Is it better to refrain from politics and focus on issues involving the church or is it necessary for Christians to partake in politics? There are many arguments presented on both aisles of this discussion making it an extremely divisive topic within the church. A driving component of Christians’ hesitance to partake in politics is the highly alienating nature of the political parties. In our increasingly polarized political climate, those with strong scriptural convictions have often been perceived as hateful, intolerant, and bigoted. In response, some churches have conformed to the cultural pressure and impulsively changed some of their key doctrinal positions to conform to the political majority. On the other hand, others have doubled down and affirmed their firm beliefs and have decided that it is best for Christians to avoid politics altogether. Personally, I believe that this period of our country’s history is a critical time for believers to become active in politics. Currently, our right to worship freely is under attack, low-integrity politicians hold many of the major offices in our government, and evil is becoming increasingly pervasive in the United States.
The religious freedoms granted by the Constitution of the United States have been used as an instrument of God to grow Christianity, both on American soil and around the world. However, this blessing has been under attack for the past decade. There are several examples of business owners and individuals who have been legally punished for exercising their religious beliefs. One of these cases revolved around a baker from Portland, Oregon who refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple because homosexual marriage violated his Christian convictions. The couple responded by suing the baker for the emotional distress stating that they suffered from the denial of a wedding cake. Unfortunately, an appellate court sided with the couple, ruling that the actions of the baker were not within his religious liberties. He was forced to pay $135,000 to the couple, crippling his bakery. Another example took place in Houston, Texas, in 2014 when, Annise Parker, the mayor of Houston attempted to put a subpoena out for any sermon from Houston area pastors that openly spoke out against homosexuality. These troubling examples should serve as motivation for Christians to enter into politics and protect freedom of religion.
There are critics of the idea that Christians and politics should interact. Andrew Sullivan, a conservative British author, claims that politics today are far too brutal for Christians to engage in. According to Sullivan, Christians become hypocritical when they engage in politics, as they lose their Christ-like acceptance in favor of obsessing over votes and destroying political opponents. However, Michael Gerson exposed the inaccuracy of Sullivan’s assertions, finding that many Christians in politics focus their efforts on protecting their freedom to worship as well as other key issues like protecting the lives of the unborn. To say that Christians are compromising their values in such an effort is flawed logic. A Christian in politics can still maintain Christ-like love for non-believers while fighting to protect the religious freedom of millions of other Christians and the lives of millions of unborn babies. As the discussion of Christians’ role in politics wages on in America, it is important to the colossal effects that their non-participation could have on the country. America is built on Judeo-Christian values, but we are moving towards the restriction of religious freedom and the emergence of ultra-sensitive hate speech laws. Christians are in danger of losing their ability to freely worship and publicly express their deepest Christian convictions.
Another key reason that Christians should partake in politics is so that America’s leadership can be in the hands of godly, integrity-filled people. In today’s political climate, it seems that politicians cannot be trusted. Countless politicians on both sides of the aisle are engrossed in scandal. In Minnesota, for example, the Democratic candidate for the office of Attorney General, Keith Ellison, faces two separate charges of domestic abuse. Both of these charges have credible evidence to back them up. Yet, even with these serious accusations, Ellison was still able to win the election handedly. A recent Washington Times study showed that 91% of the politicians that make up the 115th congress would describe themselves as Christian, even though a majority of those are not practicing. Is this how we want Christians today to be represented? A poll taken by the Pew Research Center discovered that 74% of Americans who answered the poll believe that politicians place their personal interests over the interests of the public that elected them. An even more troubling statistic shows that only 19% of the respondents trust the government consistently. If devout Christian men and women took these statistics seriously and decided to go into politics, the public may increase their trust in politicians as the government would be filled with leaders who are loving and have a high standard of integrity.
Biblical proof of this claim lies in the examples of the great leaders of the Old Testament, such as Daniel. After Babylon conquered Israel, Daniel and other young Israelite men were taken to Babylon and trained to be political officials. Daniel excelled and quickly rose up the ranks of the Babylonian and later Persian governments. His political enemies had no basis to attack him as he was “faithful and no error or fault was found in him” (Daniel 6:4). Due largely in part to Daniel’s political leadership, the Israelites were eventually allowed to return to their homeland under King Cyrus. A similar example of the people of God raising up political leadership to benefit the kingdom of God can be found in the story of Joseph. Joseph was similar to Daniel in that he was sold into slavery. Because of his diligence and integrity, he rose up the ranks of the Egyptian government, becoming second-in-command of the whole empire. God used Joseph to protect the Egyptians and the nation of Israel from a devastating famine. Both Daniel and Joseph are examples of the good that can be done if individuals who lead pure and holy lives engage in political leadership.
