In His Name, By Our Efforts, On Our Watch

This election season has shown us a breathtaking number of things, almost none of which I hadn’t seen before or which surprised me. I’ve spent my life following politics, and nothing is so much new as it is newly disseminated over wider and wider venues in more and more high-tech ways.

But there is one thing that leaves me astounded and utterly broken-hearted, even as it angers me, even as it brings me to tears. What I’ve seen in this campaign, especially in the last three months, is a rush to judgment and condemnation of Barack Obama that is a stain on the conservative, evangelical wing of the Christian Church to which, by grace, I belong. These aren’t the usual reactionaries and crisis-mongers who find Satan behind every bush and something pornographic in every reference to “bush,” the ones who pontificate that 9/11 happened because of gays, feminists, and liberals and who call down tornadoes and hurricanes on “ungodly” populations in our own country. We expect that they’ll be awful, even when we can never accept that they are. Most of them, however, stick to abortion, gay rights, pornography and “the family,” however they define it, and the very real damage they do is nonetheless contained.

Something different, something even uglier, has come upon us now. Millions of otherwise decent, intelligent Christians have jumped on a bandwagon that’s careened off the tracks of Truth and Fairness, a “Jesus is LORD” banner gaudily waving at its side, and they — these people who love Jesus Christ — are causing enormous damage. They may well cost Obama the election; I pray they don’t cost him his life. They undoubtedly, though, have squandered and sullied the witness of the Gospel in this campaign, and the damage won’t end this election season. Things done in the name of Christ have a peculiar way, good or bad, of lasting long after we leave.

The likelihood of this nation’s first Black president, a man with a name not like yours or mine on top of it, who is liberal, brilliant, charismatic and — in my mind — a thoroughly decent guy, has Internet-savvy bloggers foaming at the mouth. Just about every day over the last two weeks, I’ve gotten some piece of religious right-generated “information” about something incendiary Obama, who is “probably, according to the Bible, the Anti-Christ,” said “last week on Meet The Press,” or a Russian economist’s warning that Obama’s “socialism” would lead us into gulags and a resurgent Communism, or that Obama is working to burn flags, take away my Bible, fill the Cabinet with radical Muslims, and teach oral sex to kindergarteners. He’ll have to do this between travels to his “secret birthplace” in Kenya and after he visits his ailing grandmother in Hawaii to destroy his original birth certificate, but my email correspondents insist that Michelle “I Hate Whitey” Obama is more than able to hold down the fort at home.

And none of it’s true.

Worse, the patent absurdity of this stuff doesn’t seem to compel these earnest, intelligent Christians to simply exert a little bit of energy on research, exercise a little bit of common sense, and exhibit a little bit of Christian charity before they join the mob. And it’s not just naive, undiscerning folks in the pews — Doug Wilson in Moscow and pastors and church leaders all over the country are taking in delight in promoting the “shadowy background and lost years” of a man who’s been under media scrutiny unlike any ever focused on a national figure. Shame on them, although Wilson, unlike Moscow’s “No Weatherman,” at least uses his name when bearing false witness. Whisper campaigns and false judgment spread to your neighbor or your co-worker is sin; splattering it all over your email contacts and through your blog is sin with the volume turned up, and these people have exhausted themselves in their determination not only to not love the man, Barack Obama, but to actively malign him — in the name of Jesus.

IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

In the name of the Prince of Peace, these people have proclaimed war on another human being — one who names Jesus, too, as his Lord and Savior.

In the name of the Reconciler, these people have sown discord, suspicion, and hate.

In the name of the Way, the Truth, and the Life, these people have lied, and passed on lies, and delighted in lies.

And while they’re free to call me “hateful” when I object, in anger, they aren’t free to presume the protection of a loving God when doing what they do. I don’t hate anyone. I absolutely hate when people’s fears drive them to act . . . hatefully. For that, I won’t apologize.

And I won’t be silent, because someday the Lord Jesus will ask me what I did when people lied about Him and His Gospel, and I pray He’ll have enabled me to keep speaking truth.

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