Jonathan Leeman Errs on Political “Preferences” and Christian Unity
Jonathan Leeman is the editorial director for 9Marks and a prominent voice in the Southern Baptist Convention.
In his book How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age, Leeman writes:
Whether you’re a member of this party or that party, the local church is where we learn to love our enemies, forsake our tribalism, and beat our swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Here is where we tutor one another in the righteousness and justice of God. Here is where the righteousness and justice of God become tangible, credible, and believable for the onlooking nations.
This sounds fine — until you think seriously about the context in which it is said.
Perhaps a thought experiment will illuminate.
Imagine that Leeman had said the above in Germany in 1940. In that context would you have agreed? Likely not. To have said this in 1940 Germany would have been the height of hypocrisy.
Leeman does not believe that Christians supporting Democrats in 2018 are comparable to Christians supporting Nazis in 1940.
Keep in mind the policies that most notably characterize modern Democrats:
-Strong support of abortion (there have been over 60,069,971 abortions in the US since 1973)
-Undermining free-speech and religious liberty
-Schools as collectively funded indoctrination centers
Carry the thought-experiment further.
Some pastor in 1940 Germany undoubtedly exhorted German Christians of all political persuasions to, “Come together each week, to love each other, and to tutor each other in the righteousness and justice of God.”
Today, as I think Leeman would agree, there is a strong chance that such a pastor is not standing by the side of the Father.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)
Friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4b).
Someone might object:
Sure, I see that the Democratic Party is like the Nazi Party in a lot of ways. But is the Republican Party really much better?
First, YES, the Republican Party is better in ALL aspects of its stated platform, if not always in the character of its elected officials.
Read the actual party platforms if you haven’t. (And please never vote again until you have done so.)
Granted, often the Republican Party legislates evil policies.
For instance, unforgivably, the Republican Party continues to fund Planned Parenthood rather than risking the “political suicide” of putting forward a budget that Democrats will not approve.
My point here is not that the Republican party is good. I often hate the actions of the Republican Party.
My point is:
There is a qualitative difference between one man who votes for the “lesser of two evils” vs. another man who actually supports the party of clear and complete evil.
As Christians who understand what the Democratic party stands for, what fellowship can we have with those willing to cross the clear moral line that a vote for a Democrat represents?
Leeman seems to suggest we “put aside” our political views in order to meet on Sundays and learn from each other. But how can we have fellowship with those who are committed to supporting a political party entirely devoted to sin?
Well, you might say, perhaps Leeman doesn’t believe that the Democratic Party is entirely devoted to sin.
That is the fertile observation I want you to make.
In fact, a great many theologically conservative Christians (perhaps Leeman) accept large essential aspects of the Democratic platform as being right — or at least morally within the realm of the tolerable.
These same people often believe that large parts of the Republican platform are intolerable — or at least morally negotiable.
To this type of person, the choice seems to be a toss up.
“Afterall,” he may say, “both parties are mixed. Neither party is better than the other on ALL points. Who am I to judge those who hold different political preferences?”
Once you understand that these are the premises, it becomes easy to grasp why Leeman et al. speak as they do.
The position is strikingly lacking in discernment.
Those who take the above position typically do so because they share basic premises with the Democratic platform in areas related to “social justice.”
(Social justice in their understanding means using the coercive power of the state to tax some people for the purpose of “lifting up of the oppressed and downtrodden.”)
While Leeman surely doesn’t agree with many of the social engineering aims of the Democratic Party, he likely accepts in principle that some social engineering — aka welfare-statism or policies aimed specifically at wealth redistribution — would be morally right.
(See the above link for a well-written explanation of the issue in Leeman’s own words.)
As a result of their failure of discernment on questions of economics and social engineering, many Christian leaders are willing to agree with Democrats half-way, and they end up selling the half of their soul that they have left — the side that tells them it is urgent that abortion be defunded and outlawed.
One moral failure cascades into another until such leaders strengthen the hand of their enemy and break the leg of their “friend.”
The main error of Leeman and many others is their concession that any of the fundamental political issues of our age (the issues distinguishing the Democratic and Republican platforms) are mere political “preferences.”
The two parties differ, not merely about the best policies for achieving narrowly defined outcomes, but in every way regarding their fundamental vision for a just society. And the Democrats don’t have anything right. In such a context, Leeman’s term “preferences” is outrageous. That’s not the term to use when discussing black and white issues.
We can only conclude that where there is black and white, Leeman sees grey.
Someone who sees grey ends up comparing “this party or that party,” as if there were some kind of moral equivalence.
Someone who sees grey instructs churchgoers of all political “preferences” to overcome their petty tribal differences with one another as if those differences were on the level of the fans of competing football teams.
Someone who sees grey thinks that political “enemies” are not true existential enemies in need of conversion.
Someone who sees grey thinks you can make peace by beating your sword into a plowshare.
Someone who sees grey thinks a Democrat should have a voice in tutoring churchgoers in the righteousness and justice of God.
In today’s context, someone who sees grey does not see very well at all.