I have written dozens of pieces explaining why it is fully biblical and fully Christian for believers to be involved in politics. Yet I still keep getting folks trying to tell me that this is just not on, or that it is a waste of time, or that it is “unspiritual,” or that it is not what Jesus would do, etc.
Please have a read of these two pieces to start with where I seek to carefully rebut this rather foolish and shallow thinking:
But as I say, I keep getting Christians trying to tell me I am off base here. Sometimes they are part of the Anabaptist tradition which has always condemned Christian political involvement. The Anabaptists have tended to want a total separation of church and state, have tended to be pacifists, and have tended to dislike the state, urging believers to have nothing to do with it. They are separatists who think believers should not be ‘contaminated’ by political involvement.
That sort of theology explains some of my critics. For others, they just may not have thought things through very carefully, and/or have a misguided view as to what Christian mission is all about. Whatever their motivation or rationale, they continue to dislike it when folks like me urge Christian participation in government, in politics, and in the life of society.
A recent comment nicely illustrated all this. It was a reaction to a recent post of mine on these matters. Sadly – perhaps because of his seeming built-in rejection of authority! – he did not give me a full name as my commenting rules clearly require. So I could not run with his comment. But I think it does need to be answered – not just for his sake, but for all those who might also think this way. This is what he wrote:
I think it is important to make the distinction between country and government. Most people seem to confuse the two as one and the same. Of course, we can and should love our country and our countrymen. Bill, you are correct in that God has appointed the nations and their boundaries. Think of a nation as a tribe. What is a tribe, but a rather extended family? We should take care of our own first. As Paul says, he who does not provide for his family is worse than an infidel.
The governments of the nations are a different story altogether. They belong to Satan. While God in His providence is ultimately in control, for the time being, He has given their dominion unto Satan. If this were not so, then how could Satan have promised them to Jesus during His temptation? I believe a legitimate case can be made for the Christian’s non-involvement in national political affairs.
Bill, while you maintain that the Anabaptist position is the minority, I would point out that Christ did not involve Himself in political affairs, but avoided them. Likewise the apostle Paul. He invoked his Roman citizenship only to free himself to continue the work of God’s kingdom. Lastly, the Bible teaches us that we are not of this world, our citizenship is elsewhere, and that a good soldier does not entangle himself with the affairs of this life. While I cannot say unequivocally that a Christian should never be involved in politics, in today’s political climate, I do not see how he can. The best we can do is preach repentance from sin and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Your work of warning Christians of the schemes of Satan certainly falls into this category. Keep up the good work.
Had I posted his comment, this is how I would have replied to him:
Thanks ****. We differ in many ways here. I am not aware of a country existing in any recognisable way without some form of government. Only a radical anarchist would believe otherwise. And the truth is, government is God’s idea. He created it and expects us to respect it while we live in a fallen, sinful world. See more on this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/01/10/god-government-and-the-state-part-one/
As to Jesus and his lack of political involvement, well let’s just think clearly here for a moment. Of course he was not involved in politics – just as he was not involved in organising housing for the homeless, setting up soup kitchens, establishing hospitals for AIDS patients, working to relieve poverty, or seeking to eliminate oppressive government rule.
And that for the very simple reason that he was born to die. He was a man on a mission. His one purpose was to come and die for our sins, as well as establish a small band of men who would share his message. But the fact that Jesus did not do all of these good things does NOT mean that he disapproves of his followers doing them.
It was just the same with the early church. They were a small, persecuted minority fighting to simply exist. They were on a mission to proclaim the gospel and survive in the process. They had no avenues for political involvement at the time anyway. How could they, when the rulers were opposed to them, often trying to put them to death!?
So it is quite foolish to use this as some sort of paradigm for all believers for all times and all places. 21st century Australia or America is hardly similar to first century Rome. Now Christians make up a majority or large minority of most Western states. And it is exactly because of their godly influence and political and social involvement over the centuries that we have so many freedoms and social goods today.
There are no New Testament commands anywhere saying believers should have nothing to do with political and social involvement. Citing passages about not being of the world, and about governments being of the devil, is simply misleading here. The world system as it stands against God and his purposes is normally what is meant when the NT speaks of the ‘world’.
It has nothing to do with all aspects of life: social, cultural, political, etc. And as mentioned, government is God’s idea, so we dare not charge God with evil. He set up government and intends us to respect and obey it – at least within limits. How can he tell us to obey and submit to government if it is Satanic as you claim?
