Rabbits Should Know What Hawks Look Like

I was talking with a friend about the political monkey house that is our time, and the subject moved to the condition of the church in all of this.

First, some ball park data. About one quarter of the electorate self-identifies as evangelical, and I am talking here about the white, born-again types. Please note that this is a kind of believer that is closer to what Gallup thinks an evangelical Christian is than the apostle Paul did, but it will do for the rough cut numbers. In 2012, about 21% of them voted for Obama. This works out to about 6.4 million. And that would include — unless I miss my guess — quite a few of their pastors.

So let me say the controversial thing first, albeit at a minimal level, explain briefly what I do not mean by it, and then briefly defend it. Any evangelical leader — by which I mean someone like a minister or an elder — who voted for Obama the second time, is not qualified for the office he holds, and should resign that office. Unless and until he repents of how he is thinking about the challenges confronting our nation, he should not be entrusted with the care of souls. A shepherd who cannot identify wolves is not qualified to be a shepherd.

Just to keep things simple and straightforward, I would say this solely on the basis of Obama’s radical pro-abort position.

There is a Catch-22 in this, of course. Nobody is going to step down for this reason, because they will not see the need for it. Not seeing the need for it is the reason they are disqualified. If they were to repent, and come to see the need for their resignation, there would then be no need to resign. It is not as though voting for Obama is a permanent moral disqualification, like adultery. Rather, it represents and exhibits a fundamental condition of cluelessness. And the last thing we need is more clueless leaders. The last thing we need right now are more blind seers.

“Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord: Which say to the seers, See not; And to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us” (Is. 30:8-11).

While the stats given earlier are for white gallupian evangelicals, I also believe the same principle applies to black Christian leaders. Not only must the dignity of human life be upheld by white and black Christian leaders alike, to the extent we may allow any differences, it should be to expect a greater vehemence in opposing abortion (in the person of its advocates and enablers) from black leaders. This is because it is their people who are being disproportionately targeted by the white Sangerites. And a black Christian leader who cannot identify a Sangerite is a rabbit leader who does not know what a hawk looks like.

Now, before the yelling starts, let me say what I am not saying. I am not saying an Obama vote is the only way a Christian leader could disqualify himself in the voting booth. I am not saying that God is a Republican. I am not talking about anything that such men who voted for Obama should have done instead. I am simply talking about a very obvious thing they must not have done. The optometrist usually has you try to read the big E on the top before trying anything else. So let us start with the easy question, while at the same time recognizing that just because I think it is an easy question won’t keep people from thinking that I am being outrageous.

Neither am I saying anything about the average parishioner. No doubt, he should be up to speed on biblical engagement with the issues of the day, and I would want to urge him to grow in his abilities to do so. But shepherds of God’s flock have a moral responsibility in this that is directly connected to their ability to discharge the responsibilities of their office. If a man is a pastor, and he voted for Obama in 2012, then his cultural astuteness is about as sharp as a bowling ball.

A generation later, it is easy for us to cluck our tongues at the German leaders who did not see what Hitler was doing, but it is very hard for us to see our complicity in things that are every bit as atrocious.

See, I did it. I mentioned Hitler, which is going to cause someone to appeal to Godwin’s Law. In Internet debate, according to the law, the first one to make the Nazi comparisons loses. This is apropos and funny in multiple situations. But if we live in a world in which genocide can and does occur — and we do — a supercilious appeal to Godwin when someone invokes the Holocaust when talking about Cambodia’s killing fields, or to the Rwandan slaughter, is to be too clever by half.

So here is my brief defense of this stand. Killing babies is no trifle, and any Christian leader who acts as though it is a trifle should not be in the position he is in.

