Should Christians avoid being “Too Political”? Should Christianity be linked with politics to the extent that it is identified with a party? Is the church’s gospel ending up being confused by its political concerns? Are Christians placing too much emphasis on politics?
Christians should realize that there’s nothing gained by winning elections if we lose our soul. Christians should respect their enemies rather than demonizing them. Christians should respect, pray for, and listen to all leaders. Many of us struggle at times to keep politics in proper perspective.
At the same time, we wonder if it is not unavoidable that we Christians, to some extent, will be identified as “too political.” We have to be political in a country in which major moral questions are debated—and enacted—on a legislative level. Messy as it may be, it is only right that we work on a very public level to protect the life of the unborn, for example. Though we must not identify God’s kingdom with political agendas, we must also speak and act prophetically and boldly in our culture.
In addition, many of our unsaved friends have little hitch in their souls about championing political causes they believe in. The same people who critique Christians for being too political will themselves invest deeply in a political cause they care about (the Obama campaign and election shows this in abundance). If we still must work hard to avoid an overly political faith, we need to remember that there may be a little bluff-calling to do on this point with our critics.
Bottom Line of Message: When our posture becomes to closely associated with a political party, we lose credibility.
• Give an illustration about how dangerous it is to talk about faith and politics together.
• The reason we’re going to talk about faith and politics is because one of the greatest perceptions of Christianity is that Christians are too political. And more often than not, Christians are associated with right-wing politics.
• Maybe you don’t think this is an issue, because you yourself support right-wing politics.
• Another top perception of Christianity is that Christians are sheltered, old-fashioned, unintelligent, and out-of-touch with reality. Often, this is related to politics because Christians fight for values that many outsiders think are old-fashioned or out of touch with reality.
• All of this raises a question: is it a bad thing to be too political or too sheltered in the eyes of outsiders?
• We’re not going to look at just one specific biblical text, but consider a few things we need to learn.
— The Bible doesn’t ignore politics and neither should we (e.g., explain Jesus’ instructions about paying taxes to Caesar or Paul’ teaching about submitting to authorities and praying for political leaders).
— But, neither political party in America today speaks for God; he is not a Republican or Democrat.
— When our values become to closely associated with one political party, platform, or candidate, we become spokespeople for that party/platform/ candidate rather than for God. And we lose our ability to be a prophetic witness for God’s kingdom, which is not of this world.
— When we become more know for what we are against (either a Republican or Democratic agenda), we are perceived as sheltered, ignorant, and close-minded.
• How do we change the perception without ignoring our convictions?
• Be thoughtful. Political issues are very complex and rarely does one party or candidate present the “biblical” viewpoint. We must educate ourselves on the issues and demonstrate that Christians want to approach issues with both values and solutions in mind.
• Be respectful. When we disagree, we must demonstrate respect. Genuine, godly believers will often come to different conclusions on political issues and this should foster humility regarding our own positions. And we must remember that our value system is different than those who are not Christians. Our posture toward those with whom we disagree is often as important as the content of the debate itself.
• Be engaging. Don’t be afraid to engage, but offer solutions rather than just highlighting problems. And then do something. We will be far more successful at bringing transformation to any issue by engaging the issue ourselves—in our local communities and churches—rather than believing that the election of a political candidate or the passing of a particular piece of legislation will solve the problem.
TOO POLITICAL AND SHELTERED
1. How do you respond when you are confronted with the fallen world (sin, brokenness, addiction, divorce, gay lifestyles)? Are you offended and withdraw? Or are you provoked to confront and engage the situation?
2. Why do you think Christians are perceived as being too involved in politics? What is your own level of involvement in politics? How much or little involvement do you think Christians should pursue through politics?
3. Many Christians view the political arena as a means to promote Christian morals within the culture. When does this work and when does it not work? Is this the most viable approach? What other ways can Christian values be infused into a community?
4. Do you think Christians should change the language and style of their approach to politics? Do you think we should avoid citing Scripture in explaining our position on different political issues?
