With the Republican and Democratic Conventions coming up in late July, many people are starting to watch the news a little more closely and trying to better understand this political process. Others are wondering what their place is, if any, as Christians in the political sphere. Still others are just staying out of it, feeling that God is in control and Christians have no place in politics.
Conventions were originally closed to the public and were places where the leaders of a political party could gather to debate and discuss their platform as a party and where the presidential nominee of a party would be decided.
The 2016 Republican National Convention will be held in Cleveland, Ohio, July 18-21, where the Republican National Committee will host approximately 2,470 delegates and 2,302 alternate delegates from all 50 states.. The 2016 Democratic Convention will be held in Philadelphia July 25th-28th.
Today, in part due to heavy media coverage, conventions are really just glorified pep rallies. Because of the months of primaries leading up to the conventions, the nominees are, virtually, already chosen before the convention. As things stand, unless the official count in the convention goes very unusually, the nominees will be Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and Donald Trump for the Republicans.
The lay of the land
According to poll conducted by the Pew Research, 56 percent of Evangelicals, 37 percent of Catholics, and 44 percent of Mainline Protestants affiliate themselves with the Republican Party. On the other side of the aisle, we find that 28 percent of Evangelicals, 44 percent of Catholics, and 40 percent of Mainline Protestants consider themselves Democrats. Meanwhile, 16 percent of Evangelicals, 19 percent of Catholics, and 16 percent of Mainline Protestants are unaffiliated with any party.
Among Christians there tend to be three views toward politics.
The first advocates for no involvement in politics, it sees politics as a dirty business where Christians have no place. Our sovereign God is in control and will guide politics to suit his will and we need not involve ourselves.
This view, however, presumes a world in which God’s people need not be the tools God uses to enact his will. When we see a friend in need, we do not shrug it off and say, “Well, if God wants to help my friend, he will. Far be it from me to interlope in God’s affairs.” Yet this is precisely what this view mandates we do as Christians to our whole society: “Forget current events, they’re God’s business.”
In a second view, Christians may take part in voting once every four years, but are otherwise uninvolved and do not become informed until October of a presidential voting year.
This view, too, leaves much to be desired. As uninformed voters, Christians may unknowingly vote to make decisions or place in office people of which God may not approve. Not only that, but Christians’ voices will be weak and barely heard if they choose to exercise their voting abilities just once in four years. There are many opportunities to vote and have an impact on your community. Local politics are, in many ways, far more important than national politics, and we must use the teachings and wisdom God gives us to have an influence.
The third view encourages Christians to get involved in the political arena. God does not command us to withdraw from the world, but to be light and salt to the world. The political world is no exception; Christians can bring a lot to the table in politics and, if they use their influence wisely, can bring more freedom to share and spread the love and Gospel of Jesus Christ to this country and to all the world.
In Romans 13:1-7, Paul urges Christians to respect the authority of those who have political power. In the U.S., we are each endowed with a small amount of political authority. Each of us needs to hold a certain amount of respect for that authority, and use it wisely and properly.
In this country, we have been blessed with the ability to govern ourselves. That means being able to live our lives as we see fit. Here, we can practice our religion openly, evangelize, help the needy and homeschool our children; these are privileges that most other countries cannot offer. Because of these freedoms, Christians in the U.S. have been able to fund countless ministries to aid those in need here and abroad, to spread the Gospel to our neighbors and to the most remote areas of the globe, and to live in security, knowing that our beliefs will not result in imprisonment or death.
That being the case, we need to guard these freedoms fervently. By taking an interest in current affairs and using our power to vote, we can help safeguard these freedoms and more. By taking a back seat in politics, our country will continue to ostracize those who think like us and continue to restrict our freedom to share the Gospel. If that happens, there will be nowhere for persecuted refugees from around the world to run to. If that happens, there will be nowhere for us to run to.
Where to begin
A good place to start for Christians is a book that came out recently called, One Nation Under God by Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo. The book lays out a great argument for Christian political involvement and gives some simple guidelines without ever choosing Republicans or Democrats as the ultimate answer to the world’s ills.
Next is harder: lay aside all your biases and get informed on the topics that are relevant to you. Pick up a book on history, politics or economics and read it through. Don’t trust anyone’s opinion blindly; do your own homework. Look at politics in light of the principles set forth in Scripture. Only then can you stand boldly by your decisions as a voter and not regret them or feel as though you’ve been conned.
Lastly, and hardest of all, once you’ve educated yourself, get involved. For some, that means looking up dates for voting and getting out there to make your principles heard. For others, it may mean running for local office and affecting change via that route. Pray and see where the Lord guides you. If you truly ask him to use you, you may be surprised by what he does through you.
Getting involved in politics is hard work, but it is necessary if we are to continue to have our freedoms. Fight for your right and your children’s right to put beliefs into practice before it is too late.
A native-born Miamian, Tami Gomez is a freelance writer for the Good News while she and her husband attend Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina. They hope to become missionaries to the Far East. She can be reached at [email protected].