By Addie Darling
In his sermon last Sunday, megachurch pastor and author Adam Hamilton of prominent United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas spoke to his congregation about the upcoming election, and the Christian case for civil discourse.
During his sermon on Eph. 4:29-32, Rev. Hamilton gently reminded his congregation that Christians can and do come to differing conclusions on matters of faith and that our allegiance is first to Christ, not party or country. However, while Hamilton did elaborate upon the necessity for charity and calm discourse by Christians, he also refused to take stances on some moral questions for the sake of harmony, glossing over some truly “black-and-white” issues by labeling some of the sharpest divides as shades of gray.
Hamilton’s precis was solid, stating that in this election season many of the issues facing voters “are not black and white, but shades of gray.” He referenced the example of the Catholic Vice Presidential Candidates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan as examples of committed Christians coming to differing conclusions on matters of politics.
Hamilton ruminated on the levels of religious observance in the Republican party and the Democratic one, as well as the use of the Sermon on the Mount for decades by presidential candidates of both parties. From these starting points, Hamilton noted that faithful Christians can be found in both parties, and that Christianity doesn’t necessitate that one belong to one party or the other – just ask the nearly 50% of Christians who identify as “Independent.” Neither does any party hold a particular claim on Christianity. Indeed, Hamilton continued, it is possible to take elements from both the Republican and Democratic platforms and find a Biblical roots for many of their policies.
Rev. Hamilton concluded that the central question of faith and politics is this: does Christ come first, or does our political frame? Hamilton said that in everything we ought to be Christ’s ambassadors. Thus, we can have our political views, and we should debate various matters of contention, but we should do so as Christians, and in a calm and respectful manner.
However, in advocating for a civil debate, Hamilton overlooks acts that are unconscionable for Christians – such as the taking of innocent life. Hamilton enumerated a host of offenses that are clear-cut moral issues: child abuse, taking advantage of the poor, racism. Most of the other various issues that face Americans “are not black and white, but shades of gray.”
What Hamilton would not talk about, however, was whether or not abortion and marriage are issues that are “black and white,” as has been taught by the church for millennia. Indeed, he used the Vice-Presidential debate between the Catholic Democratic and Republican candidates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, respectively, as an example of Christians coming to reasonable political differences while remaining faithful to Christ. What Hamilton failed to mention, however, is that a faithful Catholic cannot, in good conscience, promote abortion, nor promote a re-fashioned vision of marriage.
While misogyny is still a real force within America, and abortion is a complicated and terrible decision for the women faced with it, it is ultimately a black and white decision: either the fetus has moral weight, or it does not. If abortion is, though, as Hamilton suggests, merely a shade of gray, we Christians must consider which shade. To what extent can Christians be comfortable with the mass destruction of unborn human life?