Iowa Evangelical Fears Candidates Hijack the Bible

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This is an article taken from The Des Moines Register on January 28, 2016.

Jeff Dodge is the teaching pastor at Cornerstone Church of Ames, where he has served since 1996.

An open letter to my fellow Iowa evangelicals:

The Iowa caucuses are now just days away. Evangelical Christians compose a large swath of caucus goers, making us an intriguing lot to study and a very attractive group for candidates to win.

I am one of those. In fact, I’m in deep. I am the teaching pastor in one of Iowa’s “mega churches.” I’ve been a born again Christian since college. I read my Bible. I pray. And I will be caucusing with many of you next week.

And I’m concerned.

Frankly, I am tired of the evangelical tone and agenda being set by self-appointed leaders who seem to believe that name-calling, fear-mongering, and vitriolic language is the way to win us and thus win a caucus.

I’m especially concerned that the Bible itself is being hijacked to catch the evangelical eye, yet dubiously used to political ends. I cringe every time 2 Chronicles 7:14 is used to prop up a version of American exceptionalism that is foreign to the Bible and is an affront to the divine Author.

We should seek to follow Christ and refuse to use Christ as a way of justifying our own political ends. The First Amendment is not more sacred than the Third Commandment.

And most importantly, we must not be drawn away from one of our prime directives: to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The Iowa caucuses are a rare opportunity for us to neighbor. Unlike most states’ primaries, Iowans gather in neighborhood locales and have face-to-face conversations about the election and the candidates. These are our friends whose kids walk with ours to school. We buy our gas at the same station. And, like us, our neighbors love the community we share.

There are important matters for us to discuss with our neighbors at our caucus, so we need discernment to guide us. And that begins not by shouting, but by listening. “A wise man will listen and increase his learning,” begins a theme found throughout the book of Proverbs. Listen to God, then listen to others.

What does this mean? First, make sure that your strongest opinions reflect wisdom gained by listening to the Words of God. That means that some issues will have a deep anchor in Scripture and others will not. Don’t twist God’s Words to prove your point. Second, listen — truly listen — to your neighbor. Lastly, speak your mind, seasoned with wisdom and evidencing the kind of character that well-reflects Christ.

This caucus season will be quickly gone. But the opportunity to engage with my neighbor will last. If we caucus well, we may discover that the doors for thoughtful engagement will remain open long after Feb. 1. And those conversations may have far more lasting results.

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