faith and politics

I’m preparing myself for a steady flow of “inquisitive” emails from the readers of the Seattle Times, folks within our church and from the larger [Christian] community in Seattle about my quote in today’s Seattle Times article awkwardly and poorly entitled, “Young, Evangelical…for Obama?”  [They should have done better!]  Years ago, I was told that there are two topics to avoid:  Faith and Politics.  


Here’s the quote:

Eugene Cho, a founder and lead pastor at Seattle’s Quest Church, which caters to a predominantly under-35 crowd, urges young Christians to look beyond the two or three issues that have allowed Christians to be “manipulated by those that know the game or use it as their sole agenda.”

“While the issue of abortion — the sanctity of life — must always be a hugely important issue, we must juxtapose that with other issues that are also very important,” Cho wrote in his blog on faith and politics. [read full article]

The quote is from the entry below [originally written in February ’08].  Let me just go on the record and say I’m no longer “Young”; I don’t quite know what “Evangelical” means in today’s context; I am PRO-LIFE but believe in the importance of Education and Choice; I’m neither a Democrat or Republican.  I am simply a follower of Jesus discerning how to integrate mercy, justice, and compassion in my engagement with life, faith, family, culture, and even…politics.

I’m sure my perspective will change come the primaries and elections later this year but for now, I’m kinda worn out my the continuous barrage of attention to the presidential elections. Let’s get to November please.  There are other important things going on like Praying for Burma/Myanmar and Fighting Global Poverty.  But to bring a little laughter to the tense Democratics nominations, I share this video with you. Don’t take this too politically you sensitive people…just laugh!

Below is the original post:


“My name is Eugene Cho and I approve this blog post…”

Couple folks have already emailed – surprised or encouraged – with the discovery that the Q Cafe is a host to a Democratic Precinct caucus this Saturday. Read on…

When it comes to politics, I wrestle with how I handle my “influence” as the lead pastor of a church. While I will discuss topics and issues, I decided elections ago not to directly endorse a specific candidate – especially behind the pulpit on a Sunday. I will  never do that.  But even through conversations, emails, questions, and through this blog, I still hold in tension that very question. This is the reason why – while I have an inclinatino – I have tried to maintain a level of mystery.  And plus, I like to do my due diligence and there’s alot of time left before the election in November!

I think many at Quest have personally wrestled through their decisions and wouldn’t at all be influenced by my thought processes. Others, however, have personally asked for my feedback. Rather than give a direct endorsement of one candidate, I have tried to encourage them to wrestle through the issues that are important to them and through other issues that are not as readily discussed [see below].

Seattle, as you may guess, is a bit more [insert your own word] progressive. Quest is heavy on the 20s/30s demographic. Last year, our surveys indicated that the average age was 26 for men and 24 for women. About 78% [I think] were single. While our demographics have changed much this year…You can put 1 + 1 together and it’s safe to assume that Quest – politically – is a little more [insert your own word here] progressive than Provo, Utah or Lubbock, Texas. This is one of the reasons why I have tried to be careful: Discuss issues through a biblical/cultural hermeneutic and trajectory rather than endorsing a specific candidate. Because the majority at Quest are probably more politically progressive or “Democratic,” several of the “Republicans” at Quest have contacted me personally expressing their feelings of marginalization at Quest. That’s the last thing that I want as one of the pastors of our church.

But nevertheless, dialogue is important. And engaging the culture and serving the city is important. This is why the church has served as a voting center in years past; hosted Republicans groups to meet at Q Cafe; and why one of the Democratic precincts will be meeting at Q Cafe for their caucus this upcoming Saturday. This is not – in any way, shape, or form – the church, cafe, or its leadership endorsing one party or another – but a commitment to serve the larger city and not be afraid to engage. [Psst. Psst.] I’m already behind on emails and I’m hoping we won’t get too much flak for hosting a Democratic caucus at the cafe.

