CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Why Christians Should Be Interested/Involved in Politics

Sep 8, 2012

Real biblical Christians should be interested in everything God made, and that includes politics. The state is a creation of God (see for example Romans 13:1-7). To ignore or minimise what God has made is not showing respect to our Creator and Lord.

Yet countless millions of Christians in the West take absolutely no interest whatsoever in politics, and don’t know anything about political matters. All this means is that they will allow any and every evil and godless government to rule. Ignorance of political matters is not a virtue – it is in fact a sin.

Contrary to what some uninformed believers might think, God very much cares about such matters. The Bible tells us heaps about political issues. Consider just a few texts from Psalms and Proverbs:

Psalm 47:9 The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted.
Psalm 75:6-7 No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.
Psalm 94:10 Does he who disciplines nations not punish? Does he who teaches man lack knowledge?
Prov 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.
Prov 28:2 When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.
Prov 28:12 When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.
Pro 29:2 When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan. (NLT)
Pro 29:4 By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down.
Pro 29:12 If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked.
Pro 29:14 If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will be established forever.

If God is concerned about such matters then so should God’s people. At a minimum, we need to be aware of what is happening politically and vote prayerfully and carefully. As Wayne Grudem puts it in his important book, Politics According to the Bible:

“I believe that every Christian citizen who lives in a democracy has at the very least a minimal obligation to be well-informed and to vote for candidates and policies that are most consistent with biblical principles. The opportunity to help select the kind of government we will have is a stewardship that God entrusts to citizens in a democracy, a stewardship that we should not neglect or fail to appreciate. That at least means that Christians are responsible to learn enough about the important issues to be able to vote intelligently”

Yet far too many believers actually exult in their wilful ignorance – they celebrate the fact that they are politically illiterate, and even seem to think it means they are somehow better Christians as a result. But they are simply digging their own graves. All believers must be aware of and involved in politics, or those who don’t like Christianity will be, and with sobering results. Thus our faith and politics must co-exist. As Gary DeMar has written in “You’ve Heard It Said”:

“The objection that religion and politics do not mix can be answered in at least three ways. First, it is true that the Bible’s primary concern is not politics. Of course, the same could be said about the Bible’s emphasis on family, church, and education. And yet, there are few Christians who would maintain that Christians should not be involved in family, church, and educational issues, all areas of vital concern where politics has a direct impact. The political system invades each of these areas, often leading to excessive control. Political restrictions on private and home schools, for example, put families at the mercy of a bankrupt public education system and a despotic state.”

Indeed, whether we like it or not, politics impacts us and our faith in countless ways, both for good and for ill. We dare not be ignorant of what is happening around us, especially if various political parties or political policies are directly impacting our ability to be church, to evangelise, and to follow the dictates of our conscience.

And when there are major differences between the parties or between candidates, it is not only foolish in the extreme, but in fact sinful to just blissfully state that there is no difference, and it doesn’t bother me anyway. In both America and Australia we see very real battle lines being drawn on key issues.

Broadly speaking some parties and politicians are virulently anti-faith, anti-freedom, anti-life, and anti-family. These are very important issues indeed and every Christian should be concerned about such matters. Simply having a party with abortion on demand as official party policy (as the US Democratic Party and the Australian Labor Party) is a huge dividing line between where the parties are at.

We saw in the US just a few days ago half the Democrats at their convention booing God not just once but three times. This certainly never happened at the Republican National Convention. So here is just one more area where very real differences exist – differences which believers should be aware of and concerned about.

Image of Jesus is involved in politics!: Why aren't You? Why isn't your Church?
Jesus is involved in politics!: Why aren't You? Why isn't your Church? by Neil Mammen Amazon logo

But so many believers are completely clueless as to what is happening around them in the political and social arenas, and if they do vote, they will vote in a reckless and uninformed manner. God will not hold them guiltless of such gross irresponsibility and lack of Christian duty.

I strongly suggest you grab a copy of the two books I have mentioned above. Another one you should get is Neil Mammen’s  Jesus is Involved in Politics. In it he examines all the usual lame objections against Christian political involvement, and reminds us that if we want to lose it all – our religious, political, and social freedoms – just keep on with this head-in-the-sand approach.

He asks how it could have been wrong for Christians like William Wilberforce or Martin Luther King Jr. to be involved in politics. They did so much good for the world and the gospel, and shined the light of Christ so brightly with their political involvement; surely we need more of this, not less.

