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With a national election coming up, the question has arisen whether Christians should take part in the political process. Some even question whether Christians should vote.
At its base, the issue really comes down to whether Christians have any power to affect things within society. If so, then Christians are responsible to the Lord for how they use that power.
The New Testament teaches that governments must be established for the sake of order in society, to protect society from the worst evildoers, and to take vengeance on behalf of those who suffer from the actions of evildoers (Romans 13:1-7. See also 1 Peter 2:13-17; 1 Timothy 2:1-8). The New Testament also makes clear that those who rule are responsible to God for their actions. To the extent that the people within a society have a share in determining what happens in that society, the people share in responsibility before God for the decisions that are made. Refusing to vote or to speak up at the appropriate time does not take away that responsibility.
Some will respond that the New Testament does not show Christians involved in politics; but that is because those who lived in the early centuries of the Christian Church had little or no ability to affect the course of government. The circumstance of Christians in America is much different today. Christians in America must consider themselves to be responsible to the Lord for their participation in government and their response to political issues. In Ezekiel 33:8, 9, it is written that those who do not warn the wicked will share the punishment of the wicked; but those who speak out will save themselves even if the wicked do not respond. Certainly, not everyone is to hold the office of a prophet, and there are no divinely inspired prophets today in the sense that there were in Old and New Testament times; but the principle behind this Scriptures applies to all: those who see wrong should act to encourage righteousness (Galatians 6:1). Jesus taught that His people should be the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). Paul wrote to the Ephesians that Christians should take no part in works of darkness, but should expose them (Ephesians 5:11). Proverbs 3:27 instructs us, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.”
Christians may belong to political parties and may belong to organizations that promote their point of view. Christians should exercise their right to vote and should speak up about government policies that have an important impact on the country. At times, this may involve supporting the “least offensive” candidate or the “least offensive” policy rather than the one most congenial to Christian views; but this is no less important in directing the country towards more righteousness for all.
In keeping with God’s grant of freedom to human beings, Christians should desire as much freedom as possible for the citizens of their country, but work to legislate that which is for the common good, and to eliminate inequities and grave evils from society. Those who accuse Christians of imposing their values on others through the political process seem most often to be those who are trying to use the political process to impose their own values on the country, and simply want Christians out of the way. Christians have just as much right to participate in the process as anyone else. Nor is “separation of church and state” a reason for Christians not to be involved. The Declaration of Independence does not contain this “separation” phrase. Neither does the Constitution of the United States nor the Bill of rights contain this phrase; but they do guarantee freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and the right of citizens to vote.
Of course, politics is not the primary venue in which Christians work to change the world. Christians believe that the main way to make the world a better placed is to offer the Gospel to all people. The priorities for Christians are still worship, witness, missions, and ministry to those hurting and less fortunate. Political involvement should complement these activities, not be a substitute for them. Nor should Christians view politics as a way to force other people to become Christians. Just as Christians desire freedom of speech and a political voice for themselves, they desire this for others — even those with whom they disagree. But the issue today is not that, but whether those who disagree with Christians will allow Christians to have a voice.
The presence of Christians in politics today is especially important because of the strong forces that are attempting to curtail freedom of speech for those who hold traditional religious beliefs. This is part of a world-wide trend to restrict and persecute Christians. There is also a world-wide trend in anti-Semitism that should concern all Christians.
In the United States, the attempt to use politics to force Christians and Jews to reject traditional beliefs comes principally from liberals, many of whom call themselves “progressives.” In the past, this effort has been largely restricted to “mainline” religious denominations, secular colleges and universities, and the “mainstream” media. However, through the work of judges, corporate sponsors, and the wealthy, the effort is now taking place to force those who hold traditional religious beliefs — especially traditional Christians and Jews — into silence and submission to politically correct views. This is already happening in Canada, where commissions restrict Christian speech in the name of “fairness.” Most of the efforts to eliminate traditional religious values from society are couched in terms of “fairness” and “civil rights” — but that is not the real goal.
Before Jews were persecuted in Nazi Germany, there were decades of slander and vilification of the Jews. I am not at all suggesting that things are at that level today in the United States. However, there has been a consistent effort by some for a number of years not only to ridicule and marginalize people holding traditional religious values, but to grossly misrepresent them, making them the scapegoat for society’s ills. This has been done to eliminate traditional Christians and Jews from the public square and to clear the way for those who want to institute a radical agenda. The ultimate goal seems not to be violence against people who hold traditional values, but to punish them with exclusion from the professions — especially education — and to make the cost of public activity very costly financially. In some cases, this involves sending people who speak out for traditional values to jail. Those who ignore this situation and who sit idly by while politicians take power who plan to restrict religious freedom and freedom of speech cannot claim innocence if these people succeed.
The goal here is not freedom of speech and religion for Christians and Jews alone, but for everyone. The goal is not just for people who hold traditional values and those who value freedom to get out and vote, but for people to become informed and vote. There are too many uninformed voters, and too many encouraging uninformed voters to vote. The goal is responsible citizenship.
The goal is also to have a vigorous two-party system in which those who hold traditional religious values can feel comfortable in both parties. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case today. However, in an election, the decision comes down to individual candidates rather than parties.
Political parties are happy to share information about their candidates. There are a number of Christian organizations at work in the country today that will gladly provide information so that Christians can make an informed decision: The Family Research Council, The American Family Association, Focus on the Family, and The Alliance for Marriage are some of the best. But there are a number of others as well. And the Media Research Center does excellent work exposing bias in the media.
If Christians stay out of the process, there is nothing to counter those who would use the government to advance selfish or radical purposes. Many years ago, Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” This hasn’t changed. Look and find those worthy of your support at every level of government; then give what you can, voice your views, and vote. - SMD
Please note: The American Night Watch is not a political organization. It does not solicit or accept contributions towards its ministry. The author of this article is a registered independent.
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This page was last updated September 7, 2008.