Sunday, November 11, 2012

The 3 - November 11, 2012

Election results permeate this edition of my week-in-review feature, "The 3".   In the number 3 slot, there is new leadership in 2 church bodies - one smaller one, and a rather large one, but both significant in our world today.   The top 2 positions involve Election Day: the traditional marriage position losing at the ballot box in 4 states, and the size of and choice by the evangelical vote.

3 - New leadership for Coptic Christians, Anglican church

This week, there were 2 high-profile appointments to leadership positions over church bodies in the world.   The much-maligned Coptic Christian church, meaning the church in Egypt, appointed a new leader, a pope, this week.  Pope Tawadros II was appointed last Sunday to replace Pope Shenouda III, who died in March after leading Egypt's Orthodox Christians for four decades.   And, the new leader is speaking out in favor of an inclusive constitution for the country, in light of fears that the Muslim Brotherhood would institute sharia, or Islamic, Law.

He is quoted by The Christian Post, citing a Reuters story, as saying that, "The beauty of Egyptian society is the presence of Muslims beside Christians. Diversity is strong and beautiful."   He went on to say that,  "If a good constitution is presented in which every person finds himself [represented], there is no doubt Egypt will develop...But if the constitution addresses one part of the community and ignores another it will take society backwards."

The Copts are thought to have between 5 and 20 million adherents.  We remember this group of believers, as well as other persecuted Christians on this, the International day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

Also, in Great Britain, it was announced that a new Archbishop of Canterbury has been named, the culmination of a long selection process that eventually resulted in a committee making a recommendation, and the Queen of England giving final approval.  The Archbishop is the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Bishop of Durham Justin Welby, who is believed to be strongly in the evangelical wing of the communion, including being opposed to same-sex marriage, has a background in business, in the oil industry. quotes Welby as saying that he felt privileged and astonished to be chosen to lead the Church at "a time of spiritual hunger."

Regarding same-sex marriage, he said, "We must have no truck with any form of homophobia in any part of the church," adding that he planned to "listen to the voice of the LGBT communities and examine my own thinking."    He supports allowing women to serve as bishops, an issue that is scheduled to be voted on later this month by the Church's governing General Synod.  

Welby, who replaces the retiring Rowan Williams, will have his work cut out for him, as he attempts to lead a large group - an estimated 77 million members - with a diversity of views while maintaining his sense of conviction on delicate issues that have adversely affected the church.

2 - Ballot measures on legalizing gay marriage pass in 3 states, traditional marriage amendment fails in 1

While the majority of political eyes were on the Presidential and Congressional races, there was quite a bit of attention on the 4 ballot measures concerning marriage, in 4 states that were won by President Obama, and have gained a reputation for being generally liberal.

In Washington and Maryland, traditional marriage supporters had gained enough signatures to get a referendum vote put on the ballot to rescind what the legislature of those 2 states had done in approving gay marriage, and Maine also had a vote on whether or not to legalize same-sex marriage.   In Minnesota, where gay marriage is currently illegal, voters were asked to decide on defining marriage in their state as one man for one woman, as over 30 other states had done.

In the end, by around 5 percent or less in all states, those who support traditional marriage found themselves on the losing side - Washington, Maryland, and Maine deciding to legalize same-sex marriage, Minnesota deciding not to define marriage in the traditional way.   The outcome there did not legalize gay marriage, however.

According to WORLD Magazine, Joseph Backholm, chairman of Preserve Marriage Washington, said in a statement. “The results show only that in a deep blue state, with a huge financial advantage, gay marriage activists can win—barely.”

I came across an interesting piece on National Review Online, by Charles Donovan, President of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, which is an arm of the Susan B. Anthony List.  Referring to a chart on social issues that he included in the article, he is quoted as saying that:
We did not win much and will take a media beating over it. But all of our issues ran better than the GOP headliner in the eight states listed, with the exception of Florida’s disappointing results on the abortion and Blaine Amendment issues. The social issues are not to blame.
For example, in the gay marriage states, here are the results (based on early returns):
Maine - 6 percent loss on gay marriage, Romney defeated by 16%
Maryland - 4 percent loss on marriage, Romney loss of 24%
Minnesota - 3 percent loss on marriage, Romney defeated by 8%
Washington - 4 percent loss on marriage, Romney off 12%

There are some differences as totals have come in; for instance, it appears that the Maine referendum to legalize gay marriage won by 5 points.

So, while a shift in the electorate's position on gay marriage is being triumphed, you still have to consider that even in these deep blue states, the conservative, traditional positions were not rejected by an overwhelming majority.   Amidst the calls to moderate on social issues, the fact remains that there are still over 30 states that have traditional marriage amendments on the books, the size of the gay community is still relatively small (4%), despite the vocal nature of its constituency, and marriage remains a bedrock component of a stable society.