5. How can Christians pursue political goals while not sounding as though they are demonizing opponents? When ideologies clash how do people avoid being abrasive? Or is clashing just a fundamental part of the political process?
6. How can you strike a balance of in the world, but not of the world? How can you live with purity and values while still being proximate to a broken world with often opposing values?
Negative Stereotype: Non-Christians believe we are Too Political.
This essentially means they believe we use politics or the legal system to force our beliefs on them. We make their immoral or undesired behaviors illegal, instead of just allowing them to live their lives their own way. This is NOT merely a belief in post-modernism (your truth is your truth, my truth is my truth, truth is relative). This is NOT merely a separation of church and state mentality either. Although when non-Christians hear the phrase “This is a Christian nation”, their negative reaction is partly that of feeling minimized or disenfranchised and partly a fear that we are trying to create a theocracy (e.g. a government controlled by a particular religion…namely Christianity). In their mind, they believe we are attempting to control them through politics.
• What’s your definition of being too-political?
A Story to Make It Real:
“No one goes out and tries to force Christian men to be gay, but many Christians take no issue with going out and trying to force gay men to be strait.”
“I am slowing growing more anti-Christian as the political religious right is pushing their agenda and therefore imposing their beliefs onto me.”
“School boards across the country (most notably in Texas of late) are working to change the curriculum to promote an exclusively Christian viewpoint. From gutting science courses to rewriting history texts to mandating abstinence-only sex education to introducing Bible study courses.”
“If one was a faithful Christian in their personal life but was able to respect the freedoms of others, what objection could truly be lodged against them? No one cares what you believe, only how your beliefs affect the personal lives of others.”
“I can give two examples… 1) My brother keeps trying to impose his beliefs on my family, even when we have told him not to. 2) A local school board attempted to include the bible into school curriculum as required reading.”
“Examples: how Christians politicize same sex marriage, sodomy, stores closed on Sunday, no mail on Sunday)”
Examples: (Do you have any stories to share? What’s the impact of being too political?)
1. We are viewed as too political when we oppose same sex marriages.
2. We are viewed as too political when we oppose a women’s right to choose abortion.
3. We are viewed as too political when we fight for prayer in school.
4. We are viewed as too political when “right wing” politicians talk about “family values” when they feel we’re really saying “our family values…not your family values”.
• Where should we draw the line in influencing our culture (other people) with our morals through politics?
• How would you feel if we were in the minority and other people were making our beliefs and values illegal? (Such as in China, Saudi Arabia, etc.)
• How can we engage in politics to reinforce and sustain our values and beliefs without taking rights and freedoms away from people with different values and beliefs?
• What should we do when another person’s “rights” come in conflict with universal “self evident” truths, such as right to life (abortion).
• Pick an issue and answer, “how can we address this issue positively within our churches, communities, or state/federal government?” Death penalty, legalization of marijuana/other drugs, prostitution, topless clubs, and sodomy laws.
• If we disengaged from the political arena, would we eventually be at risk of having OUR rights and freedoms restricted? What fears do we have?
What God Say About It (The Bible):
• Matthew 22:17, 21 (NASB)
17 “Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?”
21 … “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”
• Romans 13:1-2, 5-7 (NASB)
1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
• Daniel 1-5. Story of Daniel’s involvement as counselor to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
• Esther married King Ahasuerus of Persia. When the king’s prime minister Haman influenced the king to kill all the Jews in their country, Esther used her marital and political influence to convince the King to save the Jews from genocide and allow them to defend themselves.
Closing Thoughts on Christian involvement in politics:
Jesus Christ lived in a time of Roman control of Jerusalem. He was more interested in how Church leaders were using His people and soiling the holiness of the Jewish temple. He was not standing in opposition to the Roman government as many Jews wanted. What can we learn from the example of Jesus Christ as it relates to our political climate and culture?
• As you engage in political conversations or activities, be mindful of other people’s rights and freedoms. Consider how non-Christians may perceive your political passions and activities.