CultureWatch

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

The Importance of Political Involvement

Nov 17, 2016

Politics is not everything and politics cannot save us. But the political realm is nonetheless quite important and we avoid political engagement to our own detriment. It is incumbent upon all believers to have some political awareness and involvement. If we don’t the other side will keep winning by default.politics-2

That means Christians should not only be informed voters and intelligent participants in a democracy, but also be willing to become a politician as well if God so leads. Evil triumphs in the political realm when good Christians do nothing politically.

While not everyone can stand as a candidate, we all can be active in the political arena by learning as much as we can, sharing as much as we can and seeking to be salt and light there. That includes getting in the public arena to share your political interests and being in touch with politicians to let them know your concerns.

Several recent political outcomes demonstrate the importance of Christian political involvement and engagement. The first comes from a vote taken just hours ago in South Australia. Another pro-euthanasia bill was introduced, debated and then voted on. Thankfully, the prolife side won, but only just. As one news report opens:

The 15th attempt to pass voluntary euthanasia laws in South Australia has failed by one vote in the South Australian parliament. After an overnight sitting, the latest bill was defeated in parliament’s lower house on Thursday morning on the casting ballot of speaker Michael Atkinson after MPs were deadlocked at 23-23 on a conscience vote. It had earlier passed a second reading vote, the first time such legislation had got so far.

This is tremendous news indeed. Various groups and individuals were involved in the SA battle, but we can mention the ongoing efforts of Paul Russell, the Adelaide-based prolife campaigner and director of HOPE. Here is what he said about the victory:

The second bill this year, the Death with Dignity Bill 2016, came closely on the heels of an abandoned recent attempt in the same South Australian Parliament to enact a ‘Belgium style’ bill. That bill was deemed to be a bridge too far for the parliament. The substitute new bill was seen by many to be more moderate – a ‘good-cop-bad-cop’ scenario.
The bill provided for assisted suicide as a preference but with euthanasia for people who, for whatever reason, cannot take the lethal drug themselves. Once the death is approved, there are no further checks or safeguards, including that further consent (in the case of euthanasia in particular) is not required. No authorized person need be present at an assisted suicide, placing people in their homes at particular risk.
For the first time in the history of the Lower House of the Parliament, the bill passed the first hurdle (called the second reading) by a margin of 27 votes to 19. As recently as 12 hours before the debate, the numbers were thought to be slightly in favor of the NO vote. Such has been the volatile nature of these debates over the last six weeks that change and uncertainty has become the norm….
The final vote was taken at 4:02 am. The house divided 23 votes to 23. The bill was defeated on the casting vote of the Speaker. There is no precedent for what took place in the early hours of this morning. History made at the second reading and then made over in the defeat of the bill at the last hurdle!

Well done Paul and all the others who fought so long and so hard on this, and to all those who stayed up all night to be there to see this mighty win. You set a great example for all of us to follow in.

Another important political battle almost succeeded in Victoria, but was defeated because it ended up in a tied vote. I refer to a motion to scrap the wretched Safe Schools program introduced in the state by Victorian MP Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins. The Democratic Labor Party, which she represents, put out this on the attempted motion:

This was the first motion of its type in any Australian parliament. In speaking to this motion, Dr Carling-Jenkins drew attention to a number of issues about Safe Schools that have caused a high degree of concern among parents and experts in the fields of paediatrics, education and child protection.
From the outset, Dr Carling-Jenkins and the DLP have maintained that the bullying of any child, for any reason, is undesirable and unacceptable. Indeed, our children deserve the very best educational programs we can give them.
Safe Schools is ideological and less about bullying than furthering the political and social agendas of the LGBTI movement to which it is intimately connected. Instead of being indoctrinated with such theories and agendas, our children deserve a program that builds their emotional intelligence and eradicates all forms of bullying, without controversy, without confusion, without causing concern to parents and without ideological bias.

