This month, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), J.D. Greear, told the SBC’s annual gathering of church leaders that no Christian should become a “stooge for one [political] party.” He said, “When we tie our message too closely to a political platform, we put an unnecessary obstacle in the way of the Gospel for half of our mission field.”
Greear did clarify in an interview last month that he believes Christians can support candidates, but Christians “have to be clear on the things that we disagree with as much as we champion the things that we agree with in our particular candidate.”
Unfortunately, some well-respected Christian leaders teach that the church should abandon politics altogether. The liberals in our government sincerely hope that evangelical Christians — who are generally conservative in their views — will do just that. Liberals don’t want Christians to bring their conservative values to the ballot box nor their biblical ideas to the centers of power in our government. Yet Christians desperately need to look at what they stand to lose if they fail to engage as Christians in the political process.
More importantly, Christians need to remember what Jesus taught his followers in the Sermon on the Mount, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bucket. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15). Christians have no excuse when they fail to shed the light of Christ into the political process. If Christians don’t like politics because they think politics is too dirty, then they have identified the very reason they should be involved.
Christians should not let politics rule their faith. Instead Christians should be injecting their faith into politics. Understand that “the separation of church and state” is not found in the Constitution. It is a phrase Thomas Jefferson used in a letter to Rhode Island Baptists. It’s a personal opinion, not a law.
Not all Christians are Republicans. Not all Christians are Democrats. In fact, too many Christians don’t even vote. Yet Christians will be much more comfortable with what Republicans believe than with what Democrats believe.
The Democrats’ 45-page platform has just one paragraph about religion. It reads, “Democrats know that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith in many forms and the countless acts of justice, mercy, and tolerance it inspires. We believe in lifting up and valuing the good work of people of faith and religious organizations and finding ways to support that work where possible.”
But don’t believe that the Democrats are talking about Christian values here. They spend much more space in their platform supporting things that are antithetical to biblical teaching. And Democratic officials across the country actively work against Christians’ freedom to practice their faith. If the Rev. Greear wants to have a ministry to the entire country then Christians need to help preserve a government and a culture that allows it. Christians apparently do not understand just how at risk their freedoms are.
On the other hand, the Republican Party platform offers a number of statements of support for biblical morality and the rights of Christians to practice their beliefs, such as: “We pledge to defend the religious beliefs and rights of conscience of all Americans and to safeguard religious institutions against government control. ... [We will] protect the non-profit tax status of faith-based adoption agencies, the accreditation of religious educational institutions, the grants and contracts of faith-based charities and small businesses, and the licensing of religious professions — all of which are under assault by elements of the Democratic Party” (p. 11).
I know the Christians who are largely responsible for adding the pro-Christian language to the Republican Party platform. They are not stooges for the Party; they are Christians who let their light shine in the darkness of politics.
Too many Christians don’t vote in November because they don’t like their choices. The solution to that problem is for Christians to make their voices heard during the nomination process.
That’s the best way to get on the ballot candidates in whom they can believe. And Christians must stay engaged during the election winner’s term of office. The Bible tells Christians to pray for those elected officials. But Christians also need to hold those officials accountable to vote in ways that allow a Christian to support them.
If Christians fail to stay engaged in their government and in the politics that elect our representatives to that government, then sleaze and corruption will continue to proliferate. Sleaze and corruption grow in the darkness.
Only by shining the light of God’s Truth into politics will we ever clean up the mess we have that threatens our country and the very freedoms that allow Christians to fulfill the mission Jesus gave them — that is to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to people of all political persuasions.