Should Christians be Engaged in Politics and Moral Issues?
Before I develop this subject let me just say that the answer is “yes” to both questions? However, before I develop that answer, let me first of all present some concerns-especially with respect to the political issue. Many pastors and their churches have gotten so political that the watching world cannot understand the message of the Gospel. When someone who is going through a crisis or searching for answers in the spiritual realm comes into their church they may be distracted by the message that at least appears to be political. What can easily happen (we must always be on guard with this) is that they miss the message of the Gospel. They see Christians as part of a particular political party rather than those who have received the pure Gospel of Grace. We may also run into other problems such as our tax exempt status. If we as churches want to remain a non-profit and accept donations from parishioners that can be written off on their tax returns, then we must obey the rules. Lobby to change the rules or pull out of that status.
Both of my sons are professors in colleges where they did just that. They have all the freedom in the world because they do not take government funds. This frees them to make decisions and take positions reflecting their values with no strings attached. Colleges are different, and there is much more freedom in churches even with our non-profit status. Having said that, I do believe that we have to be careful so as not to confuse the message of the Gospel which is far more important to me than worrying about the government. Now let me present the argument that we should engage the culture in our churches while keeping the above concerns in perspective. In order to understand this perspective, let me mention a few things.
- We must dispel the silly notion that when we get involved in politics and concern ourselves with moral issues that we are imposing our morality on others. It’s important to understand that all laws impose morality so let’s get over it. Think about it for a moment. You drive past a school while children are coming and going before or after school. There is a flashing sign telling us we must reduce our speed down to 15 mph. Why? It is because children are possibly crossing or could be in harm’s way should the speed be the normal limit. The reason we have that law, and you will be in trouble if you’re caught driving faster is because we value children and believe that their safety is important to us. We are imposing our morality in that issue upon those who are in a hurry and would otherwise drive faster.
The fact of the matter is that all laws impose someone’s morality-be that good, bad, or perhaps somewhat indifferent. Most laws take freedom away from others. The others could include bank robbers, rapists, or those who just like to speed past a school with children at risk. Every law imposes morality upon others and in some way takes away their freedom. The alternative is chaos where everyone does what is right in their own eyes.
- We must also understand that the only question that is relevant in politics is whose morality will prevail. The answers on any given situation are those who prevail in getting their laws past. Slavery was the law of the land until moral people (including many Christians) worked to change the law. Most people today believe that law was immoral. If someone still thinks that slavery is acceptable, then we are imposing our morality upon them. My response is too bad; we can’t go back to slavery because it’s immoral. Politics is mostly the process of promoting one’s values. The outcome in politics is: whose values will prevail?
- If we recognize that in a free and democratic society we have the right to vote and affect outcomes which promote morality, then we should be doing just that. If we do not then others with views that are not reflected in our biblical world view will impose their morality or immorality upon us. This has been happening for a long time, and it’s time for Christians to wake up and smell the coffee.
- The challenge we face is that we must work for a just society while recognizing that we are not in a theocracy and that there will be others who don’t agree with us- including those we are trying to reach with the Gospel. We are to be salt and light in our culture while at the same time seeking to reach the lost as we fulfill the Great Commission. That’s when things get complicated and require a balance. We must be respectful and demonstrate love with those who disagree while at the same time stand up for righteousness.
As Christians seek to overturn not only unjust laws but immoral decisions rendered by courts, we need to avail ourselves of our God-given freedom that men and women have died for to protect. But we must do it in such a way that we recognize that while many laws are meant to make our country safer, more just, and closer to a biblical world view, only a transformation in the hearts of people will bring lasting change. That change ultimately comes through the Gospel. So the question is asked, “Should Christians engage the culture through politics?” The answer is “yes” with a caution. Next month I will address what I believe are appropriate and possible inappropriate ways we can get more involved in the political process.
Respectfully presented, Pastor Lee Stauff