CRCNA and Synod, Let's Talk About...
Franklin Graham as a Model on Clergy Involvement in Politics
June 3, 2018
Updated June 14, 2018
10 comments 195 views
If CRC clergy or spokesmen are advocating or lobbying for political candidates and that is foul; they should adopt Franklin Graham as their model who does both at his prayer rallys' and in his other communications.
Graham is the darling of conservative evangelicals. He does not keep it a secret which political party he supports.
If Graham is the model of political correctness, then I say to CRC clergy and members, "Say whatever you want. It is ok." Right?
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Larry: I think Franklin is very unwise in his decision to become so political. He father was much less, and yet he regretting the extent to which he had become political.
Certainly, the CRC should not follow Franklin's example on this. But it is, just with a different political perspective.
Franklin's father met with presidents, both democrat and republican. He did not endorse a political candidate nor a political party. That's the difference. As Christ followers, I believe we are called to focus on the biblical principles of love, justice, mercy, etc. and understand that those principles have expression in both political parties. And we must call out injustice wherever it occurs. It's not partisan, and it's not about one party maintaining political power. In other words, following Christ, and his Word takes precedence. Franklin, I believe, has chosen a different path.
If CRC clergy and members decide to "get political," one would hope that they consult sources of news and opinion other than Fox News, which makes no secret of its Trump loyalties and is the President's cable channel of choice. I am not suggesting a boycott of Fox but a caution against exclusivity. It is very sad that many of us CRCNA folks cannot engage in reasonable discussion of policies or politics from a Christian perspective with fellow church members because they have decided to limit their information-gathering to a single TV or radio source.
A recent example of deception: Last week Fox broadcast images of a group of Philadelphia Eagles players kneeling during the National Anthem -- described by Fox as a protest -- when they were actually kneeling in PRAYER well BEFORE the anthem. Once it was called to their attention, Fox issued an apology for making a "mistake" (!?) not on air but only on Twitter, and then deleted the segment. How many of our brothers and sisters will insist during after-church conversation that those football players in the Fox News report were disrespectful of the flag and the anthem and opine that President Trump was right in calling them "SOB's" (he used the full epithet) and that maybe the athletes should find another country to live in.
We can bemoan the increasing divisiveness in recent years all day, but as long as we limit ourselves to a single source of information (propaganda), things are not likely to improve, regardless of the number of "evangelical" leaders we cite as support for a certain political ideology. We are not likely to eradicate all forms of "confirmation bias" from our viewing habits, but I hope and pray that when we do, we can at least recognize it for what it is.
Well certainly anyone does well to not make Fox News their only source of information, but the same thing could be said about any single source of information. American society and American media is polarized these days as I've ever seen them in my 63 year life.
But the larger, more significant question is whether our institutional church (the CRCNA) should be lobbying ("getting political"), regardless of the sources of information the CRCNA (OSJ or otherwise) might choose to view. I suspect Franklin Graham views certain information but not all, and that he certainly does not view or digest enough information, or with enough expertise and competency, to responsibly advise the Evangelical community as to matters political. Again, his father understood that even if his son did not inherit that wisdom.
The more appropriate question for this forum is whether the CRCNA (via OSJ or otherwise) should be doing as Franklin Graham is. Again, I'd say no. And that is what the classes submitting Overtures 13 and 14 to Synod 2018 would say as well.
I agree, Doug. Not only is the media polarized, though. In my 75 years of life I have never seen such thorough-going polarization and politicization of virtually all aspects of life. Mention politics in any context and partisanship is now assumed -- even though we may still talk about family politics, church politics, office politics, etc.
I was thinking not of Franklin Graham not so much in connection with denominational politics as political rhetoric at rallies, prayer meetings and other non-ecclesiastical settings. I am drawn more to Overture 12 than Overtures 13 and 14. Overture 12 emphasizes education and discussion of public policy issues rather than positions taken by OSJ or other agencies. IWe have missed many opportunities for witness by our failure to connect the dots between such issues and our beliefs, as grounded in Scripture and the Reformed Confessions. Discipleship in this regard seems like a foreign concept.
Over more than 35 years of professional work in the public policy arena -- representing not-for-profit health-related organizations, state government (civil service, not patronage or political appointment), academic, and for-profit consulting on governmental relations and policy research -- I had a great deal of interaction with people in the legislative and executive branches of government, as well as some in the judicial. Much of my work was in so-called "Bible Belt" states, with people who were self-described evangelical, born-again Christians. Again and again I heard the refrain from them: you're talking about Sunday things - now it's Monday and a whole new of conditions and principles apply. The message was clear, and unapologetic, that never the twain should meet. Discipleship was in one sector - the rest was secular. Exceptions were generally made for abortion and gender-related issues.
Banner Editor-in-Chief Shiao Chong said it succinctly and well, I think, in his May 2018 editorial: "It is time we determine whether our faith is shaping our politics or our politics has been shaping our faith." Connect the dots. Search for greater political common ground. "We desperately need these discussions."
In an ombudsman-like role throughout much of my career -- translating the actions of government for constituents and translating the concerns of constituents for govt officials -- I conducted many Advocacy Workshops with diverse participation. I can attest that, with careful attention to avoidance of raw partisanship and emphasis on mutual respect, and making necessary distinctions between policies and politics, many areas of common ground can be fruitfully explored. Surely we Christians of Reformed persuasion can do better than we have done.
Jesus refused political power, walking away from those who wanted to make him king. Yet he talked a lot about loving our neighbor, the second greatest commandment next to loving God. We must make the effort to contextualize and understand what it means to love God and love our neighbor in our own context. That's how we follow Christ. Thanks are due to OSJ for helping us do that. Please, let's not sink this important discussion down to the level of partisan politics, it's far too important.
Would you please provide us with a recent, real-life example or two of contextualization and how "political power" and "partisan politics" were avoided in achieving the goal of following Christ? Thank you.
Sure, I can think of lots of examples. There have been several times over the years where I've gathered a group of people from my church (or students when I used to be on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) to participate with me in an activity related to a something that affects us. For example, there is a march and a vigil every year during Sexual Assault Awareness month in April (Take back the night) and there is one also in October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It's a good opportunity for all people to listen to the voices of those who have had these experiences, to learn from them, to stand with them and to show support by opposing the violence. It especially makes sense for Christians to be there because we believe that each person is created in the image of God.
Other examples are service projects or spiritual retreats that welcome participation from all Christians. We put our desire to love God and love our neighbors above our other differences. I've served on the board of an organization that assisted homeless women and children, and we certainly didn't all agree politically, but we came together for this common purpose. It's a beautiful thing. I'm very thankful that my church has people who are very conservative and others who are not; it has both democrats and republicans and we all worship together on Sunday. That's what church is supposed to look like. We are members of one body (body members do not all look alike, nor do they think alike)
Excellent examples, Bonnie. They should serve to inspire those who are concerned about a culture that allows so many people to resort to firearms related violence to address their various grievances. The parents, friends and neighbors who have tragically lost children and young people who were gunned down in schools and other settings would certainly welcome the involvement of Christians who will stand with them and show their support for common-sense approaches to reduction of such violence.
Individual members of the CRCNA are welcome to join Franklin Graham in his political activities and I am sure his website will welcome them. From what I know Franklin Graham does not speak on behalf of any denomination. He is an independent Evangelical Christian.
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