There is definitely a different “feel” about this election… I am encouraged by the many who “casted” their votes in yesterday’s post about “the next president.” As I’ve alluded to this in conversation with folks, let me share some basic simple thoughts:

1 VOTE. It is truly a privilege and a gift we should exercise. I especially enjoyed what “Rick from Texas” shared in his comment yesterday:

“I thought about not voting in November, but was reminded by a respected friend that I have this right to vote which has been paid for by the blood of patriots…”

2 BE INFORMED. My exposition of Obama’s hope as fluffy wasn’t an indictment about him but more about what I perceived to be people’s lack of understanding where their respective candidates stand on the larger issues. Hope can be beautiful…and also painful.

3 BEYOND ONE ISSUE. Especially as people of faith in Christ, we must be people that are beyond the “single issue.” When we become single issue voters, we will be used and manipulated by those that know the game. While the issue of abortion – the sanctity of life – must always be a hugely important issue, we must juxtapose that with other issues that are also very important. Why is the sanctity of life an issue for pro-choice but not as much with the death penalty?

4 POLITICS IS NOT THE ANSWER. Rather, it is not THE answer. Politics is a process, structure and medium by which we can do much good as a society rather than much harm but many, I believe, can fall astray in thinking that politics, policies, and politicians can provide the salvation for the nations. It certainly has its purpose and must be used accordingly and wisely.

Lastly [if you’ve read this far], I am a fan of conversation. People need to talk. Sadly – deep, rich, meaningful conversation – talking, listening, sharing – doesn’t always take place in the the church. How does our faith and love for Christ go beyond a compartmentalized worldview. Surely, faith is more than a 90 minute service. So, may your faith continue its process of renewal and transformation – heart, body, mind, and soul.

Follow your convictions. Vote. Live out your faith in high definition.

59 Replies to “faith and politics”

  1. Thanks for this post. It resonates with me very much so.

    I too thought about the “influence” I might have as a church leader, but thankfully I’m not a pastor so I felt less guilty about simply sharing my heart while being careful to not be hateful towards any candidate which so oftentimes happens.

    Sorry for overwhelming the comments section. I guess I was particularly energized because one of the Clinton supporters were a fellow Korean American.

    I sincerely hope that at no point did my tone betray Christ.

    Godspeed in your caucus tomorrow. I am genuinely impressed and excited that your church gets to host a caucus. That’s so awesome!

  2. Wow- well stated E, well stated. You have boiled down what can often be a cloudy and difficult area into a very eloquent, but dense, response. There is a beauty in simplicity… Also, I didn’t know Q was doing this, so I actually might be able to make it!

  3. Can I ask, in all sincerity, why the Democrat position is referred to as the “progressive” view? I’ve never really understood that classification. Does this mean that because I am a fiscal conservative I am somehow regressive?

    I struggle with point #3 a lot, because while I agree that you have to consider the candidate as a whole and not base your decision on one issue, there are dealbreakers, things that I feel I cannot support, no matter what.

    More and more I am torn as I consider the politics in this country, because I really can’t support either party. But unfortunately I don’t thing we’re going to elect a libertarian any time soon!

  4. Rebecca,

    Great questions particularly about the usages of the term “progressive.” Words are both beautiful and difficult. As you know, it wasn’t to imply that progressive is better than other words.

    In regards to #3, i think it’s great that you can come to a place or issue that is a dealbreaker for you. For me personally, a person who is pro-choice doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is for abortions or “murdering babies.” Historically, there’s enough evidence to warrant that making legislating abortions won’t make abortions disappear but rather open a can of dangerous abortions. hope this makes sense.

  5. I just came from the caucus at Q. It was wild. There were so many bodies packed in there, and they just kept streaming in.

    I had several conversations with people around me, and everyone said something like, “this is such a great space” or “what is this place?” and that was really fun.

  6. PE,

    Your answer to Rebecca sounds dismissive about her concern with the use of the term Progressive, the definition of progressive is “Moving forward; proceeding onward; advancing; evincing progress; increasing; as, progressive motion or course; — opposed to retrograde.” I don’t think either party can solely claim this term. I think liberal would be a better term.

