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Sunday, November 05, 2006
Christians and Politics
(A friend recently brought up this topic, saying that she wasn't sure if Christians should be involved in politics at all. I'm reposting a few of her questions - as well as some of my own - because, to be honest, I don't know what my opinion is on it and I was hoping y'all would think through it with me :) )

I've known some Christians who act as if they believe that they can bring the Kingdom to their community if only they vote for the right politicians, pass the right laws (I could be misreading them.)

I'm not conflicted about our duty as Christians to take care one another. It's the public sphere that I have mixed feelings about.

Here are my questions:

To what extent (if any) should Christians be involved in the political process? Is the Kingdom of God even compatible with politics as we know it?

Labels: , ,

posted by Lydia at 7:53 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 11/05/2006 08:54:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    I think every Christian who thinks and prays probably struggles with this issue. I see politics the way I see caring for my body or cleaning my house or working on a relationship with another human being -- it's never going to be perfect, and it's just going to get messy again, but then everything in this world will pass away. Yet we still have a purpose and responsibility to do the best we can while we are here to work for kindness, justice and goodness in the world. We may fail, but our commitment to trying, to being willing to get our hands dirty, rather than avoid the whole thing out of a desire for "purity," -- I think through politics is one place, given our culture where can advocate for fairness and kindness toward oppressed and struggling people.

  • At 11/05/2006 03:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    everything is messy and i am limited. i am not certain there is any particular communal activity that we are required to participate in, but we do have individual responsibility to participate in the lives of our families and our friends. i personally have nothing to give in the realm of politics. so i choose to influence my world through other means. certainly there must be government and those who establish, run and change it. i am not one of those people. i dont care to be. being a woman faith does not require me to be political any more than being a woman of faith should make me a policeman. however, if you are a political woman, you amaze me, and i would expect your faith to inform your political choices and actions as surely as my faith informs the stories i craft as a writer.

  • At 11/05/2006 07:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Lydia, Jemila, and Stacy - Thank you for your thoughts on this issue. I would like to weigh in on the issue.

    I think that Christians should be involved in the political process through voting. God's kingdom / reign coming on earth will involve all areas and I think that leaving our vote out is leaving us with one less option to work for God's kingdom. Stacy - I do think that influencing others takes place in many arenas of our lives.

    I agree with Jemila - that the political sphere is certainly not perfect, but that we do what we can to change the areas that we have at our disposal.

    PS - I am a male, but enjoy reading and interacting with this blog. Is this helpful or against the purpose of the blog? Thanks!

  • At 11/06/2006 09:43:00 AM, Anonymous Phil

    If you ladies don’t mind I would like to chime in for a moment. The problem with Christians in politics is same problem with Christians in the church, their vocation becomes their identity. What I mean by this is that many of us and I include myself in this statement, define ourselves by one aspect of our lives and for most of us it becomes our jobs. Since politicians “serve” in a public realm their lack of holistic identity is more evident than say an office manager, a sales person, an editor, even and unemployed or should I say hopeful writer such as myself. Christians in my opinion can and should be involved in just about all aspects of life, we just have to realize that job is not our life. And for the politicians that are reading this as a side note you need to realize that Jesus is not a republican or a democrat. I don’t know if any of this makes sense, but nonetheless it is my two cents.

  • At 11/06/2006 10:18:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    Chime away, Phil.

    The problem with Christians in politics is same problem with Christians in the church, their vocation becomes their identity

    Yes, this is part of my uneasiness with politics as a Christian.

    I'm also made uneasy by politicans (from any party for any purpose) who use Jesus to get votes. Even if the cause is a good one, I don't know if I can agree that the ends justify the means when it comes to this.

  • At 11/06/2006 10:26:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Yes, I think first of all there's a difference between voting and running; neither involves being able to act on all one's values at once, but I think it's harder to run with integrity than vote with integrity (after weighing issues to the best of one's ability.) I mean I might make a mistake voting, but I probably won't exit the polls any more or less corrup than when I went in; if I ran for office, the potential to exploit religion or propagandize certain issues to appeal for votes would be great, and would take alot more spiritual depth and developed character -- and an ultimate willingness to lose an election -- for someone to truly run as a Christian candidate.

    So far I am reasonably impressed with Barack Obama. I am prob a bit more conservative on abortion than he is, but he seems pretty authentic and sincere -- and willing to be open about both his convictions and his doubts. Anyone checkd out his book?

  • At 11/06/2006 10:30:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    I think that Christians should be involved in the political process through voting.

