Should Christians be involved in politics?
As you can probably tell by the mailers, lawn signs, and political ads on radio and television, we are entering election season. Even though in Oregon we no longer observe the ritual of heading to the polling stations in early November of even-numbered years, mailing in our ballots or slipping them into drop-boxes instead, this biannual season of political discourse affects nearly everyone.
And, predictably, I am often asked around this time of year if, as a pastor, I think that Christians should be involved in something as messy, and sometimes downright nasty, as politics. Shouldn't we just steer clear of something as divisive as political discussion and voting, and just let God put into office whomever He thinks will be best?
My answer surprises some people. But I absolutely believe that Christians should be involved in the political process in our country, and at many different levels.
Yes, politics is a messy business. And these days, it really is often nasty, with candidates taking potshots at each other, name calling running rampant, and accusations of all kinds of racism, sexism, and a growing number of "phobias" being leveled against the opposing candidates or parties.
But we, as Americans, as Christians, must never lose sight of the big picture in the midst of the garbage that often fouls the political scene. And the big picture is that our very first politicians were, by and large, devout Christians, who built the Constitution and the political structures of our nation to be run by and to govern a moral and religious people. In fact, John Adams famously said "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." By that he meant that the structure of our government, relying strongly on individual freedom and self-responsibility, relied on the moral compass that is found in a moral and religious people. As we move away from morality and religion, we, as a people, must be controlled by more and more external regulations.
That being said, devout Christians fit very well into the political structures around which this nation was designed, and they can bring a morality and discernment to political office that is, far too often, lacking. Therefore, I absolutely believe that Christians should run for political office and, once in office, should keep the moral compass of biblical ethics front and center in any and all decisions that they make.
For those of us who are not called to political office, we should vote, every time we have the opportunity. Our process of electing representatives in our republic is rare in the world. Each of us has the opportunity to have a say in who represents us, and in making our viewpoints known in the public forum. And we need to exercise that right, every election, general, mid-term, and special.
I believe, in view of the rights that we possess as Americans to vote, to hold office, and to speak freely in the public square, that to not do those things is a dereliction of duty, and a moral wrong. If Christians abandon the arena of politics, that merely means that we will be leaving the governing of our nation, the making of laws, and the jurisdiction of the court system, to those who do not have the same Bible-based views as we have. And I think that that is a genuinely bad idea.