The Christian and Politics
EVER since the emergence of the Christian Coalition and
its forerunner, The Moral Majority, the Christian community has been
sharply divided upon the role, if any, Christians might appropriately play
in the political process. Many see involvement in political action as a
God-given responsibility; others believe that they have an individual
responsibility to vote for the best candidate, and upon issues of
significance, while yet hesitating to join in an orchestrated political
thrust by a united Christian organization. On the other hand, others avoid
political involvement of any kind, declining to register and vote,
perceiving the political process as of the world, not productive to the
hastening of the spread of the gospel.
In some church communities, the political debate has
become as intense as the debate on doctrinal and social issues. Rarely is
this debate raised without generating much heat and emotive dialogue. In
some of the English speaking countries, including our homeland of
Australia, many citizens avoid dialogue on religion and politics,
frequently responding to those who would initiate such a conversation with
blunt words such as, "Listen, Mate, there are two things I donít
talk about, religion and politics. They only get you into fights."
Generally speaking, however, Americans see free speech as especially
enshrined in their inalienable right to share their religious and
The Christian Coalition has energized the political
debate by what were seen as spectacular successes of those candidates it
endorsed for the 1994 mid-term congressional elections. Many candidates of
both major political parties hastened to align themselves with the moral
values espoused by the Christian Coalition, in order to enhance their
election prospects. Even in the 1996 elections, the Christian Coalition
was credited with holding both houses of Congress for the Republicans in
spite of the failure of Republicans to recapture the White House.
But the Christian Coalition has faced much opposition.
Its welding of conservative Protestants and Roman Catholics has not stood
well with many Protestants, who, following the sixteenth century
Reformers, identify the Roman Catholic system with the antichrist of
biblical prophecy or the beast power of Revelation 13. The development of
the manifesto, "Evangelicals and Protestants Together," brought
swift condemnation from other evangelical leaders, who began a relentless
attack on what they perceived as the unholy union of Protestants with
Catholics, irrespective of the validity of their cause.
Here we want to explore a few of the issues which may
assist to ensure a more valid and less emotive response to the Christian
political debate. We turn to the Holy Scriptures to help us discover the
appropriate response of Christians to the political process. But before we
do this, we must acknowledge that all Christians do not regard moral
issues in the same light. No issue more highlights this division than the
abortion debate. Christians are on both sides of this issue. Many see
abortion as the most intolerable form of murderómurder of the most
defenseless of all human beings, the embryo or fetus. Other Christians see
the freedom of women to choose, as fundamental to Christianity. We stand
firmly with the opposers of permissive abortion, basing our decision on
the evidence of Scripture. The Psalmist makes it plain that God has a
record of the blueprint of every prenate.
For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me
in my motherís womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and
wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right
well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and
curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my
substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were
written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none
of them. Psalm 139:13Ė16
It is also evident that God places special calls upon
human beings in the prenatal period.
Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from
far; The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother
hath he made mention of my name. Isaiah 49:1
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and
before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained
thee a prophet unto the nations. Jeremiah l:5
For he [John the Baptist] shall be great in the sight
of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall
be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his motherís womb. Luke 1:15
Whereas we also stand firmly against euthanasia,
Christians are divided on the issue. Russell, as a physician, is
especially interested in this matter. There is much less division over the
need to greatly reduce violence and crime in society, yet debate continues
on how to effect that result; should it be by teaching, or by legislation,
or a combination of both?
Societyís Moral Decline
Few Christians would argue against the evidence of
dramatic moral decline in society. This is supported by many factors,
including the appalling increase in premarital sexual relations; the rise
in teen pregnancies; the abortion carnage; the flaunting of homosexual and
lesbian relationships; the breakdown of marriage, largely due to the high
level of adultery; the rapid increase in single parent families, and the
consequent rise in psychological problems, violent crime, and antisocial
behavior. Students of history recognize that dramatic moral decline is the
forerunner of national chaos. No society of the past, which continued in
moral depravity, survived for long. Western society, not only American
society, is surely in the balance.
It is not insignificant that this moral decline
parallels the rapid reduction in the influence of Christianity upon
society. This is not only evidenced by the lack of church attendance, it
is evidenced by the divestment of Judeo-Christian values. But most
alarmingly, this moral bankruptcy is often reflected in the church
community itself. Ironically, the problem of greatest concern to the
Christian Coalitionóthe increase of violence and immorality in societyóhas
been significantly augmented by the contemporary teachings of the very
churches of Christendom who form the Christian Coalition, and the
responsibility may be, in part, validly laid at their feet. Most of the
represented Churches are presenting an impotent God who does not provide
the power to overcome temptation, whereas the Bible presents a powerful
gospel in which God promises the power of Christ to resist successfully
the temptations of Satan. Thus many are taught salvation for those living
a life of sin, thus denying the power of the gospel.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is
the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew
first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God
revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by
faith. Romans 1:16, 17
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost
that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for
them. Hebrews 7:25
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and
to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding
joy . . . Jude 24
There is only one true answer to this crisis, and that
is the reestablishment of the true principles of morality and human
stability enshrined in the words of Holy Scripture. Therefore, Christians
have a proper, and indeed, a critical role to play in seeking to redress
the evils of modern society. They must preach the Bible principle of
victory through Christ over sin, and encourage parents to uphold this
principle to their children.
The Moral Role of Government
An increasing cry of opponents to the Christian
Coalition has been, "Government has no right to legislate
morality." Presumably, the concept behind such a statement is that
morality is a result of education, and the transformation of life. God is
not a God of coercion, therefore our efforts must be placed in education,
training, modeling, and in establishing moral values in the home and
society. The response of the Christian Coalition has been to support the
need for rigorous education and the reestablishing of the moral high
ground that the church should hold in society, but to achieve these aims,
it argues that government must establish laws that would encourage
morality, and appropriately punish those who would violate decent
standards of society.
