Christians and Politics

Rob Woodrum

“We’ve got to be more politically involved as the church!  We’ve got to take this nation back for Christ!  We’ve got to get God back into our schools!  We’ve got to support our president and his war on terror, and stop the media from spreading lies and liberalism!  It’s our duty as Christians!” 

 Is it really? 

Why wasn’t Jesus political at all?  He was dropped right into the most tumultuous political and governmental turmoil that region of the world had known for a long time. Even apart from the Roman occupation of Palestine, the theocratic nation of Israel was intensely divided between Conservative Judaism and Hellenistic Judaism. The debates and conflicts were raging all around him, begging for his opinion and denouncement or support. 

Why didn’t Jesus get involved in politics?  Why didn’t he weigh in on whether the right or the left was closer to the truth?  Why didn’t he “take a stand” on at least one issue of political purpose?  As followers of Jesus, why is it our duty to take a political stand now?  Why do we need to be politically involved?  Why do we need to endorse Republican agendas and denounce Liberal Democrats and their values?  Or, on the other side of the coin, why do we need to write our congressman to stop a war in Africa, or push for social reform that will end poverty?  When did writing a congressman become something that superceded praying for peace? 

What changed?  Jesus didn’t involve himself in the politics and governmental struggles of his day.  The early church declined to do so as well.  In all of Paul’s writings, there is no mention of a Christian’s duty to get involved in the system and make positive civil changes.  Why are these things taken for granted as the Christian duty today? I can’t imagine that we shouldn’t vote…but is that our highest good?

I really want to know.

10 comments

  1. I understand your view and it is true that politics should never supercede our calling on the Lord, However there is a famous saying that I truely believe “The Only thing necessary for the Triumph of Evil is for good men to do nothing”. There does come a time that we should stand up and at least vote for the things that we do not condone. Would it be correct for us to do nothing?

  2. Rob,

    I highly disagree that Jesus was not a political activists calling for social change. On the other hand, I whole heartedly agree that he would endorse either side of our current political debate. There are many instances in the gospels that Jesus is clearly giving a back hand to the Reining authority of his day. For instance, the feeding of the five thousand. Food was a way that the government was able to regulate control over the general population. Christ, while attesting to the power of God, was also showing the people who the true ruler was, God not Ceaser. Another example would be…If a man asks you to walk a mile go an extra…I don’t think that Jesus was saying this so that we would be “nice people.” Again it was another way of showing who our real King is…God, that he is the entire ruler of our lives not the ruling governement.

    Paul’s letters are filled with scandalous, subversive political language if put into context of his day. Why do you suppose he was persecuted so much? It wasn’t because he was advocating a religion so to speek. There were plenty of religions available to choose from during his day. It’s because he was claiming that we have a ruler and king and judge above that of ceaser. A name above all names.

    Colossians 1:15-18

    Christ is supreme NOT ceaser. To think that this is not a political passage would be a travesty!

  3. Ray- I get your point, and I’ve always liked that saying too, but there’s another problem I’m puzzling through. Sometimes, God is actually working through what looks like the “triumph of evil”. Take the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus for example. Evil really seemed to have the upper hand there…and Peter followed the axiom you stated in his actions…he DID something, he cut off some guy’s ear who was on the side of evil….and Jesus rebuked him for it.
    I’m not trying to say that we should never do anything…I’m just saying that political involvement should take a very secondary place to prayer, and discerning God’s will in a situation before any side or action is taken.

    Adam- your point about the feeding of the 5,000 is interesting, but that’s a connection we would have to impose on the text, since it isn’t stated directly…it’s an argument from silence at best…BUT, if it were an act of political activism, we still know from the text that the motive was Jesus’ love and compassion for people…not a political cause, and that’s more my point.

    I believe political activism should never be our motivating force. Civil change WILL occur, but not by the use of the world’s tactics of “lording over” people through legislation, rather, by the “servant/love” model of a different kingdom.

    I totally agree with you that there were great political ramifications from both Jesus’ teachings and Paul’s. But the motive never seems to be to activate people to civil protest or to advance a particular political agenda. Actually…the few instances where governments and laws are directly mentioned are like the instances you state, where Jesus not only encouraged His followers to obey the rules, but go beyond in service…demonstrating a different dynamic than the exercise of power used by governments of this world.
    Paul told us to pray for Nero, and that Rome carried the sword by God’s design, and to pay our taxes….
    all of this suggesting that our trust would be placed in a different sphere of kingdom rule….one radically different from this world’s way of doing things.

    I’m just saying I don’t derive a call to political reform from the teachings of Jesus or the early church.

    (by the by…Paul was persecuted by the Jewish leaders for spreading the gospel of Jesus…the only reason Rome ever got involved was in response to the civil unrest caused by the Jewish leaders…we have no indication of Paul inciting riots over Roman policy (one possible exception would be Ephesus (Acts 19), but even there, the text mentions Jewish activists spurring things on)…on the contrary, Paul uses his Roman citizenship to get himself OUT of a jam with the Jewish leaders, which is hardly consistent with someone living as a political activist.)

  4. Rob,

    I fear that we have misheard one another. First, you should repost your comment as the original post…to me that would have made more sense. Second, in no way was I advocating political uprising. It’s clear that Christ was not an advocate for that either.

    I guess my main concern is the pietisitic, inward, individualistc religion that I somewhat here coming through your rhetoric. Careful prayer is imported to be sure, but at some point we must act on that with which we have prayed. We could spend our entire lives “praying things away” when we could have simply gotten up and acted “out of compassion” as you state by feeding those that are hungry.

    Yes, you are correct Paul did use his credentials to his advantage, just as we should use ours (i.e., our citizenship to write letters to affect change in the world for the furthuring of the Kingdom). I don’t think that it is an either/or situation but rather a both/and.

    Legislation is not the answer to be true. However, in some instances and can be used for the greater good. That being said, I would still lean toward heart change.

    I still think that it is misleading to say that Christ was not involved in politics. If by politics you mean voting in a democracy, then I guess I will concede the point, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems clear to me that he was, as was Paul, advocating for a Body Polis. In other words the political life of the community. This may be more clear in the Old Tesatament. (It would take a lot to more time to explain and I have to read for class…sorry)

    Also, you and I may have fundamental differences when approaching the text. Perhaps we could discuss that at a different time as well.

    Blessings

  5. “Legislation is not the answer to be true. However, in some instances and can be used for the greater good. That being said, I would still lean toward heart change”

    This is all I’ve been trying to say in my “rhetoric”.

    Peace Brother

  6. oh Dude, no sweat. I’ll be the first to admit to rhetorical babbling. I’m an opinionated a*&#@!! most of the time, and most of the time I’m not worth listening to.

    No offense taken.

    Peace.

  7. I’m just thoroughly entertained by Rob and Adam, and (to my husband’s suprise) speechless on this blog. I must thank God for this unexpected blessing.

    last minute thought: Don’t you find it interesting that politics can insight as intense a debate as religion? Is there an unseen parallel? Maybe politics, like faith, is a personal passion. (okay, so I’m not THAT speechless.)

    Peace to you both.

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