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19 comments on “Rabbits Should Know What Hawks Look Like

  1. Should be, "as sharp as a wrecking ball."  
  2. "Unless and until he repents of how he is thinking about the challenges confronting our nation" of course implies ministers, as such, should be thinking about the challenges confronting our nation. 
  3. JohnM, at the risk of being too clever by half, I'd suggest that not thinking about it is a way of thinking about it -- if a minister thinks it's not his job to think about it at all, that's a kind of thought about it, that is wrong.
  4. "if a minister thinks it's not his job to think about it at all, that's a kind of thought about it.." Well, I guess that is a way of thinking about it, in a kind of  not choosing is choosing way, but then not so much a thought about the content of "it",  so I'm not sure if it qualifies as thinking about  it after all.  But anyway,  I can't help wondering, so I thought I'd ask - Is this all a postmil thing?
  5. "Killing babies is no trifle, and any Christian leader who acts as though it is a trifle should not be in the position he is in."  One of my thoughts on on the subject is that abortion is a human rights issue, (as opposed to any other kind of rights issue). If humans have rights then those rights apply to the unborn as well as he rest of us.
  6. Amen and amen. If one can't get abortion right, for crying out loud, how can he be expected to judge wisely on lesser matters?
  7. Pastor Wilson, would this argument carry over into the gay marriage issue?  Or would you see a different type of argument there?
  8. Doug, have you had occasion to talk with John Piper about the intersection between his pro-life commitments and his racial-reconciliation commitments where they meet in President Obama (and his supporters in the african-american religious community)?  I find myself curious how he might respond to this post...
  9. Hello Daniel,   Yes, I think it does carry over into the gay marriage issue.  In the question of gay marriage, it is still wrong to kill babies.
  10. Pastor Wilson, I understand your concerns, but may I respectfully suggest that this is much the same sort of ecclesiastical imposition on conscience in matters political that was one of the chief causes of the Reformation and one of the chief concerns of all the Reformers? I would like to draw attention to at least four problematic points in your reasoning—two of them concerning your pithy summary statement at the end, two of them concerning your broader line of reasoning. 1)   Killing babies is certainly no trifle; nor is it a trifling matter to preside over a country while supporting the maintenance of legislation that permits individuals within the country to kill babies without prosecution.  However, the two cases are hardly the same, and must not be morally equated.  On the contrary, the latter is several steps removed from the former under any system of sound and workable moral distinctions. 2)   A vote for Obama hardly implies by necessity that the voter deems abortion “a trifle.”  The leader in question may consider it a very weighty matter indeed, and merely feel constrained by other considerations that he finds equally weighty to accept this great evil, deeming it lesser than other evils that he foresees in not voting for Obama.  I suspect there is an unspoken premise in your argument that no moral issue could be deemed weightier than abortion, but there is simply no clear Scriptural ground for such a premise.  3)   You seem to forget that we are all products of our backgrounds, circumstances, education, influences, and limited opportunities to gain knowledge.  Given what you have seen, heard, and read about abortion, and the culture of death in America more broadly, it seems readily apparent to you that this is the key moral battle of our time in American politics.  Moreover, given what you have seen, heard, and read about Obama, you have become convinced that he represents a “radical pro-abort position” and will materially advance the cause of abortion across the country.  But neither of those conclusions are simply self-evident eternal verities immediately available to any sensible mind.  There are plenty of evangelicals, in other sub-cultures, who have not had the benefit of being exposed to the same influences, and for whom abortion, while certainly a matter of serious moral concern, accordingly does not occupy as central or high-profile a place in the hierarchy of dangers facing our country, or for whom it is not readily apparent that it should be addressed at the level of national politics.  Likewise, there are plenty of evangelicals who, by virtue of the rather different sources of information that they have seen, heard, or read, have formed a different estimation of how central a “pro-abort agenda” is to Obama’s presidency.  They may be wrong, but that doesn’t make them idiots; they are trying to be faithful in the context in which they have been called, and to reach responsible conclusions on the basis of the information they have.  Failure to acknowledge this means you come across as saying, “Anyone who doesn’t have the blessing of being able to think like me is clearly blind and unqualified to pastor.” 4)   This argument simply proves too much.  One could readily construct parallel syllogisms regarding other signs of the times, or political, social, or economic evils, that ought to be blindingly obvious.  