Style vs. Substance
Here is a powerful reflection by Josh Harris on Obama, style and substance:
My five-year-old son, Joshua Quinn, has been following the presidential election with his dad. To him it’s another sport alongside football and NASCAR. Someone wins. Someone loses. He can understand that. He has seen various candidates on TV and he’s been drawn to Barack Obama. Is it any wonder? Even for a young boy Obama’s words and demeanor are magnetic. But one day I mentioned the fact that Mr. Obama is pro-choice. Joshua Quinn had only recently been informed about the sad reality of abortion. When he learned that Mr. Obama supported abortion, he burst into tears. He was heart-broken.
The tears of my boy touched me in two different ways. First, I understand his disappointment. There are many attractive aspects of Barack Obama’s candidacy. He is a reminder of the power and importance of words. His call for a united country that moves beyond the “red state v. blue state” divisions is appealing. The fact that a black man is bridging racial divides and receiving so much support from people of all ethnicities thrills me. I love the idea of the “face” of America to the world being a face of color. But, for all these attractions, how could I support Obama’s platform on the issue of abortion while also believing the clear teaching of God’s word about the sanctity of human life? I can’t. Though my church (and I, as its pastor) do not publicly endorse political candidates, protecting the most vulnerable lives is an issue that transcends politics–it is a mandate from the Author of Life.
Second, my boy’s tears convicted me. Is my heart so soft that the thought of innocent, unborn children being aborted brings me to tears? I was born a year after abortion was legalized. I’ve known it all my life. I’ve grown up through the various stages of the pro-life movement. It seems like it will never change. I realized as Joshua Quinn cried that I had grown cold to the issue. I had grown familiar with injustice.
I wonder how many Christians are like me. How many of us have grown weary of the pro-life cause? I hear a lot of Christians today talk about not wanting to be “one issue voters.” But why not? John Piper writes, “there are numerous single issues that disqualify a person from public office. For example . . . a person who said that no black people could hold office-on that single issue alone he would be unfit for office. Or a person who said that rape is only a misdemeanor-that single issue would end his political career. These examples could go on and on. Everybody knows a single issue that for them would disqualify a candidate for office. . . . I believe that the endorsement of the right to kill unborn children disqualifies a person from any position of public office. It’s simply the same as saying that the endorsement of racism, fraud, or bribery would disqualify him-except that child-killing is more serious than those.”
So why are so many people arguing with it in their hearts this election cycle? Is it because we’re really opposed to the concept of one issue carrying so much weight? Or is it that we’d like an issue that’s a bit more fashionable? Is the real problem that we’ve grown weary in doing what is right?
The words “attractive” and “fashionable” seem to get to the heart of the matter. Fashion and style–the exterior–must not trump substance.
A critical role of the church in society is to speak “truth to power” and to defend the cause of the weak and voiceless. John Piper offers this powerful example of a pastor fulfilling this essential obligation here.
-Scott D. Allen