Should Christians Mix Faith and Politics?

Guest post by: Chad E. Graham

Should Christians mix faith and politics? This question has always bothered me—even to the extent that I am currently working on a thesis titled Doing Good in the Republic: The Ethics of Christian Political Engagement. Like me, you might have some concerns with the question as stated. I ask: What does it mean to “mix” faith and politics? Why would mixing them be an ethical concern? Does the question, as stated, presuppose that politics is bad? The question itself is problematic.

When people ask me if Christians should mix faith and politics, I answer, “Christians in a democratic republic (the U.S.) must engage in politics.” I will defend that answer here, but I should explain what I mean by “engage in politics.” In the United States of America, citizens have the right and responsibility to elect their own state and federal representatives. These officials make, adjudicate, and enforce laws that reflect the will of the people, within the parameters set forth in the Constitution. In a rudimentary sense, U.S. citizens are a “self-governing” people.

Politics encompasses the activities associated with governance and civil rule. Whenever citizens vote to elect officials, they are “engaging in politics.” Voting is the most fundamental and tangible form of political engagement in the United States. By voting for a candidate at any level, you are playing a role in the self-governance of civil society. It is my understanding that Christians are to do good (Ps. 37:3) and restrain evil (Isa. 1:17). The Christian notion of “good” is akin to the Hebrew word shalom meaning “peace” and the Greek term eudaimonia meaning “human flourishing.” Given the duty to be and do good, here are three of many reasons why I think Christians must engage in politics:

  1. If all citizens did not vote, society would collapse into chaos. If all citizens abrogated their duty to vote, we would have no representation, no military, and no governance. The citizens who enjoy the freedom America provides are duty-bound to maintain that freedom through voting and engaging civil society. Should Christians be exempt from this duty? Are we advocates of chaos? Are we advocates of freedom with no form? No—we are advocates and doers of good (1 Tim. 6:18; Gal. 6:9; Heb. 10:24). How can we promote human flourishing by undermining the infrastructure of our society?
  1. For elected government to be good government, good citizens must vote. Who will elect good representatives, who have authority to make good laws? Who will elect good judges, judges that have a proper notion of justice, if good citizens abstain from voting? Christians believe that God is good (2 Pet. 1:3; 1 Tim. 4:4; Jas. 1:17), and Christians, therefore, are to be and do good as People of God (Matt. 5:16; Jas. 4:17; Rom. 12:2). I assume that this means: use your influence for good, use your money for good, use your word for good, and also use your vote for doing good.
  1. Laws have power to help or hurt the poor. Laws protect the equality of citizens. Laws protect children from becoming a cheap labor force. Laws can be utilized to protect the economy from collapsing. Laws guarantee education rights and rights to emergency medical care. Bills are passed that fund weather alert programs in poor neighborhoods and fund inner-city food pantries that feed the homeless. Elected officials lobby for laws that do good, when good citizens elect them to office. If good citizens do not caucus for good representatives, the needs of the poor are left to cultural currents—or worse. Christians are mandated to care for the poor (Prov. 22:9; 31:20; Dan. 4:27; Matt. 19:21; Gal. 2:10; Jas. 2:5). Should we pretend that our vote does not affect the poor?

The Church should be like the prophets of the Old Testament, who cried out to their leaders for justice and conduct honoring to God. The Church must respond to injustice in unison with Habakkuk, moaning, “So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted” (Hab. 1:4). Christians must identify injustice and fight against it, being equipped with the very Word of God. The prophet Micah affirms our duty to God, pleading: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8). If civic duty does not compel our vote, God’s requirement for justice should suffice as motive.

It is also a mistake to think that justice and good deeds should remain within the walls of the Church. Think about the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25–37). We are called to reach out into the world and help our neighbor. One way to do that is to give a meal to a homeless person. Is it not also important that we support representatives who will fund programs to help that same person out of homelessness? Is it important that we elect officials who know when an emancipation proclamation is necessary or when to declare our independence from tyrannical powers or when to lobby amendments ending slavery? We need governors to be good and to do good.

Christians in the U.S. must engage in politics as a means of doing good and correcting oppression. There are no neutral options in a self-governing society. There is a duty observed or neglected. So use your vote and your voice to do good in the republic.

