March 10th, 2008 11:29 EST
Did the Ventriloquist say too much?
By Terry Jacobson
A conservative evangelical leader was recently quoted as saying he would rather not vote for a Presidential candidate in this year's election than vote for Senator John McCain. Apparently, voting for one of the Democratic candidates was out of the question. When he said it, he claimed he was speaking as an individual and not on behalf of his ministry. Of course, that had to be the case-- for tax reasons he is not allowed to use his ministry to spread his political views. I had two immediate reactions to his statement. The first reaction was: "If you are speaking as an individual then why not keep your views to yourself?" My second reaction was similar: "Why should I or the rest of the world care who you vote or don't vote for? What is it to us? This is America, vote for whomever you like."
And then something very interesting occurred to me-- this man thought he was also speaking for me because, as an evangelical Christian, I had been letting this man speak for me for years. I had been Charlie McCarthy to his Edgar Bergin. It was only natural for him to presume to speak for me-- his words had been coming out of my mouth for a long time. And I let him. My fault, not his.
As an evangelical Christian, I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, died on the cross and was raised on the third day. I believe that when He died, He died for me and paid a debt that I couldn't pay for myself. And I believe that He has now sent me, and everyone else who believes in Him, into the world to share this great news with people of every nationality and language. So, I qualify as an evangelical Christian in every sense of the word.
But, I found myself having a problem with this man suggesting that the "Christian" thing to do was to not vote for Senator McCain. And I have to confess that it took me a little while to get comfortable disagreeing with him. After all, he was an evangelical leader, a man whom others recognized as a godly man. He is a man who has had a positive influence on a lot of people. Who was I to disagree with him? But his words didn't resonate within me. I found myself not wanting to be this ventriloquist's dummy anymore.
I had to ask myself why? And then it occurred to me. When he talks like that, he isn't speaking for God. And if he doesn't speak for God, he doesn't speak for me. To be fair to him, maybe he doesn't claim to be speaking for God on this subject. But because of who he is, there is always a "Thus sayeth the Lord" quality about his statements. So even if he doesn't intend to speak for God, other people think he is. And that is a shame.
The Bible directly addresses a bunch of issues. But there are some things it doesn't address. In those instances, we are left to work out our salvation with fear and trembling-- as Paul puts it in Philippians 2. Christians are free to be green. Christians are free to love sinners--even the ones who are caught in the worst kind of sin. Christians are free to support tort reform or the tort system, tax cuts or tax increases. Christians are free to be Democrats or free to be Republicans. They are even free to be apolitical-- like Jesus.
So, if anyone out there is listening to me, please take note. This man doesn't speak for me. The ventriloquist lost his voice when he stopped using the words that God uses and saying the things that God says. He lost his voice when he stopped being passionate about the things that God is passionate about. When he stopped loving people the same way Jesus loves people, when he stopped advocating service and humility, he stopped being a ventriloquist and I stopped being his dummy.
Terry Jacobson practices civil trial law in Corsicana, TX, where he lives with his wife, Tina, and their 3 children. He has been an elder at Believers Bible Church since 1998.
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