Light Magazine Commentary Articles  Politics

Placing Our Hope in Christ Alone

A red state perspective, part 1 of 3

politically divided country

The Big Sort: Ministering in a Politically Divided Country

America is politically and culturally divided, and the evidence is seen in the disappearance of purple states and the emergence of clearly defined red and blue regions of the country. This creates unique challenges in each state, especially for Christians seeking wisdom in political engagement. For example, a discussion with your neighbor in Alabama about pro-life issues will be different than a similar conversation between co-workers in New York. As believers, it’s beneficial to understand our particular location and the different contexts where our brothers and sisters in Christ are living out the gospel. To help us, we’ve asked Baptist leaders in Democratic, Republican, and swing states to share what’s been valuable to them as they’ve sought to build bridges and esteem the gospel while engaging in the public square. May their experiences encourage you as you seek to be a source of hope in troubled times.

Blue State Perspective
Purple State Perspective

Red State Perspective

The two dates etched into the fruits of the palmetto tree on our state seal are March 26 and July 4. On the former, in 1776, the Palmetto State declared independence from Great Britain. On the latter, we locked arms with the other 12 colonies for the same cause. Some of the most consequential battles of the Revolutionary War were fought on our soil. In many ways, the South Carolina revolutionary spirit ignited and unified an entire nation.

Eighty-four years later, our soil tasted the blood of many again. But this time, South Carolina’s actions divided the states instead of unifying them in December of 1860. South Carolina voted to leave the Union because of the election of Abraham Lincoln, who vowed to end the expansion of slavery. The Civil War, in which 620,000 Americans died, sprouted first from the soil of the state I love and call my home. 

A politically conservative people

South Carolinians are a bold and proud people. They are also a very political people. It is not uncommon for me to run into one of our legislators at an associational gathering or a South Carolina Baptist Convention event. At least one pastor in our Convention is also a state representative. Many more are active members in Baptist churches across the state. I have enjoyed private meetings with the governor, the speaker, and party majority leaders. I processed in full academic regalia with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott who spoke at the inauguration of Keith Faulkner, fourth president of SCBaptists’ Charleston Southern University (of which Scott is a distinguished alumnus). 

South Carolina is not only a proud and political state, it is also a deeply red state. My first month on the job saw three meetings at the State House with the governor, legislators, and various lobbyist groups. After the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down the 2022 legislature’s fetal heartbeat bill which prohibited abortion after a fetal heartbeat could be detected, my staff and I worked with legislators into the last hours of the 2023 session to get a revised version of the bill introduced and on the floor for a vote, which is currently in effect.

So far in 2024, thanks to the work of our Convention’s Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee, we have seen sweeping conservative legislative wins in the State House, some of which began on the floor of our state Convention by way of resolution.

But 2024 is a presidential election year, and these years stir the political waters more tumultuously. Republican candidates have carried the majority of South Carolina voters in every presidential election since 1980. The last Republican presidential candidate to receive less than a 54% majority in South Carolina was 

Bob Dole in 1996. I believe South Carolinians are past the outright national insurrection and rebellion they knew in the 1860s, but it is obvious that our loamy soil still tastes the blood of our fiery political spirit. 

Government is not our hope 

Our state motto begins with Animis opibusque parati, or “Prepared in mind and resources.” For many South Carolina Baptists, the most difficult work in public policy engagement is to remind ourselves that while we enjoy an economically and socially conservative polity, our government is not our hope. We think and plan ahead. We talk things out and work things through. But careful is the road and deliberative the mind that takes every thought captive and makes it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). If our minds are prepared for anything, they must first be prepared to confront our own hearts, for while the mind thinks, the heart hopes. 

The other part of our state motto declares, Dum spiro spero, or “While I breathe, I hope.”

Hope is a resilient thing. But hope of any sort is a wasted breath if not perched upon eternal truth.

Every South Carolinian claims dum spiro spero, but those who bear the name of Christ must anchor that hope in Christ alone. To set our hope upon our boldness, our pride, or our redness is futility. We are citizens of another Kingdom, subjects of an eternal Sovereign. Through the gales of political persuasion and policy engagement, it must be true in South Carolina and all over this great nation that among the people of God, dum spiro spero en Christo salvatore et rex solum (“in Christ, Savior and King alone”).

politically divided country

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