This is the second in a series of essays on the duty of Christians in civic affairs, adapted from Kevin Kookogey’s weekly radio address and podcasts at www.advancingchurch.com
This week we begin our examination of questions from listeners.
- Christians should be informed about politics, but should they really determine which political side is correct?
How can one claim that it is important for Christians to be informed about politics if the conclusion one draws from the information is deemed irrelevant or off limits? It is, after all, conclusions that lead one to act, and to act is to take sides.
We are not just watching a movie or playing a game here. It defies human reason to suggest that we inform ourselves about political matters without taking sides. It would be like telling someone it is important to read recipes but not make meals; to look at menus without ordering food; or to chew but not swallow.
The belief that our deepest convictions should not inform our political views is a manifestation of the endless effort to separate consequences from ideas. Yet politics are merely a practical means of implementing a body of beliefs about the human condition. And since our views about the human condition are informed by our religious beliefs, it is entirely appropriate for our Christian faith to inform our political views and lead us to decisions.
The suggestion that we not advise which side is correct presupposes the possibility of neutrality. But claiming neutrality on political issues is akin to saying one has no worldview – no beliefs – on political issues. Is not the demand that we discuss the importance of politics while insisting on neutrality really just an attempt to silence opinions that differ from our own, or to avoid being put in the uncomfortable position of having to make one’s views known?
Neutrality is a myth. If I claim moral relativism, for example, that there is no absolute truth, my claim presupposes that what I believe to be true (i.e., no objective moral standard) is more true, or closer to the real truth, than what you might believe (absolute truth). In doing so, I am not neutral. I am taking sides, attempting to distinguish my beliefs from yours, which only makes sense if there is a standard beyond or outside of your beliefs and mine against which we can measure or compare the truth of our beliefs.
Scripture does not celebrate neutrality. Indeed, Jesus had some harsh words for the lukewarm. We’re unlikely to be excused by failing or refusing to take a stand on issues, including political ones.
- Is America a Christian Nation? Did our Founding Fathers intend to establish a Christian nation?
This line of inquiry is often used to suck unsuspecting Christians into a debate regarding Thomas Jefferson’s Bible, what George Washington or Ben Franklin meant between the lines of their writings, or the various proofs of which founders were Christians, which were deists, and who might have been an atheist.
Indeed, scholars have devoted volumes to those details. The question, however, is not so much whether America was founded as a Christian nation. Christian, after all, is a personal rather than a national identifier, associated with one’s beliefs about Jesus Christ. And while many of our founders were Christians, and while it is an undisputed historical fact that the American colonies were established, nurtured, and governed according to a moral order that was unapologetically rooted in Biblical principals for 150 years prior to our political separation from England in 1776, to focus on those particulars misses the point.
The subject hinges on understanding what our founders – those who drafted our founding documents and implemented our governing philosophy - believed about the nature of man and the duty of government. It is without question that our founders understood that absent a moral order – that is, order in the soul – there could be no order in the community. It was the permanent problems of the human condition that led our founders to structure an enduring Constitution, whereby men’s tendencies to fraud, violence, ambition, and avarice could be restrained, without unduly limiting the liberties of the people.
These views were informed by the religious beliefs of our founders, many of whom were Christians, and all of whom acknowledged that Rights come from God, and that the role of government is limited to securing those God-given rights, as so plainly described in our Declaration of Independence.
- How can Politics serve the Kingdom of God?
The answer lies not so much in explaining how politics can serve the Kingdom of God as in demonstrating that political power unchecked by the Church will always devolve into tyranny.
Regrettably, the American Church is in retreat, conforming to the culture and cooperating with the State, sometimes unwittingly, at the expense of our liberties and to the detriment of the entire social civil order.
While some of this can be explained by ignorance, most of it is driven by fear. Fear of conflict. Fear of discomfort. Fear of persecution. Yet succumbing to fear is the surest way for the enemies of truth to prevail. And if we refuse to debate eternal truths in the political arena, is there any question whose agenda will be imposed?
Our duty is to preserve knowledge of God, a charge that necessarily puts us at odds with the world. Yet Jesus promised that we would encounter conflict, opposition, and even death as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission. This is why Christ told his disciples that He was sending them like sheep among wolves, and that they would be persecuted and hated by everyone because of Him.
There is no avoiding it. The entire Bible is an account of God’s people confronting kings, powers, rulers, and governments. Jesus promises that we will be brought before governors and kings, on His account, as witnesses to them and to other unbelievers.
Yet retreat is not an option. Jesus told Peter that He would build His church, and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. Because gates are defensive mechanisms, the implications of Christ’s words are clear:
The kingdom of God is on the advance, invading all of life, including the political arena. It is not, then, a question of whether one should engage in politics. Politics, as we have explained, touches everyone.
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