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FIRST-PERSON: Voting with values, not political parties

PLANO, Texas (BP)–Our nation is locked in a bitter cultural battle. As citizens and as followers of Christ, we have an obligation to become engaged in this struggle.

The 2004 general election will offer voters a very clear choice as to what kind of values will dominate the political culture and impact America for years to come. Evangelical Christians must begin voting their convictions for righteousness to prevail.

I am not referring to Republican or Democrat values, but the struggle for biblical values to triumph.

I am excited about the potential impact iVoteValues.com promises. IVoteValues.com is an initiative of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. This initiative looks to both educate and register voters by mobilizing church members. It emphasizes voting our convictions rather than voting our pocketbooks or political parties.

Recently, Prestonwood Baptist Church, where I serve as pastor, hosted a youth leaders conference. At that time we offered those individuals the opportunity to register to vote, if they had not already done so. We registered 500 people over two weekends.

This activity is both legal and proper. In fact, as persons of faith we run the risk of being permanently pushed to the sidelines of the culture if we sit idly by and let others who have agendas counter to our own beliefs register and educate voters, and then make sure they vote.

The Scriptures are not ambiguous. It is clear what Christ was saying when He talked about hiding our light under a container (Matthew 5:15). “Our light” is our faith-driven compulsion to influence the world for God and for good. It pushes back the darkness. It illumines evil and brings knowledge, which frees people.

Brothers and sisters, we are disobeying the Word of God when we allow ungodly forces to shut us up and put us down. We have the Truth on our side. We cannot let a radical, vocal minority of self-proclaimed church-state experts tell us we don’t have the same right as any other American — faith-filled or faithless — to step into the public square and let our voice be heard.

Shame on us if we remain cowering in a darkened corner of the culture because a handful of so-called constitutional experts have told us we can’t take our light where we know we should be taking it and furthermore, that we don’t understand our rights under the U.S. Constitution. We need to stand up, speak out, and send the message that God has an answer to the pain, heartache, and trouble that afflicts so many in our nation.

There are individuals in our churches, who, rather than voting family values and voting faith values, vote political values. It is our obligation to train and nurture and help our people understand biblical values and how to apply biblical principles in the context of voting. I am not talking about telling people how to vote, but instead, helping them understand and frame the election in terms of biblical precepts, not politics.

At the heart of this culture war is the battle over the definition of and disintegration of the family. One of the biggest issues is same-sex “marriage.” Here again we have self-appointed experts who think they know better than God. They have a plan and they are quickly carrying out this plan to redefine marriage as something other than the union of one man and one woman. They have willing accomplices in courtrooms and city halls across our nation. These individuals see no problem in ignoring the will of the people and tearing at the foundation of our society, our culture and our nation.

We must allow our faith to influence our decisions in what candidates we support. As followers of Christ we need to bring His Kingdom and His Spirit and His values into all spheres of human activity, including into the electoral process.

The Christian community should not sit on the sidelines but must engage the battle — whether it is spiritual or cultural. Our nation will pay a heavy price if people of faith are reluctant to exercise their civic duty.

In our nation’s war for independence, historians say it was the men of God who made the difference. While the political leaders sounded the call for revolution, it was the preachers who stepped out of their pulpits and into the battle who inspired the people in their fight for freedom.

In this election year, the people of God must come off the sidelines and into the fray. The stakes are too high. We must be determined to fight this good fight of faith and to be passionate in our commitment to prevail for our nation’s sake.
Jack Graham, pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church, is president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The iVoteValues.com tour will be launched April 30 during a joint chapel service with staff members from LifeWay Christian Services and the Southern Baptist Convention offices in Nashville. For more information on the iVoteValues.com initiative, visit www.ivotevalues.com.

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  • Jack Graham