Should Christians get involved in politics?

by Chris Surber

RenderingPolitical elections in Haiti are always difficult. My family and I are living and doing ministry in Haiti this year. From demonstrations to riots, corruption and coercion, what we witnessed this year, first hand, makes me wonder if political involvement ought to be even an option for a Christian. On the other hand, I wonder if there is any hope for politics to become a benevolent force in Haiti without Christians becoming very actively engaged.
Should Christians get involved in politics?
By involvement, I’m begging a discussion on a spectrum of possible levels of involvement. Should Christians even vote? When they do they are taking part in what is very often a farce, an illusion of Democracy. Further, who says that anything about Democracy is inherently godly or even beneficial in any way to the Gospel message? Democracy has its roots in Greek philosophy more than the Bible, doesn’t it?
What about running for office? Christians often get involved in politics in an effort to shine a light into a dark arena of society only to find politics putting a lampshade over their light. I’m convinced that any Christian that gets involved in politics on any level is in serious danger of losing themselves to the allure of power and prowess that is inherent to the political process.
In my book Rendering Unto Caesar, I wrote, “Every Christian who makes it their burden to cling to political leaders, and to press political ideologies as though they have the power to bring more hope into the world, will only find themselves filled with more anxiety and less peace. The hope of Christ can only be found in distinctly Christian gatherings of transformed sinners. That hope can never be pressed into or pushed upon the kingdoms of the world, no matter how hard or sincerely we press.” (Page 35)
Living a year in Haiti has made me both much more appreciative of the freedoms and democracy we enjoy in America and less inclined to trust in it. I love being an American, but even the best kingdom of this world can never be fully just. I’m convinced that while we should influence as we are able, vote for the candidates that most closely reflect godly principles for society, followers of Jesus must follow Jesus on a parallel path to politics, not in step with politics.
Apart from a distinct call from God through the leading of the Holy Spirit into a political arena, I’m convinced that followers of Christ will walk closer to God the further from the political process that they walk. I’ve never walked through mud without getting muddy, and no matter how much pure water your pour on mud it will still be dirty. Better to purify the world one repentant sinner at a time than to pour pure living water into the mire of modern politics.
If you walk to the political road as a Christian you better walk it very carefully, or rather than shinning a light, you’ll have your light covered.


 

9 Responses

  • I have some acquaintance with the problems of combining Christianity with politics, having spent something over 25 years of my life in active politics, including around 20 of them as an elected representative, albeit at local government rather than national level.
    I was wondering whether to respond to your earlier post, but delayed too long.
    I sympathise with your suggestion that it is difficult for a Christian in politics not to let the politics overwhelm the Christianity; this is entirely correct. It is, however, possible, and indeed relatively easy if you can let go of the urge to get re-elected.
    I tend to consider that Jesus’ recorded attitude massively supports Christian non-involvement with political structures, but those of his day were variously imperial kingly or theocratic. If you live in a democracy, however, you have the ability to take part in the management of the community in which you live, by voting, by standing for election and by organising political groups.
    It is entirely correct to suggest that all humanly created organisations are fallen and imperfect (and our respective democracies are certainly that), but the fallen is, I suggest, capable of redemption. If Christians do not take such action as they can to facilitate that redemption (which is a redemption of their community) by involving themselves in the political process, I suggest that they are being selfish, and they are not taking actions which they are able to to feed the poor, house the homeless, heal the sick and support the disadvantaged of society, all of which it is mandated that we do. These are things which are all more effectively done as a community than individually.
    I reject the suggestion that this should merely be done through churches; these too are fallen and imperfect institutions, and have politics of their own. They also commonly lack the resources or ability to answer the problems as well even as the community as a whole can do.
    I think my base message is this; unless you are voting, engaging in political activism and if necessary standing for office yourself (absent any better candidate), you have no basis on which to criticise the democracy in which you live; the solution is in your hands, and you are ignoring it.
    Incidentally, the reason I spent that time in politics is that I compained to my old Religious Instruction teacher that there was no-one to vote for; he replied that there were always candidates of the two main parties, and I said I didn’t like either of them. “So stand yourself” he said. So I did.
    What I suggest is not that you should follow a Christian path in step with politics, but that following your Christian path in politics as well as in the remainder of your life will do something to redeem the political process.

    • All good thoughts. My major aim here is to provide thought. Christian are to easily drawn into fusion of faith and politics by modern culture. Most Christians assume a n Americanflag, for example, belongs in a Christian Church without even ever asking why it’s there. How did it get there? Is it a good or an idolatrous thing? What is my relationship to the state as a follower of Jesus?
      We need to ask more robust questions.

  • Chris, you make a convincing case for not being involved much in politics, but an example comes to mind that promotes Christians being involved. William Wilberforce was urged by John Newton to make a difference for the Lord in the British Parliament. He labored for 20 years even to the detriment of his health and finally saw the British slave trade abolished!! Hallelujah, he didn’t give up in the midst of corruption and persecution! I know the slaves who were affected really believed in Christians getting involved in politics! Jesus said we are IN the world, not OF it. Praise God we have some godly candidates for President this time!

    • Godly candidates? Mitt Romny is a Mormon and I got pressure from the Conservative in my church to encourage people to vote for him… because he was godly. So… I’m supposed to use preaching time, time consecrated for the Gospel, to encourage Christians to vote for a Mormon? That’s a strange notion.
      Wilberforce is an interesting example for you to site. He actually makes my case. He became a lion for prevailing Gospel truths without being attained by the politics. He is a rare example. The very rare anectodote that prices the great difficulty of what he did. Hs is so rare an example add to prove my case.

  • Also, it would have been advisable to vote for Romney, even though he was a Mormon. Christians not voting allowed us to get the most ungodly President in our history, and he has almost singlehandedly dismantled our country! — Nancy

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.