The truth is, everything that is not redeemed and under the Lordship of Christ is under satanic influence: political rallies, baseball games, shopping expeditions, factories work, business, sports, hobbies, restaurants, art, and so on. It all can be used by the enemy for his purposes. But that does NOT mean they are all necessarily evil in themselves.
By your reasoning you should never use anything in the world at all: never go to a shop (probably Satan-worshippers own it); never take a train (could be pagans running it); never fly a plane (probably owned by homosexuals); never watch a footy game (probably pushing an ungodly agenda), etc.
The whole world is under the evil one, in one sense, but part of the Christian mission is to reclaim lost territory from the enemy. It is about extending the lordship of Christ over all of life. It is NOT about retreating, surrendering, and living in caves so that we will not be “contaminated”.
You ask how a ‘Christian can be involved in politics, in today’s political climate – I do not see how he can.’ Um, it is exactly because of this unbiblical attitude that our current political climate is so bad. Instead of faithfully being salt and light, Christians have pulled out, making things worse.
As we abandoned the political realm, the other side simply rushed in to fill the void. So we are losing by default. At one point godly values were in the majority in most western governments, and Christians were deeply involved. But with Christians copping out and failing in their duties, preferring to live in their insulated holy huddles, we have turned all this over to those who hate the Lord. Shame on us.
Most Christians know that we are called to be salt and light, and think that of necessity we have some sort of role to play in the surrounding culture, of being involved in society, and having some influence at least with politics. That has been the majority viewpoint. But sadly some prefer to decry those who do seek to make a difference in the political realm.
Try telling Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the dozens of other committed Christian Parliamentarians that they are merely ‘entangling themselves with the affairs of this life,’ wasting their time, and somehow dishonouring our Lord, and maybe even being sinful. Good grief. Talk about Pharisaic judgmentalism. I am so very thankful for the many thousands of Christians who have heeded the call of God and sought to be a Christian presence in the political arena. God bless them. They do not need more condemnation but prayer and encouragement and support.
As to your remark about ‘my work of warning Christians of the schemes of Satan falling into the category of preaching the gospel,’ let me say this. There is a legitimate place for believers to engage in politics and public policy as part of their Christian calling and as part of proclaiming the whole gospel of God.
I have written on such matters often. Let me finish by quoting from one of my earlier articles in which I deal with the false dichotomy of either preaching the gospel or getting involved in social and political issues:
Consider the issue of homosexuality. Again, there are many ways Christians can deal with this issue. Of course we can befriend and witness to individual homosexuals. Or some can volunteer to work in AIDS hospitals and the like. But do these sorts of activities mean that one cannot warn about the dangers of the high risk lifestyle or the militant homosexual lobby, and fight on a public policy level against things like same-sex marriage and adoption rights?
I fail to see how the two are incompatible. In fact, I would argue that they are part and parcel of the biblical Christian response to homosexuality. It is not at all the case that we must choose one or the other. It is foolish in the extreme to think that those who seek to maintain Christian values in the public arena are somehow not being loving or Christlike.
The truth is, we are to both reach individuals and also work for godly legislation – at the same time. We are to do both, not just pick one or the other. So why do some believers insist on forcing us to choose between the two when the Bible never calls us to?
There are just so many examples of this. Was Wilberforce and his work against slavery wrong, unbiblical and unChristlike? Some believers would almost seem to think so, with their objection to Christian political and social involvement.
Should Wilberforce only have loved and witnessed to slave traders and not worked against this very real evil in Parliament? Was he wrong to use politics, law, and the mechanisms of Parliament to stand against the sin of slavery? And was his work harming those ministering to slave traders?
Other examples come to mind. Should we only evangelise child pornographers and not seek to stop their activities? Why cannot we both love and evangelise individuals while working on public policy to protect our nation, our families and our children? Why deny the biblical truths that righteousness exalts a nation, and that God created government to maintain justice and punish vice?
Why do some of these Christians so look down on the work that I and others do on the public policy level? What gives them the idea that all this is somehow unbiblical or unChristlike? Why do they force a silly false dilemma upon us?
In sum, yes of course Christians should be involved in politics. As Neil Mammen rightly put it in his book, Jesus Is Involved in Politics:
Remember too, that things like abortion and homosexuality and divorce deal with death and destruction and thus they are moral issues. Since they are moral issues, they are biblical issues. Being moral issues they are also issues of the law, for the law is the legislation of morality. Since politics is concerned with the law, they are thus political issues. Anyone who says we should keep the church out of politics is spouting nonsense. The church has to be involved with moral issues precisely due to the damage they cause to innocents. The church has to care about true social justice to obey the second commandment. The law is all about morality, and politics is all about the law, so how can the church not be involved in politics?