I can remember thinking that if we could just put a born-again Christian in the White House, everything would be different. Everyone in the nation would automatically be Christian. We’d all fall on our knees and worship God. And, of course, this Christian President would make all the right decisions, his speeches would be Bible studies, and he’d have a hotline to heaven, so God would specially look after us. Then along came Jimmy Carter, a devout, born-again Christian, and nothing of the kind happened. Most people thought he wasn’t a very good President, and the 444-day hostage crisis took away any thoughts of God’s special blessing on a nation with a Christian President.
Then Ronald Reagan rode to office on the backs of evangelical Christians, and suddenly being a Christian in politics became not only an institution, but a requirement. Every President since then — and pretty much everyone running for President — had to make some kind of statement of faith, because the born-again, evangelical Christian bloc of voters became the key to winning the election. Every candidate with any level of success had to have a Christian consultant to teach them the right words, phrases and scriptures with which to pepper their talks to gain the evangelical vote. For a while, Christians gloated in this power until it began to appear obvious that this religious posturing was 80% farce.
The result has been costly to true faith. Christianity for many turned into a sham where, in public, all the right words were used, but behind closed doors, another kind of person emerged. This has turned out to be unfortunate for all real Christians everywhere, because “faith-based” has been reduced to a voting bloc, nothing more.
Words are cheap, but words have never been enough anyway. All has not been lost; it’s just come under a different set of criteria. Bottom line: it’s never been what you say that makes you a Christian; it’s who you are and what you do. Who you are, in terms of having love, joy, peace patience, gentleness, and kindness in your heart for everyone. And what you do in terms of giving, serving, sacrificing, and reaching out to those around you whom you see as more important than yourself. We call it grace turned outward.
It’s our responsibility to be and do. What they call us doesn’t matter; best to call us by our first names.