Omdahl: More Christians in office won’t change political climate
“If we can get Christians to run for mayor, if we can get Christians to run for city councils, if we can get Christians to run for school boards, if we can get Christians to run for the state house, we can win this thing.”
So said evangelist Franklin Graham, heir of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, to over 3,000 North Dakotans on the lawn of the state capitol in Bismarck.
Graham hopes that the moral climate in America will change with the transfusion of new Christian recruits. He is nave. His proposal sounds persuasive, but there is a devil in the details.
First is the assumption that there are few, if any, Christians now serving as mayors, council members, county commissioners, legislators, governors or members of Congress.
With over 80 percent of North Dakotans claiming to be Christians, almost all of North Dakota’s mayors, council members, county commissioners and legislators consider themselves to be Christians. In fact, many of them got elected by proclaiming their membership in one Christian church or another.
So even though we have professing Christians in control of the North Dakota policy system from top to bottom, our state has policies that do not reflect Christian ideology. Apparently, the Christians do not agree on the substance of Christian teaching and without agreement nothing much happens.
Apparently, Graham is not thinking of run-of-the-mill Christians when he urges Christians to run for office. He is thinking of Christians who are Christian Christians.
He is correct in implying that all who identify themselves as Christians are not serious about practicing Christianity. Many of them don’t know enough Bible to know what they are and what they aren’t.
The first step in Graham’s strategy would require a public declaration that one is running as the Christian candidate. “Vote for me. I am the real Christian.”
This would get a little messy in North Dakota when the other candidate has a long record of faithful service as a member of another Christian denomination. To the general public, implying that the other candidate is less of a Christian will sound a little judgmental and a lot self-righteous.
When Christians go into office wearing Jesus on their sleeves, the public expects them to demonstrate the virtues of Christ, such as honesty, integrity, gentleness, compassion, patience and all of those things we don’t see in politics.
For some high profile Christian officeholders, it would be better if they kept their faith to themselves instead of defaming Christ by their mean-spirited, confrontational behavior.
The noted theologian Frances Schaeffer once made this observation: “Because the word Christian as a symbol has been made to mean so little, it has come to mean everything and nothing.”
So when we elect a professing Christian, we can’t be sure what brand of a Christian we have. Or what he/she will do. Christianity has become a generic religion. It’s cheaper than the real stuff.
Graham’s goal is to reverse the immoral drift in the American culture. His goal is admirable. Seventy-two percent of the people agree that American moral values are getting worse. But his strategy is wrong. We have elected enough Christians in our history to know that office holding is not the solution.
Chuck Colson, the new Christian who evolved out of the Watergate scandal, has pointed out that cultural change will occur only when people change because only transformed people will transform culture. He ought to know.
So, if Franklin Graham wants to change the culture, he should abandon his 50-state tour of capitols and get back to doing what his father did get Christians to be Christians, one person at a time. That will “win the thing.”
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