Culture

Power and Moral Will: A Call to Christlikeness

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Ruth Bader Ginsberg, an icon to women everywhere for her tireless and brilliant work to gain equal rights and opportunities for women (and also for men), is gone. She died after a courageous battle with cancer on September 18th. The country wobbles and grieves the loss of her. And yet, even before she is in the grave, leaders of the Republican Party are fiercely positioning to replace her.

And this is wrong, because…? It is not wrong because it is the Republican Party. Read carefully. It is wrong because they made a vow in 2016 that vacancies on the Supreme Court should not be filled in a presidential election year. Barack Obama retreated from filling a Supreme Court Justice vacancy during his last year in office because of these promises and pressures from the Republican leadership.

In 2016 Senator Lindsay Graham said, “I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, ‘Let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”1 Now Senator Graham and others are backtracking, insisting that these are different times.

Yes, they are. Apparently keeping in power is more important than keeping one’s word. Jesus was clear that what guides our decisions and our words should not be cultural or current shifts, but instead should be the strength of our character.2 We live in times in which the bully is more powerful than the honorable person. We live in times when power eats values for breakfast.

We live in times in which the bully is more powerful than the honorable person. We live in times when power eats values for breakfast. Click To Tweet

Beyond Politics

We could just say, “Well, that’s politics,” and move on. But it’s not just politics, it is us, it’s the church. The evangelical voice is in the public square and in the pulpit pressing others to do whatever it takes to assure that a certain person stays in office. This is to such an extreme that pastor Rick Joyner has urged all evangelicals to get out their guns and prepare for civil war if their candidate doesn’t win.3 This is not reported as a crazy man talking, but as prominent news!

Some have become so hungry to get their way, to be in power and to cloak it as righteousness, that there is a call to kill people like me, to wipe out liberals and journalists. (Though I’m not sure what people mean by ‘liberal’—I see myself as a moderate, but no one cares to listen.) I am disturbed by the unethical behavior of some in office, so I am labeled. I am keenly aware that the prize is to retain power, and thus my life and deep Christian values of love, patience, and kindness are expendable.

This lust for power is a systemic issue, not solely an individual one. There are too many evangelical Christians who need someone they support to be in the office of President, no matter what he says or does. It is so deep into the psyche of some to have that place of power that bizarre conspiracy theories are concocted to explain presidential behaviors.4

We have the same Jesus. We have a Risen Lord, who gave up his heavenly and earthly power to save the world, not conquer it. Somehow for many good Christian people, having power is more important than being like Jesus. Why is this? There are no simple answers.

But one thing is clear: the lure of power and being in its spotlight is heady stuff. Imposing your will—even if rationalized that it is for a good cause—is addictive. Sadly, in our current climate, ethics and character are secondary to being powerful and popular. The Christian witness to the servant leader, who will not compromise no matter the cost—as Jesus did not compromise and John Lewis did not compromise—is mostly gone from the public view.

Instead, in the public view we see stories of prominent Christian leaders who fail to live a Christian life. In the public view we instead see people willing to be violent, we see people willing to break their vows in order to stay in power. We are far from God. We must believe that God’s arm is too short to do the ‘right thing’ so we take justice into our own hands, no matter what.

A Call for Holy Character

So for you who are likewise troubled by these times in which we live, what are we to do? I believe that now more than ever that holy character, being like Christ, must be our duty and our highest aspiration. We cannot be ‘good enough.’ We must make every effort to be like Christ. This only comes from prayer, discernment, Bible study, solitude, and spacious self-reflection. Christlikeness becomes our primary occupation, and the Holy Spirit guides us.

I believe that now more than ever that holy character, being like Christ, must be our duty and our highest aspiration. Click To Tweet

We cannot change the press of these times, but we must also gather into communities to be the presence of Christ to those around us. We must pray together, discern together, hold each other accountable, and worship together. We need to have thoughtful conversations and share meals. We must be vigilant to use whatever power we have for Christ, the Lamb slain for the world, not for communal gain. Now more than ever we must dedicate ourselves to creating islands of shalom5 where goodness matters, where selflessly serving others despite the cost is our driving passion.

We cannot change the times, but together we can be like Christ in these times.

Here am I, Lord.

I’ve come to do your will.

Here am I, Lord.

In your presence, I am still.6

From Chants for Prayer, Kevin Mayhew, Ltd.


[1] Said by Lindsay Graham on March 10, 2016 on live television during the Supreme Court justice nomination procedures.

[2] Examples: Ja 5:12, Mt 5: 33-37

[3] https://www.newsweek.com/evangelical-pastor-urges-christians-mobilize-fight-civil-war-against-left-wing-activists-1531827

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/09/18/trump-qanon-global-right-wing-conspiracy-theories/

[5] The term is taken from a sermon preached by Dr. Ken Van Vliet on August, 23, 2020 and a sermon preached by Dr. Chris Fillingham the same day. Both pastors had read Margaret Wheatley’s Who Do We Choose to Be?

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