Stolen Identity

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“I’m a patriot, I will help the President build the Wall, I have an A+ rating with the NRA, I’m pro-life and I am a conservative Christian.” This is a mash-up of language I’ve heard in our most recent primary election and it deeply offends me. I feel like I’m a victim of identity theft.

My real beef is with the very last word of this statement. Why? I am a Christian. And I feel like my identity has been stolen, or at least misappropriated in statements like this.

Sure, while logically you can argue that such a statement doesn’t intend to identify all these positions with Christian orthodoxy, there is the implication that if you are the right kind of Christian, you will believe in these things and vote for this candidate.

Please understand. I do not question the Christianity of those who would affirm these things, or the genuineness of the faith of candidates who use this language. I even agree with them on some things. But I do not like the implication that this version of patriotism, or being pro-gun, or pro-life, or anti-immigrant is what those who are truly Christian will embrace at the ballot box.

Sure, I get it. “Conservative” Christians are perceived as a significant constituency for a particular political party. And for the person wanting to get elected, winning the favor and the votes of this constituency is what it takes.

What troubles me most are not the political positions of the candidates, which they have every right to advance, but the identification of those issues with being a real Christian. The reason I’m so troubled is that I have literally known people who have turned away from exploring the teachings of Jesus because they assume that they will need to embrace these issues along with Jesus. This language may win elections but it loses converts to the Christian faith. I work in ministry with college students and watch kids leaving churches over these things. I work as part of an international fellowship of Christians who often wonder if we love America more than the global kingdom of God.

I’m disturbed by how such language limits both the issues I can care about as a Christian, and how I think about those issues. I don’t like how this rhetoric makes at least a certain group of people captive to a political party. Instead of being able to support on some things and challenge on others, there is a party line that must be adhered to if you are to maintain influence and stay inside the party’s tent, and in some cases, the good graces of one’s congregation.

What do I want instead? I want people to stop using their “faith identification” to get votes. Certainly it is not wrong for voters to know what a person’s faith is, but the identification of Christianity with a set of political issues and positions needs to end. Every time politicians do this, they misappropriate the identity of Christians.

I also believe the church needs to stop allowing itself to be played by politicians. The truth is, we are being used by politicians for the one simple thing politicians care about–getting elected. We’ve allowed leaders inside and outside the church with a political agenda to have greater influence than the whole counsel of scripture from Genesis to Revelation that challenges the positions of every political party and calls us to a far more radical life.

Above all, I want both politicians and leaders in some segments of the church to stop stealing my identity as a Christian for political ends. What it all comes down to is that this is not why Jesus lived, died, and rose. However, the wedding of religion and political power was the major reason why he was killed. Will we continue to sacrifice Christ for political ends?

 

4 thoughts on “Stolen Identity

  1. Would your response be the same if you heard: “I’m a patriot, I will not help the President build the Wall, I oppose the NRA, I’m pro-choice and I am a progressive Christian.” Would that offend you, or make you feel like you are “a victim of identity theft”? Or, when Christians identify themselves with political issues should they leave their faith at the door, or outside of the public square altogether, lest they offend those who disagree with their positions?

    • Yes, that would equally offend me. While I definitely believe my faith should inform my take on issues, I believe we need to argue them in the public square not as Christian but as serving the common good. If we cannot make good common good arguments, then the public has the right to reject those arguments.

      • I commend you for your consistency. However, I am left puzzled at the breakdown or breach between what informs your “take on issues,” and your subsequent arguments in their promotion in the public square. If your faith informed you in adopting a given position, why would that be kept secret? Is the public to be denied the Word of God as it applies to local and national issues? Must public square issues be left entirely in the realm of personal opinions with absolute truths left in the closet?

      • John, I have no problem being honest about how my faith informs my positions, but for those who don’t share this, I believe we can and should give prudential reasons that may be broadly shared. But this was not the point of the post, which concerned campaigns, and associating a set of issues, liberal or conservative, with being a Christian. I never can identify with all of these and my faith is far more comprehensive than these points. And the use of this rhetoric discourages some from coming to Christ, for which Jesus has significant warnings.

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