We would all be so much worse off today if they had heeded the advice of their evangellyfish friends and stayed out of politics. And we have just as important battles today which must be fought, and that will include fighting them in the political, social, intellectual, and judicial arenas.

The battle over marriage and family, the battle for religious freedom, and the battle for the right to life are just three of these hugely important battles every single Christian should be involved in. Yet tragically the majority of believers are not. They seem to neither know nor care about these matters.

That is why some of us put together the Canberra Declaration to address these key issues. If you have not yet done so, please sign it:  www.canberradeclaration.org.au/

Yet if believers do not snap out of their sinful slumber and apathy real soon, they will simply find that it is too late. Bible-believing churches will be closed down, the proclamation of the gospel will be greatly restricted, and Bibles may well be burned in the streets. I kid you not. That is exactly where we are headed today in the West. Yet most believers are blissfully unaware of all this and couldn’t give a rip.

They will one day stand before their maker with heads bowed and mouths closed, as they are asked to give an account. They will be asked why they could not get themselves off their lousy TVs or their stupid Facebook games for just a few hours to do something worthwhile for Christ and the kingdom.

I for one don’t want to be one of those people. I want to hear these words from my Saviour: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And that includes being salt and light in the political arena.

[1357 words]

31 Responses to Why Christians Should Be Interested/Involved in Politics

  • There is much that could be commented on in this topic. I think it is important for Christians to take a real interest in politics, and that includes helping causes that are good even if not specifically Christian issues of right and wrong.

    For example, with today’s local government elections underway in NSW, there is no obvious “Christian” answer to the question of whether we should permit Woolworths to have a supermarket in our town. Christians can legitimately take different sides on such questions, but they can bring Christian grace to the discussions and show others that they are concerned about earthly things that affect people.

    It is of course essential that we push for and support Christian principles in politics and it has been pleasing for me to support and help the Christian Democrats and their predecessors for the last few decades, and let them know when I have thought they were wrong.

    In our Federal electorate we have had the privilege of having a Christian as Member for all but three of the last 30 years or so and at the moment we have a Christian State Member. Being able to encourage them is also a privilege.

    I do agree with the article above (as usual!) but I do think that as with everything else some Christians because of their interests and talents will legitimately take a greater interest in politics than others who serve God in different ways.

    I had better stop. The word “politics” tends to get my pen, mouth or keyboard hand going and hard to stop.

    David Morrison

  • Thanks David

    Yes it is one thing to make the case for Christian political and social involvement, but it is quite another to spell out in fine detail all the specifics as to how that will work out in practice. That is partly why I have 2200 other articles here!

    And no, I did not mean to suggest that all believers must be fully gung-ho in political matters. They must at least be informed and vote wisely as I said, but sure, believers have all sorts of callings and many will have a lot less to do with politics than others.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I couldn’t agree more. We Christians in Western democracies such as Australia are incredibly blessed to be able to vote for and lobby our leaders. The many Christians who do not use this blessing to encourage our leaders to rule in a more Biblical manner is a great shame and a dereliction of duty.

    To help Christians fulfil this obligation, I have set up a subscription service aimed particularly at those Christians who, for whatever reasons, never really get around to keeping up with all the latest political issues and then writing to their politicians. It is called The Golden Sceptre: http://www.thegoldensceptre.com.au

    My service differs from Salt Shakers, Family Voice, ACL etc. in that I write unique and personalised emails to send with one mouse click to all your relevant elected representatives at once. Each email is written using different points, ordering and turns of phrase so that each MP receives a distinctly different email from each of my subscribers. Subscribers can also edit emails before sending, but there is no need to do so – the emphasis is on ease of use.

    I currently serve Christians throughout Australia. If you are not already regularly writing to your MPs, please check out my website and please pass on my details to anyone you know who may be willing to do their bit to stem the tide of political ungodliness that is now threatening to overwhelm us.

    Mansel Rogerson

  • Yes, Bill. I agree with all of this, but never has the involvement in ‘politics’ been more difficult IMO.
    I think we would agree that there is a glaring difference between being involved in ‘political’ issues, and party politics, and there lies much of the difficulty – how to stand apart from mere partisan politics and grapple with some of the big issues, abortion, homosexual matters including proposed ‘marriage’, and other major concerns on our national agendas.