You can read her speech on this motion here: hansard.parliament.vic.gov.au/?IW_INDEX=Hansard-2016-2&IW_FIELD_TEXT=SpeechIdKey%20CONTAINS%20(26-10-2016_council_6)%20AND%20OrderId%20CONTAINS%20(0)&LDMS=Y

Groups like the ACL were also involved in this battle. Said Dan Flynn of the Victorian ACL about the 18 who voted for it:

These MPs were standing up for thousands of parents who had not been consulted in the implementation of this program which is, according to its founder, Roz Ward, ‘not about stopping bullying…but about supporting gender and sexual diversity’.
The MPs voted on a motion from Democratic Labour Party MLC, Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins, which called for the removal and subsequent review of the program. The motion has elevated the voice of Victorian parents concerned about their children being taught that gender is fluid and that Safe Schools continues in Primary schools, transitioning boys into girls and girls into boys.
We must remember that in Victoria the Safe Schools program still endorses material that teaches ‘chest binding’ so that girls can appear as boys, despite the Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham demanding that these links be removed. Unfortunately, the Government, The Greens and the Sex Party remain together in supporting the controversial program and hence the vote to remove Safe Schools was tied at 18 all.

Well done Rachel and all the others who got involved in this absolutely essential battle. We salute you, and hope that in the political fights ahead, we may win a few more. Without champs like you in Parliament, we would be getting nowhere fast.

Finally a brief story of a pleasant political victory coming out of America:

Could it be the year of the underdog? The presidential election wasn’t the only contest to see an upset. Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who came to national attention for heftily fining a local bakery that refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, lost. Avakian, a champion of the LGBTQ community, was running for Secretary of State. As labor commissioner since 2008, Avakian often made news for his tough calls against businesses discriminating against gay and transgender customers.
The most noteworthy was when Sweet Cakes by Melissa refused to make the wedding cake for the same-sex couple in 2013, citing the owners’ religious beliefs. Shop owners Melissa and Aaron Klein were ordered to pay $135,000 in emotional damages. They were also told they couldn’t refuse customers based on sexual orientation….
In the end, the opponent, Dennis Richardson won 48% of the popular vote, beating Avakian by nearly 100,000 votes. The victory makes Richardson the first Republican to win a statewide office in Oregon since 2002.

Ah, a bit of sweet justice there! These three stories should remind us all in no uncertain terms just how important politics is and why we all must be involved in the political realm. Sure, we win some and we lose some, but on some occasions we can have some very substantial victories indeed.

But refusing to be involved will mean that we will just keep on losing – and everyone suffers if that happens. Let me conclude with a few useful quotes from past and present and the place and importance of politics:

“The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” Plato

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” Pericles

“A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves.” Bertrand de Jouvenel

“Good governments can’t bring heaven down to earth, but bad governments can bring hell up from below.” Akos Balough

“I am in politics because of the conflict between good and evil, and I believe that in the end good will triumph.” Margaret Thatcher

www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/11/17/euthanasia-bill-fails-sa-one-vote
www.lifenews.com/2016/11/16/south-australia-defeats-assisted-suicideeuthanasia-bill-in-remarkableturnaround/
www.dlp.org.au/blog/motion-to-scrap-safe-schools-in-victoria-divides-parliament-18-all/
www.acl.org.au/ground_breaking_motion_to_scrap_safe_schools_divides_parliament_18_all
www.cnn.com/2016/11/15/politics/oregon-bakery-official-lost-trnd/index.html

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22 Responses to The Importance of Political Involvement

  • I always remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as well as Daniel and others who stood firm against evil. The chief lesson is that, as Christians, we will never be able to bring the world to Christ by becoming like it. Instead we should be the ones to buck the trend and stand firm against evil plans. See Psalm 94:16 King James Version (KJV)

    16 Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?
    and –

    2 Corinthians 4:16-18King James Version (KJV)

    16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

    17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

    18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

  • I deeply believe the highly Honourable Michael Atkinson also needs a large gift of encouragement and affirmation. Perhaps everyone could email him with words of praise and support. He is bound to receive a backlash after this. A flood of encouragement would be sure to strengthen and empower him.

  • Thanks Mandy, yes quite right. But when we ask people to do stuff, we have to make it real easy for them (people are lazy and busy you know!). So here is his page, which includes contact details. So yes, all of us should write to him, thanking him and encouraging him:

    http://sa.alp.org.au/alp/state-mps/michael-atkinson

  • Dear Bill,
    Thanks for this article. It definitely asks the question of those Christians and Churches who don’t see participating vigorously in our political system, as necessary.
    We are to be ‘salt and light’, not withdrawn from the world apologising for our existence as Christians. If we don’t stand for what is true and right, we will get what is not true and right.
    Jesus didn’t withdraw from the political and spiritual fray. He actually ‘got stuck into it’ on both counts! Both are part of the system of life under God’s terms of Creation. Christians are to call the World to the Light of righteousness, not veil it.
    Moses spoke before Pharoah, Nathan before David, Paul before many and so on- so where are we Christians in this case?
    Thanks again Bill for the words.
    Chester Wilson.