  7. Thanks for this Eugene. I’m a new reader…can’t even remember how I found you but I’m just down the 5 from you. I thought you hit a lot of key points to politics and faith. It isn’t the answer but it is a system that we should be involved with. I’ve been wrestling a lot with the republican platform which, for Christians, is steeped exclusively in pro life propoganda. Obviously no one likes abortion. I get the sense that fundamental Christians think that Christians who vote for someone who is pro choice think that they love abortion. Anyway, i’ve rambled, but I do think it is so important that we become many issue voters. Especially with technology, the time is here for us to be able to know the stances of anything for every politician.

  8. Jeff,
    You have no need to apologize. The intent of my comment wasn’t to dismiss so I’m not too worried about that. But there’s certainly validity to what you and Rebecca addressed and for me to address it would have been an uphill battle since there’s validity and weight.

    If I use the liberal/conservative approach, there’s holes there as well which leads us to the conondrum of language…which was what I was trying to say.

  9. I can really identify with Rebecca’s wrestling over the traditional “deal breakers”. If you are passionate about being pro-life and you believe life to begin long before birth, then it is a true issue of conscience that you cannnot ignore. I think we need more “conversation at the middle” where we can be honest about these feelings. I appreciate, Eugene, you acknowledging this – we need a “third way” on the abortion issue. I.e., can we come together and work to reduce them? Can we offer more compassion instead of villification? I think this would reflect reality more.

    For me, greater exposure to issues of poverty, race, disenfranchisment, the war, the death penalty, education, etc. began to put cracks in my Republican allegiance. And in the end, I’ve been able to reconcile my feelings around “deal breakers” and vote democrat. Essentially, I no longer believe that either party has a higher view on the “sanctity of life” because there are Republican policies that have lead to either slow or immediate destruction of human life that as a person of faith, I am outraged by. At the same time, I can foresee a time when I would be happy to support a Republican candidate that I agreed with. A helpful phrase for me has been, “As Christians, we should be political, but not partisan.” Hope that makes sense – this has been my journey.

  10. I’m a lifelong conservative who i must admit is “excited” about the prospect of an African American candidate for president. However, in a general election b/t Obama and McCain I could never in good conscience vote for Obama. Maybe some would see me as a narrow minded single issues voter but the issue of Abortion is the defining issue of our generation. It is not simply a matter of whether its legal or illegal, the Supreme Court in Roe and the country is starting to realize that even if a fundamental right to privacy granting a women the freedom to choose to have an abortion early in a pregnancy at some point as the viability of the fetus increases such that it could survive outside the womb we as a society have to recognize the inherent right to life in that child. Obama is and has always voted a radical pro abortion stance in that he even vetoed legilsation banning partial birth abortion while in the Illinois Senate. The issue of judges and other social values, gay marriage, role of God in the public square cause me to lean heavily to McCain. The “progressives” backing Obama do not believe in God, do not support the church, and would be happy to see Christians and people of faith further marginalized in society. For those who think progressives have a lock on the how to help issues of racial healing, poverty, etc…I ask you what has affirmative action and the social welfare programs of the 60s and 70s gotten us but further polarized both racially and economically in this country….perhaps there’s a better way to address these issues. Whatever the drawbacks to the welfare reform of the mid-90s and the NO Child Left Behind Act championed by Republicans it started the public talking about welfare and education in a different light and pushed the issues of accountability and hope for a better future to the forefront of the conversation rather than simply throwing more money at a problem without addressing the root cause of the problem.

  11. Arthur – I don’t disagree with most of what you’re saying. I would define myself as someone who is trying to understand what it means to be socially progressive and theologically conservative. Often, this means a lot of wrestling wtih a newspaper in one hand and a bible in other (to reference brother Barth). I simply no longer can align myself in a partisan manner around the issue of “life” as I cannot agree with, for example, Bush’s war policy (in no way can be supported by the traditional “just war” criteria held to by a majority of Protestants), his hoome state’s use of the death penalty, and his blanket cutting of funds to programs that provide a safety net for the poorest of the poor. To quote Mike Huckabee, “If you’re going to be pro-life, then you need to be pro the whole child’s life.” I would gently challenge you to assess potential blind spots regarding the value of human life.