The High Court & Culture

Guest Post by Chad E. Graham

When the high court rules, the people listen. Yet, the people do more than simply listen when the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decides a case that shakes the very foundations of American public life. Landmark cases become decisive in matters of public debate over important issues like self-incrimination and due process (Miranda v. Arizona, 1966), free speech (Tinker v. Des Moines, 1969), and abortion (Roe v. Wade, 1973). These rulings have immediate impact on the moral framework of the public square. With each ruling, public opinion and dialogue transition as court findings become objects used to help justify or condemn certain actions within our society. The law, and the interpretation of law, serves the public as a teacher of right and wrong. The need of the hour is for the Church to help the American public see that there is a law above the law, which all laws are held accountable to.

The findings of Roe v. Wade had a significant impact on American sensibilities toward abortion. Gallup reports, “In the initial years after the Roe v. Wade decision, roughly equal percentages of Americans said abortion should be legal under any circumstances vs. illegal in all circumstances, about 20% each.” But that quickly changed as “attitudes gradually shifted toward the solid pro-abortion rights position, so that by 1990, those who favored legalization in all cases outnumbered those who would oppose all abortions by a more than 2-to-1 margin. This trend peaked in June 1992, with 34% saying abortion should be legal in all cases and 13% saying it should be completely banned.”

Judicial interpretation of the law greatly impact on the morality of our nation. Planned Parenthood has had the legal and social space necessary to participate in selling the organs of aborted fetuses as a direct result of the Roe v. Wade ruling. Aside from having the legal right to perform abortions, Planned Parenthood is acting in logical lockstep with the ruling of the court by denying the humanity of the unborn and selling their organs for research. Upon discovering the videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s complicity in selling fetal organs, some lawmakers were more concerned with how the video was obtained than the content of the video itself. A Chinese proverb applies here: “If you want to know what the water is like, don’t ask the fish.” Rather than protect our most vulnerable citizens—the unborn—some flock to protect their assailants who are literally out to dismember them, all in order to preserve a sense of liberal legal homeostasis.

The exposure of Planned Parenthood has come at a time when yet another landmark case has jolted America. On June 26, the case of Obergefell v. Hodges resulted in a federal mandate for state officials to recognize marriages between two people of the same sex. According to a poll taken by the Associated Press-GfK not three weeks after the ruling, only 39% of those polled approved of the court’s decision while 41% disapproved. The polls also seem to indicate that support for same-sex marriage has been declining, even before the case was decided. Washington Post correspondent Emily Swanson writes:

“The poll found no surge in support for same-sex marriage since the court’s ruling June 26. If anything, support was down slightly since April, when 48 percent said they were in favor in another AP-GfK survey. An earlier poll, conducted in January and February, found 44 percent in support of same-sex marriage.”

It is hard to foresee what impact Obergefell v. Hodges will have on our culture in the next five to ten years. This past Monday, the Boy Scouts of America ended its ban on openly gay adult leaders in an effort to satisfy dissent and lawsuits waged against them. Throughout the months to come, there will be an increased burden upon organizations to change similar policies perceived as discriminatory. The ruling also impacts culture by means of judicial activism—a way for judges to evoke social change through legal interpretation suited to social causes. Justice Scalia noted this directly in his dissent:

“The strikingly unrepresentative character of the body voting on today’s social upheaval would be irrelevant if they were functioning as judges, answering the legal question whether the American people had ever ratified a constitutional provision that was understood to proscribe the traditional definition of marriage. But of course the Justices in today’s majority are not voting on that basis; they say they are not. And to allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.”

Whatever legal and cultural consequences arise from past, present, and future SCOTUS rulings, it is important for the Church to remember her allegiance to God and the mission of spreading the gospel. The great social critic, Os Guinness, writes:

“The [church is] befuddled over the difference between success and faithfulness, hesitant to buck the going trends, fearful to stick her neck out and find herself in the minority, and reluctant to risk the loneliness of pursuing the true and excellent regardless of all outcomes—in short, a church fatally weakened because worldly.”

Christians must not yield to the mounting pressure of cultural norms that would have us forsake God’s word to join the spirit of an age debased from moral anchors and objective right and wrong. As Christians, we must remember to live out 1 Corinthians 3:18-21:

“Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” So then, no more boasting about human leaders!”

