Christian Politics ?

ChristianProtesers2A friend and I were having lunch yesterday when he announced that he was creating a list of thought-provoking questions to challenge Christians to rethink some of their conventional and comfortable positions. The topics ranged from “who can be a Christian” to “must a Christian tithe” to social and political agendas in the church.

This morning, I read an article about a group of conservative ministers who went to Washington DC to protest against the recent expansion of hate-crimes legislation to include crimes committed against people based on their personal sexual preferences. The ministers actually WANTED to get arrested, to prove that Christianity was under attack and that Christians were being persecuted and prevented from exercising their faith.  The article left a foul taste in my mouth. I am an American, and more importantly, I am child of God, touched by His grace and filled with His Spirit. And nothing in their behavior represented me, my faith, or (from my perspective) my Lord.

As Americans, everyone has the right to voice his or her opinion about social issues and to try to influence legislation. I understand that conservatives may feel that their traditional values are being eroded in 21st Century America. And I can understand how some pastors may feel the compulsion to protect their flocks by taking action against what they perceive to be immoral forces at work in the world — I understand the pastoral instinct to protect. But I do not understand the motivation, the anger, the hostility, the provocation in stirring up political dissent.

In American history, great social movements have been lead by church leaders: the Quaker abolitionists fighting against slavery in the 1800s, hard-line Protestant preachers calling for Prohibition to combat the evils of alcoholism, leaders on both sides of the issue shouting over the rights of women to vote, or protesting for and against segregation of whites and blacks. Even in our own romanticized American Revolution, preachers played a significant role in urging the people to action (again, both for and against). But does that make it right? The fact that in each of these cases men of faith and integrity arduously fought on opposite sides of the cause, quoting Scripture and the divine will of God as their defense, ought to make us question the legitimacy of mixing faith and politics. As the Apostle Paul said, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against … spiritual forces”. And Jesus himself stated at the very birth of Christianity, before his death, that his Kingdom was not of this world, that if it was, his followers would fight — and indeed the angels themselves could be enjoined to battle for the cause. But this is not who we are. This is not what we are to be about.

Did Jesus speak out against the decadent Roman culture? Did Peter or James or John or Paul stir up the flock for political action, or call for change in the social order?

“I must be about my Father’s business.”
“My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish his work.”
“This is my commandment: Love one another.”
“Jesus of Nazareth went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.”
“Go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.”
“These signs will be the mark of those who believe: in my name, they will cast out devils, they will speak with new tongues … they will lay hands on the sick for healing.”

This is our job, this is our mission. To make disciples. To love. To heal. To set captives free from the bondage of sin and death. To proclaim the FAVOR of God. To call for repentance, that all people should return to God, and then announce that holy reconciliation has occurred: Mankind brought back into full fellowship with God by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Anything else for a minister is a distraction. A waste of time. A hindrance to the purposes of God. And if I may speak boldly, it is prostitution. Men and women of God are called to higher purposes: the salvation of humanity, and the maturity of the saints.

As citizens of a great republic, we have the right — even the civic duty — to voice our convictions and to vote according to our consciences. But we must never dare to drag the name of our Exalted Lord into this worldly effort. He never authorized us to act for him in this arena. Not once. His instructions are clear. And they are already more than we can handle, already more than enough for us to do. Let congregations — even pastors — march on Washington. But don’t wave the banner of the Cross in your crusade. It is not a holy fight. And, as shepherds of His flock, commissioned with a sacred trust, if that’s where your energies and efforts are devoted, then you have lost your first love. You have gone AWOL from your duty, and abandoned your calling. We walk in two worlds, and we must never confuse the two.

Is there such a thing as Christian politics? Not according to my reading of Scripture.

12 thoughts on “Christian Politics ?

  1. So well framed, separating and putting into context the spiritual vs the civic. Is so easy to lose sight. Steve, may I share this to my wall?

    [via Facebook]

  2. THIS is fantastic!!! I am printing it to always have! I think many christians feel this way and don’t know how to say it! I once tried to express these same thoughts, only not so wonderfully eloquent, and was told I was a back-sliddin liberal. haha :0)

    [via Facebook]

  3. What are you saying by this? As people given a share or social responsibfility, especially in a (albeit nominal,) democracy, we have clear commands regards to some matters within ‘politics’.
    If we have the responsibility to visit and assist orphans and widows – we have an adjunct obligation to advocate for them.
    There is no motivation for us to hide our reasons for convictions, especially in public witness – why do I choose social support over abortion? It is because I believe this is the Lord’s will. This is, to me, also a manner of setting captives free from the power of sin and death.

    Is the difference of a prefix ‘I believe’ so great? Or should I not elevate the cause of the disadvantaged so much?

    [via Facebook]

  4. Poker, I was waiting for someone to point out that discrepancy. We walk delicately here in the murky world of politics. Should a Christian advocate for the cause of the poor, the widow, the sick, the weak, the oppressed, for causes close to the heart of Christ (as he himself describes his priorities in the Gospels)? I think yes.

    The article I was reacting to dealt specifically with ministers agitating, even attempting to get arrested, to prove that faith was under fire. And for something as trivial as hate-crimes legislation. I kept imagining the early martyrs who were crucified, burned, or boiled in oil for their faith would only scoff at such whiney claims of persecution.

    So my main point in response was two-fold:
    1. Ministers specifically called of God to shepherd the flock should do so. That is their primary concern. Politics is not. And, as history (Biblical history included) demonstrates, whenever spiritual leaders dabble in temporal affairs of governance, they lose themselves in struggles for power, prestige, and gold. And they get diverted from their primary calling and purpose. It is a simple matter of “you cannot serve two masters”. Be a servant of God, or be a politician. But you can’t be both.
    2. When followers of Jesus (who are not shepherds) do get politically involved, they must never drag the Cross of Christ into matters he is NOT concerned about — and certainly not into issues in direct conflict with his heart. And though I recognize many people have passionate convictions about certain issues and how they relate to faith, any time you vote AGAINST people, or to block them in some way, biblical images of the “oppressed” should immediately come to mind. For example, I personally “disapprove” of gambling. But I would not thump a Bible in trying to legislate against casinos, or against someone’s legal right to gamble. I don’t think that would be a crusade worthy to bear the seal of the King.

    This is a complicated issue, and it may be impossible to cleanly delineate specific rules of conduct that cover every situation. But generally speaking, if I can’t find an example of Christ dealing with the issue in some way, I’d be reluctant to use his name as an authority if/when I choose to become involved.

    [via Facebook]

  5. I think the distinction is when we advocate for the cause of the poor, the widow, the sick, the weak, the oppressed, it needn’t be under the banner of the cross or any other banner than basic human rights. The advocates could be Christian, Muslim, Jew, Agnostic, whatever. We should ALL be advocates regardless of our label.

    [via Facebook]

  6. Attitudes with regards to these murky areas are not always a matter of regulations (for that is inflexible towards particular circumstances) – it should be treated as a matter of permission and advice.

    One of the specific applications of poltical campaigning would be for rights of Christians under persecution. I speak in acknowledgement of Voice of the Martyrs and Barnabas Fund. There is something of worth in explicitly campaigning for freedom of faith, and that in the name of Christ.
    Not that it needs to be explicit – but this is our basis, one more fundamental than that of human rights, because humans only have rights granted via a God who values them (all of them,) as human beings.
    Similarly, social justice. Though we have a particular obligation towards our extended family.

    [via Facebook]

  7. good points, and you underscore the basis of it all ” humans only have rights granted via a God who values them (all of them,) as human beings.” 😉

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