    This I think I can agree with...at least so far. I'm still chewing.

    What about other aspects of the political process: running for office, volunteering money or time to/for a campaign, using God to win votes (even if for a good cause), Christians telling one another which candidate they think is the most "Godly."

    Care to weigh in on any of those? All of them are getting more and more muddy for me.

    As an aside - I'd like to thank everyone for walking through this with me rather than getting into a debate (so far? :O :D)).

    I'm not the sort of person who makes conclusions about very many things - I tend mull over things for quite a while.

    It's refreshing to have a place to hash stuff out without being expected to come to a "final" answer.

  • At 11/06/2006 12:39:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    I believe we should be involved in the process. I believe we should make our voice heard in whatever way we are called to be a part of the process, whether that be as a voter or in service (as someone in office). Other than those basics, my views have changed somewhat - and are still forming - as to HOW to vote and WHO we want in office.

    I don't believe we can legislate morality. It (change, 'right' morals..) can't come from the top down, but must come from the ground up.....so I am not certain I 'need' to have a 'godly' person in office. In theory, they are there to enact the will of 'the people' and to help establish order and ensure the liberties and 'protection' of all. Not special interests.

    I dunno...still thinking. lol

    Also, I believe holding office would be a very tough row to hoe for a believer. Hard to stand one's ground...be independent. I just believe it would be very very hard not to compromise or to stand up to the constant pulling from all different directions. But perhaps all of us are faced with compromise every day. Life's not easy.

  • At 11/06/2006 06:56:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    My feeling is that in the political arena you have to use your conscience and common sense as your guide, informed by your Christian faith. I think the role of Christians in politics is to seek the common welfare of society and the people who live in it, not to legislate personal morality or religion. I believe those are matters of the heart, not the government. However, things like equality, education, living wage and other protections for for the welfare of all people can be helped by creating a more just, effective and kind society through the political process.

  • At 11/06/2006 07:12:00 PM, Blogger postmodernegro

    I think Christians should be concerned about the political process but understand that the kingdom of God also has broader cultural implications beyond the machinations of the State.

    I am thinking of abolitionist, suffrage, child labor laws, Civil Rights, etc.. There are moments when Christians must enter the public square and make our presence known.

  • At 11/06/2006 07:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    i have very little faith in the particulars of our country's political process and every faith in its general three branch system. as a 40-something i have seen both parties succeed and fail on pretty much every issue. therefore i still say - IF you are drawn to the arena of politics, by all means, do it well, with great integrity. but i see nothing to make me believe that better politics will make a better world.

  • At 11/06/2006 08:14:00 PM, Blogger Nancy

    I nearly walked out of church yesterday when one of the pastors actually told the entire congregation, as part of the beginning of the worship service, to vote "Yes" on the amendment to ban marriages other than between a man and a woman. While I stayed put, I simmered with anger and choked up with tears.

    I think we have a responsibility to vote. Vote our conscience and with informed opinions. I don't like politics but I do appreciate the option of having a voice regarding candidates and issues. However, I don't think the church as an organization should be telling members of the Body HOW to vote. Even my 14 year old son understood how wrong this was. I'm still nonplussed. In the 12 years I have been a part of this faith community, I've never heard anything like that.

  • At 11/06/2006 08:23:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Nancy, I think that's illegal for a pastor to tell you how to vote form the pulpit. I just don't get why conservative churches care about legislating a ban on gay marriage. Seems like an utter waste of energy and a very controlling, unchrist-like approach, regardless of an individuals conscience about homosexuality & Christianity. Let churches decided if they want to bless gay unions, and let the secular sphere let whoever wants to get married in a legal sense go ahead and do it!

  • At 11/06/2006 09:03:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    I vote. I think politics is corrupt, but I agree with what others here have said - that sometimes it takes political involvement to bring about good things (things that are kingdom values - civil rights, abolition...) My faith is not in politics, but it still is a good tool.

  • At 11/06/2006 10:09:00 PM, Blogger Nancy

    Jemila: Yeah, I was thinking about whether anyone seated in the auditorium might be gay and how they would feel about such a comment. Of course, this faith community "welcomes" gays. The double talk is wearing me out.

  • At 11/07/2006 04:53:00 AM, Anonymous Greg Mansell

    The question as to whether or not Christians should be involved in politics is best answered by looking to the life of Christ. At no time did He ever show the remotest interest in political ambition. In fact He said "My Kingdom is not of this world" and He told His disciples to be "in the world but not of it." There is no question! But there is the observation that those who call themselves Christian and run for office cannot be following the voice of the Lord.

