Thank you for laboring to spread the gospel of Jesus among our nation and among all the nations. I’m glad you’re a devoted sister, and I’m glad that God has blessed you with a voice, a mind, and a place to be heard.
Today, I listened to your radio show on my ride home from work. You were talking about immigration reform. In particular, during the time that I was listening, you were talking about the need find a compassionate way to deal with the some 10 million illegals who are currently in our country, and to stop new illegals from coming. You said there was a Biblical basis for enforcing our immigration laws because the Bible supports upholding the law.
On other shows, I recall hearing you talk about economic policy, middle east foreign policy, and the US Jobs bill. These are controversial issues. I believe you are doing great damage to our witness for the Lord by giving these issues such a prominent place on your radio show, and by implying–by virtue of your prime-time presence on Moody Radio–that these are important issues in our walk with the Lord.
By giving so much attention to controversial issues on a radio show that’s listened to by thousands of people, you are distracting from what should be our main concern as followers of Jesus: to love God and to love people–to glorify God and to see unbelievers come to know the Messiah as their Lord and Savior, so that they may glorify God as well.
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
(Mark 12:28-31 ESV)
I’ve noticed that, on many of these issues, you take a conservative approach. I have no problem with this. In fact, Jesus tells us to “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s” and in a democracy, that means our vote and our honest thoughts and discussion on political issues. So yes, I affirm that Christians probably should seek to influence society through politics. However, I do not affirm that your radio show is a good place to do this. Christians disagree on whether they should be liberal or conservative. I have many good brothers and sisters in the Lord who are liberal. If we as Christians spend too much time focusing on politics, we create division within our church, and we also alienate any liberal unbelievers who might be seeking Jesus.
In the kingdom of heaven, these political issues do not matter. Jesus tells us that the kingdom He has redeemed us into is not a kingdom of this world. In fact, he completely rejects a political goal to his mission. Since we are the body of Christ, there is also no political goal to our mission as the church:
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
(John 18:36 ESV)
Politics divides. Not only does politics divide, but politics does not matter in the vast, beautiful sweep of history that God is working out, and that we as Christians are blessed to be a part of. Because politics doesn’t matter, I think it qualifies as a “foolish controversy”, and Paul gives us explicit instructions about “foolish controversy” in Titus:
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
(Titus 3:1-2 ESV)
But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
(Titus 3:9-11 ESV)
Janet, Titus was written to the leaders of the Christian church in the first century, and I believe you are one of the leaders of our church in this century. Rather than focusing on politics, which divides the church, why not focus on the gospel, on doctrine, on God’s love for unbelievers? I have heard you talk about many of these things on your show, and I have been blessed by them. Please, could you consider spending more time on these core issues and no more time on politics and other divisive issues? Earlier in Titus, Paul instructs Titus to “teach what accords with sound doctrine” and when you do this on your show, it is very good.
What concerns me the most is that these political things may stop unbelievers from coming to know Jesus as their Savior. Scripture also has words of instruction about trying to reach people outside the church. Overall, the theme is that we should avoid offending people if we don’t have to. Telling people that Jesus is the only way to be saved and that all have sinned is offensive, but those things are the core of our faith and we cannot compromise on them. Paul tells us to be at peace with all people so that we can tell them about God’s plan of redemption and renewal for their lives. (Clearly, given the widespread persecution of Christians in the world, it is not always possible. In this country, it is more possible than we often allow.):
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
(1 Corinthians 9:22-23 ESV)
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
(Romans 12:18 ESV)
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
(Hebrews 12:14 ESV)
We are to be “salt” in the earth, and I believe that means we are to be about our Father’s business–seeking to tell the good news, to love God, and to edify the church. This is tied inextricably with being “at peace with one another”:
Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
(Mark 9:50 ESV)
As sort of an aside before I close, I’d like to note that it may have been possible to take a different view of immigration. Our worldly government focuses on the threat of illegal immigrants to our nation’s integrity. As Christians, I believe we should think carefully about the opportunity to love and care for illegal immigrants. Ancient Israel was explicitly instructed to do this:
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.
(Deuteronomy 10:18-19 NIV)
How can we, as a church, “love those who are aliens”? I’m not sure, but I think discussing that question may have made for equally, and perhaps more gospel-centered radio.
Janet, I don’t know you, but I love you as a sister in Christ. I hope you’ll write me back with your thoughts, and I hope you’ll carefully consider what I’ve written here. I’m posting this as an open letter on my blog, because I believe these are issues that the church as a whole needs to consider more carefully. I’ve also copied some of my friends whom I’ve discussed this with–it’s something that’s been on my heart for awhile, since Moody is the main Christian radio station in Chicago. Thanks for considering these things!
Edit: Janet Parshall graciously replied to my email to her. I’m sure she is a very busy lady with lots of emails, and it was very kind of her to reply. She pointed out several errors in my original post. The errors do not change the point of my letter, but the errors were these: (1) I wrote that she said to deport illegal immigrants–she did not in any way say this. (2) I wrote that she has spoken of gun control on her show–she has not ever addressed this issue. (3) I wrote that she said these issues are important in our walk with the Lord–she has not said this.
I’m sorry for these errors. They were indiscretions, and I should have more carefully edited before writing. I have now corrected these above–the main ideas in my letter are not changed by the corrections. In regards to the third error, I have changed only a single word, because I still submit to you that, by discussing these things “in the marketplace”–on a prime-time radio show on Christian radio–she is implying that they are central to our faith.
Janet was gracious in her reply, and I hope I have been gracious in this letter. These errors were not gracious, and I’m thankful that she took the time to correct me on these points.