  • “……Christians………Sure, we win some and we lose some, but on some occasions we can have some very substantial victories indeed…..”

    Like yourself Bill I don’t like Trump the person, I much prefer Ted Cruz the person. But we lost the nomination. But we beat Hillary.

    Which brings me to ‘belligerency’ from a piece you wrote where the definition went something like this: {I can’t find your link}

    “The USA and GB joined with an enemy[USSR] to fight a common enemy[Nazi Germany] which they won, and then later the US and GB joined again to beat their common enemy, the[USSR].”

    That’s how I see Trump……….to win some….until such a time….

    Following Cruz and his cues is how I’ll be seeing US politics etc……..until 2020.

  • I have known Christians who are non political – claiming to follow the early church.
    Forgetting of course the Church did not get a vote on which Emperor it would like to have.
    A terrible, self righteous oversight.

  • While out leafletting for the UK referendum, I heard another leaflet-deliverer say that he’d encountered members of a local church and, although they took paperwork to read, they all said that they wouldn’t be voting. When asked why, I believe the feeble answer was something like “we don’t get involved”. It’s not the first time I’ve come across this attitude. Decades ago I used to be with a house-church group; a lot of them had the same view. How on earth do they expect God’s Will to be performed if they don’t actually take part in decision-making?

  • The issue I wrestle with as regards political involvement is association with a political party through membership and deeper involvement.
    At the moment in the UK, all four main political parties including UKIP are pro-homosexual rights, want to crush any opposition in law, and have many self-confessed homosexuals in key leadership positions.
    UKIP does try and court the Christian vote with well spun words, but only when Christians will be subservient to homosexual rights. Read closely the 2015 manifestos.
    Can a Christian join a political party and stand as a candidate when the manifesto has anti-God and anti-Judaeo-Christian values or policies?
    Can a Christian work with unbelievers on matters of governance when the two are unequally yoked?
    I agree, comment in the public space and oppose as far as you can the ‘strong delusion’.
    Standing as an independent candidate is one way, although humanly almost completely futile unless you have a massive budget.
    There has to be another way, where a Christian can keep his integrity before the Lord and speak boldly in the heart of government.
    The Biblical examples are when God has intervened and the believer has stood firm in faith no matter what the cost.

  • Thanks James. It depends on various things. For example, it depends on what one can accommodate and get along with. In a fallen world there is no perfect anything. Even a marriage partner will not be fully compatible, and plenty of compromise and give and take will be required. The same in politics of course. There is always give and take and some compromise (within reason) that will be required. Either that or one can start one’s own party, or if you are running for office, run as an independent.

    Another question is whether it is possible if enough likeminded people became involved in a party and worked to remove the bad bits while retaining the good. One has to determine if this is feasible, if one has the numbers, and so on. So one has to think and pray through these matters carefully.

    But complete non-involvement is a counsel of despair, and it is a failure to be salt and light in all areas of life. Wilberforce would not have been happy with all of his colleagues for numerous reasons, but he stayed in politics, fought for what was right (often with some of his own side opposing him) and eventually won. We are all glad he did, and that he did not quit because his party was not pristine or perfect enough. The same with the two stories I shared above. Because many believers were willing to stay in messy politics and work with imperfect parties, they were able to do some very great things. So I am glad for the Christians who are involved.

    At what point a party gets to be too bad or too ungodly that a believer cannot work with them anymore is a matter for individuals to think and pray about. Some will be willing to hang in there longer than others.

    As to working with others, it is called cobelligerency, and it is often the only way we will win some fights in a fallen world. I have written about this often, eg: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/09/02/on-co-belligerency/

    And here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2012/06/30/8405/

    And these matters are partly determined by how one understands the biblical notions of separation and cooperation and so on. See here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2009/11/27/on-biblical-cooperation-and-separation/

    So I am not a purist in the sense of waiting for a perfect political party to come along that I can feel comfortable working with. That will never happen, so we have to work with what we have at our disposal.

  • We have a ridiculous mindset here in Oz that dictates we should not talk about religion or politics – but what two factors have the most impact on our lives and human flourishing in general? The more we can freely discuss them, the closer we can come to finding the truth, just like the Berean Jews.