And of course, as I’ve just pointed out, one person’s “blindingly obvious” will often be another’s “through a glaass, darkly.”  If we can all start denouncing pastors as unfit to serve by virtue of their lapses in judgment on matters social, ethical, political, and economic that ought to be obvious, then who will be left in our pulpits?  Thankfully, Scripture never requires such never-failing judgment for ministers.  It requires that they be personally upright, and capable of ministering the Word faithfully to their flocks.  It would certainly be nice if, in addition to being competent in the Scriptures, all of our ministers were highly astute social commentators as well, and learned in matters political, legal, and economic.  But, as long as they are aware of their own limitations and do not lead others astray by acting as if they know more than they do about such matters, they may still be decent and faithful ministers of the Gospel even if they are not all of those things.  Of course, this is not to say that we shouldn’t aim to have a more politically- and morally-astute ministry, only that we don’t need to get there by peremptorily disqualifying all those deemed insufficiently astute.    
  11. Judging a pastor's qualifications based on a vote for Obama is fine as far as it goes.  It seems to conveniently exonerate those who supported Bush, McCain, and Romney.  What is the difference between voting for, or using your blog to support, an obvious wolf vs. a wolf in very poorly fitting sheep's clothing?  Recent GOP Presidential candidates all have claimed to be pro-life while officially condoning the taking of that life in politically convenient situations.  McCain promised that, despite his unequivocal claim to Rick Warren that he believed that life begins at conception, he would do everything he could to ensure federal tax money was used to experiment on conceived babies.   "A shepherd who cannot identify wolves is not qualified to be a shepherd." Well, shepherds who justify voting for Republicans with all their lesser of two evils excuses in the face of 50 million dead babies sanctioned by a Republican Supreme Court and executed under GOP presidents "represent and exhibit a fundamental condition of cluelessness."
  12. @Moor This was addressed during the Piper/Wilson Q&A moderated by Joe Rigney after the Desiring God Conference.    Piper said in effect he does not believe he knows enough to call people to repent for who they voted for from the pulpit.   Video Link - http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-church-and-the-world-homosexuality-abortion-and-race-with-john-piper-and-douglas-wilson
  13. Moor, the answer to your question is here at 46:56:  http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-church-and-the-world-homosexuality-abortion-and-race-with-john-piper-and-douglas-wilson  
  14. A very dull post.  Meant to appeal to a constituency rather than delight to the Spirit.  I think the rationale has followed the exhortation, rather than the other way round.  You have missed your calling as a politician. The appeal to the dignity of the unborn is trite.  One would really see mouth and money meet e.g. imparting your much-ado-ed education free of cost to impoverished sections of your community.  That would make what you say interesting.  Right now, your type are a dime a dozen.
  15. Contra Vishwanath, I have rarely read a pastor saying something like this. Most pastors have neither the mind or the courage, and I agree with what Doug wrote, provided that it be consistently applied to the scoundrels with an "R" in front of their name, who use the language of Christianity and then proceed to act the opposite of their rhetoric in their manner of legislating. Protection of the unborn is not trite, even if those with dull hearts find it mundane that we have a profitable industry of killing children in the most conspiratorial and aggravated manner possible.
  16. @Vishwanath, Your comment is a great illustration of the zero-sum game Pastor Wilson talks about. He did not get sufficient time addressing free education for the poor therefore his defense of the unborn is nullified. Totally bypasses any contemplation of what he actually says in the post.
  17. Vishwanath, Your comment is a great illustration of the zero-sum game Pastor Wilson talks about. He did not give sufficient time addressing free education for the poor therefore his defense of the unborn is nullified. Totally bypasses any contemplation of what he actually says in the post.
  18. Glad and grateful to hear this so succinctly put. Seeing abortion as the state's instrument of mercy in assuring a young woman may fulfill her (completely secularized) potential is but the flagship of the egregious fleet of effects of one party's ideology. I've been a bit distressed about the level of education of our younger generation of church folk regarding the underlying philosophies driving our political divide. Recent events sent me to revisit a couple of cogent articles from Touchstone Magazine's archives of a decade ago: "Political Orphans" http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-03-029-f  and "The Godless Party" http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-03-023-f
  19. Thanks to all who provided the link, much appreciated!

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