    I have tremendous reservations about the economic impact of social spending that a democratic president would propose (for example, I don’t understand why candidates like Clinton talk about using funds from tax rollbacks against the wealthiest to fund new initiatives. One initial problem with the tax cuts were that they gouged social service budgets that were being spent already). I understand your reservations about a progressive attitude towards religion, but you are painting with too broad a brush.

    Can you expand on the meaning of “the root cause of the problem”?

  12. Eugene, thanks for addressing my concerns. I understand that labels can be difficult-and yes, the liberal/conservative label lacks use in some ways. There are areas where I would be considered “liberal” and areas I would be considered “conservative”. I just think we need to not wear these labels as badges of honor (“look at me, the liberal-minded, progressive person, I’m so great”). I think in many ways those on both isdes have the same goal, just different ideas on how to get there. So I think a conservative can be forward-thinking and progressive as well.

    I don’t think that pro-choice people are necessarily pro-abortion, any more than I think that pro-life people are consistent in the ways that they are in fact pro-life. I agree that we could take a middle stance that seeks to prevent abortion first of all. But I can’t in good conscience support a pro-choice candidate. That’s me.

    But I am in the same spot as Ryan above-not able to align myself with either party. I am theologically and fiscaly conservative, but I also don’t believe that you can legislate morality. So I guess I am a social liberal. I believe that the religious right is wrong if they think that electing a conservative Christian is going to change the moral fabric of our nation. Only Christ can do that, through His people, His church, living the mission of making disciples, sharing the love of Christ in our everyday lives.

  13. Eugene,

    You raised quite a discussion here, as I think faith and politics touches everyone.

    I live in Japan where faith and politics are as far apart as Japan and the United States. The way the Japanese disassociate faith based thinking from political decisions is amazing. That’s not to say that there is religious faith in Japan. People here are a mix of Buddhist and Shinto, with a few Christianity growing all the time. There are special interest groups who wield certain powers like in the U.S., but overall when an issue is brought up it is 95% secular (the 5% is the undercurrent, which some say is more powerful than the 95%, but that is for another discussion).

    I, like Rebecca, would cast myself as a fiscal conservative (maybe because I don’t have the finances to be otherwise), and socially liberal (although I firmly believe that a man should lead on the dance floor). I am not a supporter of abortion in any instance, but you can’t tell someone what to do. I’m not here to try and change anyone’s mind about this issue, but I do think that being a hard-liner on pro life will open a Pandora’s box like we’ve never seen.

    Lastly, I am new reader to your blog and find it most interesting. Probably the best faith-based blog I’ve seen. Not so heavy handed, but you can definitely the divine working through you. Thanks.

  14. Aside from supporting the war, Bush and McCain couldn’t be more unalike.
    Some interesting quotes from folks that are fiscally conservative but socially liberal. Unfortunately those that are fiscally conservative don’t really have a “horse” in this year’s presidential race as McCain has never been a staunch proponent of tax cuts, though he now campaigns to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. I don’t think one has to be either pro-choice or pro-life but there is a lot of shades of gray in between and the difference b/t an Obama/Clinton or McCain will make real difference in how our society moves toward protecting life once its viable outside the womb.

    When I mention root cause I’m speaking to the culture of poverty/failure that has infected many African American communities of color. Welfare reform, whether you agree with it or not at least attempted to break that barrier. I’m reading a book now from Juan Williams (noted liberal news personality) who writes about how Bill Cosby was attacked by the old guard civil rights establishment for daring to speak what many other african americans like myself think is that the black hip hop culture is largely responsible for a lot of the problems in its youth today who don’t value hard work or education and want an easy way out in music, sports or drugs.

    Social progressives generally feel that taxing the “rich” for the governemnt to solve our social problems is the answer whereas many evangelicals like myself appreciate the economic freedom from low taxation and continue to call upon the private sector and the church to do more to alleviate the social ills in our society.

  15. Arthur,

    Obama’s stance on partial birth abortion is one of the biggest things I struggle with…

    There are many things I like about the three remaining viable candidates – Clinton, Obama, and McCain – and things I struggle with.

    Decisions. Decisions.

