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Ranking Christians not in keeping with the Christian spirit

Joel Martin
Pastor, Lord of the Valley Lutheran Church

Every two to four years, I receive a mailing from a Christian organization that contains a booklet with everything that I and the people of the congregation I serve need for the upcoming election. Basically, the booklet contains a ranking of all the people who are running for public office this fall.

They are not “campaigning” for any one candidate, nor are they suggesting that I vote for one over another. They are mainly offering “a service,” a ranking of those running for office to help me in my decision process. The list includes those running for state and national positions in the state Legislature, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the president.

Now, the ranking isn’t based on their voting record or their stance on any one issue. The ranking is not based on looks, nor on height or weight. The ranking is based on how good of a Christian they are.



This is interesting to me since I did not know we should be about ranking Christians. I must have missed that day in Sunday school when they taught Jesus took the disciples aside and said, “OK, line up this way, James you’re first, then Matthew and Luke, Peter get out of there you’re at the end, Judas you’re fourth, ….” I do remember that Jesus came to announce the Kingdom of God and to reveal to us God’s desire for us to be reconciled with God and with each other. I do remember the Sunday school story that talked about Jesus interrupting the disciples when they were arguing with one another about who among them was the greatest, and Jesus told them that those who wanted to be first should be last.

But let’s just ignore that for now, and assume Jesus always meant for us to rank each other on how good of a Christian we truly are, and that this is what God is like. We could rank ourselves on who sins the least or maybe on who lives according to what Jesus taught. We could line up by those who have unconditional love, by those who have welcomed the most “strangers,” by those who are the best at forgiveness, or by those who truly give from their heart and being, instead of by what still allows them to live their nice, comfortable lifestyle.



The more I think of this, the more fun it can be. Maybe we can rank Christians by those who have memorized the most Bible verses, or by those who have read the most books in the Left Behind series. If you think about it, there are so many ways to rank Christians. It’s funny that Jesus never thought of this. It might have made things easier for him.

Every news channel you watch, every radio station you listen to, pretty much everywhere you look you see the divisions and polarities that mark life today. The gap between rich and poor continues to grow. Misleading shrill attack ads have somehow become a viable substitute for civil and reasoned discussion about serious problems facing us. I know I should not expect the church to act any differently, yet we are the very ones who should know that the ground of our being is a God who reconciles, who beats swords into plowshares, who calls us to simply love God and love our neighbor.

Amazingly enough, the top of the list of the “best” Christians were all Republicans. In fact, there was not one Democrat listed. Since I am a Democrat I find this pretty funny. Since I attempt in my life to follow Christ, I attempt to be a Christian, I find it extremely sad. I find it sad that a supposedly Christian organization would use the Christian name for something that is not even close to anything Christian.

I find it sad that we the Christian Church are leaving behind the idea that Jesus came to restore all of creation, all people. I find it sad that we are moving ever closer to the reality that being Christian means we all believe in drilling for more oil. Apparently, we no longer can be a church of Republicans and Democrats, young and old, rich and poor, of all colors and genders unified not because we all think the same about the war in Iraq, but because we believe in God in Christ, and in what God has done for all of us.

I find it sad, because if I was running for any sort of office, according to this Christian organization, I would not be considered much of a Christian. Then again, maybe on that point they would be right. But alas I have hope, for my identity, or ranking, doesn’t come through them. Thank God.


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