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Reforming Our Political Calculus

Christians must think differently about politics than the secular world does. While we certainly must apply wisdom and pursue a shrewd strategy, our overriding principles must be integrity, justice, and above all, faith that God is consistently working for His glory and the ultimate good of His people.

Several weeks ago, President Trump said in a statement that Pro-Lifers were to blame for poor Republican performance in the last election cycle, particularly those who did not support exceptions for abortion in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother in the wake of the Dobbs decision overturning Roe V. Wade. While many on the Right were quick to criticize the former President for the apparent betrayal, it should be pointed out that all Trump did was the very thing that fueled his ascent to the top of right-wing politics in the first place—say out loud what most Republicans are too afraid to utter. The fact is that Pro-Life Republican policy over the past five decades has generally been pursued according to this calculus: be Pro-Life enough to seal the Christian vote but not too Pro-Life so as to lose the socially liberal-leaning center, which has resulted in an all but impotent response to the mass murder of the pre-born.

Christians seem to be awakening to a greater sense of the dangerous inconsistencies of the pragmatic Pro-Life political world. Yet, if we are to truly and meaningfully pursue justice for the preborn, we must make a fundamental break with the cowardly strategies exemplified in Trump’s remarks. Christians must think differently about politics than the secular world does. While we certainly must apply wisdom and pursue a shrewd strategy, our overriding principles must be integrity, justice, and above all, faith that God is consistently working for His glory and the ultimate good of His people.


A Good and Necessary Element of Creation

The first thing that must be addressed is the segment of Christians who seem to think that power and the pursuit thereof are inherently sinful and ought to be avoided by followers of Christ. As the past several years have demonstrated, a sizable population of Christians seems to believe that civil government is a purely secular institution and that serious Christian participation in it is, therefore, unspiritual and carnal. And suppose a Christian does happen to find himself involved in civil government. In that case, he certainly must rule according to “neutral” natural law principles and not in a distinctly and explicitly Christian manner.
One will commonly hear that the apostles did not seek to begin a political movement, that they were not engaged in government affairs, that Jesus’s kingdom is not of this world, and that we are commanded to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21). However, as pious as these sentiments may appear, they do not supply a truly and holistically biblical attitude toward civil government and political power.
While the adage “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is well-attested throughout history, it is this reflexively negative perspective on political power that gives pause to many Christians. What we must begin to recognize, however, is that the desire for and pursuit of power is not sinful in itself—in fact, it is good and proper to human nature. As beings made in the image of God, we were designed and commissioned to rule over creation—to have dominion (Genesis 1:28). God created men and women to be kings and queens, to exercise wise and just rule in accord with His righteous law. Therefore, the human impulse to obtain and exercise power is our’s from creation, a part of God’s perfect design. And indeed, when wise, godly men are in authority and rule faithfully, blessing follows (Proverbs 29:2).
This affirmation is by no means to imply that power does not come with specific and severe temptations to sin. Because of the fall, man’s natural bent is to rule self-serving, to abuse authority, and to lord it over people (Genesis 3:16, Luke 22:25). The temptations that go along with authority are analogous to those that accompany wealth—the more one has, the greater the responsibility to use it righteously, and also the greater opportunity to misuse it. It is for this reason that kings were issued specific warnings in God’s law about the pitfalls those in authority are prone to (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). As a safeguard against corruption, they were required to write out a copy of the law personally. Additionally, when Israel was ready to appoint its first king, God warned of the wretched fruit that comes from unrighteous rulers, all of which arise out of an abuse of authority (1 Samuel 8:11-18). Because political authority carries with it truly great power, it will attract self-serving men who are all too willing to subjugate fellow image-bearers for the sake of personal gain.
At the same time, righteous men with genuinely altruistic motives are not immune to the trappings of power. One need look no further than King Solomon, a man endowed by God with unsurpassed wisdom who fell into scandalous sin due to the temptations of power, wealth, and women (1 Kings 11:1-8). The same temptations followed by the same results continue in our day—upright men of integrity get into politics for the right reasons and genuinely seek to do good, but over time the corrosiveness of corruption leads to compromise, abuse of power, and idolatry.
In addition, there is a strong temptation to sin to merely obtain a position of power. It is dangerously easy to rationalize an “ends justify the means” attitude—a man desires to enter politics for just and righteous reasons, so to acquire office, he may justify corruption, bribery, dishonesty, or other such compromises. These are all very real and dangerous temptations, and any Christian who aspires to political power must take them seriously, humbly acknowledging his vulnerability. Power must never be pursued with a cavalier, haughty spirit.
With all of this established, however, we must return to the fact that power is a good and necessary element of creation, and it is proper—indeed vital—for Christians to seek such authority in this life. We are told in Scripture that “there is no authority except from God” and that the civil ruler is “God’s servant for your good…who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:1, 4). God, as the source and foundation of all authority, places men into power and determines how long that power will remain: “He removes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21). Thus, all authority—whether Christian or not—is appointed by God and accountable to God for the just execution of His judgment against lawlessness in the civil sphere, with the acknowledgment that they will serve only as long as God allows, however short or long that may be. This especially must therefore be in the minds of rulers who profess the name of Christ.

