Sunday, October 25, 2009

How Much Should Church Leadership Be Involved In Governmental or Political Matters?

Along with most of my friends, I believe that America has reached an all time low in the way of moral decline and spiritual discernment. While we are going about doing ministry in and through the church, it seems that the coverage and the most tangible impact in those areas that distress us the most and stem the flood from a stinking cesspool are those who organize in patriotic meetings and political protests. What should Christians do to help halt the advancement of this world's agenda against God? Many believe that the best solutions rest in political activism, boycotts, and public meetings.

As I look on at this as an American citizen, I understand their rationale. I sympathize with their feelings. Evil is disfiguring our society. All Christians should oppose the policies that drive the destructive trends. I'm on the side of those in opposition to the government that voice out their objections to corrupt government positions. I have strong opinions about how our government should operate, I think I'm right, and I believe I can prove it through scripture and history. From teaching American Government, I know the constitution better than most.

The question I ask is not what position should I take or who do I support. The question is: "Is this how a church and church leadership should be investing its energies?" I've taught history for 20 years. I am able to influence students in a scriptural view of the world about 200 days a year in our school. I want them to know how to vote and what it is that a citizen of this country should do to influence his government. I think every American citizen should know these things. But should a church leadership be using its time to sway American voters and organize conservatives to support conservative issues? I'm asking just so that we would think about it.

I believe that for us it is a matter of first diagnosing the problem. I believe that the biggest problem we have is not with the world. It is with professing Christians. That's why I write very little about government on this blog. I believe that the unscriptural beliefs and practices of churches are what hurts this country the most. I do believe that 2 Chronicles 7:14 does apply here, that is, that it is God's people that need to humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways. God didn't ask how many unrighteous there were in Sodom and Gomorrha, but how many righteous were there.

The religious right in Jesus' day were the Pharisees. They were also His biggest enemies. Don't get me wrong. I believe Jesus would be a conservative today. However, I don't think He or the Apostle Paul would be having anything to do with political rallies and organizing opposition to government policy. And yes, I've read Anita Dunn's Mao's-my-favorite-philosopher-speech. I know who President Obama has in his administration. No, I don't like it. But we don't have to guess what Jesus would do. We know what He did and that's what we're supposed to do. He and Paul had much greater difficulties with their government than we.

There are some temporal, superficial benefits to using the democratic process to oppose immoral practices. I often point to John Leland's heroic organization of Virginia's Baptist pastors for the inclusion of freedom of religion in the bill of rights. I would have had a lot in common with those Baptists. This, however, cannot become the church's main strategy for influencing a nation. And I do believe times have changed. There were enough good churches to affect the Constitution of the United States without having to compromise what those men believed about the Bible. I don't want anything to do with most people in the moral majority.

I'm afraid that the political issue has become a bit of a fake issue with many. It replaces the real issue. It's not hard to talk about what bothers you about the national debt or uncontrolled spending or government control of the healthcare industry or homosexual marriage. What about the issue of our own lack of devotion to God? What about our relative disinterest in spiritual things? What about our seeming indifference about the eternal destiny of our fellow man? You might seem like you care about morality when you're fired up about coddling terrorists, but you really are straining at a gnat in this instance. That's when we might say that we've gone from preachin' to meddlin'.

Our best weapon is still evangelism. Our best work is still preaching. The Bible is a spiritual weapon, powerful to the pulling down of strongholds in people's minds. Moral and legislative efforts that leave people in unbelief cause almost no eternal good. I'm afraid in the process that we could cause others to look to the wisdom of men for a solution at the loss of the glory of God.

I'm certainly open to correction on this.


Mike Aubrey said...

Kent, no matter how many issues I disagree with you on, it's posts like this that remind me why I read your blog.

You are an incredibly thoughtful and godly man whom I respect very much.

JSA said...

Agreed. If more people were truly gripped by the gospel, most of these political issues would be moot.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with Christians in a democracy participating in the process just like any other citizen. But let's not pretend that political activism is a good strategy for advancing God's Kingdom. IMO, that is the same as amassing illicit wealth in order to "purchase souls for Jesus", or worshiping statues of Ganesh and asking Ganesh to give us favor in our quest to convert people to Christianity. Something seems very wrong about sinking our faith into a man-made system, thinking that it will earn us favors in heaven.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Mike, that's nice of you to say. You're welcome to comment any time, even when you don't agree.

Joshua, I've enjoyed your input. You are a very good writer too. I hope to meet you some day.

Claymore said...

Since Christians are to be the salt of the earth, the first thing they should do to be involved in anything political is to have a life that says the salt has not lost its savour. Thereafter they need to pray for their leaders according to Peter's words so that we may live a quiet and peaceable life. If Christians had been living up to the name, socialism would not have been started. When people leave off to be holy, they become slaves to sin (Romans 6) - even so, if Christians cease to be Godly in the natural, they begin to lose political freedoms. What ended the imperial persecutions was that godliness prevailed over paganism's ungodliness.

Micah said...

It's ironically encouraging to see what is going on in our country because we are one day closer to the great monarchy that will be run by the King of Kings!!

Joshua said...

Joshua, I've enjoyed your input. You are a very good writer too. I hope to meet you some day.

I can't be sure but I think this was directed at me. While I agree with what the Joshua above said, he and I are different men. There seems to be quite a few Joshuas floating around these days.

Either way, I think we will meet one day. I took my first trip to the States earlier this year to go a conference in Lancaster with my pastor, and I looked up the distance to el sobrante. It didn't seem too far away (Australia is spread out also, so a hundred km or so doesn't bother me). If I ever get another opportunity like that I'd love to visit.

I've learnt a lot reading here and at Jackhammer, particularly about the church, separation and the preserved Word of God, so I would look forward to an opportunity to thank you in person.

d4v34x said...

Brother Brandenburg, excellent post. In talking to "Christian activists" one thing concerns me more than the rest and that is their desire for revival often seems to spring from a desire not to lose "the good life" we have here in the US, rather than a desire to advance the Gospel of Christ. I know we can never be sure of another person's motives, but, again, that is how they often come across.

JSA said...

I've changed my display name to disambiguate. I always log in through my blogger profile, so my comments can also always be disambiguated by clicking on the name and viewing my profile.

Likewise, I really enjoy this blog: great posts *and* interesting discussion in the comments.