Should Christians seek political power, or should we only focus on charity and evangelism?
This question is misleading. It brings to mind a negative image of government and politics, and it also implies that the freedom to evangelize is secure and could never be taken away. If the first part of the question is actually, "should Christians corrupt themselves with the seedy side of politics?" or "should Christians revert to the unethical, unscriptural practices of modern day 'politicians'?" the answer is, of course, no.
If, however, the question is about political involvement and participation in general, there is a different answer: Christians should seek political participation and representation as they go about their duties of evangelizing the world. Without this participation and representation, there is no assurance that the freedom to evangelize will remain secure. Can we maintain the fundamental freedoms and liberties we enjoy while standing apart from the political process? The political and social trends of the last generation should offer clear warnings that freedom and liberty require diligent care and attention—especially by the Christian community.
There are numerous perspectives on why Christians should be involved in the political process: duty, responsibility, natural leadership, love of our brothers and sisters, a basic compassion for mankind, etc. One perspective that too often goes unnoticed is the concept of submission to government. Submission to our governing structures requires participation.
As Paul wrote to the Romans: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1 NIV). The first seven verses of this chapter provided a fundamental blueprint for the relationship between the Christians in Rome and the existing governing authority—the power of Rome. The Roman Christians exercised no political power in the secular order of things; participation was extremely limited.
Americans enjoy certain rights and liberties that would seem foreign to early Christians. Therefore, trusting that God offers Biblical provision for our modern situation, we apply the principles He has given. As we read in Romans, one of those principles is submission to governing authority.
In the American governing system, submission demands participation. Why, you may ask? Whether they like it or not, American citizens are participants in the American governing structure. No one is exempt from this participation. Citizens are assessed taxes; they are counted in the Census; they are in government computer systems at all levels; they send their children to government-run schools; they are, in one way or another, participants in the government.
Working from the premise that we are all participants, political involvement is not a matter of seeking “power.” It is a matter of being fairly represented as we participate in government. As we participate, we have the opportunity of voting for our elected officials and of ensuring adequate choices as we vote. If we truly believe our government was divinely ordained and instituted, this luxury and opportunity should be enjoyed and exercised.
What does it mean to “participate”? At a minimum, it means voting. Voting implies a familiarity with those individuals on the ballot. And this familiarity is only appreciated by understanding the issues of our day. Thus, participation should drive one to an awareness of political issues. This would include social issues, economic issues, international issues, etc. Christians should rank among the most politically informed and astute people in America.
Indeed, during the Founding Era, that was the case. The pulpits were one of the primary sources for information. Education was guided by a Christian perspective. Churches were at the center of the political community, not on the periphery. Christians, of all types, exercised political and social leadership. We would do well to look back upon these earlier days, reflecting upon the role Christians assumed in creating our American form of government. Is it not ironic that we question the political involvement of Christians in a system predominately established by Christians?
Recommended for further reading
- The truth about “Separation of Church and State”—When did the government pass this law and where can it be found? Answer
- What is the legal and moral role of the Bible and Christianity in the U.S.A.? Should God be separated from American government? Answer
- How important is it to be “Politically Correct?” Answer
- What is legally permissible for students in America's public schools? Answer
- Is the religion of Secular Humanism being taught in public school classrooms? Answer
- Where should Christians draw the line in trying to make the U.S. a Christian nation? Answer
- David W. Barton, Original Intent: The Courts, The Constitution, and Religion (Wallbuilder Press, 1996).
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