  16. Arthur – thanks for your response and clarification. I appreciate your perspective. It did challenge me to go and read / watch more on Obama’s voting record regarding abortion. It is also the single biggest struggle for me with Obama. He definitely has chosen to place that decision in the hands of individuals and their communities. I think all of us who have been enamored with his persona need to remember that like all candidates, he represents a mixed bag of stances that won’t solve everything.

    My strongly conservative roots keep me from believing that taxing the rich is the solution. I wrestle with the statistics regarding poverty and inequities in education from folks lik Jonathan Kozol, and the statistical evidence that a free, strong economy generally leads to a better environmeent, lower unemployment, etc. Ultimately, we are where we are right now and I think that in the short term there are many programs that, under Bush, have been cut and a needed safety net for some of the most vulnerable has been removed.

  17. BTW, one of the reasons I voted for W the first time around in 2000 was because I believed his “compassionate conservative” rhetoric and that he might be able to make strides in what Arthur talked about – motivating the private sector and other org’s to make real impacts on social ills. I have to admit, I’m becoming more and more skeptical that this can be done without creative intervention of Government – carrots and sticks sort of thing.

  18. I worry that we know and understand politics more than the Kingdom of God and put our hope too much in a vote or a candidate and not enough in Christ. I keep up with politics, and I have and will vote in these elections, but, to steal a lyric from Derek Webb, “my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man, my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood, it’s to a king & a kingdom”. So, stay educated, and vote, but please oh please do not put your hope in politics, and let your ballot be a very small part of the daily redemptive acts you do for the Kingdom of God.

  19. That was a dumb title. It insinuates what they were trying to demystify. The point is that young Christians are thinking for themselves – regardless how they vote. Isn’t that a good thing?

  20. Pastor Cho,

    I am glad I searched and found your blog. I was very alarmed when I read your quote in the Seattle Times. While I don’t agree with you, it is good to read the larger piece it was drawn from.
    While you did stress that Politics is Not the Answer, I think more can be said how it can be effectively used.

  21. BTW, your quote is a good one. I think Christians need to recognize the sanctity of life issues being violated by policies in both parties. Good luck with the email swarm…

  22. I read with interest your quote in the Seattle Times. It is no wonder the Main Stream Media continues to fall out of favor with the American public. Quotes should accurately depict what was written in an article. However, they, like radio and television are interested only in “ratings” based on “text-bite” interest hoping the reader is lazy and won’t look any further than what he just read to form an opinion. Thank you for republishing your original blog so we could get the proper context.
    Christians have always been an enigma to those outside the Church. When we talk about a life change we mean that Jesus Christ transforms a person’s life when they enter into a personal relationship with Him. In that term, “change” a wonderful thing happens. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is released in a formerly selfish individual so that those who were thieves no longer steal but labor productively in their world. They love and forgive when hurt and despised. That is truly transformational and therefore real change.
    Christian need to always vote first biblically, because God’s Word is a “lamp unto our feet and a light to our path.”
    However, it is not that easy to see a Christian result with our two party system.Christians were a strong influence in Jimmy Carter’s election. But while Christians were admonished to vote “born again” (ie. Jimmy Carter) when to vote for Gerald Ford was also a vote for a “born again Christian.” Jesus said to be “wise as serpents” and at the same time “gentle as doves”. As we see from history, we got a different result than what most Christians intended when they voted that year.
    It appears from the recent primary results that at this writing it will be Barack Obama and John McCain in this Presidential election. Many of us are worried about Obama’s paper-thin resume, that consists of being elected to a state office and the US Senate which he has yet to complete his first term. Except for his gifts of oratory, we must look for more when we choose a President. His longtime association with Jeremiah Wright are certainly not a recommendation, particularly when one drills down into what that pastor clearly has stood for, for many years, and his belief that we as a country are no further down the road than before the Civil War. His beliefs are clear, so the question, despite Obama’s recent repudiation is: how did he sit in church Sunday after Sunday, or read the church’s published literature over 20 years and not repudiate it then when he most surely with his brilliant mind would have understood where Rev. Wright was coming from. This renders his recent repudiation as disingenuous, politically motivated.
    Why do I bring this up?
    Just to say that it is important for us to NOT make another Jimmy Carter type error as Christians because we didn’t do our homework and find out what he really stands for.
    We paid for it dearly for 4 years and many years after(even today, can you say IRAN?) and couldn’t wait to vote him out because we didn’t do our due diligence as a nation.
    May we all prayerfully look carefully at our candidates qualifications and vote our Spirit directed conscience.