  • Yes Mandy Varley – Great point!
    God’s won the War but we still need to encourage our Soldiers in Christ in their battles. And, a personal touch is so affirming.

    Just made a quick phone-call to Hon Michael Atkinson’s office. Beautiful receptionist Sally, has taken some lovely calls (75%). Unfortunately there is always some nasty ones 🙁
    Found it difficult to find area code for Adelaide – however, here is the direct no: 08 83462462

  • Amen and may I thank you again for not becoming weary in well doing. (2 Thes 3:13-15) We certainly need it in this dark and perverted time.

  • Thank you Melinda for the for the phone number. Just rang to thank Michael Atkinson for his vote. To me, it is a win for Australia as well as S.A. May many more politicians across the board stand up for the principles upon which our nation was founded.
    Bless you Bill, for the issues you bring to our attention.

  • Christians who think they are doing the right thing by keeping their heads in the sand, shutting up and saying nothing while evil rules … groan. I’m not sure what Bible they are reading. I am really having trouble finding any main character in the Bible that doesn’t end up in front of rulers to plead for justice and righteousness. Let’s see now: Moses, David, Daniel, Elijah, Esther, Jeremiah, Jonah, (actually just about every prophet), John the Baptist, Peter, John, Paul, Stephen (Just about every disciple). And Jesus was very in-your-face to the ruling political elite. Even his death was by a politically motivated Pilate under political pressure from a manipulated crowd controlled by politically correct religious rulers.
    Such Christians are a perfect example of taking one little verse out of context “My kingdom is not of this world” and ignoring the overall thrust of the entire narrative of the Bible – which is about getting God’s righteousness happening on earth, for the benefit of heaven.
    Meanwhile, this anti-political attitude is a fatalistic Que Sera, Sera. “Oh well, God sorts out the leaders and there is nothing I can do about it”. No, God does not see what he wants on earth. He limits his intervention through us. That is why Jesus told us to pray “God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Obviously, his will is not being done and this has to be fixed. It is our job to fix it, and politics is one of those steps. Evangelism is essential, but politics is not far behind and Jesus said it is part of the deal; “On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them”. Matt 10:18

  • Delighted to see you encouraging people of faith to join political parties. There are many good and brave people prepared to fight and take the abuse, but they need votes once a year or so to keep their positions, in all parties. Numbers needed are really low, for example 25 members gets a vote in Liberal party Senate preselections and each member gets a vote at local preselections for parliament, conservative candidates come close but recently have been pipped at the post, the key is to vote at annual and preselection meetings, and ignore the rest, and to stay long term! Thanks for this article, I hope it bears fruit.

  • This is a big problem yes. I can’t count the times I’ve heard from the pulpit that christians shouldn’t be involved in politics because [insert random excuse]. This mindset has been going on for decades being repeated over and over again by church leaders and pastors.

    The result of this is multiple generations of believers who are totally oblivious of what has been going on around them in the worldly/political realm. (Me included for a long time) And now we are reaping the bitter fruits of this unbiblical idea, frantically trying to contain the damage already done, and in some cases irrepairable.

    If we want to pull ourselves out of this mess what is needed is as another commenter put it excellently stop making excuses for our excistence and stand for what is true and right. And the only thing True and Right in this world is God’s will. Period.

    In Revelation we can see that once the new heaven and earth are made and we are all living in His perfect and eternal Kingdom, God will still have the all nations ruled by His saints! So apparantly God approves this model of ruling through politics, albeit only a shadow of what is to come ofcourse.

    – My people are destroyed by the lack of knowledge. Hosea 4:6

  • Hey Bill,

    As we start the new working year (for some of us) this article is a great timely reminder to get on in there & get our hands dirty – (politically speaking).
    Australian Christian Lobby, Australian Christians, Marriage Alliance, DLP’s – Rachel Carling-Jenkins & Free West Papua are all great promoters of God’s Work!

    I’m sure other readers & previous respondents to Culture Watch can add their own personal faves.

    Some of them are more obviously marketed as Christian than others – Supporting them financially as a member is also a great start.

    God bless you, Bill & your family as we fight the good fight
    Melinda

    2 Timothy 4:7
    I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

  • I agree that we all can be actively involved in our country and community by becoming more politically educated. I think it’s healthy to look for multiple sources of political information so that you can feel more aware of what is going on in the country. That way, you will be empowered as a citizen to participate and have a small but important effect on the community.

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