Today’s social climate has sparked my urge to share words of encouragement for those who may be torn between the worlds of moral principle and political allegiance. As we peer through the murky waters, what do we see? Though I am not interested in politics per se, I realize that whatever proceeds from the political arena has a profound effect upon our culture, including the church.
How free do black Americans perceive themselves to be? Is there a suppressive cult mentality which is a residual from the civil rights struggle; a system which says “all blacks think alike.” Can we, as pastors, become the catalysts for this suppression of free thinking if our politics are not in line with Biblical principle?
What happens when a man of God begins to realize that the system he supports presents a philosophy contrary to Biblical principles and personal convictions – a system that has devolved to the resemblance of the reign of a Israelite King Ahab and his wife Jezebel? Should he just look the other way? Or should he compromise?
He may wonder whether or not there is a greater meaning to the program. Is it wiser for him to set aside the gospel to win a worldly position? Can an unholy alliance bring America to a moral position? Is there a greater wisdom? This is the dilemma I once faced, but am now free.
A church pastor carries the responsibility of leadership. He provides individuals with a sense of spiritual and moral direction which impacts the community, the culture, the nation and eventually the world. Obviously, this tremendous responsibility can be managed by trusting in the promises of the architect of creation and humanity.
As pastor of a Baptist church, I have discovered that a conservative position is best for me personally as well as for leading God’s people. I do not claim superiority, nor perfection. I have no special right to speak; however, I do have the authority through the power of the gospel.
I do not have to accept that which God does not accept, nor make compromises which may lead to the detriment of those I influence. Neither am I a 20th century “field boss” with the responsibility to control the slaves on the ol’ plantation. We must be grounded in divine principles of God, which are the truths that do not change with culture, fads, political climate, nor even time itself. Whether we agree or disagree, nothing changes that which God has set forth from the beginning.
It is no secret that the black church carries a tremendous amount of influence within the community. However, my experiences in dealing with liberal political entities reveal that they are not genuinely interested in my thoughts, but only in the power I could give them. In several issues, I find a conflict in what the Democratic Party supports as compared to the direction in which I believe the Bible points.
It appears that Christianity is the arch-enemy to the Democratic Party’s philosophy. Whether the issue is family, education, welfare, homosexuality, charity, or any other issue, God has instructions that liberalism rejects. I am only fooling myself if I believe that I can accept certain beliefs, lifestyles, and philosophical outlooks. Cultural and ethnic diversity are two of the jewels liberalism pridefully boasts of, but when it comes to spiritual diversity, problems develop!
Liberalism expects one to support a platform contrary to the Christian walk of life. If I adopt the current liberal (Democratic) philosophy, I would be compelled to call white Christians “radical right-wing extremists.” I would have had to become a “religious humanist,” which is the twin brother to the secular humanist. I would have to wear an outer covering of Christianity but be willing to compromise with those who reject God. I would have to ignore the truth in God’s Word, and continue to believe that liberalism would solve my community’s problems. I would have to fight for government programs as our sole provider, and depend upon them to create a utopian society.
As black pastors, we often find ourselves silent and seemingly unconcerned over a wide range of issues confronting us all. Historically, we have been a mighty weapon in the white liberal’s (Democrat’s) arsenal. Unfortunately, the only value we seem to have is in racial issues, whether real or fabricated. The liberal attitude toward the black pastor (and the black community) is this: Don’t ask him about world affairs, don’t ask him about economic stability, don’t ask him about the Middle East, or Bosnia. Simply turn him loose on the Republican when they threaten the liberal (Democratic) power structure. They want the black pastor to evoke an emotional response from his parishioners (members), rather than of an intellectual one.
For these reasons liberalism is not for me. The liberal and the humanist depend upon government as if it were God. Recognize that a false prophet will carry a false message about a false god. Government can only be an instrument, not our source of life.
So when it comes to politics, I am persuaded to support those who best represent the values and principles I believe will follow God, support country and preserve family. But I will also claim the ground my fore-parents have already conquered through Christ, and build upon it!
Melvin L. Johnson is the pastor of the Eastern Branch Missionary Baptist Church in Freeport, Texas.
National Minority Politics, August 1995