Sunday, June 14, 2009

Widgets

The Political Church


I am, by vocation, a servant of the United States, and I care deeply about her future. As a Christian, I hope and pray that her future will be one of obedience to God's precepts, and that hope and prayer is reflected in my political activity (which is mostly represented by my voting habits). Generally speaking, I take it as a net positive when faithful Christians are involved in the political process.

I must admit, however, that I get nervous around Christian political movements for several reasons. First is the inevitable corrupting influence of temporal power on spiritual leaders, which I think history has proved over and over again. When the church gains temporal power, it is her sinful habit to abuse it. The most obvious example of this is the spiritual/political structure (Sadducees, Pharisees, etc.) in Israel during the time of Jesus, against whom He struggled throughout His ministry and to His death.

Moreover, I think that politics can offer a false hope to Christians, that such-and-such a leader will offer deliverance and rescue our spiritual ambitions. Scripture and history also teach us that we are not to trust in princes, and that our citizenship is in heaven.

I also find that politicians can present positions which are ambiguous (at best) as "God's will". This is very dangerous territory. On one hand, I think God's revealed will towards issues such as the sanctity of life and of marriage is pretty clear, and that is reflected in how I vote. But how much organizing on behalf of these issues is healthy before the church becomes lost in the process? (Of course, I hope it goes without saying that we must roundly condemn atrocities such as murdering abortionists as unqualified evil.)

Let's take the question a step further: Has the Creator presented us a clear position on which environmental regulations He requires? Has He determined that compassion dictates how much foreign aid the US must devote to fighting AIDS in Africa? Closer to home (for me), does being a peacemaker require that we take up arms (or not) in the war against international terrorist organizations? Does God require prayer in public schools, and what does that mean when the state is not openly Christian--or is essentially anti-Christian? You can see that this process becomes a very slippery slope very quickly.

Assigning God positions on myriad political matters is a conceit which goes far beyond Scripture and divides the church along political lines, and can ultimately lead us into some scary places. For example, how many past Southern Christians justified slavery on the basis of Scriptural example?

It also leads us into alliances that may result in unequal yokes. If we become indistinguishable from a particular politician or political party, then we become associated with his/her/its positions, which are often irrelevant or even contrary to our core principles as believers.

Today I listened to a podcast from RC Sproul in which he gives several other reasons I find compelling to find laboring for God's church better than politics:
  1. "I like to be on the winning side."
  2. "Too many Christians today are looking for the state to do the work of the church, and that scares me to death."
  3. "The government only reflects the prevailing customs of the people ... if we don't like the government, then we need to change who we are ..."
By the way, I still remain interested in political matters, and I still hope to elect people whom I believe will lead our country toward a better, more obedient place. And I believe I serve God by serving my country--and by serving those who serve her. But on the whole, I find that my work for God's church is more promising and fruitful with respect to the things that matter most.

5 comments:

  1. Well said, Jailer. I confess that it took me many years to come to some of your conclusions. In the end, I believe that politics leads us into the trap of thinking we can change something with outward influence that can't be changed by human manipulation. That "something" is the human heart. Peter wrote that we should "honor the king" and his king at the time was Nero! How do we do that as servants of Christ?

    The New Testament clearly gives us a better way to change the world. Perhaps a song I learned as a kid in our boy's missionary organization says it best.... "I am a stranger here within a foreign land. My home is far away upon a golden strand. Ambassador to be; from realms beyond the sea. I'm here on business for my King. This is the message that I bring; a message angels feign would sing: 'O be ye reconciled! Thus says my Lord and King. O be ye reconciled to God!'"

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  2. Amen to you! Jesus was consistently non-political while remaining pro-Christian morality. While they intersect in the social arena of life, the two are NOT equivalent. Getting involved in the world's political process takes the focus off Christ, which must remain the only focus.

    This world is not following Christ, and God tells us it will not. It is individuals we are after in the harvest, not governments! We need to preach Christ and Him crucified, and not divide our precious message time.

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  3. People may be divided however; the Church is never divided. It's unity comes from Christ and He is not divided. Politics will always be a source of consternation however, we are to look at Christ and not our situation. When we take our minds off Him, whatever our focus is on has become our god or idol. Our pridefulness cannot stray us away from our Savior. Trust God; even when life hurts!

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  4. AMEN! You go, Doc. If we could always remember this fact.

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  5. John 18:36
    Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

    2 Corinthians 10:3
    Amplified Bible (AMP)
    For though we walk (live) in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons.

    Revelation 11:15
    And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.

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