A group of ministers in Birmingham, Ala., has formed to help voters know how political candidates align with “biblical standards.”

These Gatekeepers, as they deemed themselves, take all the worry out of carefully considering the candidates’ various positions (which often come with much elasticity) and then prayerfully and thoughtfully reaching one’s own understanding of the best way to punch the ballot.

The Gatekeepers have devised a way of rating the faithfulness of candidates to so-called biblical ideals — from local officials to those aspiring to live in the White House. The higher a candidate is rated on a five-star scale by these two dozen or so ministers, the more God is apparently pleased.

Each individual minister determines a candidate’s probability of “exemplifying a biblical world view” if elected. Then an average of those scores produces the candidate’s resulting one-to-five-star rating.

So exactly what are the issues that make a political candidate score favorably in exemplifying a “biblical worldview”?

From the online resources they provide, it is not easy to determine the exact measuring sticks of the various ministers that leave many candidates with only a one- or two-star rating. But summaries tied to the ratings are more revealing: favorability is tied primarily to the candidates’ opposition to abortion and equal rights for gay/lesbian persons.

It seems that the things Jesus addressed most clearly and most often have little to no impact on what American evangelicals have determined to be biblical. Commitments to the poor, the elderly, the imprisoned and the oppressed don’t really count. Fear of the outsider is greater than any call to love and service.

The Gatekeepers Association of Alabama is not the first group of conservative clergy to produce some kind of report card or voter guide that suggests a candidate’s biblical bona fides are tied to a narrow list of conservative political positions.

The Moral Majority, Religious Roundtable and others have done similar things. And there are always lazy, gullible voters willing to buy some mislabeled packaging called biblical or Christian or faithful.

When discovering this latest version of rating candidates biblically, I kept wondering: How many stars might Jesus rate?

By his words and deeds, Jesus seemed concerned with different matters than those many American Christians use to define biblical faithfulness today. And if Jesus was not a five-star believer, then I’m not sure we should be seeking to be one — or vote for one — ourselves.

Five-star ratings might work for contemporary ministers seeking to be political operatives, but Jesus could muster only two commandments deemed the greatest: simply loving God and others.

How naïve. Jesus probably wouldn’t get one whole star from today’s religious keepers of the gate. But then, he got a whole lot worse from the ones of his own time.

Today, fundamentalist Christians and their political allies specialize in providing solutions to fear-induced, imaginary problems — from protecting preachers from being forced to perform same-sex marriages (even though no minister has been forced by government to officiate any marriage) to unenforceable bathroom legislation that is nothing more than another discriminatory swat in the lost battle of cultural dominance.

Politicized “biblical fidelity” has little do with what is actually in the Bible. More often it is oversized, vaguely-masked political activity designed to drive a continuing discriminatory and punitive agenda rooted in a sense of loss.

Let us be wise and warned: More substitution than summary takes place when we seek to reduce the gospel to our political preferences. In doing so, often we replace what Jesus revealed to be ultimate with an ideology foreign to his will and ways.

But then, loving God and neighbor is never enough for those who, like many of the religiously inclined of Jesus’ time, see themselves as upholding the more comfortable and self-serving ways of religious faith.

Publicly, American Christians often come across as spiritual know-it-alls when claiming to stake out God’s clear position on every possible societal/political issue — no matter how disconnected from the biblical revelation.

Perhaps we need more two-star Christians based on the scale Jesus offered. NFJ

pierce_johnny15_optBy John D. Pierce

Let us be wise and warned: More substitution than summary takes place when we seek to reduce the gospel to our political preferences.”