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The elections are not over!

On MSNBC yesterday, Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report said he believes the Republican Party is in a “meltdown” that will lead to a 20-seat pickup for Democrats in the U.S. House. (Democrats need to gain 15 seats to take control of the House.)

With all due respect, I believe Mr. Cook is wrong.

And I continue to believe that conservative Christians hold the key to this election.

If we – the people the media like to call the “religious right” – get out the vote and support those candidates that best exemplify our Judeo-Christian values, I believe that conservative incumbents and candidates across this country will surprise the experts.

I don’t believe the scandals involving Rep. Mark Foley and now Rev. Ted Haggard will affect the election, even though the so-called mainstream media have attempted to make them hot-button issues.

As I told a Newsweek reporter earlier this week, our nation overcame larger scandals in the Clinton White House. I don’t believe these scandals – as disconcerting as they are – are going to prompt conservative “values voters” to throw up their hands and allow the liberals to gain power (even though the media are sensationalizing these scandals like nothing I’ve ever seen).

That’s not how conservative Christians have voted over the past 26 years, since we swept President Ronald Reagan into office. We’re not about to shy about from the political battle simply because one in our ranks – even though he is an important leader – has apparently allowed himself to fall morally.

The fate of America is too important to allow another in a long line of scandals to inhibit conservative Christians from going to the ballot box and expressing their faith through their vote.

As I wrote last week, I am encouraging pastors across the nation to ensure that their parishioners are knowledgeable about the issues and prepared to vote. While pastors may not legally endorse candidates, we may – legally – inform our congregations about issues and discuss the candidates’ voting records. It is imperative that we do this.

If the 225,000 evangelical pastors in our nation will exhort their members to the voting booths on Tuesday, Nov. 7, I am convinced that the experts and pundits who are predicting doom and gloom for the Republicans (and conservative Democrats and Independents) will be proved wrong.

Pastors and morality

Finally, as an aside to the Ted Haggard situation, I would like to encourage pastors to take great pains to avoid temptation in their lives. It must be a constant effort on our part.

As a pastor of more than 50 years, I vowed a long time ago to shun moral temptation. Subsequently, I never meet alone with a woman, for any reason. I don’t travel with women and I surround myself only with confidantes, Christian men whom I trust and know well.

I don’t say this to pat myself on the back. I am a man and am subject to the same lure of sin as any other man. It behooves me – and all pastors – to avoid even the hint of temptation in our lives. We must be careful and cautious at all times to keep ourselves out of harm’s way.

History is full of tragic figures. When men – even Christians – do not adequately protect themselves from the temptations of sin, they tend to experience moral collapse. I have known pastors through the years – many of them good men – who let their guards down and became morally incautious. Their recklessness cost them dearly, and their churches and their families needlessly suffered.

Any time a well-known evangelical figure experiences a moral nose-dive, the entire church of Jesus Christ is negatively affected. It gives ammo to those who love to portray all conservative Christians as hypocrites and frauds.

Pastors, we all have weaknesses, as the Bible tells us (Hebrews 12:1). But that verse also informs us that we are to “run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

We must, pastors, recommit ourselves to avoiding the temptations of life. Place in your own life men of abiding faith who will encourage you, pray for you, hold you accountable and help you run the race that is set before you.

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