Perhaps one of the most important reasons that Christians should indeed partake in politics is for resistance to evil. Today, America has drifted from its Judeo-Christian roots and is becoming a secular nation. Because of this, the Devil has been true to his name as “the father of lies” (John 8:44) and has blinded many Americans to truth, filling them with a false sense of good and purpose. Sexual immorality has become the norm, with a dramatic rise of pornography, sex outside of marriage, and homosexuality. This has not only affected the church like it did the Israelites in ancient times, but it has also created some undeniably evil acts. One of these evil acts is human trafficking, which is essentially the slave trade of humans, usually to fulfill sexual desires. The demand of pornography in the United States has increased the demand for human sex trafficking. In 2017 alone, there were 1.5 million victims of human trafficking in America, with 27% percent of those being children. As politicians, Christians can directly fight this evil through legislation and increasing awareness. Randy Hultgren, a devout Christian and former U.S. Representative from Wheaton’s neighboring district, has taken steps towards fighting against this sinful and dark issue. Last year he introduced a bipartisan bill called the Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Act, which focused on ending the commercial sex industry.
Abortion has also ravaged America, as it is now perceived as a “right for women.” The root of abortion lies partially in the pursuit of sexual freedom without consequences. Abortion enables men and women to disconnect sex from the birth of children. However, this is a devastating lie, both for the unborn babies and the would-be parents. As young as 3 weeks old, an embryo shows distinct human characteristics. Its heart has begun to beat with the child’s own blood, and the baby’s spinal cord and nervous system are beginning to form. However, many politicians today have adopted a distorted view of personhood that claims that, although biologically human, the unborn child does not qualify as a person to be protected with “unalienable rights.” More than half of states in the US, including my home state of Minnesota, legally allow abortions up until 26 weeks, even though most premature babies born around this time could survive outside the womb. As Christians, we know that abortion is murder and the ending of a human life. Psalm 139:13 says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” As politicians, both on the national and state levels, Christians have the opportunity to fight for human life through legislation. Last year, Iowa lawmakers presented a bill prohibiting abortion after a baby’s first detected heartbeat. This bill was passed and signed by governor Kim Reynolds this past May, signaling a huge success in the efforts to protect innocent lives. As Christians, we are driven by the truths presented in the Word of God. It determines what justice is and how we should treat others. As politicians, Christians have the opportunity, and the mandate, to fight for Biblical truth and justice through political legislation.
Although the ideas presented above are strong arguments for why Christians should engage in politics, there are some Christians who are opposed to the idea and frequently present two counter arguments. The first of these is that, given the high level of corruption and compromise in politics, Christians in politics open themselves up to a world of power and sin that could easily cause them to fall. This is a strong argument. As discussed above, politicians are notoriously corrupt, often fighting for themselves before the people. Opening yourself up to this as a Christian will bring temptation. However, I believe that this is ultimately a selfish argument. Hiding yourself from the darkness of the world because of a fear of ungodliness is dangerously cruel for those who have not been exposed to the salvation and hope that Jesus Christ offers. This isolated view fails to show God’s love with non-believers through their words and deeds. We are called in Matthew 5:13 to be salt and light to the world. This means we are to preserve and purify our culture from sinful ways; while also providing light and hope of the saving grace that everyone can have through Jesus Christ. As politicians, Christians are presented with a clear outlet to be salt and light for the world. They can do this through creating legislation that encourages biblical justice and morality, treating political adversaries with respect and class instead of constantly tearing them apart, and by keeping the promises made to their constituents, putting the people ahead of themselves.
The second argument commonly used against Christians’ participation in politics is that the founding fathers intended there to be a separation between the church and state, meaning that it is unconstitutional to elect officials into office when they will make decisions based on their faith. However, the phrase “separation between church and state” has been taken out of context today. Today, most Americans believe that this separation was intended for the state, as it was a way to keep religion from affecting the decisions of the government. Others believe that it was intended to keep the church and the state away from each other, so neither would be affected. However, the real meaning of this idea lies in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to Danbury Baptist church in Connecticut on January 1st, 1802. The members of Danbury Baptist had fears that the newly formed government would interfere with their ability to worship freely. In response, Thomas Jefferson wrote them a letter in an attempt to alleviate their fears. He stated that the Constitution intended to build a protective wall for religion, in order to assure that the government never infringed upon their right to worship. It is in this context that the first amendment of the Constitution was written. In addition, a majority of the founding fathers held to Christian beliefs. This commonly used argument regarding Christians’ role in government is easily refuted by looking at the history and context of the Constitution.
America relies on Christians becoming active in political matters. For too long there have been ambitious, career-driven, and self-indulgent politicians. These people are motivated by their own success, often putting their own opinion or the opinion of their highest donors above that of the people who elected them or more importantly, God. In order to change the political and social climate in America today, strong and devout Christians must become involved in politics. They will breathe a breath of fresh air into Washington, and all of America, by defending and protecting the freedom to worship, by leading lives of moral excellence, and by taking a stand for Biblical truth and justice.
Photo by Maddie Goldberg