  23. I was a Mars Hill guy when I lived in Seattle but I’ve been to the Q Cafe (not the service). You sound pretty much like the average SPU student, for what that’s worth (or perhaps they sound like you). I would really like to not be single issue but I just can’t support a political party that fundamentally thinks abortion is a right on par with conscience. If they want to help women, they should be touting Feminists for Life instead of propping up abortion businesses that feed women misinformation about the child growing inside them. I would love for the Democrats to at least be divided on the issue, but the fact is that anyone pro-life in the party will be marginalized or shamed by the pro-choice base. Obama isn’t going to change that. At least McCain won’t be a roadblock. The best evangelicals can probably do is simply do more privately. Also, I’m not sure I can take you seriously as pro-life if you say you favor “choice.” Certainly not the choice of the person who has the most at stake in the decision.

  24. hey pastor e… saw your quote in the Seattle Times today too.

    so were you actually contacted by the author about the fact you were going to be quoted in the article and what exactly they were going to quote?

  25. I think it would help if evangelicals broadened their definition of “pro-life” to include fighting for the life-rights of the born as well as the unborn. When you think about the thousands of children who die every day from starvation around the world…as well as the thousands who do not have health insurance right here in this country…as well as the many who have died as a result of U.S.-waged wars…it sort of makes it difficult to limit the pro-life position exclusively to the unborn.

    Also to be considered is the fact that most women who get abortions get them because they feel they cannot economically support a child in this country. Perhaps if we focused more attention on making America a place where women feel they can have and raise children without drowning in medical expenses, we’d make more progress on cutting down on the number of abortions.

    I think it’s time for pro-lifers to re-focus our attention on stopping abortions at their root causes rather than fighting a fruitless political battle. (Even with Republicans in the executive and legislative branches it has not and likely will not be abolished.)

    When it comes to improving the health care system and fighting poverty, I think Obama’s the best pick.

    I believe Adam Hamilton writes about this in his book “Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White.” Anyone read it?

  26. I think it’s important to remember that “the media” is misunderstood by Christians just as much as Christians are misunderstood by the media. I work in media, yet I am an uncompromising evangelical. I walk a fine line between the two groups. I encourage my colleagues to think openly about faith (hopefully in a personal sense in addition to a professional one), but it is the responsibility of Christians to realize the essential role that the media play in a free country and to take the first step in building positive relationships with those in the media, rather than always complaining about them.

    Unfortunately, we have done too little to create an image for ourselves other than the protesting-outside-the-abortion-clinic, wedded-to-George-Bush, boycotting-Disney stereotypes. This blog is a step in the right direction.

  27. Being pro war and pro life is ridiculous. If not for abortion, I would not be alive right now. I almost died due to a failing pregnancy and because of the overly pro life christian society we have in America no doctor would do what needed to be done in order to save my life – i was turned away from many a doctor & emergancy room because of my “high risk” status from an autoimmune disease. The High Risk clinic could not fit me in for weeks, even on an emergancy basis. An abortion clinic did the procedure as an ’emergancy” right away since i weighed 77 lbs and hadn’t eaten in over a week, was blacking out, already bleeding and was clearly about to die.
    People who vote for laws that they do not understand & have not experienced and then think that have moralized some action are stuck in a very sad place of ego and rightousness. Jesus would not be proud of all the over zealous judging about abortion.
    Shame on you men especially, who have never had to sit at the tiolet with morning sickness, throwing up for months at a time.

  28. Eugene asks:

    Why is the sanctity of life an issue for pro-choice but not as much with the death penalty?

