Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Christians in Politics

It is a question that has come up again and again in many fellowships of Christians. How far do we dare tread into the murky waters of politics and government? Aren't we members of a Heavenly Kingdom? Aren't we, as the Apostle Paul urged, as soldiers in God's army to avoid "civilian affairs?" Isn't Christ returning one day to establish or, more accurately, claim his earthly throne? Consequently, wouldn't that make the governments of man obsolete and mute? The simple answers to these questions is, yes. However, the full orb ed answer is a little more complex. I will not attempt in the confines of a simple blog to delve into the the complexities or minutia of this issue. Volumes have been written on this very question and subject. Instead, I'll attempt to hit on a few pertinent and practical points for those who feel they must no longer sit on the sidelines and remain inactive or silent. Or, you may be a Christian who is unsure about even being involved in the political process at all.

Let's begin with a good working definition of the word politics. In our modern, American vernacular, we tend to think of it as the business of dealing with the issues of governance, policy, rule making, etc. and those who become appointed or elected to govern us, along with their particular social and governmental philosophies. In recent years, Conservative talk show hosts have codified categories of politicians and their supporters into to distinct camps of "Liberal" and "Conservative." More recently, other talking heads, commentators and authors have defined these groups in the terms of "Progressives" and "Traditionalists" or even "Constitutionalists." Then we have the two party breakdown of Democrat generally means Liberal or Progressive and Republican usually means Conservative or Traditionalist, though there are sometimes exceptions to these rules too. Then, there are those pesky Independents who choose to have no real affiliationwith the two major parties. Some are rather Conservative or "Right" leaning. Others are Libertarians who probably have more in common philosophically with Conservatives and Constitutionalists, yet, who are as close to anarchists as they can safely get. Still, other Independents may lean "Left" or Liberal but, are disenfranchised with their particular party. Many of these diverse independents make up the TEA Party movement. TEA is an an acronym for Taxed Enough Already. In general terms, Democrats/Liberals/Progressives tend to want bigger government, tend to look to government to solve many problems and believe that certain socio-economic ills should be solved primarily by the efforts of government. Republicans/Libertarians/Conservatives/Traditionalists/Constitutionalists, on the other hand, generally want less government at all levels and believe that private enterprise, capitalism and faith based organizations should be primarily involved in the solutions to socio-economic ills. These are the primary groups and their agendas now clamoring for control and influence in our Nation. Some would argue that the divide between most of these two main camps is turning into a gulf with the potential to divide us along the lines of secular humanism vs. Judeo-Christian ethos. Alas, it is very difficult and perhaps impossible to separate a belief system from politics because one tends to influence the other!

Given that these are the main players on the political game board in America, Christians must realize the immense influence and power these groups of folks have on our everyday lives to the point of affecting, potentially, how and where we are allowed to express our faith, conduct our ministries and even our enterprises. Yet, here in America, we enjoy a certain personal power that many in the rest of the world don't and, that, is the power to vote. The majority of the people who govern us can only do so with our permission. This is the genius of our Constitutional Republic. That permission slip is the ballot. When we vote for an individual running for public office, we are basically granting that person permission above the other choices of persons, to govern over us. If more people give one person that permission over the others asking for it, then that person with the most "permission slips" wins the election. Politicians in this democratic republic of ours are really asking for that permission when they ask for our vote. They do not demand it.
Since our system of a Constitutional Republic requires the citizens to vote for those who will be "Caesar," then when we vote, are we not rendering to Caesar what is Caesar's in a sense? Jesus said that we are to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's i. e. pay your taxes. But, Caesar also wanted worship which Christians, by the very nature of our faith, could not do. So, clearly there is a line as to how far we go in our service to Caesar and we should resist Caesar when he asks for that which is not his to take nor ours to give. By the same token, we as Christians should be involved in performing our duties as good citizens, which scripture exhorts us to be, and vote. That, by default, makes us a part of the political process whether we like it our not. As we render our vote for one Caesar over another we at least send a message to all the other Caesars sitting in office that we are a portion of the community that they must, to some extent, deal with. It at least gives us a chance to have a place at the table for our voices and concerns to be heard.

It has been said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to sit back and do nothing. If we as Christians sit back and do nothing with regards to the political process in this country, then we have lost our standing to justly complain about the ills and hazards of our society and its governmental policies that may undermine morality, justice and virtue. As Americans, we have all been given stewardship of our Democratic Republic. We are charged by Scripture to be good stewards of things which we are given. We are also admonished in the Bible that to whom much is given, much is required. Therefore, since we have been blessed with such tremendous liberties, which by the way, our founders proclaimed came from God and not men, shouldn't we all the more be diligent in our efforts to maintain and preserve these liberties? Don't we have a moral obligation not only to ourselves but, to to our children and grand-children to pass on to them this precious, heirloom of freedom? If your answer to this is yes, then my friend, you must involve yourself, at least to some extent, in the gritty game of American politics. Understand this, the preservation of liberty is a constant and sometimes hazardous job. It is not for the faint-of-heart.
While I recognize that our nation will NOT be saved by political entities, and that God is not spelled GOP, I would contend that in our Republic, Christians must stand at the ready to engage in their civic duties, be informed and involved until Christ returns. You can consider this training for the day "we reign with Him."
Richie L.

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