Loving our Neighbors Through Civic Discourse

Tomorrow’s event at 2:30pm with @tedcruz and @CarlyFiorina @faithlafayette is free but you’ll need tickets. ow.ly/4nhsK0

Recently we were contacted by the Ted Cruz team asking to use our Eastside Community Center for a campaign event.  At Faith we believe in the principle of “say yes unless you have to say no.”  It’s as simple as Proverbs 3:27 – “Do not withhold good from your neighbor in need when it is in your power to give it.”

But we want to make it clear — our decision is in no way an endorsement of a particular presidential candidate.  As a general rule we avoid such behavior for at least three reasons.

First, we believe our biblical calling is to live and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.  When churches begin functioning as political action committees, more important eternal discussions often get lost in the scuffle.  We want to say with the apostle Paul that we “decided to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

Second, we are deeply committed to the doctrine of Christian Liberty.  That means that unless an issue is clearly articulated in Scripture, people have the freedom to decide on their own what they believe is best.  That is why our church contains individuals of every possible political persuasion.  The authority of “thus saith the Lord” must be reserved for concepts that are plainly taught in the Word of God.  Everything else is open to debate and healthy disagreement.

Thirdly, when the dust–or perhaps mud–of this particular election cycle settles, we want to be able to join hands with people of all political persuasions to address our community and country’s greatest needs.  For example, much of our church’s current attention is focused on constructing the Hartford Hub, a new neighborhood center and community park at the former location of the Kooler Keg Bar.  Our question for our north-side neighbors will never be about their vote in some election–but instead about how we can show love to them and help strengthen this important area of our town together.

So if we don’t endorse candidates, then why allow the Cruz campaign to use one of our venues?  It is because by definition, we believe a community center should be a place where all sorts of important civic events–large and small and involving many different viewpoints and lifestyles–should occur.

This gets at the very reason we built our community centers in the first place.  The process began ten years ago when we were planning to construct a new church auditorium at our eastside campus.  When we examined the numbers, we just couldn’t justify spending millions of dollars on a building for church people that would sit vacant six and half days a week.  So we decided to invest what we consider to be God’s money to erect community buildings that can be used by our diverse local population for all sorts of events each and every day.

For example, last Saturday we hosted the Mexican Consulate who met with nearly three hundred local Hispanic residents and assisted them in securing appropriate documentation.  This wasn’t a statement on immigration policy–it was simply a desire to serve our Mexican friends and neighbors.

Last Sunday afternoon we had the privilege of hosting the Honor Flight orientation for area veterans and their families.  It wasn’t a declaration about war and peace — just an opportunity to “give honor to whom honor is due” (Romans 13:7) and support a marvelous social-service group in our town.

Tuesday we will serve as a polling place for the primary election.  We aren’t trying to influence the outcome — we are just happy to have a convenient facility that is handicapped accessible with plenty of parking to accommodate this important community event.  Plus, we simply enjoy saying hello to our neighbors and, because of our Baptist roots, treating them to as many cookies as their spring diets allow.

One of my favorite memories was walking by one of our community rooms on a Saturday morning and observing a group of local Muslims enjoying a birthday party together.  In our judgment, that’s what churches should do with our buildings–share them with others in need.

We realize there is tremendous interest in this presidential election and somewhat surprisingly, now Indiana could have a significant impact in the outcome.  That means our neighbors will need large public venues to hear from the candidates and finalize their choices.  If we can serve our town in this way by hosting any candidate from any political party, we are more than happy to do so.  And you can be sure of this–whether it is an event for a democrat or republican–the Baptists promise to provide the snacks.  Because my fellow Americans, we can all at least agree on this; every political debate is better with cookies.

Steve ViarsSteve Viars
Dr. Viars has served as a pastor and counselor at Faith since 1987. He is an author, national speaker, and Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Biblical Counseling Coalition.
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