There is a growing divergence of opinion about how churches should handle politics. I find myself in agreement with both sides to a certain extent.
On the One Hand…
The church should never be distracted from its main work; making the gospel of Christ known in this world. Some churches have become, essentially, local branches of the Republican or Democrat parties. They talk politics from the pulpit and organize politically in the pews. They assume that their political positions are theological imperatives. To vary from political orthodoxy is seen as an indication of theological heterodoxy.
The fact is, whether the good guys win tomorrow, or whether evil prevails (I’m kidding, but I doubt anyone who reads me often has much doubt about my politics), the work of the gospel will still await us on Wednesday. The Republican Party is not interested in winning people to Christ – they are looking for our votes. If we allow ourselves to be co-opted by a political party, we will pay the price. The Democrats have no desire to advance the gospel and if you put your hope in them, you will be sorely disappointed.
Mark Driscoll has written a powerful article in the last election cycle that summarizes this view well. He claims that people are looking to political parties to accomplish what only our Savior can do. Driscoll powerfully confronts those who rely on political parties for the transformational work that only the Spirit of Christ can do.
On the Other Hand…
I think it matters what happens tomorrow. My vote won’t matter much tomorrow – I don’t live where any of the key races are taking place. (Actually, the key vote for me is the decision to retain – or not retain – three of the five judges who imposed homosexual marriage on Iowa against the will of the people). But the popular idea that there is little difference between the political parties is nonsense.
- If you care about the issue of abortion, tomorrow’s vote matters.
- If you believe in protecting traditional marriage, tomorrow’s vote matters.
- If you think the healthcare bill was a travesty, tomorrow’s vote matters.
- If you care about whether taxes go up or down, tomorrow’s vote matters.
There is a lot at stake tomorrow. I’m not going to lie to you. I care about what happens at the polls tomorrow. I’ll be up late – probably annoying people with blogs. I think it matters to the future of the nation I love whether the party in power holds onto power, or whether control of the House and/or Senate changes hands.
What To Think?
So, there seems to be a conflict here. Politics is not the chief purpose of the church, but it is nonetheless important. Is there a way we can strike a balance? Can we be politically active without compromising the work of the Gospel that has been giving Here are some perspectives I have about the whole thing.
1) I will vote tomorrow and I care how it comes out, but I didn’t even mention the election on Sunday. (Well, that’s not true – I mentioned that the good news was that all the political calls would stop on Wednesday). I preached from 1 Corinthians 9 about the necessity laid on us to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I think that politics matters to Christians, but I believe it is wrong-headed, even dangerous, for churches to become political organizations – whether for the left or the right. When you mix partisan politics into the gospel stew, you spoil the soup.
Vote on Tuesday, but keep the partisan politics out of the pulpit.
“Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
2) The Kingdom of God is not dependent on the preservation of the American democracy. I love America. I hope that America turns and experiences a Third Great Awakening. We need it. But the work of the church goes on whether “we” win or lose at the polls.
America needs God but God does not need America. The work of God is not dependent on the political workings of this nation. Throughout church history, nations have risen and fallen, but the gospel goes on and the work of the church goes on.
We need to remind ourselves that while we love our nation, America holds no special place in God’s heart. He loves Russians and Peruvians and Chinese and Zimbabweans every bit as much as he loves us. Let us never forget that we have no special standing in the heart of God, just because of our earthly citizenship.
Paul reminded us that the citizenship that really matters is our citizenship in heaven.
3) America is in a unique place, both globally and historically. The Early Church did not expect the government to advance righteousness. They just hoped the Empire would leave them alone so that they could advance the Kingdom of God. We in America have been spoiled. We expect our government to enforce our values. Its nice, but its not necessary.
Let’s remember that there is a distinct difference between the Kingdom of God and the USA.
4) Most churches have both Democrats and Republicans worshiping together – and that is as it should be. No church should make political allegiance a point of fellowship. That’s just wrong.
I don’t think there should be Republican churches, or Democrat churches (and my city has both).
So, go out and vote tomorrow. But preach the Word! May we never let partisan politics usurp the true work of God in this world.
And if you need help knowing who to vote for, I’d be glad to tell you!