Was David Lipscomb right?

David Lipscomb was a well-known and highly regarded preacher, editor, teacher, author and national leader among Churches of Christ in late 19th and early 20th century America.

Many pen strokes and keyboard taps have since chronicled the life of this godly man and his legacy in our fellowship. Friends Bobby Valentine and John Mark Hicks co-wrote a wonderful book a few years ago entitled Kingdom Come which traced Lipscomb’s (and co-worker James Harding’s) lasting influence among us.

One of Lipscomb’s deeply held convictions prohibited him from participating in any form of the political process.  This even extended to voting- which he refused to do.  He wrote a widely read book entitled Civil Government to explain his views.

To be sure his approach was unorthodox even during his day and remains so today. Most Christians feel compelled to vote and participate in the political process in some way. Many Christian groups have jumped fully into party politics. I understand this- it does seem to offer a way to make a difference.

But is it worth it? Just look around, things are pretty ugly right now. Politics seem to have a way of sucking the integrity out of everything and everyone involved. Can Christianity really become involved in the political process without being tainted and compromised? Are the political powers-that-be really interested in a Christian viewpoint or do they merely pander to Christian groups in order to get their vote?

Yes, I have become cynical. I do not like what I see in Washington D.C. from any perspective. Most all there seem self-serving and incapable of honesty.

So all of this has got me wondering- was Lipscomb right?

Just thinking out-loud here.

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9 Responses to Was David Lipscomb right?

  1. J D says:

    My working theory is that all politicians are corrupt. None of them has proven me wrong yet. They are puppets of those to whom they owe their giant financial contributions. They make a lot of talk .. contradictory at times … to please whomever they are talking to at the moment. They have one desire: to be re-elected. Every one of them. Even the “christian” candidates that hustle to get the evangelical votes. Ours isn’t a democrat or republican problem…it is a values problem that began many years ago. I am totally apathetic to politics and politicians. I will, however, vote. I will vote against every incumbent I can. At least give someone else a chance to cash in.

  2. alsturgeon says:

    My working theory is that we’re all corrupt, JD.

    To Lipscomb, my opinion is that he was on to a lot of stuff that disciples of Jesus ought to consider deeply. But asking if he was right or wrong as to his conclusion is far too simple a question.

  3. alsturgeon says:

    Last sentence didn’t come across well. I’ll try again:

    I think Lipscomb had a lot of things right, and I’m especially fond of his foundations, but I don’t share all of his opinions.

  4. James says:

    I’m tempted at least a few times a week to agree with Lipscomb on this. Especially when I think of Paul’s statement that a soldier doesn’t get involved in civilian affairs (II Timothy 2:4). I keep voting because I know how privileged we are to live in a place and time that allows us that voice, but tempted to join Lipscomb? You bet.

  5. Scott McCown says:

    I vote in the effort to influence as much good for God as possible. But Like James above, I am tempted to throw in the towel on occasion.

  6. Another opinion says:

    Danny Dodd wrote, “Can Christianity really become involved in the political process without being tainted and compromised?” My answer is, no, it cannot. Just look at how the early Christian witness against war was compromised once Church and State locked hands and embraced. You can even see this compromise within the Stone-Campbell movement itself! As the book “Blood Guilt” points out, the Churches of Christ is “a microcosm of two thousand years of Christianity,” and goes on to state:

    “As the movement’s membership swelled, its views began to mirror the culture of an ever increasingly interventionist and militaristic America. By World War I, many of its members had come to see the non-violent views of its pioneers as an embarrassment. After World War I, those in mainstream Churches of Christ moved toward a pro-war stance… During the Vietnam War, discussions over pacifism nearly disappeared from the mainstream journals within the Churches of Christ community.”

    (Quote from pp. 442-443, “Blood Guilt: Christian Responses to America’s War on Terror,” New Covenant Press, 2011). See http://covenant.nu

    James wrote, “I keep voting because I know how privileged we are to live in a place and time that allows us that voice.” I don’t see why one requires the other. We live in a place and time that allows us to eat as much of and as many types of foods as we wish. But that doesn’t require us to fall into the sins of surfeiting and drunkenness. Perhaps we should consider how privileged we are in being called disciples of Jesus, and then begin maintaining a life that is consistent with his name.

    Voting has a negative affect against those who take a stand against Christian participation in war. Governments have historically denied the application for conscientious objection if they discover that the applicant had previously voted. There are examples of this in the above referenced book.

  7. James says:

    Another opinion,

    I’ll check out the link you mentioned later when I’ve got the time (I’m heading out the door to a ministry appointment). I was struck by this false juxtaposition, though, and the seeming judgmental tone of it:

    “I don’t see why one requires the other. We live in a place and time that allows us to eat as much of and as many types of foods as we wish. But that doesn’t require us to fall into the sins of surfeiting and drunkenness. Perhaps we should consider how privileged we are in being called disciples of Jesus, and then begin maintaining a life that is consistent with his name.”

    First, appreciated the right to express my voice through my vote does not “require” that I do.

    Second, appreciation of a privilege(s) is not a zero sum situation. My appreciation of the ability to vote my conscience *in NO way* means that I appreciate Jesus and the privilege of his disciple less. This is simply hogwash, and we shouldn’t be discounting the faith of others, their faith, or their faithfulness because we disagree on this issue, or some nuance of it. That’s just another sort of warfare that’s condemned in Scripture.

    Third, no, the ability to eat freely shouldn’t lead to gluttony. Neither does the willingness to vote on issues/laws/candidates that are important to a person require them to vote on other issues that would violate their conscience/beliefs, or lead to becoming so entangled in politics that one compromises their faith. It’s a bit of a straw man, that.

  8. Another opinion says:

    James,

    Granted, the analogy to food and diet was not a good analogy, but the point I was trying to get across was that living in a nation and at a time where one can vote and influence government does not mean that one has to exercise that privilege. As a Christian, one needs to consider the ramifications of participating in the political system. My apologies for the harshness with which I voiced this opinion.

    Peter

  9. scott huffaker says:

    I think there are several things to consider. First what can voting help and what can voting hurt. I believe what has transpired with voting is that it has caused us to become delinquent with our first and foremost duty which is to share the gospel of Christ. We seem to think that voting will put the “right” person in there or defeat some issue. In some cases it does. But if were following the example of Paul and Peter in last chapters of Acts especially Acts 28, what kind of government would we have. Would some of the teaching fall on unprofitable soil, of course but some wouldn’t. Even so it is not our duty to determine the quality of the soil but to plant the seed. The other part of this is what are we instructed to do in the last part of Matt 5.. Love our enemies. Well who are our enemies, anyone that is against Jesus, right. And what is the best way to show our love? Share the story of Christ with love humility and gentleness one on one. The word is the sword of the Spirit and it is part of our daily armor. The other question does our vote really count? You could look at some of the most recent elections and see that many are extremely tainted. So if they are tainted again is it maybe a futile effort. To say it is wrong, Im not sure I could say that. i personally don’t but what I emphatically believe is if we use it to shirk our responsibility to share this Gospel with all that we can, then it like so many things becomes like an idol.They say there are only 6 degrees of separation between us and everyone in the world so surely some one we know can get us to these folks we need to talk to. 2Peter 3:9 says its not God’s will that any should perish … and are God’s laws different for rulers and politicians? If not who is going to share this good message with them? Just some loving and humble thoughts. God bless us all!

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