A Fundamentally Flawed Political Calculus

Abortion, when viewed with clear-eyed sobriety, is an issue that is not morally ambiguous in the least. The preborn are undeniably human persons from the moment of fertilization, and thus the destruction of such a person through abortion is murder. The just response, therefore, is equal protection—extending the same rights enjoyed by all Americans to the person in the womb and treating abortion as any other case of wrongful death.
Christians who have been placed into positions of political power by God should have absolutely no hesitations about pursuing such a consistent policy, and any non-Christian rulers who oppose abortion—placed in power by the very same God—ought to cheerfully join their Christian colleagues. Yet such a policy pursuit has yet to materialize seriously, even among Republicans elected by claiming to be staunchly Pro-Life. This is because, as President Trump’s comment exposes, the political calculus employed by Christians and non-Christians alike is fundamentally flawed.
The arguments by professing Pro-Life politicians against equal protection are numerous. It is posited that a true bill of equal protection would be immediately struck down by the courts, unenforceable, or so unpopular as to constitute political suicide. The proposed alternative, even in the post-Roe world, is for a series of incremental bills—fifteen-week bans, ten-week, six-week heartbeat—until finally, abortion ceases to exist. It is argued that such bills ease people into a world where abortion somehow becomes “unthinkable,” all the while maintaining the appearance of being “moderate,” “centrist,” and avoiding the accusation of political extremism, thus avoiding significant backlash. While the problems and documented failures of such an approach are too many to list, chief among them is that it explicitly allows the murder of babies to continue indefinitely, ostensibly to maintain political power (for the greater good, it is argued).
While the pragmatic argument that a bill of equal protection would end the political careers of those involved and trigger a blue backlash may indeed be accurate, this is precisely the instance in which Christians must employ our own political calculus. Just as, in the world’s eyes, martyrdom is seen as defeat rather than a step along God’s path to victory, so “political martyrdom” is viewed through a short-term lens as an utter failure rather than something that may be a necessary stride toward long-term triumph. Again, none of this is to deny the need for wisdom in political strategy, yet at some point, the question must be asked what is the point of a winning strategy if political power is not used to pursue true justice? If maintaining political power has become an end in itself, then idolatry is taking place, and the corrupting effects of sin are evident, no matter how righteous the intentions were at the start.

The Case of Florida

A helpful hypothetical case study is the state of Florida. Florida has become the bastion of conservative hope in the United States, with a Republican supermajority in the legislature and an extremely popular second-term governor in Ron DeSantis. DeSantis has developed a devoted base of support nationwide thanks to his courageous opposition to the left-wing agenda and his willingness to take a stand on significant cultural issues. With such a state of affairs, there is no reason why a bill of equal protection should fail to pass in the Sunshine State. Yet the law currently on the books is a fifteen-week ban (barely considered “extreme” by bloodthirsty abortion supporters), with no indication of a just statute on the horizon.
The reason for this is that pragmatic political calculus prevails. There is fear that such legislation would reverse all the Republican gains in the state and perhaps even flip Florida blue. There is concern that this bold move by the most prominent conservative state in the Union would be the nail in the coffin of national Republican hopes. And, of course, there is much consternation that a total abortion ban would crush any chance of Governor DeSantis reaching the nation’s highest office, a hope of many Republicans across America.
The response to these objections by those who genuinely wish to see abortion ended should be, “so what?” If equal protection triggers leftists to double down on their radicalism, if it shifts the electorate of a state like Florida toward the Democrat side of the aisle, or even if it sends the career of a rising star like Ron DeSantis cratering down, are not these worth a truly just and courageous effort to preserve the lives of those being helplessly murdered each day? This is not to single out DeSantis in particular, but only to supply an example of the kind of strategy employed by countless Republicans who have ridden a Pro-Life platform to high office and yet have rarely taken a truly courageous stand for the pre-born because there is always a “next election” to be won.
It will be said that this is foolish idealism, that such a “Kamikaze” mission is but naive zeal, and that such a bold stance will ultimately result in more loss of life through abortion. Yet true equal protection has never been attempted, so such pronouncements are mere speculation. While outcomes such as court blockages and leftists seeking even more radical abortion “protections” (which they are doing anyway) may be perfectly predictable, such proclamations of doom overlook the potential political benefits of equal protection. People respond to courage and consistency, and once a courageous precedent is set, it is reasonable to expect more and more to follow the path charted. Even if the statute is overturned and the state flips blue in response, the precedent is still set, equal protection is a valid part of the conversation, and the Overton window begins to shift.

