In the political chaos that is part of the American cultural scene, Daniel Darling has written a refreshingly biblical article on what should be the Christian perspective of the political problems we face for USA Today. Darling is the vice president for communications at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
In his article, “Don’t blame incivility on religion. Christian principles are an antidote to nastiness,” Darling writes, “A common narrative today is that deeply held religious beliefs are a key driver of incivility.” But a recent survey revealed “evangelical views on civility and democracy shows exactly the opposite effect.”
The survey uncovered some not so surprising results. “Over half of evangelicals believe that if their political opponents were to gain power democracy would be threatened, and believe news more if it’s delivered by someone who shares their worldview, and 25% believe it is justifiable for a political leader to insult his opponent, if in service to the right cause.”
These findings are from a “massive survey” that was conducted by the Fetzer Institute, Lifeway Research and The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Lifeway submitted the findings to a “civility index” that “scores people on their ability to find common ground among those with whom they disagree.”
Lifeway found that “evangelicals who believe in the exclusivity of Jesus as the pathway to God and the importance of religious liberty, who believe that every human being is created in the image of God (and in the “inherent and equal dignity of all”) had high civility scores.” The question arises, what are we to make of this seeming contradiction?
Darling posits, “Perhaps the root of so much of our civic nastiness is not the result of Christians holding too tightly to core convictions, but rather a result of Christians straying from core convictions. In other words, it’s not our belief system that is the problem, it’s that we have strayed from what we believe.”
He continues, “And if we genuinely believe, from Genesis 1, Psalm 139 and other passages, that every human being has dignity, we are compelled to treat even those who vociferously disagree with us as God’s image-bearers. And if we are truly animated by the idea of religious liberty, we should advocate it not just for our tribe but even for those who practice religions we consider to be false.”
To be sure, we as Christians cannot shrink back from sharing the temporal and eternal consequences of disobeying God; that would be unloving even if others think we are being meanspirited in doing so. But we do not need to be arrogantly nasty and uncivil.
Paul enjoined us to speak “the truth in love,” Ephesians 4:15, and to “overcome evil with good,” Romans 12:21. And Jesus commanded us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44.
I think God is more concerned with the formation of our Christian character than He is with comforting us with who will be the next president.