  • At 11/07/2006 09:13:00 AM, Blogger Doxallo

    I am wondering on thoughts re: the larger political arena....on an international level.

    Same principles apply or do your thoughts change any where that is concerned?

  • At 11/07/2006 09:44:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Yes Nancy, I agree; churches should either welcome gays in exactly the same way they would welcome anyone else, with no special clauses, or just be upfront about their anti-gay position based on their understading of scripture. Same thing with biblically sexist churches -- if you don't think men and women can equally share the helm, then just say so upfront rather than beating around the bush. That those of us who want to be part of a truly welcoming community can find one quicker!

    About politics, I think there is no formula. Everyone wants to say "Christians should do this or not do that," but what I see in Jesus is alot of situational ethics. It's about being faithful and listening to the spirit and being humble when we get off track, which we inevitably do.

  • At 11/07/2006 09:47:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    Same principles apply or do your thoughts change any where that is concerned?

    Honestly, I have no idea.

    Could you give some examples of what you're thinking of? I'm the sort of person who sometimes needs visuals to kick-start her mind. :)

  • At 11/07/2006 12:46:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    Hi Lydia (thanks for getting past my typos..lol)

    Here is one example - I went through the process to be approved for the missionary field about 6 years ago through MTW. My heart is SE Asia, with a keen interest in Burma. burma is a pretty closed country so I was approved for 5 years in Thailand. But anyway, MTW takes a really firm stance as far as being involved politically (its a no-no) and yet to be involved with Burma at all is to get entangled in politics - its all human rights issues. Thats sort of political by nature. Sort of.

    I dunno. I just found I had a hard time not speaking out or sharing my opinion. I do believe change has to come from within but I believe we can be a part of that change. Lend a hand, come along side of.

    What about boycotts? Putting pressure on other countries through our government, etc.


  • At 11/08/2006 08:32:00 AM, Blogger Past the Wishing

    Nancy ... if your service was recorded and the IRS gets a hold of that statement, the church could be in serious jeopardy for losing it's tax exempt status! To the best of my knowledge, that's where the legalities enter in. But then I sense it's just a matter of time and all churches will lose their tax exempt status ... especially regarding property tax exemptions. I can't see that the "non-church attending majority" will tolerate this much longer. It's already being challenged ...

    In a situation like yours (and I put myself in your shoes and would have been very angry also), I ponder why it is so difficult for me ... us=THE CHURCH ...to stand right up at that very point and say something from our grieving heart, like; 'this is not right ... what you just said I don't feel is appropriate for our worship to the Lord and I'm grieving that it is not of grace for our whole community.'
    How kool-aid cult like has the church institution become when we have to sit there and get sick over things said? Hmmmmm.

    (building on what Stacy
    As a 50-something, I have seen both parties succeed and fail on every issue! :-)

    Yes, Jemila ... wouldn't it be great if Christian communities could be 'up front' about these issues ... ah, you mean, like being transparent, honest, authentic?? WOW, what a novel concept! :-) (couldn't resist.)

    Phil .. nice to hear your voice. Welcome.

  • At 11/08/2006 09:25:00 AM, Blogger Nancy

    Past the Wishing: Boy, you said a mouthful. Apparently my friend's husband, at the service prior to to the one I attended, shouted out pretty much what you said about the tax exempt thing. He also confronted the pastor after the service. (seems that really changed the guy's position, huh?)
    But even more so, I stand convicted and agree with you that I played part in that whole ugly process by not speaking up right there and then. I even hesitate to confront it after the fact. In part, because I am unassertive, a wimp. Okay, avoiding conflict is my main MO. I hate this about myself and can't wait for the crone to emerge in me...to feel confident about my own opinions and be free to share them regardless of their reception. (where is she?)

    I'm so grateful to have this safe place to come to. That faith community certainly is not safe for me anymore. And I grieve it. Thanks for your kind thoughts!

  • At 11/08/2006 11:48:00 AM, Blogger Doxallo

    Just in case anyone is interested:
    (and because I am often confused):

    Federal tax law allows a church to spend at least 5 percent of its total resources on legislative lobbying and advocacy efforts;

    churches can distribute voter guides, register voters and hold candidate forums;

    pastors can preach about legislation and policy from the pulpit, and urge their congregations to support or oppose particular proposals.
    What churches cannot do is endorse specific candidates or parties.

