In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new ichthus fish bumper sticker. No, this isn’t the latest version of the rivaling Darwin and Christian fish bumper stickers. This one is bordered by the words “One Nation …Under God,” and found within the Christian symbol is the word “Bush” in capital letters. The sticker is sold through the website, BushFish.org, and the organization encourages Christians to join with the “millions of Americans who believe that President Bush’s faith-based administration presents the best hope for America’s future.”
While it’s troubling enough that the very first symbol of Christianity is being prostituted to promote a Washington, D.C., politician, the more troubling fact is that this bumper sticker represents not the fringe of religious Republicans, but the more mainstream conservative evangelicalism. We’re living in an America where a pastor in North Carolina last fall admonished his congregants to repent or leave the church if they supported John Kerry, and many national evangelical leaders are essentially saying that the Republican Party has a monopoly on the Christian vote in America.
The evangelical community is becoming more and more divisive, and as that goes on American evangelicals have aired and continue to air more dirty laundry on the national stage than any other major group in the nation. This is as a result of the various factions in evangelicalism, from the right and the left, that claim to have some sort of divine mandate for their political and cultural ideas. It reminds me of a woman who for probably a year sent me prophesies from a televangelist every week and warned me to join the side of George W. Bush or receive judgment from God. While most activists in evangelicalism would probably avoid being associated with heretical television broadcasters, the divisive tactics used are basically the same.
Unfortunately, if you hang out within the right evangelical circles, you might get the feeling that if Jesus Christ were elected to the Oval Office, he would look a lot like President Bush. My first reaction is that I have a hard time finding too much about the Bush administration that looks Christ-like. If the ability to efficiently invade foreign countries could be a measure of morality, then they might have a case, but the reality is that there’s not a politician on Capital Hill that is consistently biblical in his or her approach to public policy. BushFish.org claims the GOP is on the side of Jesus Christ because they implemented policies that redistribute wealth to private charities that find an identity in faith, but it’s still debatable whether or not that decision was Christ-like, either.
The problem here is that there is little biblical justification for any of the political rhetoric being spewed around. It was Martin Luther, the man who ignited the great Reformation, who famously said at the Diet of Worms, “I am held fast by the Scriptures adduced by me, and my conscience is held captive by God’s Word, and I neither can nor will revoke anything, seeing it is not safe or right to act against conscience. God help me.” Yet, in stark contrast, the leaders of contemporary evangelicalism seem to read into the biblical text their justification for leading the charge in the political power struggle.
There are some things evangelicals may do well to stop and reflect on. First, the Invisible Church – the body of believers from the beginning of time until end of time – is comprised of an unimaginable array of people who look completely different, lived completely different, and in all cases believed different things about life. Yes, there are non-negotiables of biblical theology, but that is not reduced to the choice of blue state vs. red state. Secondly, a good rule of thumb might be that every politician, just like every human being, deserves some sort of criticism – and that’s not superficial.
The biggest problem in this mess of the American church is that of arrogance. At the end of the day, it’s safe to assume that there’s not a single person who was 100 percent correct in his theology. The only thing to latch on to is grace and working out our salvation with trembling before God.