On August 5, I wrote a post called “The Endorsement Game.” I opened the post with this paragraph:
“My Facebook feed has been filled with both defenses of and outrage toward the various evangelical leaders, including Wayne Grudem, who have endorsed the Republican candidate for the U.S. Presidency. Maybe the reason for this is that I have friends across the spectrum (yes there is one!) of evangelical belief who have lots of different takes on these endorsements, and on the fitness for office of the one being endorsed.”
I return to this post because over the weekend Dr. Grudem withdrew his endorsement of the Republican candidate for president and called upon him to resign. I was heartened to see this and a willingness to acknowledge his own error, according to a Washington Post article, of not taking time to investigate earlier allegations about the candidate’s character before making his endorsement.
I credit Dr. Grudem’s integrity of publicly acknowledging an error instead of doubling down as others have done, even justifying the candidate’s language as “locker room banter,” which seems to me appalling, particularly among supposed evangelicals.
What distresses me however is that Dr. Grudem never even begins (to my knowledge) to question the basic practice of endorsing candidates as an “evangelical leader” and the entanglement of the gospel with partisan politics. He only is saying that he made a bad decision this time. I would argue that this is always a bad decision for evangelical leaders for one fundamental reason (evangelicals like fundamentals!):
Endorsing one party’s candidate carries with it the implication that you can only be a Christian if you vote a certain way.
I know most leaders wouldn’t say that (although it wouldn’t surprise me that some would). But I have friends who have been repulsed from Christian faith for precisely this reason. The warning of Matthew 18:6 is one I think every evangelical endorser ought to consider seriously:
“But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (NIV)
Furthermore, I would argue that the leaders who endorse, whether conservative or progressive, have led the flocks who follow them into political captivity, fostering deep estrangements within the Christian community in our land across racial and economic lines. The prophets of the Old Testament denounce the shepherds of Israel for scattering the sheep. I will be blunt–leaders who engage in this kind of political activity as leaders of the evangelical community are misleading their flocks and are under the judgement of God (cf Jeremiah 23:1-8; Ezekiel 34; Zechariah 10:2-12).
Unless evangelical leadership repents of this kind of behavior (repent means to turn, in thought and action, because of the awareness that one has transgressed), that leadership will find that they aren’t leading anything. Their cry will be “Ichabod!” which means “the glory has departed.” Repentance isn’t simply withdrawing embarrassing endorsements, it is to cease from this endorsement game, which idolizes political power, to the denial of the greater power of the kingdom, whose heralds they are called to be.
Those who read me regularly probably find this writing uncharacteristic of me. You are right. But I am deeply angry and grieved, not with the presidential candidates, but with the harm I’ve watched these “evangelical leaders” commit over a generation to the gospel I love and how they’ve besmirched the glory of the Christ I love and how their activity is turning away a generation of spiritual seekers. Given how far we’ve sunken in this current election, I’ve wondered if we’ve come to our last chance to turn from this political and spiritual folly. Lord, have mercy!