    To illustrate this in terms of the USA only may I strongly recommend a look at Paul Craig’s take on this (http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/Ta) as to how American politics are vitiated by confusion, corruption, and party, rather than national interest. See this powerful analysis: “The Message From Both Parties is that Americans are Disposable” on his site.
    Excellent, but disturbing stuff!
    The same dilemma is present for British Christians, as here all three major parties are virtually indistinguishable on major polices re abortion, ‘gay’ marriage, more European Union… & etc.
    One could be a bit cynical and adopt the following – but in reality it gets nowhere in fighting any of the major moral issues before us:
    “Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage”
    Truly we need the Lord’s wisdom, and discernment for ourselves in understanding His priorities.
    Graham Wood, UK

  • Good work here Bill. I spent part of the day giving out How-to-votes for some candidates I personally know, standing for local council elections under the Christian Democratic Party name. I`m always concerned why so many christian friends give me a wide birth here, they don`t have to vote with me, but to dishonour me with their looks is not encouraging. I also happen to notice christian acquaintances happy to take a Greens HTV, are we that shallow that we do not know what we can vote for??

    Johannes Archer

  • Well done Johannes

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • One should also note that it is important to pray for our leaders. With the death of Julia Gillard’s father it is especially important to pray for her at this time.

    I should note that one of my biggest problems with Kevin Rudd before the 2007 election was that he had Julia Gillard as his deputy. Someone who I would consider an extremist with values that are anti-Christianity. She’s not the leader I wanted to become Prime Minister, but she’s PM and we are called to pray for our leaders.

    Matt Vinay

  • Thanks Bill. A timely encouragement as I pray & fast about this very issue (my involvement in politics) this month as a Bill is before our Parliament in New Zealand about redefining marriage and allowing homosexual couples to adopt children.
    Nathaniel Heslop, NZ

  • For some time it has entertained my mind to seek biblical instruction on the Christian’s role in a democracy.

    The list of verses above really don’t give any direction in that regard, except as you have, to use the logical extension that since God is concerned, so should we be.

    However, those verses were spoken in a non-democratic environment and the citizen’s involvement was never deliberate (except to pray).

    I struggle to see strong biblical evidence for our involvement in a democracy.

    Except for verses like “For him that knoweth to do good, if he doeth it not, it is sin” and surely voting to oust Obama (for example) is a good thing to do!

    Grudem’s quote is a good one to answer the question bouncing in my head, and I’d love to read his book if I get a chance, but I’d be very interested to see more (perhaps from you) in regard to biblical instructions and logic based on biblical principles that relates to citizen’s responsibilities to be involved in a democracy.

    Grahame Gould

  • Thanks Grahame

    While the Bible has much to say about political life, it is of course not a textbook on politics. And since believers can and do live under all sorts of governments, then of necessity the biblical data is much more of a generic nature. Thus whatever political structure we find ourselves living in, we must seek to apply the broad general principles offered to us in Scripture.

    I would think that what has already been said here is the best start: all believers must be informed, and they must do their minimal duties, such as voting wisely and prayerfully. Some will be called to run for office, others might be called to instruct folks where the parties stand, as in the Christian Values Checklists which we put together for each election in Australia.

    As for democracy, it is one system among many, and no one political system will be perfect. As Churchill said, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” But some of the ideals of democracy are quite biblical: diffusion and separation of powers, rule of law, etc. Because men are sinful and power corrupts, we need political systems which keep power from being concentrated in the hands of the few, etc.

    And as I have written elsewhere, God is ultimately above party politics, and cannot be locked into any one party, but some parties are more in sync with biblical principle than others: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/08/03/thinking-about-the-2010-election/

    So can I offer you a detailed blueprint as to how all this works out in detailed, specific situations within a democracy? No, because the Bible does not offer such things either. It gives us the broad brush strokes, and then we are expected to use our sanctified common sense to see how all this works out in a fallen world.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Exactly right, we need to be conscious who governs in our Local, State and Federal seats. So many decisions that are made, affect out day to day living. The wise will be alert to what is happying, both in home, state and national level. Be alert! Talk to your MP members, write letters, hand out HTV cards, are we ashamed to be involved?
    Judith Bond

  • I agree with you Bill that the best we can do is use biblical principles. I’ll have to do some more research on the best verses to use in the democratic environment to point to Christian responsibilities to see if there are any to add to the one from James I mentioned earlier.
    Grahame Gould

  • Hi Bill.

