We’re now only a week away from the presidential election here in the U.S., and the frenzy is earnest. This is my first presidential election as a Christian (and Seminarian!) so I’ve been contemplating it almost daily. The big question: how involved should Christians be?
In this journey of wrestling on how to be a responsible citizen as a Christian and future pastor, I’ve noticed an alarming blend of politics and theology. I firmly believe that our theology should inform our politics. This can take any number of forms, particularly with our insane two-party system. Christians can be Democrats, Republicans, independents, or whatever. Almost any political stance overlaps with Christian theology.
However, I find myself absolutely furious to see an over-identification of politics with the Christian church. I don’t care if it is a car plastered with “vote life, vote Republican” bumper stickers or this whole “Jesus was a Democrat” movement. As a Christian, vote with your conscience! You have a responsibility to be a good steward, and as long as your vote is informed, I wish you Godspeed! This does not mean Christians should not campaign for a party or candidate. Having a Biblical worldview will be expressed in many different ways, and you are allowed to have an opinion as well as campaign for it. However, I get nervous when we leverage faith (or God Himself) to push that agenda. This is where a Theology of Politics becomes a Political Theology.
Secondly, there is a higher standard for pastors and other leaders in the church. A couple weeks ago, 28 (or 33 depending on the article) pastors banded together and endorsed a candidate from the pulpit. I strongly object to this. While there are legal reasons why this is a bad idea, there is an even bigger theological and missional problem with it. Cal Thomas said it beautifully in a recent article when he noted that political endorsements from the pulpit could threaten a far more important message.
Politics, like religion, is a heated subject. Christianity is offensive enough (God becoming man, being crucified and resurrected, etc.) without injecting political partisanship. Pastors need to ask themselves which “conversion” is more important: that their audience becomes Republican or Democrat, or that they give their life to Christ? By endorsing a party or a candidate, you instantly put a stumbling block between about 50 percent of the population and the cross. A professor of mine taught, “Your congregation should never know who you are voting for.” Pastors (and future pastors) should never confuse theology with politics, they should be more concerned with “things above” than “things below.”
Lastly and most importantly, Christians desperately need to be reminded of our true hope, and I can tell you that it is definitely not the government. We cannot vote for hope. We cannot legislate hope. But we can preach it and we can live it. Ultimately, the hope of the world is not a political system (including democracy), candidate, or institution. It is Jesus Christ through His church.
Both liberals and conservatives have forgotten that it is not primarily the government that should care for widows and orphans, but the church (James 1:27, and over 40 other verses). If you are pro-life, then consider adopting a child and providing them a loving home, a family, and an education. If you are passionate about women’s rights, then help bring attention to child prostitution and slavery around the world. The church is not a social club and it is not a Political Action Group (PAC). It is the very means by which God creates the change that we so strongly desire from government.
But social justice issues are but one piece of the puzzle. Christ is not merely the hope for a better life than the one we’ve been given, He is the only hope for any life at all. Without Him, unpaid mortgages are the least of our worries. With Him, the current economic crisis is but a blip on the radar of eternal love and relationship with our Creator. That God entered into the darkest of human suffering to conquer evil and all it’s effects, is a far greater hope. It the only thing that can empower us to love God and our neighbor to the degree to which we are called.
So as you cast your vote and campaign for your candidate, do so with love and respect. Do so with the understanding that Jesus is the true Maverick, the real Change, and the only Messiah. Do not be confused on where your true hope lies.
Brad Edwards is a husband, seminary student, lover of all things urban, and founding writer of Confessions of a Seminarian. His favorite topics of writing are the intersections of culture and theology, and biblical masculinity.
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