1 -  Evangelicals go for Romney, but not enough

This past Tuesday, the orderly process of selecting leaders in a constitutional republic took place once again, and while there were a few irregularities reported in some areas, it is amazing to see that over 120 million people went to the polls and cast ballots in the general election without incident.  And, after all the money spent, the time taken to campaign, and the immense amount of attention concentrated on it, America voted really for four more years of a similar leadership breakdown - re-electing a President, a Senate with 2 more Democrats than before, and a House that is majority Republican.   And, what of the evangelical vote? - there were pundits that said prior to the election that the evangelical vote could make a difference in the election.

Two studies have been released about the participation of evangelical Christians, and CitizenLink has a report:

According to “How the Faithful Votes: 2012 Preliminary Analysis,” released by the Pew Research Center, the percentage of white evangelicals voting in the presidential election bumped slightly upward, from 23 percent of all voters in 2008 to 24 percent in 2012. Of those, 79 percent voted for Mitt Romney, while 20 percent said they voted for President Obama. That’s roughly equal to the number of evangelicals who said they voted for George W. Bush in 2004, but more than former Sen. John McCain received in his presidential bid in 2008 (73 percent).

The Faith and Freedom Coalition, had slightly different numbers: Its polling data revealed that the evangelical vote increased to 27 percent this year, with 78 percent of them voting for Romney and 21 percent for Obama.

As in other recent elections, those who attend religious services most often demonstrate the strongest support for the Republican presidential candidate, according to Pew:  Nearly 60 percent of those who say they attend religious services once a week voted for Romney, while only 39 percent voted for Obama.

What are some lessons that we can learn from the 2012 election, as Christians?   I offered 8 different items on my radio show on Wednesday.   Here's a recap:

1 - Essentially, the American people voted for the status quo.  And, this result comes even in light of polling data that shows that 6-in-10 Americans believe the country is on the wrong track.

2 - Economically, we are on an unsustainable path.  Congress and the President must come together within the next 2 months to avert the fiscal cliff that we face, with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the deal that Congress made to enact cuts, which will deeply affect the military and other areas.    And, with the growth in entitlement spending and the proliferation of an entitlement culture, there is a tremendous need for wisdom to address these issues.

3 - There is little silver lining today on Americans' views on the so-called social issues.   It is certainly a reflection of a significant element of our society that does not embrace the Biblical definition of marriage, and it is seen in a variety of other areas, as well.

4 - We have a tremendous clash of worldviews in our culture.   We have to define our approach and strategize in order to reach people who do not hold to the same beliefs as we do.   Ultimately, our solutions do not come by who is in the White House, but how we function as God's house.   Winning hearts and minds with God's truth, and winning souls to Jesus ultimately is our Lord's Great Commission and should be our aim and consuming passion.

5 - Passion can be misplaced.   I have to think, if the time that I spend digesting political analysis through a variety of sources were to be channeled into strengthening my spiritual walk, I would have a deeper relationship with Christ and He would use me more powerfully.   We have to really evaluate our passions - if we were stronger in the Lord and more grounded in Him, we would unleash an exponentially more powerful force on this earth than politics.

6 - We need to pray for our President.  I am thrilled that there were so many prayer efforts leading up to the election.  Now that the results are known, I don't think we should let up in our fervency for prayer.   There are positions that Mr. Obama holds that are contradictory to those of many evangelical Christians, but that doesn't mean that God cannot or will not use him in His divine plan for America. 

7 - There is so much for which to give God praise - so rejoice today.  He loves you, and has brought you into a relationship with Himself through Christ.   We can hope in Him.   Praise Him for your family and the people around you.   Give Him glory for His protection and His provision.   Blessing the Lord for His blessings can help to change our perspective amidst discouragement.

8 - God is still on the throne.  Ultimately, He is the One who is in control.   There is abundant Scriptural evidence that He places kings in power and deposes them.   The Bible says the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord - and even when kings, or presidents do not govern the way we think they should or the way that God hoas prescribed, that doesn't mean that somehow God's ultimate purposes are thwarted.  Ultimately, all people, including those in governmental authority, will stand before the King of Kings, the ultimate Judge, who rules and reigns.

We recognize that our ultimate hope is not in politics, but in Almighty God.   I don't believe we withdraw from the political process, but we have to be very intentional regarding our involvement, realizing that to move hearts, we have to be winning in our ways and our words, so that people will want to listen to and consider what we have to say.

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