    I would also refer folk to this article at Albert Mohler’s site:

    http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/09/06/the-great-american-worldview-exercise-the-2012-election/

    Well worth the read (particularly for your U.S readers).

    Mick Koster.

  • The scary truth is there are Christians lurking in our pews who voted for the Greens and would do it again. Just last week I ventured in with a fellow church goer – a science teacher no less. I said Obamacare? He thought for a long while and said, But it’s a good thing right? I said no. Mainly because Obama is a lefty elitist and believes we are too stupid to make decisions for ourselves.
    My church friend listened, praise God.

    Daniel Kempton

  • I agree Bill. Thanks for your blog. I am often aghast to hear Christians say we should not be involved, or that they have no interest etc. Keep hearing them say that the church and state should be separate etc…
    No word is ever spoken in church or from a pulpit on politics…maybe due to fear of offense given to those with different views, or maybe because preachers don’t even have knowledge themselves. We cannot live in this world and hide away and hope to keep our freedoms. We must be involved, and teach our children likewise. Recently, at a bible study group, I had been urging people to email politicians re the SSM issue. The suggestion was met with blank stares…no enthusiasm or interest, let alone promised action. One well respected person even said “isn’t it inevitable; why try to stop it?” *sigh*

    April Simon

  • Thanks April

    Yes it certainly can be discouraging to come up against all that apathy, ignorance and carelessness. But we keep pressing on nonetheless. Bless you.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,
    We should be aware of the policies of the Greens, Sex Party and Labour, particularly. If we examine the policies of the above parties we see how much they are against God. We should be aware of all parties’ policies standing in any election. We should also be aware of how the preferential system works.
    Neil Herbert

  • Yes quite so Neil.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I think it is also helpful to discuss the limitations of political action. While there are some who manage to bring about radical transformation of a society through political action (Wilberforce being a prime example), we have to remember that when we get involved in politics, we are operating under the rules of The World – a system that is fundamentally opposed to the rule of the Lord Jesus.

    Which isn’t to say that fighting for religious liberty or an abortion-free world isn’t worth it (it is) but that political action won’t permanently change the dynamics of the world we live in. Only the gospel can truly change hearts (as we can all agree on) and only the resurrection to come at Jesus’ return will truly change the nature of the world permanently.

    Lee Herridge, WA

  • Thanks Lee

    You won’t get any disagreement from me on that.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Having held elected office at local and national levels for almost 20 years this is a subject dear to my heart and occupies a few chapters of my not yet published memoirs.
    I have always taken Jesus instructions for us to be “salt” and “light” as being sufficient a rationale for Christians to be politically engaged. It was for me. But not everybody can be elected to public office. But surely the very least Christians can do is to be informed and to vote. Who they vote for is a matter for them.
    Some Christians are true environmentalists and will vote for the Greens. But in doing so they should be aware of the Greens broader platform. Some Christians donate to Greenpeace before they donate to the Salvos. Go figure!
    Other Christians are socialists for what they would believe to be good reasons. They vote Greens or Labor. CS Lewis writes incisively on this subject. Of socialists he says “They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth.” (God in the Dock)
    In my case I was a CDP candidate for the Senate in Queensland in 1998 and came up against Pauline Hanson. Many more Christians voted for her than for the CDP. Otherwise I might have won!

    John Bradford

  • Good old fashioned Christian common sense here Bill, sadly the increasing number of halfwits filling church pews who have already picked their post in Heaven now as we speak and currently have their heads above the clouds trying to get a glimpse of their new abode and as their ears are attached to their heads, their ears are there as well. Consequently they are not hearing anything at our level! Perhaps you could try a megaphone or something?

    Steve Davis

  • To John Bradford, got to agree with you mate, how the hell any Christian can label themselves a socialist is beyond me, as far as I am concerned any attempt to mix Christianity with anything regardless of what it is always results in “another” gospel!