An Even Greater Incentive

Yet beyond these pragmatic considerations, there is an even greater incentive for equal protection, and that is for the commendation of God Himself. Every ruler, Christian or not, rules before the face of God and will answer to God for every action (or inaction) exercised. And He will judge by the perfect standard of His law, which demands protection of the vulnerable and restitution for victims. Yet as terrifying as this prospect is, God’s response to faithfulness is correspondingly glorious. A select few people will be the first to pass a truly just statute on behalf of the preborn in this nation, and even if the consequence in this life is political blacklisting and a life of obscurity, those rulers can rest assured knowing that their eternal reward through Christ will not fade. We should desire the glory that comes from God rather than the glory which comes from man.
This is the kind of distinctly Christian political calculus needed to adequately fight against abortion. It is a calculus rooted in faith that God’s kingdom will not fail and that He is always at work for His glory and the good of His people. And it also combats the self-importance our political climate is currently drowning in. Such a faithful approach recognizes that while God is pleased to use us for His purposes, He does not need us. Therefore, we should be willing to sacrifice careers and the power entrusted to us for the sake of true justice, knowing that God is more than capable of raising up many more faithful than we to succeed us.
We are called to be spent, laid down as a living sacrifice for the sake of the glory of Christ and His kingdom, and only radically faithful self-sacrifice such as this is capable of ending the human sacrifice of abortion that plagues our nation.
Luke Griffo is an elder and member of leadership at Redeemer Church of South Hills in West Mifflin, PA.  Click here for more RCSH Blog posts. 
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One Response to “Reforming Our Political Calculus”

  1. Curt Day says:

    Unfortunately, the article did not consider some of the contextual differences that exist between now and biblical times. For example, the use of the passage from the Old Testament about God making certain people into kings and queens neglects the fact that we now live in a world with democracies. So does that part of the article imply that democracy is unbiblical?

    What is also problematic is that it seems that above article’s advocacy for pro-life limits pro-life concerns to the unborn. At the same time, the above article seems quite expansive when it speaks negatively about the ‘left wing‘ agenda in Florida. Much of that left wing agenda is concerned about teaching how racism is still hurting people today. And yet, it is being strongly opposed by Governor DeSantis.

    The left-wing agenda there promotes full equality for people regardless of their race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. And one would think that we could consider racism to be anti-life. And so why is Governor DeSantis opposing teaching students and business people about it?

    Also, the above article confuses the definitions of words ‘power’ and ‘authority.’ While the former involves the ability to influence and get things done, the latter is concerned with one’s public position to command others. One doesn’t have to be in government to have great political power just as being in government doesn’t guarantee one having political power.

    But we should note that in a democracy, there should be a limit to how much power we seek whether we are in government or not. That is because our quest for power can easily lead us to work against democracy.

    Finally, not all killing is murder. Accidental killing, killing through negligence, and killing in self-defense are not murder according to God’s Word. And if we apply that last example to the abortion issue, we find an application for equal protection. Equal protection is in the 14th Amendment and was initially meant to protect people against racism. And so if there is no real equal protection in the abortion issue, does it follow that there should be no real such protection against racism?

    Christianity had varying levels of power and authority during Christendom. And the consequences of Christianity’s use of power can understandably be viewed as having contributed to the birth of Critical Theory and Post Modernism. So we Christians need to be careful in what we say, do, seek, and pursue. That is because once we call ourselves Christians, everything we say, do, seek, and pursue, and everything that we neglect to say, do, seek, and pursue gets associated with the Gospel. And that thought should strike fear in everyone of us because, as James said in his epistle, ‘we all stumble in many ways.’ The same principle applies to the Pro-life position. Once we identify as being Pro-life, our other positions can either hurt or help the reputation of the Pro-life position.

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