Should Christians be involved in politics? Well, I suppose that depends on what one means by ‘be involved’. We are necessarily involved in politics if we vote in any election. So, at least at this barest minimum, yes: we should be involved in politics. Here’s part of a conversation concerning this issue:
Dr. Frank Page, president of the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), discussed politics and American society during an interview with Donald E. Wildmon, the founder and chairman of the American Family Association, in a video made available online Tuesday.
Wildmon recalled growing up being taught that politics was “dirty” and that, as a Christian, he should stay out of it. The prominent pro-family leader then asked Page what he thought about Christian engagement in the political sphere.
“I believe Christians should be involved in the [political] process – not only because of our spiritual obligation but because as active participants in a democracy we are required to be participants,” Page responded without hesitation. “You cannot complain and you cannot whine about things if you’re not part of the process.”
He also recalled how Christians are called to be the “salt and light” in the world, and that through political involvement believers can make an impact on the culture for Christ.
In particular, Page urged Christians to vote this November for the next U.S. president whether their favorite candidate is on the ballot or not.
“Unfortunately, you’ve got a lot of foggy notions out there that electing the right person is going to change everything,” Page observed, according to OneNewsNow, the website of the American Family News Network (AFN). “The reality is we’re in a system of checks and balances, and not one person can do everything.”
He warned against the thinking of not voting in the presidential election because of problems perceived in the three major presidential contenders.
“There is no perfect candidate; you must vote – and particularly this fall,” Page urged. “Whoever the next president is going to be is most likely going to appoint at least two Supreme Court justices.”
You can see the entire interview here although I tried to watch it and it appears to require some sort of registration which I was not willing to do.
Anyhow, allow me a couple of thoughts here based solely on what Dr Page has said that has been quoted in the above piece.
First, Page said this: “You cannot complain and you cannot whine about things if you’re not part of the process.” Actually, this is a weak argument. People can do whatever they want in this country. I used to buy this argument that people shouldn’t whine or complain if they do not vote, but I have changed my mind. Sometimes, the very fact that people do not vote is whining and complaining. Still, the Scripture says that we should do ‘all things without grumbling and complaining’ (Philippians 2:14). So even if we vote that doesn’t somehow give us the inherent right to complain. We are to submit ourselves to those who rule because they are, whether they acknowledge it or not, God’s servants. (See Romans 13 for more.) Voting or ‘participating in politics’ so that one may secure the right to complain and whine is a pathetic reason to participate in the process.
Second, Page said this: “I believe Christians should be involved in the [political] process – not only because of our spiritual obligation but because as active participants in a democracy we are required to be participants.” But what exactly is this ‘spiritual obligation’ that he is speaking of? When I read the Scripture, in particular the book of Acts, I do not see anywhere that God said it is our ‘spiritual obligation’ to participate in politics. In fact, I do specifically recall reading that ‘Jesus is Lord,’ that we cannot ‘serve two masters,’ and that those who are friends with the world ‘cannot be friends with God.’ On the other hand, those who crucified Christ said, ‘we have no king but Caesar.’
But let’s draw this out a little more: What about those Christians who live in nations that prohibit the involvement of the people in the ‘political process’? For example, what if I were a Christian living in a Muslim country where I was specifically denied involvement in the political process precisely because I was a Christian? What then would my spiritual obligation be? What obligation can there be if in fact such a privilege is denied? I think it is very, very dangerous to equate the Christian faith and political privilege. We are politically privileged in the United States, but such is not true in all places and at all times. So the political privilege we enjoy cannot be a ‘spiritual obligation’ at any level.
Now this is not to say we should not participate in politics. As I said, when we do something as radical as participate in free elections, we are participating in the process. But that is not a spiritual obligation. God’s Kingdom and God’s Sovereignty does not hinge on the participation of Christians in a general, free election. Should we participate: Yes. Is it a spiritual obligation: No.
Third: “He also recalled how Christians are called to be the “salt and light” in the world, and that through political involvement believers can make an impact on the culture for Christ.” I think this is naive at best. First of all, Jesus’ command for Christians to be salt and light has nothing to do whatsoever with political participation and it is dangerous to co-opt the Words of Christ in order to make people feel a twinge of guilt. Besides, what does he think this means? Second, there are a lot of Christians who think that voting for conservative candidates is equivalent to being ‘salt and light’ and there are other Christians who think that voting for liberal candidates is the same ‘salt and light.’ This is a meaningless application of Scripture and demonstrates what happens when Scripture is pulled from its context, stripped of its intended meaning, and used for political purposes instead of to lead someone to Christ. Come on, Dr Page. This is a careless and reckless application of Scripture.
Fourth, Page is right that we are living in a checks and balances world and that ‘electing the right person is going to change everything.’ Fact is, as much as I am in favor of a conservative candidate, there is not one running who will change anything for the better. All they all want to do is raise taxes, strip us of rights, and impinge upon our freedom. Maybe we are too worried that things ‘need to change.’ Maybe voting for anyone just because they promise change is another terribly wrong reason to vote.
Finally, “There is no perfect candidate; you must vote – and particularly this fall,” Page urged. “Whoever the next president is going to be is most likely going to appoint at least two Supreme Court justices.” I have to tell you: He is right, there is no perfect candidate which is precisely the reason I am thinking of not voting. But whatever I decide to do in the long run, I am voting for a president, not a supreme court justice. This is fear-mongering. Christians have to get out of this silly idea that any politician has the interests of any particular group in mind. The fate of this world does not hinge on the mental capacities of those nine people in the supreme court. Again, God’s sovereignty is not going to be overturned because a liberal ends up on the Supreme Court.
God is in control, and he will remain in control. This will not change and I think Christians need to stop fretting about such things because it is not really helping matters. We go through this every time there is an election: Christians need to vote because if you don’t the world will fall apart when a liberal gets elected because you didn’t vote. Seriously folks, do you think we could have a little more confidence in the power of God? Do you think we can trust the God who promised that ‘nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus’? Do you think we can have just a little less fear, a little more love, and a lot less worry about elections?
Should Christians participate in politics? Sure, if they can and if they want to. Will it help? Sure, at some level, I suppose. Is it an obligation? No, not at any level. Is it Scriptural, no. Will it help God? Probably not.
Isn’t God still in control? Isn’t that really what Scripture says? Can we have a little less abuse of Scripture and trust that God is in control?
Soli Deo Gloria!