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Political scientist warns Christians against committing to one party

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (BP)–An evangelical political scientist said apathetic Christian voters and evangelicals who vote straight party lines are in danger of losing their spiritual voice in American politics.

“Instead of aligning ourselves with the Republicans or Democrats, we need to align ourselves with Christ,” said John Calhoun, a professor of history and political science at Palm Beach Atlantic College and an expert in nationalism. “As Christians, we have a higher calling than being a Democrat or a Republican or even an American. We belong to Christ and therefore we should cast our votes accordingly.”

A self-professed evangelical “liberal,” Calhoun’s comments came following eight tumultuous days of wrangling over ballots cast for the presidential election in four Florida counties — including Palm Beach County.

And while the nation waits for the announcement of its 43rd president, Calhoun said there is no reason to believe the country is facing a constitutional crisis.

“This wasn’t a protest vote against one candidate or another,” Calhoun said. “Both Vice President Al Gore and Gov. George W. Bush are centrist candidates. The real problem is the presidency itself. There will be a shadow of doubt over the legitimacy of whoever eventually wins.”

Calhoun, who earned graduate degrees from Rutgers University and the University of Pittsburgh, said it’s time for the nation’s churches to stand up and be counted in the process of electing national leaders.

“Christians need to look at the issues and ask what the Christian response should be,” he said. “Don’t worry about whether it’s a liberal idea or a conservative idea. Be concerned about the suffering of your fellow citizens.

“Whatever you do,” Calhoun stressed, “don’t tie yourself to one person or party.

“Take the Christian Coalition for example,” he said. “They always, always endorse Republicans. Or how about Ronald Reagan? In 1980 Reagan said he was a born-again Christian. But in 1984 he said he didn’t know what that term meant. To me, that would be offensive. Isn’t that betraying the Christians who voted for him?”

Unlike some political pundits who say Christians have no place in the political arena, Calhoun disagreed. “I absolutely believe Christians not only have a place in the arena, but have a responsibility in the arena. If the church doesn’t speak out on the issues from a biblical perspective, then who will?”

Calhoun cited the rise of Adolph Hitler as an example of what happens when the church doesn’t play a part in the political process.

“Hitler’s problem was that the church, except for [Dietrich] Bonhoeffer, didn’t say anything,” Calhoun said. “The church in Germany knew Hitler was evil but they didn’t stand up.

“We can’t let apathetic Christian voters take away our prophetic function in American politics,” Calhoun said. “The problem is that we assume we live with the mistaken notion that we are a Christian nation,” he said. “Are we?”

Calhoun, in his 18th year of teaching at Palm Beach Atlantic, added, “The Bible talks about abundant living — and if we want to live abundantly then we need to involve ourselves in society. We should be active citizens with a Christian worldview.”

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes