In a question and answer forum, noted evangelical apologist Ravi Zacharias was asked, “Is Mormanism the same as Christianity, and why or why not?” Dr. Zacharias answers the question with his usual respect for both the questioner and the subject while speaking truthfully about the stark differences between Mormonism and historical Christianity.
But then he extends his remarks to the election, even though he wasn't asked for such a comment. Zacharias says,
“My view of the history of philosophy and politics is this... When choosing between leaders You have to [vote] for a person who will help a nation provide the best moral soil on which the freedom to believe and disbelieve can actually function. It is on a moral soil that the freedom to believe actually works best and truth can ultimately triumph. If you have an immoral soil created, then truth is evicted, and you’re not even given the opportunity of voicing your ideas in the marketplace, the public setting, and in the arena [of ideas].
The Christian faith ought to have a voice in the marketplace. It ought to have a voice in the academy. It ought to have a voice in politics. And any leader that will create the moral soil to make it possible for us to continue to proclaim that, [then] that’s the kind of leader we may have to ultimately [elect], no matter what kind of tag they put on the outside.
If you are choosing between those for whom the Christ is not supreme in salvation, you have to choose the one who will give you the best moral soil in order to live for Christ and to live out your faith.”
Taken in context, Dr. Zacharias hints that Gov. Romney meets his criteria. However, his argument could be used to re-elect President Obama. It all hinges upon how one understands ‘moral soil’.
Tilling the Moral Soil
I'm unclear what Dr. Zacharias believes a President could do to impact the “moral soil” for either good or ill. While unstated, he seems to insinuate that at least one candidate has a secret desire to deprive Americans of their basic religious liberties. The reality is this: U.S. citizens enjoy the highest protection of civil liberties in the world. Our rights are safeguarded through a rigorous system of checks-and-balances which is designed to protect against abuse by any of the three branches of government. If the executive branch attempts to abuse its power, citizens may turn to legislative and judicial options to redress the malfeasance. No system is fool-proof. If the Constitution should fail, and draconian change comes, it won’t be the result of one' man's malfeasance. There will be plenty of shared blame. But Dr. Zacharias doesn’t present any evidence that either candidate is taking steps to implement such a statist scenario. Zacharias leaves a lurking -though unstated-impression that President Obama would like to undertake such a pernicious task.
Also problematic is Dr. Zacharias’ insinuation that both candidates reject the supremacy of Christ. This is most unfortunate coming from a man who has bemoaned the judgmental nature of our society (“We have become a culture in which we take the prerogative to act as judge and jury before there has even been a trial.” Has Christianity Failed You?, p 193). Unless he has private, first hand information, Dr. Zacharias is not in a position to make such a determination, and neither are we. Such power is reserved for God alone.
One candidate belongs to a church which has a history of racism and has never distanced himself from its shameful views. The other candidate resigned from his church because of racist views emanating from leadership. Which of these acts contributes to the moral soil of our country?
Looking Beyond American Borders
If given the opportunity, I would like to ask Dr. Zacharias about the “moral soil” relating to the number one foreign policy question before our nation at this time: possible U.S. participation in a military attack on Iran’s nuclear plants. Contrary to popular belief, Iran is in compliance with IAEA agreements and non-proliferation treaties, and their nuclear sites are routinely inspected by the IAEA. The potential casus belli is suspicion and conjecture, not established fact. The IAEA indicates that some research related to nuclear weaponry appears to have been conducted and that the program could be quickly transformed to a weapons program and Iran is being demanded to “prove” that they aren't going to pursue the bomb. It's a geo-political version of the bad joke, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” U.S, U.K, and even Israeli intelligence reports indicate that Iran has not decided to develop a nuclear weapons program, though there is a strong consensus that an attack by the U.S. or Israel might prompt them to change their minds.
Iran is facing a severe energy crisis and would greatly benefit from upgrading their grid with additional nuclear reactors. This is perfectly acceptable under international law, and ironically, Iran developed its affinity for nuclear power from the U.S. under the Eisenhower administration’s “Atoms for Peace” program. Iran's cities top the World Health Oranization's list of worst air pollution in the world. The highly carcinogenic particles stem from the country's dependence upon fossil fuel to generate electricity. The air quality is made worse by frequent dust storms. How is it an act of moral leadership to force a country to continue to pollute its own citizens or face devastating military action?
No one wants to see Iran develop an atomic weapon, and both candidates agree on this point. But one candidate -Gov Romney- has been more bellicose and adamant about pursuing a military strike on Iran should they be unable to “prove” their peaceful intention. Such a strike would require a massive amount of firepower. The largest conventional ‘bunker-buster’ is no guarantee of success. This may force the U.S. into reprising its role of the only country to detonate a nuclear weapon in an act of war through the use of nuclear bunker- busters.
The estimated number of deaths from radioactive fallout from such an attack is mind-numbing. Using Department of Defense-modeling software, Physicians for Social Responsibility estimate that 2.6 million people could die within 48 hours of a 1 megaton nuclear bunker buster attack on sites in Natanz and Isfahan. Fallout would stretch as far as India, birthplace of Dr. Zacharias. Even if conventional bunker-busters were used, significant radioactive fallout from the plants themselves would result. What kind of “moral soil” would be produced by attacking a country which is in compliance with international law and has not threatened us?
Does a Biblical View of Justice Matter?
I also wonder about the "moral soil" cultivated by both candidates when it comes to basic human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories. Gov Romney has been an open supporter of the expansionist-minded Israelis. Since their attack on surrounding Arab countries in 1967, Israel has defied international law by occupying territory rightfully administered by the U.N. for the benefit of the Palestinian people. What moral example is set when a candidate for President lauds the actions of a country which steals choice land from peasant farmers, flattens their houses with bulldozers, and builds beautiful new ones for Israelis to enjoy? Since when did God stop caring about justice?
What Does History Teach About Political Science and Evangelism?
Finally, I feel the need to address Dr. Zacharias’ “philosophy of history and politics”. While it may seem logical to argue that freedom is the best path for the growth of the Church, history shows otherwise. The 1st century church didn’t enjoy such freedom. Christians lacked “a voice” in the marketplace, academy, politics, and the arena of ideas. But that didn’t stop them. It also doesn’t stop the Church in repressive countries. Iran has one of the fastest rate of growth of Christians in the world. By Dr. Zacharias' description, this should not be possible. Yet it continues to happen across time and continents: Hardship and persecution yields more conversions than freedom and democratic ideals.
As Christians, we need to be very careful about both the means and the ends of our political views. The advance of the Gospel is NOT dependent upon humanistic endeavors. Further, God is still intimately concerned with justice, and Christ's chosen people should be as well. "Seek justice, encourage the oppressed" (Isaiah 1:17). Every person is equally created in the image of God, and therefore is worthy of respect and moral treatment. Cultivating the "moral soil" for the Gospel needs to consider more than just superficial, political and economic preferences. "Morals" and "ethics" have much deeper roots.
Daniel Chase (author) from Massachusetts on September 07, 2013:
RDB, I use Romans 10:9 as the basis for the term "Christian". It is not my place to judge whether or not one really is a Christian. That power and right belongs to God and God alone.
If you look at the statements that President Obama has made at Easter prayer breakfasts, he has confessed belief in Christ's Lordship. Whether or not he actually "believes in his heart" is not for me to judge.
RDB on September 01, 2013:
WHAT gives you the idea that Obama is a 'christian'???
He spent 25 years under Jeremiah Wright, who is a preacher of Black Liberation Theology, NOT Christianity.