowness and selective appeal to the Scripture solely for purposes of political pandering.

 

Donlad Trump - Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Rubio is not the only contemporary candidate inauthentically using “God talk” to pander to voters. Recently, at Liberty University, Donald Trump quoted Second Corinthians 3:17. When you watch his reference to this passage, it’s obvious that he did not have the verse memorized. Rather, he’s reading it off of some kind a cue card. Moreover, he did not refer to the verse in the way your typical evangelical Christian refers to it. Rather than properly naming the biblical book where the verse is found as “Second Corinthians,” he instead referred to it as “Two Corinthians.” “I hear this is a major theme right here, but Two Corinthians, 3:17 that’s the whole ball game,” Trump told the arena of students. “You know, when you think — and that’s really — is that the one? Is that the one you like? I think that’s the one you like, because I loved it.”1

 

Virtually no evangelical Christian in America refers to this book in this manner. How much of the Bible that Donald Trump quotes from does he actually understand? It’s obvious that he does not understand a lot of it. How could he understand it when he has publicly stated that he has never asked God for His personal forgiveness?2 The forgiveness of God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Bible’s central theme and message. It is not exactly a minor issue. It is the central feature of Scripture.

 

Second, you never evaluate a candidate’s worldview or authentic spirituality based upon what they say. You always need to look at what they do in office. How do they vote? Who did the align themselves with? When evaluating from this standard, rather than from trite public expressions of spirituality, often times an entirely different picture emerges.

 

For example, in spite of Thursday evening’s “God talk,” Rubio lied about his commitment to oppose amnesty. When running for the Florida Senate seat, he campaigned by telling the voters that he was against amnesty. However, once he got into office he quickly joined the “Gang-of-Eight” favoring amnesty.3 Let’s call a spade a spade. That’s a lie! There is no other way to spin this. A lie is a violation of the ninth commandment. Rubio should be evaluated on this standard and not on his public expressions favoring Christianity in a state primary dominated by evangelical Christians where his political future will be determined by how much support he can muster from the Christian community. As Christians we need to start having a lot more discernment on these kinds of matters. We need to evaluate politicians based upon how they behave in office and not whatever religious bones they may toss our direction in speeches or debates on the eve of a critical election. I wish that all of the Christians that happily “liked” and posted on Laurie’s thread were instead observing Rubio’s behavior in office, which blatantly contradicted his initial campaign promises, rather than simply becoming energized because someone in public life publicly used the “J” word.

 

Take as another Jimmy Carter who was also able to deceive many people regarding the true depth of his spirituality merely because he called himself a born-again Christian. However, what Carter actually did in office spoke far louder than what he said. For example, Carter’s cabinet was filled with those adhering to an anti-God philosophy known as Secular Humanism. An example of a Humanist in Carter’s cabinet would be his own Vice Presidential pick, Walter Mondale. In fact, Walter Mondale’s brother, Lester Mondale, was a signatory to the Humanist Manifesto II,4 which carefully documents and explains all of the anti-Christian beliefs found within Secular Humanism. In addition, Carter’s cabinet was also filled with members of the pro one-world government organization called the Trilateral Commission. In fact, long-time conservative Barry Goldwater, in his memoirs had much to say about the Trilateral Commission and its influence over the Carter Administration. In his 1979 political memoirs entitled With No Apologies, Goldwater warned:

In 1962 then Governor Nelson Rockefeller delivered a series of lectures at Harvard University on the future of federalism. In his presentation the governor dwelt at length on the interdependence of nations in the modern world, concluding with this statement: “and so the nation-state, standing alone, threatens in many ways to seem as anachronistic as the Greek city-state eventually became in ancient times.”… Where I differ from the governor is in the suggestion implicit throughout the lectures that to achieve this new federalism, the United States must submerge its national identity and surrender substantial matters of sovereignty to a new political order. The implications in Governor Rockefeller’s presentation have concrete proposals advanced by David Rockefeller’s new international cabal, The Trilateral Commission…It is intended to be the vehicle for multinational consolidation of the commercial and banking interests by seizing control of the political government of the United States… Zbigniew Brzezinski and David Rockefeller screened and selected every individual who was invited to participate in shaping and administering the proposed new world order… In his book Between Two Ages…Brzezinski calls for an international community…to supervise and guide the underdeveloped nations of the world. He declares, “national sovereignty is no longer a viable concept.” He calls for rewriting of the American Constitution. He condemns the existing federal system of U.S. sovereign states as no longer necessary or adequate… Examination of the membership roster establishes beyond question that all those invited to join are members of the “power elite,” enlisted with great skill and singleness of purpose from the banking, commercial, political, and communication sectors…In my view, the Trilateral Commission represents a skillful, coordinated effort to seize control and consolidate the four centers of power‒political, monetary, intellectual, and ecclesiastical. All this is to be done in the interests of creating a more peaceful, more productive world community…Freedom‒spiritual, political, economic‒is denied any importance in the Trilateral construction of the next century…What the Trilateral Commission intends is to create a worldwide economic power superior to the political governments of the nation states involved…As managers and creators of the system, they will rule the future…One reporter, in a moment of sarcasm, said, “it would be unfair to say the Trilateral Commission dominates the Carter administration. The Trilateral Commission is the Carter administration. “5

If every Christian had actually read Humanist Manifesto II and been aware of the agenda of the Trilateral Commission instead of relying upon Carter’s pious platitudes, perhaps Jimmy Carter would have never attained the presidency and the country would never have suffered the way it did during Carter’s tenure.

 

All of this to say, don’t listen to what politicians say. Rather, watch what they do! One of the reasons I’m supporting Ted Cruz for President in 2016 is because he backs up his “God talk” with an actual record of standing for the very things that he says that he is committed to on the campaign trail. As Solicitor General for the state of Texas he won several key conservative victories before the United States Supreme Court.6 Also, as a Senator from the state of Texas he has probably spent more time fighting progressivism in his own party, the Republican Party, than he has in opposing the liberalism in the Democratic Party. Based upon his actions, Cruz is obviously a man committed to principles rather than mere political or partisan expediency. In the case of Cruz, I am not just seeing talk, but I am also seeing walk. It’s the latter the gains my support since anybody can do the former.

 

So, let’s stop evaluating politicians by their trite religious slogans that are pulled out every election cycle. Rather, let’s see such sloganeering for the obvious pandering that it is and instead evaluate candidates by their actual record. I can think of no more fitting way to conclude this piece than by quoting the words of Christ in Matthew 7:15-20:

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.

Endnotes


  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HTE0XjCQRI []
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyDbOHvfdiE []
  3. http://townhall.com/columnists/johnhawkins/2015/12/19/the-ugly-truth-about-marco-rubio-and-his-gangofeight-amnesty-bill-n2095418/page/full []
  4. Paul Kurtz, ed. Humanist Manifestos I and Ii (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 1973), 25. []
  5. Barry M. Goldwater, With No Apologies: The Outspoken Political Memoirs of America’s Conservative Conscience (New York: Berkley, 1979), 293-94, 297-99, 308. []
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Cruz#Texas_Solicitor_General []

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