    Steve Davis

  • As Bill has said not much comes from the pulpit. Teaching on a Christians political duty is rare. And many well meaning Christians don’t have the understanding of God’s word to be able to understand the issues involved in a godly way. The way the apostles lived in Acts can seem a lot like socialism on a small scale. Too many Christians are too full of ‘love and non-judgement’ to want God’s will in politics. Instead they think the laws should be nice to people, even if that means allowing sin to run rampant in our society. They see education as morally neutral.
    I am not perfect and my views on such things are growing more godly under the teaching as people such as Bill but it is something that I was never taught about in church growing up. CU helped me develop a more godly worldview but I’m sure there are things I need to know in greater depth.
    I was reading Proverbs 28, 29 with my 7 yr old and he said “like Julia Gillard”, yes son, if we as a country vote for ungodly leaders we will suffer the consequences.
    Kylie Anderson

  • Spot on Kylie!

    Steve Davis

  • Perhaps the primary reason Christians should be involved in politics is to ensure the Church can faithfully and freely fulfill its duty to proclaim the whole counsel of God. Freedom of speech laws, and such, are all stifling the Church’s and Christians’ ability and desire to preach the gospel. Someone might point to the growth of the current church in China or in the Roman empire in the first few centuries AD, but I would suggest that the growth would be even more incredible if religious liberty was a political reality.

    Having said that, I agree with you that the issues of family, education, morals and the like are of vital importance, and our timidity in these areas is appalling. The light of Christ truly does shine if we stand for his truth in the public square.

    Simon Kennedy

  • Yes Kylie even a 7 year old gets it.
    Daniel Kempton

  • Christians should ideally be involved themselves into politics. If you fail to plan by partaking in the activities of politics, someone who is an ungodly will plan for you by partaking and then exercises his/her veto power over you and maltreat you unfairly and you will later pray and blame the God of living that the world is not fair. Not knowing that you are not fair to your self.

  • I tend to disagree that Christians should be involved in or concerned about politics. As a Christian, I am a stranger and a pilgrim on earth. I am not concerned what “Canaan” does.
    A Christian would be much better off using any spare time improving their spiritual welfare than becoming involved in politics.
    I do not see either Jesus or the early church spending time in lobby groups against such issues as slavery.
    God is in control of what happens in Canaan. He will achieve His purposes there. He wants me to become closer to Him rather than assist Him in ordering the world.

  • Thanks Ken. But did you read a word I said in this article? It is as if you have not read anything at all! I answer what you say in great detail above, so there is little left that I can now offer. But let me just reaffirm a few quick truths: it is a false dilemma to say we must either love God or be involved in politics. We can do both of course, and we have many hundreds of examples in church history of top-notch Christians doing this very thing. And I am so glad terrific saints like Wilberforce did not heed such unhelpful advice as yours. Millions of blacks today are so thankful Wilberforce took his faith seriously, and acted as salt and light as Jesus commanded him.

    Oh, and I take it you would say Jeremiah was quite wrong to say this (in Jer. 29:7): “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

    And of course Jesus had no time to run for office, etc. He came for one reason – he was born to die. His job was to teach and preach, but ultimately to go to Calvary. And as a persecuted minority of course the early believers were not active in political involvement – they couldn’t be. But if your mind is made up here that is up to you. However, I will stick with the full counsel of God on this, and not a truncated, privatised and reductionist gospel, thanks. So on this issue we will have to disagree – big time!

  • BLACKSTONE ON THE ROOTS OF ANCIENT BRITISH COMMON LAW “The ancient collection of unwritten maxims and customs which is called the Common Law…had subsisted immemorially in this kingdom…. It was then taught, says Mr. Selden (in Fletam 7.7), in the monasteries…. The clergy in particular…then engrossed almost every other branch of learning. So (like their predecessors the British druids) they were peculiarly remarkable for their proficiency in the study of the law. Nullus clericus nisi causidicus [‘No cleric unless a lawyer’], is the character given of them soon after the Conquest, by William of Malmesbury (Laws of the Kings l.4). The judges therefore were usually created out of the sacred order….
    “no cleric unless a lawyer” sums up the culture of Israel, i.e. the elders at the gate, deciding the issues of the day, which they were supposed to have been inculcated amongst the cultures around them, that those people would say of as in Deut 4:6-8 This is what todays kings, priests and prophets – every single Christian – has for the most part failed to do.
    Bill is so right and thankfully there like him a groundswell of like minded people that are rising up to meet the challenge.
    Matt Trewalla: http://lessermagistrate.com
    Brent Allan Winters to name but a couple.

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