Questions and Thoughts about Christians and Politics

Since it is just simply how I roll, I would like to riff a little off of a blog my pastor at Gateway Baptist Church, Alan Cross, posted today: Why Christians SHOULD Be Involved in Politics.

He makes excellent points about the responsibilities of Christians to reflect Christ in all we do. I will quote at length one section that will give you an idea of the wonderful insights in the post as a whole:

Politics is simply how a society organizes and governs itself. It involves how a society makes decisions, what it declares to be right and wrong, how it takes care of its members, and how it develops a vision of who/what it is and what the future will look like. Politics involves decisions on justice and economics and how the poor and vulnerable will be treated and how order will be created and preserved in society. These are all important issues and they are all things that are addressed in Scripture. Christians should be a part of making these decisions and, even though we live in a society that does not recognize Biblical truth as authoritative, we should be “Salt and Light” and work to bring the ethics of the Kingdom of God into every area of life, leavening the loaf with the yeast of God’s Truth, as it were (Matt. 13:33). Salt gives flavor and preserves meat, keeping it from decay. Light illuminates so we can see where we are going and so we do not wander around in darkness. Christians are to give flavor, to preserve and keep from decay, and to guide the way into the right direction. We are not to dominate or coerce or force our views upon others – rather, we are to be ambassadors another Kingdom – the Kingdom of God which is not of this world (John 18:36).

Very important things for a Christian to remember.

I would like to put forth a few disparate thoughts and questions that have been rumbling around inside my thinker for a while, and have been given new inspiration from the blog post above.

Firstly, there is a Christian School of Thought which attempts to eschew being ‘involved’ in politics. Some even venture into a sort of fatalism regarding the installation of the people who lead our country. I believe a lot of this thinking comes from (what I perceive to be) a misunderstanding of Romans 13 (as well as Jesus’ ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s’ episode).

Regarding Romans 13: Paul essentially says that there is no power on Earth that has not been ordained by God. Where I think some Christians get off track is when they take this to mean that all leaders (government officials) are ordained by God. I believe it is the office of government that Paul was referring to… and not the individuals in power. And here we get into that tricky Theological problem of the implications of God’s Omniscience and Omnipotence. Since He knows who will govern the affairs of men on our podunk little planet, does it then follow that He has specifically appointed ever leader of every Nation State that has ever existed and will ever exist?

Nero, Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Francois Duvalier (Papa Doc), Robespierre, Mao, Mussolini, Jimmy Carter and all the other scourges of history… (well, Jimmah certainly wasn’t a murderous madman like the rest… but his sweaters and his malaise were surely God’s punishment for the U.S.) … all of the bloodthirsty, violent, cruel, and just plain poopheaded rulers the world has seen. Is it reasonable to think that God ordained all these men? It is true that the mind of God is not the limited mind of Man… for He truly does see the big(gest) picture. But, if we allow that since God knew these men would lead their countries that means He chose them to do so, that would negate what we know of the character of God as He has revealed Himself throughout the whole of Scripture (and history). God is not averse to necessary violence (see the Old Testament), but under the old covenant, the violence He ordained through the Kingdom of Israel did indeed serve His purposes (and therefore were to the benefit of Man as a whole). But, most of the tyrannical despots of History did their killing to spite God, not to honor Him.

So, again, I think it is more likely that Paul was referring to the office of government rather than specific individuals in government.

Historical context is also important. Paul was writing to people who had no say in who would lead them. It is a completely different situation in America. We were given a system of government that we are all an undeniable part of. We choose our leaders. The radical and earth shattering nature of that notion cannot be overstated.

I am willing to go out on a limb here, and I may be wrong, but I would proffer that while God knows who we will choose to be our President (etc), He allows us to do the actual choosing. I don’t think this diminishes God’s omnipotence in any way. He is still ultimately the ruler of all things. Though, I don’t think it is an accident that many times in the Bible, the earth is referred to as Satan’s dominion. While I don’t believe God is nothing more than the Deistic ‘Cosmic Clock Maker’ who created everything and then simply allowed things to run on their own without any guidance or intervention (to disprove this notion see: Flood, The Great and Christ, Jesus for a start), I do think that there are things He does leave to us.

Ideally, a Christian will make voting choices from a Christian perspective. But if we don’t that shouldn’t mean that God ordained an unGodly person to be our leader. It simply means we, as Christians, failed to act… as Christians.

Now, a quick word on ‘Give unto Caesar’…

In an ancient version of the ‘gotcha’ soundbite game, the Pharisees (as they were wont to do) attempted to saddle Jesus with Kobayashi Maru-type  questions. On one occasion, they asked Jesus whether it was proper to pay Roman taxes. One can almost see the smug, drooling grins on the Pharisees as they put this question to Jesus. If He answers yes, it will make Him seem subservient to a hated government. If He says no, than clearly He is inciting rebellion (and that same hated government should take Him out). Christ (I imagine after keeping Himself from shaking His head in consternation and giving a facepalm while exclaiming ‘Oy”) simply asked the pharisees to give him a coin. Without thinking, they handed over a Roman coin with the image of Caesar. The image of Caesar. The graven image of Caesar. You see, it would have been improper for Holy Men to even carry around such coins. With gentleness, Christ turned the ‘gotcha’ right back at them. His ‘give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s’ closing remark was meant to be less instructive than the object lesson He had just given – that the Holy Men were not to be taken seriously when it was evident that they were obsessed with finding specks in other’s eyes while ignoring the planks in their own.

What I think I am trying to say about all this is: Christians should not shrink from being ‘involved’ in politics.

It’s actually quite important for us to be very involved. When Christians stop being the salt and light of the earth, the earth is left to itself and we get what we deserve (which is never a good thing).

Christians could have stopped Hitler. But they didn’t.

Christians could have ended slavery at our country’s founding. But they didn’t.

Christians could have stopped the horrendous treatment of blacks during the first half of the 20th century in the South much sooner. But they didn’t.

We are coming up on an election in this country. It would be the vain conceit of the Present to posit that our choices are anywhere near as monumental as the choices Christians faced in any of the above examples. But, it is still important that we truly act as Christ’s Ambassadors. Our citizenship is in the City of God, but we live in the City of Man. If we are living out God’s purpose for us here, it means that we must be involved in the choices we collectively make as a nation.


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