Recent events have raised the issue: Should the pulpit always avoid politics? It depends on what we mean by “politics;” it demeans the pulpit to use it for partisan politics. But here are ten reasons why I don’t think politics and religion should (or even can) be completely separate:
1) The Word of God has something to say about all of life, beyond just the spiritual.
My long-time pastor, Dr. D. James Kennedy, once noted that the Church of Jesus Christ has always been opposed to abortion — from the very beginning. It still is.
In the last generation, abortion has become a “political” issue. “Does that mean,” asked Dr. Kennedy, “we should now ignore it in the pulpit?” No, because the Bible is pro-life.
2) The Bible itself addresses the issue of governing in different texts.
There are biblical books dealing with political rulers:1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings and Judges. In Genesis and in Daniel, we see godly men serving well in pagan courts for the good of all. In Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, we hear that God has established the civil magistrate, and we are to obey the government. In Exodus, we see Moses rebuking Pharaoh for mistreating the Hebrews.
3) The Scriptures also teach that, on occasion, there may be a need for civil disobedience.
When the apostles were commanded to no longer preach the gospel, Peter said that we must obey God rather than man. If there is an either/or, then civil disobedience can be the right path. Many early Christians died for Christ rather than worship the emperor, clearly a false god.
4) Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
Nature abhors a vacuum. Someone will be involved in politics. Why should we abandon our role as citizens? According to Jesus, we have a positive duty to render certain obligations to the state.
5) When the Church does not speak out, evil can fill that void.
Silence in the face of evil can signal assent. We hold up those Christians who went against Hitler and the Nazis as heroes — not the millions who acquiesced to them.
The December 23, 1940 TIME Magazine article called, “Religion: German Martyrs,” opens: “Not you, Herr Hitler, but God is my Führer. These defiant words of Pastor Martin Niemoller were echoed by millions of Germans. And Hitler raged: ‘It is Niemoller or I.’”
6) The Church is called to be salt and light. Salt preserves and prevents decay.
Christians in society should help prevent corruption. As goes the pulpit, so goes the nation.
7) We pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
That doesn’t mean we should try and force the kingdom of God by use of the sword. After “Christians” did that in times past, we are still apologizing for it, as in the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Salem Witchcraft trials. But it does mean that Christians can apply biblical principles to government that result in good for all of us. And to be sure, someone’s morality is always being legislated. It is not a question of “if” but of “what” and of “whose.”
8) Christians bless everybody when we properly apply our faith to politics.
Our Constitution was an outgrowth of the biblical concept of covenant. University of Houston Professor Dr. Donald S. Lutz, author of “The Origins of American Constitutionalism,” said that Americans “invented modern Constitutionalism and bequeathed it to the world.” And where did we get it? Says Lutz: “The American constitutional tradition derives in much of its form and content from the Judeo-Christian tradition as interpreted by the radical Protestant sects to which belonged so many of the original European settlers in British North America.”
9) Politics may be the calling of some in the congregation. Therefore, ministers should encourage political involvement that is motivated by the desire to serve.
When the Member of Parliament William Wilberforce was converted in the 1780s, he sought counsel from Rev. John Newton, an ex-slave-trader. Should he leave politics and pursue the ministry? Newton advised him to stay because maybe God could use him where he was.
Wilberforce’s crusade to free the slaves in the British Empire took him 50 years and was a direct outgrowth of his faith in Christ. I shudder to think if one of today’s “no politics” ministers had counseled the young reborn Wilberforce. We might still have legal slavery in the Western world.
10) Religion and morality are “indispensable supports to our political prosperity.”
These words came from George Washington in his Farewell Address. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” This was in a day when about 99% of the Americans were professing Christians. And on it goes.
I remember when I once interviewed former Secretary of Education William Bennett, who said, “Does anybody really have a worry that the United States is becoming overly pious? That our young people have dedicated too much of their lives to prayer, that teenagers in this country are preoccupied with thoughts of eternity?” In short, our problem today is not too much Christian influence on society, but not enough.
Jerry Newcombe is cohost and senior TV producer of Kennedy Classics. He has written or co-written 25 books. Follow him at tiam.org and @newcombejerry.