The Trump Card: Popularity Over Substance

Guest Post by Chad E. Graham

Reading the news this morning, I discovered that Donald Trump, a Hollywood celebrity and business magnate, is now the 2016 GOP frontrunner. I gave myself a pinch to make sure I was not having a nightmare.

Indeed, Trump is leading and there are several reasons for his rise in the polls. To begin, he receives the media attention of a Hollywood celebrity—because he is one. Trump’s show The Celebrity Apprentice easily translates into “household name” status. When voters engage in polls or arrive at the ballot box, they will vote for the name they know. Right now, many more twenty-somethings know the Trump name over Walker, Rubio, and Paul.

Another reason Trump continues to climb in popularity is the clarity of his message. Oversimplified messages are often easy to sell. Trump’s message is this: He hates the federal government and you should, too! This message resonates with many Republicans who consider themselves “angry” with the federal government. Washington Post political analyst Christopher Ingraham writes:

Surveys show that anger toward the government, particularly among Republicans, has been rising over the course of Obama’s two terms in office. When asked how they felt toward the federal government, 37 percent of Republicans said “angry” in a Washington Post poll from last fall. By contrast, in September 1998, at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, only 14 percent of Republicans said they were angry.

Trump appears to be the perfect candidate to lead the charge of Republican rage and outcry into 2016 and beyond. He is a loud, fit-throwing, boisterous stage show that really does want to be rid of American politics. Trump is a surrogate voice for the enraged GOP, while other candidates display reserved temperaments aimed at winning the arduous race to the White House.

I am not yet losing sleep over Trump’s candidacy because I think there is a silver lining to his bombastic circus show. Just as Bernie Sanders is becoming a springboard for Hillary to appear more centrist and bipartisan, other GOP candidates—the few who really are centrist and bipartisan—can use the Trump Show to bring voters back to a vision for America that has hope in reality. GOP candidates should use Trump’s propaganda as an object lesson to teach the constituency about the folly of extremism, debased from a full-bodied political philosophy. It is also my hope that politically conservative Christians do not, in haste, throw support behind Trump because he is an embodiment of anger toward the current administration.

Consider the following quotes taken directly from Trump’s presidential campaign site, on his “About” page:

“Mr. Trump has over 7 million followers on social media. He frequently uses this platform to advocate for Conservative causes, Republican candidates and to educate the public on the failures of the Obama administration.”

“Mr. Trump is the Emmy-nominated star and co-producer of the reality television series, “The Apprentice” which quickly became the number one show on television, making ratings history and receiving rave reviews and world wide attention.”

“During the 2014 political cycle, Mr. Trump was a top contributor and fundraiser for Republican efforts. Mr. Trump also campaigned across the country, with each candidate winning by a record margin.”

“On Saturday, November 11th, over 1.4 million watched as Mr. Trump marched down Fifth Avenue with more than 25,000 veterans, some dressed in their vintage uniforms. A month later, Mr. Trump was honored in the Pentagon during a lunch with the Secretary of Defense and the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Other than donating to political campaigns, Trump lists zero accolades relating to political achievement, such as ever holding a political office. He has all of the popularity needed to win an election—but no political substance. The GOP needs a unified vision for America. Trump knows this and he is pretending to offer one. However, America requires more than hot air and Hollywood success to pave the road to a safe and prosperous republic. America needs a President that cares both for the economy and our ongoing culture shift. We need a President that can keep our society intact as we are saddled with the weight of political and social turmoil. So far, I see little proof that Donald is our man and Republicans should ignore his pandering while searching for a true leader, in this fragile American moment.

The Washington Post: Religious devotees worry about the yoga-ization of meditation in the U.S.

Read the full article from the Washington Post here.

“The biblical worldview is completely at odds with the pantheistic concepts driving Eastern meditation. We are not one with an impersonal absolute being that is called ‘God.’ Rather, we are estranged from the true personal God” because of our inherent sin, evangelical philosopher Douglas Groothuis wrote in Christianity Today in 2004 — a piece typical of what was found in religious media as meditation began its ascent. “The answer to our plight is not found in some ‘higher level of consciousness’ (really a deceptive state of mind), but in placing our faith in the unmatched achievements of Jesus Christ on our behalf.”