When I was growing up, my mother referred to herself as a yellow dog Democrat, a Southern term for someone who will only vote for Democratic candidates. As the saying goes, such a person would rather vote for a yellow dog than a Republican. Even though my voting record would likely put me in the same category, I have always bristled at this approach. I have never thought it wise to vote for candidates on party affiliation alone. The individual political philosophy and personal character of candidates are vitally important.
In recent days, now that polls indicate Roy Moore will likely win the Senate race in Alabama next week, President Trump and other Republican leaders have reversed their posture of distancing themselves from Moore and have openly endorsed and supported him. In every instance, the rationale is the same: GOP leaders desperately want to have another Republican in the Senate, regardless of the sexual abuse allegations surrounding him, in order to advance their legislative agenda. When Alabamian voters who support Moore are interviewed, an identical rationale is offered: they’d rather vote for Moore, despite credible allegations of child molestation made against him, than a liberal Democrat.
The fact that most of these Republican leaders and voters are avowed Christians, along with the public defenses of and endorsements for Moore from evangelical leaders like Franklin Graham and James Dobson, exposes the hypocrisy of a significant segment of American Christianity. Let me state this clearly: any Christian who endorses or votes for Roy Moore is an idolatrous heretic.
I’m rereading Paul Tillich’s classic book, Dynamics of Faith, with a friend who is reading it for the first time. We’re discussion the first chapter this evening. Reviewing it this morning, I’m struck by the timeliness of Tillich’s analysis. Faith, Tillich suggests, is the “state of being ultimately concerned.” When the object of our ultimate concern is actually ultimate, unconditional, and infinite, this faith is true. But when the object of our ultimate concern is provisional and finite, this faith is idolatrous. A heretic is “one who has turned away from the true to a false, idolatrous concern.”
In the very first paragraph of Dynamics of Faith, Tillich makes a point that is as relevant today as when he published it in 1957.
If a national group makes the life and growth of the nation its ultimate concern, it demands that all other concerns, economic wellbeing, health and life, family, aesthetic and cognitive truth, justice and humanity, be sacrificed. The extreme nationalisms of our century are laboratories for the study of what ultimate concern means in all aspects of human existence, including the smallest concern of one’s daily life. Everything is centered in the only god, the nation—a god who certainly proves to be a demon, but who shows clearly the unconditional character of an ultimate concern.
President Trump’s “American first” nationalism—which is really “my version of America first”—and the willingness of voters and leaders (Republicans, Democrats, and others) to set aside morality and decency for the sake of a political agenda perfectly exemplify Tillich’s notion of idolatrous ultimate concern. For Christians to ignore credible allegations against Roy Moore because he claims to represent other values and agendas they hold dear, is nothing less than idolatrous and demonic heresy. Such Christians are putting political ideology above God, plain and simple.
Of course, the same can be said of anyone who supports Moore, not just Christians. Following Tillich’s logic, being ultimately concerned about something as finite as a political party is always misguided, regardless of the object of ultimate concern you might consider a legitimate alternative. But since I’m a Christian, and most Alabama voters are Christians, I am compelled to call out the members of my own tribe. So I’ll say it again: any Christian who endorses or votes for Roy Moore is an idolatrous heretic. I still love you and want to sit at table with you, but you’ve seriously wandered away from the way of Jesus.
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