How Can Christians Guard Against Imbalance between Faith and Politics? – Dr. Kevin Smith

 

This last election cycle, and really every election cycle, kind of demonstrates that there are Christians who are probably not concerned enough about the political process. There are Christians that are kind of appropriately concerned and there are Christians that are overly invested, in the political process. I think one of the greatest guards is to remember that we are those who have a dual citizenship, and our citizenship is in heaven and Christ, and we are in the (Book of) Peter language “pilgrims, and sojourners, and travelers through this barren land, that is not our home. We are to render unto Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, and render to God the things that belong to God.” I think we want to avoid not taking these things seriously on the one hand, but not avoid being over-invested on the other hand.

Honestly, Christians in the United States, we don’t live in communism or socialism on the dictatorship, so we do have opportunity to vote. I believe there’s some stewardship with that voting. I do believe we’re voting and participating kind of in a broken system, so I encourage scripture Christians to realize they’re not going to open the scripture and see a candidate space. And they’re not going to open the scripture and see the platform of the Democratic, nor the Republican party.

You’re going to have to do some thinking and some engagement, and there’s some contextualization to how you engage in a broken, fallen political system. I don’t mean broken, just in a sense of the United States is categorized by congressional gridlock and all that. I mean broken as in a sense of, our politics is composed of broken people; because all of humanity is fallen. I mean it in that broad sense. There’s no perfect political system.

I would encourage Christians to approach it with the appropriate level of consideration. I’m not over-invested. I’m not under-invested. I realize that the mission of the church, and the mission of me as a Christ honoring husband and father, those kind of things don’t change every four years or two years, on election cycle. The great commission is the same. And so, in one sense, the congregation of followers of Christ, they’re doing the same things regardless of what’s going around us with Caesar and other governmental influences.

Finally, I would just say, I just don’t think there’s anything in the political process that is worth losing the fellowship of the Body of Christ. In this last election cycle, 2016, I think hurt the unity of the Body of Christ of many Bible believing Christians in the United States, and I think we’ll have consequences for our missiological effectiveness for a good while going forward. That has happened. We can’t undo that, and so let’s just press toward the mark of the high calling of God. We have to avoid being over-invested.

Faith’s Influence on Politics: Why it Will Not be Going Away – Rob Schwarzwalder

“Social issues to return to the forefront on GOP trail”

 

That’s the title of an article in a recent edition of the Washington Post. It discusses the North Carolina legislation prohibiting men from using women’s bathrooms, Donald Trump’s dismissiveness of the issue, and Ted Cruz’s support of the Tarheel State’s commonsense efforts to sustain privacy and security in public accommodations.

 

What is striking about the article is its title.  “Return to the forefront?”  First, from the earliest days of the current presidential campaign to the present, social issues – protecting the unborn and their mothers, religious liberty, the radical agenda of LGBT activists, etc. – have been in the top tier of issues the candidates have been discussing.

The debate over the North Carolina measure, as well that over issues like dismemberment abortion and protecting the free exercise of religious conviction, are not sudden intrusions, as if unwelcome and unruly guests had burst into a sedate dinner party.  These concerns are at the heart of the kind of country we want to be.  Will we honor life at all its stages, uphold religious liberty as our most essential freedom, esteem marriage as the union of one man and one woman, for life, and strengthen families to better enable every child to be raised in a home with a mom and a dad?  Or will we exalt radical sexual autonomy, continuously redefine human sexuality, treat the unborn as mere collections of blood and tissue and dehumanize their mothers through abortion-on-demand, and encourage the fracturing of families through laws that foster divorce, cohabitation, promiscuity, and pornography?

 

Second, secular journalists seem perpetually amazed that issues like abortion and religious liberty are actual concerns of real people.  It is natural that like-minded people talk mostly to others with the same perspectives and don’t engage as much with those whose outlook is fundamentally different than their own.

 

Yet over the past several decades, has it not become apparent that a massive, even preponderant number of Republican voters are socially conservative and that, as the country undergoes profound social turmoil, the convictions of these voters will inform what their party’s candidates discuss in their campaigns?

 

As Terry Mattingly has convincingly documented for many years, most reporters “don’t get religion.”  Mike Cromartie, long-time director of the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Faith Angle Forum, has spoken of once being called by a journalist at a premier publication who “asked for the name of the author and publisher when Cromartie mentioned the book of Ephesians.”

 

Christians should not belittle journalists for their ignorance, but nor should journalists fail to recognize the significance of the traditional religious faith of tens of millions of their fellow citizens and its implications for American public life.  As the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life documented in a study released last year, more than 70 percent of the American people identify as Christians and many Jews and Muslims carefully observe the tenets of their faiths.

 

Of course, not all of these self-identified believers share the same convictions about the doctrines and practices and political implications of their faiths.  But faith does have implications, real and compelling ones, for one’s beliefs about and conduct regarding the kind of government we should have and the kind of culture we should be.  To dismiss them or pretend they are inconsequential shows a certain contempt for one’s fellow citizens and a measure of intellectual dishonesty when reporting about law, politics, social life, and so forth.

 

Writing of that great 19th century French observer of our then-new republic, Alexis de Tocqueville, historian Alan Kahan argues that “Tocqueville rejected the militant secularism that saw religion as the enemy, and there is no reason to believe he would have changed his mind today. He rejected equally the claim of some religious people that freedom was the enemy of religion. For Tocqueville, the only way for either freedom or religion to prosper in the long run was by recognizing that they were mutually necessary, and mutually beneficial.”

 

When journalists, on television or in print or online or on the radio, miss this central insight – that religion and liberty are entwined not only in the fabric of our country but the hearts and hands of scores of millions of Americans – invariably they will be surprised by social issues that just keep “returning” to the fore of public concern.

 

And that should be no surprise to anyone.