A Massachusetts Evangelical Message

Yesterday I was delighted to receive an email from one of my brightest, most interesting and favorite former students. She and her husband just moved from Massachusetts to Seattle where he will pursue his PhD in pharmacoepidemiology and genetics. They are a wonderful couple with a two year old and a ten week old. And they are evangelical Christians. She is especially distressed with how evangelicals are portrayed in the media.

She had been thinking of me since we had studied politics together and she had been listening to a sermon entitled “Samaritan” given by Pastor David Swaim of Highrock Church, which her family had attended in Arlington. She thought I might appreciate part of the sermon on politics and religion and provided a link to the sermon and even her own transcript. I think it is worth copying it here:

After any sermon in which I acknowledge the flaws or virtues of people from both political parties people always express their outrage that I don’t share their disdain for the obvious evil of the other side.  I mean, aren’t I a Christian?

 Yes, I am.

 And so is President Obama.

 One of my son’s teachers at his Christian school claimed that he is not because she doesn’t like some of his policies and I was heartbroken because it misses what a true Christian school should be.

 We follow Christ who commanded us not to judge.  I don’t like all of the President’s policies or agree with all of his opinions, either.

 But that doesn’t mean he is not a Christian.  And the fact that he is doesn’t mean he should be elected.

 There’s so much pressure to paint the other side as evil.  And we use religion to do it, because that makes our side seem holy.

 You know, both candidates in this election are smart men who claim to love God and they earnestly want to improve our nation.  And both of them have made some terrible errors.  They are both sinners and they both know a lot more about how to help our country than most of us do.

 So advocate for your candidate.  But let’s not dress our preferences in the cloak of religion to keep us from conceding that those who disagree with me are also partly right.

We’re not voting for God in this election.  He’s going to reign either way.  We’re only voting for politicians who can never bring the real salvation that most of us long for.

 I am pro-life.  But that doesn’t mean primarily opposing those who perform or have abortions.  It means giving pregnant women in desperate situations more choices than they had before by providing financial help and healthcare and personal support.  It means adopting and fostering kids who get stuck in the system even if they don’t look exactly like you, or might come with some trauma.

I’m pro-marriage.  But that doesn’t mean that I need to shame those who are divorced or deny inheritance rights to homosexuals.  It means that I’m willing to get in there and fight alongside struggling couples in order to help them conquer sin and pain with repentance and forgiveness and hope. 

I am a Christian.  That doesn’t mean that I have to hate members of other religions or paint them as idiotic or evil.  I don’t have to put anyone down to lift Jesus up.  I want everyone to meet Jesus, regardless of what religion they are.  He is the God who created everyone and wants them to find forgiveness and full life in Him.

I don’t want to be known for what I’m against; I want to be known for what I’m for.  I am for loving God and loving our neighbors.  That’s what Christianity is all about.  As soon as I start deciding who deserves to be loved, it’ll become obvious pretty quickly that I don’t.  So I don’t want to play that game for one second.  I am accepted here for the same reason that all of us are.

 Because of God’s grace for sinners.

There are very few evangelicals in Massachusetts. It is likely that many in the non-evangelical population unthinkingly accept the stereotypes that so trouble my student. Yet she was very moved by the sermon and so was I. Pastor Swaim is correct that political and religious partisans across the spectrum exhibit little knowledge of those outside our own groups, and distressingly little acknowledgement of others’ decency and good intentions. Too many of us, secular or of our many diverse faiths, Democrat or Republican, are certain that we know of “the obvious evil of the other side.”

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Mt 7: 1-2.

Any teacher will tell you that we learn much more from our students than they learn from us. Thanks, Sarah.




About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.
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