  • At 11/08/2006 12:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Hey Nancy, so sorry you had to experience that - I for one stand with you. Honestly, 20-40 years from now I'm sure as a culture (including Jesus-followers) we will all look back and sadly shake our heads at how some stubborn judgmental people in leadership and otherwise treated like-gender romantic relationships. Just like slavery and civil rights, this is the next pawn to fall in the chess game against fear- and ignorance-driven hatred that purports to be "godly." It is anything but that.

    I find myself quivering with rage and incredulity at terms like "Defense of Marriage." If you want to defend marriage, defend it against cultural and societal norms that promote easy fixes, isolate couples and individuals, and provide little to no institutional support for young families trying to make it. Defend it from a culture of frivolous divorce, where pre-marital counseling is considered quaint and prudish and marital counseling is a source of shame and embarrassment (depsite the fact that scores of divorcing parents attending mandatory counseling sessions regarding parenting their children subsequent to the divorce and then express regret that they had not been exposed to counseling earlier, when it could have helped them), and the infamous 30-second attention span whittles away at what real commitment is. Any and all of these, but please don't try to "defend" marriage by denying it to people who love and are devoted to each other, regardless of their gender or any other reason [well, except incest - duh!].

  • At 11/08/2006 10:29:00 PM, Blogger Nancy

    Thanks for the words of solidarity, Med. Guy. And I get your points exactly. Thanks for your contributions on the blog.

  • At 11/09/2006 09:20:00 PM, Blogger Nancy

    So, just to update you all....I found the stones to email the pastors of my church and tell them what I thought about the whole "Vote Yes to the Amendment" thing. Interestingly, our state also voted on the death penalty. Curious that we were not told how to vote on that one, isn't it? Maybe they thought we could figure that one out for ourselves...and then, maybe that just was not an issue they thought the church had an important stance on.

    Anyway...I appreciate all that I am learning by reading all these posts. My mind is so full and I am actually more excited than sad at this point. God's calling me (well, actually a group of us) out of there and into something new and I look forward to what lies ahead. (whatever that may be)Thank you all!

  • At 11/09/2006 09:23:00 PM, Blogger Past the Wishing

    Doxallo .. thanks for the clarification. I stand corrected on what makes for illegal according to your insiteful posts. So I guess the issue here comes back to Kingdom of God-ethical issue (which is certainly of uptmost importance anyway!)

    Nancy ... how interesting that someone did approach him on this prior to what you heard. Hmmm ...

    M.Guy ... if I'm ever looking for a debate partner on countering the simplistic, narrow "Defense of Marriage" voice, I definitely want ya on my team! I thought you brought a glimpse to the fullness of color, depth and breadth to the picture of our culture's broken system of marriage.

  • At 11/09/2006 10:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Nancy - good for you! It's tough to take a stand, even when you know you have to do it, and I can only imagine how it must be a grieving process to have to separate from a community. I'll be praying for the healing and direction for both your core group of sojourners and those who remain.

    Past the wishing (and Nancy) - thanks for the positive feedback. I'm kind of new at this blogging thing and I tend to have a lot of strong opinions, so I find myself wondering how something that comes straight from the heart & brain will go over [and sometimes I wonder if I "should have" posted this or that], so I appreciate your feedback. Also, I think this blog represents a wonderful, vibrant community with a lot going on, and I am blessed by it.

  • At 11/10/2006 07:47:00 AM, Blogger Nancy

    PTW: Yes, and from what I hear a number of people have expressed their outrage directly to leadership since Sunday. Sadly, it seems there is little self-reflection or willingness to admit that even "maybe" they were wrong in what they did.

    Behind it all and what has bothered me for some time on an even larger scale is this arrogance in the assertion that they somehow can discern "the Truth", that they have this handle on what the Bible means on this topic or what this Biblical author was saying in this verse and if you have a different opinion than their own, then you, of course are "wrong".

    I believe they are absolutely blind to it. It has been confronted on a number of occasions but there is not the slightest willingness to even consider that their process comes from ego or is simply off the mark. They do not understand that their "truth" is essentially their OPINION about Truth. And anyone with a different opinion than theirs must be immature, lacking discernment, and misguided due to a lack of proper theological training. And because they are "right" and have God on their side and because they "know the Truth", they will keep doing what they are doing.

    I feel bad because I truly believe they love God and wish to live out God's will. But I worry about the harmful effects of such tunnel vision in the long run...on themselves and on those they lead. Fortunately, God is larger than all of this. That's where we can put our trust and hope that maybe it all works out for good in the long run.


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