An open letter to Janet Parshall on the insignificance of politics in the kingdom of heaven

Dear Janet,

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!

Sincerely,

Ben

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.

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2 responses to “An open letter to Janet Parshall on the insignificance of politics in the kingdom of heaven

  1. I posted this on the Janet’s Facebook page and I am re-posting it here and adding a few things that I was not able to there.

    @ Ben: So we as Christians are just to sit by and be Seeker Sensitive as to not offend or challenge anyone?

    Christ was the epitome of controversial so I am not sure where you are going with this. We are not to be of the world so that we can just sit back and let the enemy take his attack to us. We are commissioned to go on the offensive. God didn’t give us “weapons” to NOT do battle.

    There are tons of programs that are not as controversial that can be listened to or watched. There are those of us who wholly appreciate that Mrs. Parshall isn’t afraid to tackle stuff that makes us think, makes us uncomfortable, and more importantly, gives us the ammo we need to make decisions based on Gods word when dealing with topics like abortion, the threat of Islam, atheism, and even politics as these things affect us daily.

    I think we need more critical thinkers like this on the air so that people do not think that Christians “check their brains at the door” when we get saved. I pray that God continues to raise up people who are not afraid to defend our faith in the market even if it costs listeners or our lives..

    The part I wanted to add is this: After reading your blog, I am not certain where you are going with this statement: “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.”

    It seems you understand at least in theory that the Gospel and Christ is offensive to most. What I don’t understand is that you seem to miss the fact that we are NEVER going to be able to “COEXIST” with the world and those who are of the world. Our message will offend, tick off, and even get us killed. Are we supposed to just “keep it down to a dull roar” so that people do not get offended? I understand that are times we are to “use words if needed” but there are also times where people need to hear where we stand on things and to proclaim it with authority.

    Are we just to sit by and let life happen around us and not get involved? I say that would go against all that we are as Christians. You can quote scriptures all day long and try to get your point across that what she is doing is wrong or you perceive to be too controversial.

    I do not agree with everything that she or some of her guests say but guess what, I get to think, place that up against the lens of the Word, and make a decision for myself whether is it something I should keep or let pass. Either way, I think we all are better for the good fight being fought by people such as Mrs. Parshall.

    I appreciate your fervor in what you believe and I thank God that you, me, and others have the ability in our great country to post things like this, start a dialogue, and hopefully still love each other afterwards.

    God bless you and your family and your work. It make me think that is for sure.

    • Carlos, Thanks for your note! I’m glad you also posted here, since my facebook note isn’t there anymore. I’m also thankful for you, your fervor, and for dialogue.

      The core of our message to the world is this: “Know Jesus. He is sovereign over everything, and you have sinned, but He can redeem you. Know Jesus–He loves you more perfectly than anyone else can, and you will only ever be truly satisfied when you are knowing, loving, and glorifying Him. Jesus is the only way you can be redeemed, and you must be redeemed, because you have rebelled against Him. Know Jesus.”

      THIS is a controversial message. Christians around the world are being killed, tortured, and persecuted for this message–not for their economic policies or their stance on immigration. I remember when I was a boy my grandfather and I were going door-to-door giving people the Jesus video and inviting them to our church for a showing. At one apartment, a lady opened the door and responded with rage: she took the video, threw it on her floor, and yelled that she didn’t want anything to do with our Jesus, and that we should leave her alone. We hadn’t said anything other than that we wanted her to come hear the gospel. In college, I remember some Gideons came to our cafeteria. They stood outside the doors and said nothing except, “Would you like a Bible?” As they silently handed out Bibles, students were furious. One of my friends ripped up the Bible and began talking about how they shouldn’t be giving out Bibles–that it was offensive and exclusionary.

      These people are not angry about abortion, foreign policy, or immigration. They are angry because we, as Christians, are telling them that the only way to be saved is to know Jesus. Jesus was offensive not because of His politics, but because He claimed to be God. He claimed to be the only way, and no one–no one–could come to the Father except through Him. Jesus flatly denied that His kingdom was political–“my kingdom is not of this world.” In the same way, as Christians, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against… the spiritual forces of evil.” Our kingdom is also not of this world. The controversial part of our message is not our politics, but the fact that we preach Christ crucified, and that He is the only way to salvation, and that all people need to know Him to be saved.

      The reason I don’t think Christian radio is an appropriate place to discuss politics is because Christian radio is a tremendous tool for outreach. Janet Parshall’s show plays in Chicago during the rush hour, when thousands of people are driving home from work. Many non-Christians are likely scanning the dials of their radio, and I’m sure that some of them come across Mrs. Parshall’s radio show. What should they hear on Christian radio? My contention is that they should hear the gospel. The gospel is something that Christians don’t disagree about. However, politics is something that many Christians disagree about. In fact, politics is something that everybody disagrees about. So, if we know that people are likely to be offended even by the very core of our message, why would we then inundate them with immigration policy, economic policy, and things that we know are likely to offend them even if they were completely disconnected from our faith? Likewise, why encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to focus on things that do not matter? Why not focus on the gospel? There is plenty of content in the Bible, in church history, and in contemporary Christian scholarship that is gospel-centered in a rich and powerful way. There are plenty of events in the news and in popular culture that the gospel can speak to without touching on these hot button issues. I don’t deny that Christians should give thought to these issues, but I also don’t think that we should do it in such a public arena, and I don’t think it should be at the center of our minds. What should be at the center of our minds and at the core of our activities in the public arena–or “in the marketplace”–is this: Know Jesus.

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