    From a secular, worldy point of view, the answer is simple: there were 1.21 million abortions performed in 2005 (Jones RK et al., Abortion in the United States…)

    In 2007, there were 42 executions. In fact, there has never been anymore than two hundred executions to occur in any given year since 1930 (

    Even if all 42 people were innocent, isn’t it easy to prioritize the lives of 1.2 million innocent children over 42 million (maybe) innocent adults?

  29. Now, for the theological (more important) answer as to why the sanctity of life is an issue for pro-choice but not as much with the death penalty?

    “And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.” Numbers 35:16

    Capital piunishment is biblical in principal, and is mentioned again in the NT:

    “For it [governing authorities] is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil,” (Rom. 13:4)

    The sword, or punishement, is administered upon those who practice evil by the govenrment.

    Christ didn’t save the thief from the cross (punishment), he saved him from eternal death, which is the seperation from God.

    There are clear distinctions between murder and killing in the bible. Killing is justified, murder is not.

  30. Bret – I’m someone who is wrestling with the death penalty as right or wrong (in the midst of an ethics class with discussion on this right now). I’ve been reading a “death row journal” blog here:
    And it offers a different perspective on Romans 13 and whether or not it speaks specifically to the death penalty. Again, I’m debating this in myself, leaning towards opposing the death penalty -namely because I see the sanctity of life issue not based on our behavior or sinfulness. Also, clearly the number of abortions (which I oppose) in this country far outweigh the number of capital punishments, but I don’t believe you can argue such a “utilitarian” perspective biblically. I think that’s a more practical philosophical perspective. Both lives – the convicted killer and the unborn baby matter equally, I believe, before our Lord.

    Here’s that journal’s comments – I’d be curious to hear your response:

    “Many advocates of the death penalty turn to ROMANS chapter 13 and read where the Apostle Paul was telling Christians in the Roman Empire to subject to the higher powers, since these powers are ordained of God, and whosoever resists the power resists the ordinance of God.

    They will point to ROMANS 13:4, which says

    the (the power) is the minister of God to thee for good”. It goes on to say if you do evil, “be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
    I don’t see how people can read the death penalty into this verse. The sword was the Roman Officer’s weapon to fight in wars as well as to keep the peace, just as our Police Officers wear a firearm to enforce the law and keep the peace.

    But I cannot find where it was ever MANDATORY that they use deadly force except where it was absolutely necessary. Some Christians today believe they can be officers of the law and even executioners in carrying out the death penalty.

    This I do not believe. The Apostle Paul through inspiration told the Roman Christian; ROMANS 12:17-21, not to avenge themselves, but rather give place unto wrath. He then pointed out that the Lord said; “Vengeance is mine, I will repay”.”

  31. beattieblog

    Thanks for the information and blog. I will read it in detail.

    You wrote: clearly the number of abortions (which I oppose) in this country far outweigh the number of capital punishments, but I don’t believe you can argue such a “utilitarian” perspective biblically.

    Yeah, we’re on the same page with this, thats why I wrote a “worldly response” which indicated the number of abortions versus capital punishments, and then followed up with biblical principal. I specifically wrote it in this manner, becasue secularists always mention how Christians are pro life…except for criminals. I wanted to put it in perspective fronon beleivers. Quite frankly, I was taking aback from a pastor asking the same question which I find worldly and lacking in theological understanding.

    In regards to “But I cannot find where it was ever MANDATORY that they use deadly force except where it was absolutely necessary.”, I would point to Numbers 35:16, Lev 20:10, Lev 20:11 Lev 20:15 …and more. I am unsire why the word MANDATORY is in there and you may be able to tell me….I dont think mandatory is the proper word when it somes to punishment. In other words, even though it may or may not be mandated, it has been administered and is biblical in principle. I am not explaining that well enough and am sorry.

    In regards to the sword in Romans 13, I concur that Roman soldiers used them to keep peace…synonymous with capital punishment.

    Your statement: Both lives – the convicted killer and the unborn baby matter equally, I believe, before our Lord, I would agree with too a certain degree, only becasue the conviceted killer has most probabaly reached the age of accountability. The unborn has a direct ticket to heaven becasue he has not reached that age, siminilar to chiildren and mentally chellenged who can not make that decision. The conviceted killer has that capability to commit the unforgivable sin of rejecting Christ, but the unborn is incapable. So while I agree with you statement, I feel more comfortable placing some parameters on it.


