Politics, Faith, and the Church
You have probably received your ballot in the mail this week and you are being bombarded with ads, mailers, emails, and texts telling you that the future of our country hangs in the balance. Both sides of the aisle, and the middle, are screaming that the sky is falling and only their candidates can keep it from crushing us all. I am struck by the arrogance of it all! I know that on November 4th and again on January 21st Jesus will still be King of the universe and all creation regardless of what happens in the United States of America.
Over the years I have heard many statements about the separation of church and state. Some of them are rooted in tradition, others are rooted in history, and others are centered on the legality. The colony of Pennsylvania was unique in their secular ideal that in turn made it into our national constitution. Pennsylvania was the only colonial government that was not intertwined with a particular denomination – sort of. Pennsylvania’s view of government was driven by the Quakers, an anabaptist denomination that believed in a secular government: a government segmented from the church so that the government could not make laws concerning the church or her practice of faith. Within this structure, there was freedom of religion, practice, and faith. Eventually, this same view was included in the U.S. Constitution.
To paraphrase the famous words of Francis Schaeffer, “How then should we vote?”
As a citizen, it is my most sovereign right to vote. As a good citizen, I must vote. I should be active in my local politics – helping neighbors get along, serving the poor, challenging those who take advantage of others, and more. A good citizen listens and seeks to understand their neighbor’s position even though it is different and opposed to their own. I should do my best to be an investor in my city and nation through service. A good citizen always leaves their neighbor’s political signs alone!
As believers our motivation is a bit different. Politeness is certainly important, but the believer is much more concerned with being a peacemaker than a peacekeeper. Listening and understanding is still important, but the believer is also to give a reason for their faith – not to convince but to be understood. A believer should most certainly be concerned with “the least of these” as though they are serving Jesus Himself. Above all of this, the believer should commit to praying for all their leaders, on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers. A believer should pray for peace in their city and nation, and they should submit to governing authorities as though they are submitting to God Himself. And, a believer should always subject their decisions, their vote, and their behavior to Scripture.
But what about the church? Should she speak into politics? What about the ministers of the church?
Based upon what I have been taught concerning the U.S. Constitution, the church has every right to speak about politics. Ministers of the church have every right to an opinion of their own. Non-profit corporations have the right to take out advertisements encouraging people to vote in a particular way. Churches have the right to place political signs on their property. But should the church do so? Should ministers of the church become intertwined with the affairs of the state?
I have concluded that as a minister of the church, my views are associated with the views of the church herself. In my youth, I would regularly engage in political debates in the coffee shops, on the street, or around my table; though I have always balked at sharing my political views from the pulpit – though I certainly have every right to do so. As I have aged and become wiser, I have discovered that I am primarily a minister of the church and the Word of God and I cannot allow my political views hinder my role as such. I am a peddler of hope and a better future in Christ, and I choose not to confuse people by suggesting that hope can be found in a political ideology. I am also a citizen of the United States of America, but that citizenship pales when contrasted with my citizenship in the Kingdom of God. I will boldly proclaim the Word of God from the pulpit – even when it is parallel to an ideal that has been embraced, or opposed by a political party.
I will go one step further.
Ministers of the church and the Word of God should not serve as agents of wrath (ministers of government, ministers of justice, and ministers of might). Certainly, believers can serve as agents of wrath; but for a minister of the church, questions are immediately raised about whether they are serving two masters. For this reason, chaplains in the military do not carry a weapon and they are not given command of troops. There is a clear distinction that they are agents of God and His Church and NOT agents of wrath. I think ministers of the church should resign their position in the church when they feel called into politics, standard military, the police force, or as a judge. I also would hope that more believers would step into military, police, political, and judicial service – understanding that they are taking on a responsibility to be a minister or agent of wrath.
Please be a good citizen of the United States and vote. Please be a great citizen of the Kingdom of God and submit your vote to Jesus. Open His Word and see what it says about your role as believers in the world and where your citizenship truly lies. If your political views are not offended by what Scripture teaches, look more closely! If you can’t find anything that offends you, feel free to reach out and I’m sure that I can find something that will offend you, (work, taxes, poor, generosity, authority, responsibility, etc.).
Just some parting thoughts that I hope will be an encouragement: Jesus is King. Do not place your security in an election, but be reminded that your election is secure. God causes the rise and fall of nations, not us. Pray for your leaders as those appointed by God Himself. When you are concerned about your land, humble yourself and pray, seek His face, and repent from sin – and then expect Him hear your prayer and heal your land.