  32. Beattieblog:

    In reading some of the website you mentioned, I’d like to address the opening statement made by the blogger:

    “Where is the compassion and forgiveness in the people who call themselves Christians. “Christian” means Christ-like, or one who follows Christ. Would Christ push the button that takes a man’s life?”

    I would pose this as an answer: Christ allowed the reigning government of his time to execute criminals. Christ saves us from eternal death (sepration from God) by grace. The easiest example to cite would be the thief on the cross….Christ didnt prevent his execution, but He offered him eternal life because of his acceptance based on faith.

  33. Bret, thanks for the response. I’m not sure how this applies to the morality of capital punishment. Surely you’re not saying that the fact that Christ didn’t stop state executions equals a validation of them? There was plenty of suffering happening all around him that he didn’t stop – is that an endorsement? He didn’t free John the Baptist or strike down pagan priests worshipping false gods – does that mean he endorsed John’s arrest and those worshipping Roman / Greek gods and goddesses? I think the statement on the website still holds merit because the question is whether or not Christ, the one we’re to model our lives after, would kill a criminal as punishment. I’m wondering if we have a fundamental difference of opinion on Christ’s incarnation. Christ does save us from eternal separation from God, but I think hid Kingdom coming did/does have significant social implications. What are we as Christians living in God’s kingdom to be after until his return? Is capital punishment one of those things? I think Christians are called to preserve life regardless of the merits of the life – at the beginning and the end.

  34. Ryan:

    Your welcome. I think use your usgae of the word endorsement provides a false assumption, I would prefer allowance….Christ allowed executions, he neither endorsed or attacked capital punishment of criminals. He attacked “murder” of innocents…and there is a clear distinction between murder and killing. Killing is defended in the bible.

    The bible supports the death penalty (killing) as I have noted with scripture references in the OT. I guess I would ask for your take on these scriptures (Num, Lev.)

    If we are allowing for the death penalty, how are we not modeling ourselves after Christ, since he allowed for the death penalty (even in close proximity)?

    Romans 13:1-2 says, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Capital punishment is lawful in our country (depends on where you live I guess).

    As for incarnation, we may have a difference of view, I am unsure what yours is. Mine simply put, is that Jesus is both fully God and fully man, in hypostatic union (John 8:58, Phil 2:5-8, Exo 3:14). Jesus was born of Mary, fulfilling the Law of God (John 8:29) all the way to death (Phil 2:8). He is fully divine and fully human.

    Jesus not only prays to His Father in heaven, but is prayed to and worshipped: Acts 7:55, 1 Cor 1:1: Matt 2:2, 14:32, John 9:35, (respectively).

    I am interested in your view as it related to the matter of God incarnate.

  35. Ryan:

    Your welcome. I think use your usgae of the word endorsement provides a false assumption, I would prefer allowance….Christ allowed executions, he neither endorsed or attacked capital punishment of criminals. He attacked “murder” of innocents…and there is a clear distinction between murder and killing. Killing is defended in the bible.

    The bible supports the death penalty (killing) as I have noted with scripture references in the OT. I guess I would ask for your take on these scriptures (Num, Lev.)

    If we are allowing for the death penalty, how are we not modeling ourselves after Christ, since he allowed for the death penalty (even in close proximity)?

    Romans 13:1-2 says, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Capital punishment is lawful in our country (depends on where you live I guess).

    As for incarnation, we may have a difference of view, I am unsure what yours is. Mine simply put, is that Jesus is both fully God and fully man, in hypostatic union (John 8:58, Phil 2:5-8, Exo 3:14). Jesus was born of Mary, fulfilling the Law of God (John 8:29) all the way to death (Phil 2:8). He is fully divine and fully human.

    Jesus not only prays to His Father in heaven, but is prayed to and worshipped: Acts 7:55, 1 Cor 1:1: Matt 2:2, 14:32, John 9:35, (respectively).

    I am interested in your view as it related to the matter of God incarnate and how it affects capital punishement

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