We would caution those who proclaim that government has
no right to legislate morality (see chapter 16 entitled, "The Bible
in the Public Schools"). It is true that only the power of Christ can
transform the carnal sinner into a converted saint, but if we deny
government the right to legislate against immorality, we would have to
oppose laws against murder, rape, perjury, robbery, and other such crimes
clearly related to the violation of the Ten Commandments. Most important,
we would have to deny the pointed testimony of Paul to the Roman
believers. The language of Paul is extraordinary, considering the fact
that he was talking of a pagan power, erratic and not infrequently
ruthless in the administration of justice. In the thirteenth chapter of
Romans, Paul defines the appropriate role of government in maintaining
moral conduct, and dispensing justice in the breach of that conduct.
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For
there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God:
and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are
not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid
of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the
same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that
which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is
the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for
conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are Godís
ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to
all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom;
fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Romans 13:1Ė7
Reviewing the above counsel, we observe the following
scriptural principles in relation to the Christianís responsibilities to
1) Christians have a responsibility to be subject to
the powers in rulership, even when they are not motivated by Christian
ideals or principles.
2) Rulers are ordained of God.
3) If Christians resist the authority of the rulers,
they in effect are resisting God.
4) Resisting the rulership of earthly powers will lead
5) When a Christian does evil, he should rightly fear
the civil powers.
6) Tribute (tax) is due to the governmental
authorities. Such scriptural testimony indicates that those Christians who
have felt compelled to refuse to return tax to the government are out of
step with the testimony of Scripture, as are those who take a decidedly
anti-government approach. Rather, the role of a faithful Christian is to
help government reflect the best values for the maintenance of a secure,
but free society.
The Limits of Governmental Authority
We might well ask, Are there any limits to government
legislation and authority in matters related to the Ten Commandments? No
human institution has absolute rights. The response of Peter and the
apostles to the Jewish leaders, when commanded to cease preaching in the
name of Jesus, was uncompromising.
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We
ought to obey God rather than men. Acts 5:29
As stated in chapter 14 entitled "The Ten
Commandments and Civil Law," rarely have modern-day Christians made
the appropriate distinction in terms of the Ten Commandments. We emphasize
the thought that the Ten Commandments are divided into two sections. The
first four Commandments deal with manís relationship and responsibility
to God, and the last six with manís relationship to his fellow humans.
We have asserted that government has every right to legislate fair and
just laws in relationship to the last six Commandments, but has no right
to legislate in the sacred relationship of man to his God.
The framers of the United States Constitution and the
Bill of Rights made no mistake upon this issue. They thoroughly protected
citizens against the intrusion of legislation against their right to
worship according to the dictates of their consciences. They also did
everything they could to limit the power of government to develop
autocracy. However, the Constitution in no wise limited the role of
government in crafting safe laws for the security of its citizens. Here is
the great divide. It is our responsibility to convince those fellow
Christians, determined to encourage and pressure the government to frame
laws that will address the moral issues of today, to define clearly
between those areas that reflect the inter-relationship of human beings
from those areas addressing manís relationship with God. On the other
hand, it is important to convince other Christians that within the
parameters of the last six Commandments, Christians do have a right,
indeed a responsibility, to influence the moral laws of the land.
There are many examples in the nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries where Christians actively united to fight a moral
evil. Christians in the United States were in the vanguard of the battle
to outlaw permissive abortion in the 1860s and 1870s. So successful was
their crusade, that national legislation was enacted against permissive
abortion, that formed the foundation of law for the next 100 years, until
such laws were voided by the Supreme Court decision in 1973, Rowe v. Wade.
Another classical example was the fight against
alcohol. The temperance theme became a banner held high by many
Christians. It was Christians who spearheaded the prohibition movement.
The Womenís Christian Temperance Union fought relentlessly on this issue
for many decades, exposing the devastating impact of alcohol upon family
life and societal stability. Theirs was a noble work. Ironically, it is
likely that most Christians today would vigorously oppose prohibition, yet
alcohol consumption still leads to the greatest family and societal
problems of the age. As a medical student at secular Sydney University
thirty-five years ago, Russell was taught that alcohol causes more crimes
of violence, marital disharmony, mental deterioration, and psychological
illness, than heroin, morphine, barbiturates, amphetamine, cocaine, and
all other drugs combined. So much attention has been placed upon
illegal drugs, that the dangers of alcohol often are almost ignored.
The present day assault on legal drugs is focused upon
tobacco. Certainly nicotine is a pernicious drug, and all laws enacted
against its production, manufacture, and use, are worthy of support. But
its effect upon family life, social relationships, work productivity, and
crime rates, pales into insignificance when measured with the baleful
consequence of alcohol in all its forms.
The Christian and Political Activism
The proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ must
ever be the first and foremost objective of every faithful Christian. This
is the commission of Jesus. Nothing else can supersede this goal.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Matthew
This gospel will reach every human being before the
return of Jesus Christ.
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all
the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
This gospel of salvation includes the forgiveness of
God, which brings justification,
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we
shall be saved from wrath through him. Romans 5:9
Important as salvation is, it is essential that we
acknowledge that the gospel commission also includes Godís call to
sanctification, which is holiness of character.
But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you,
brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen
you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the
truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13
This call provides the reason why, frequently,
justification and sanctification are married together in the gospel
statements. Below are cited just two examples.
Paul reported Jesus as stating,
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to
light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive
forgiveness of sins [justification], and inheritance among them which are
sanctified by faith that is in me. Acts 26:18
Paul also wrote,
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak
through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful
flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh [justification]: that the
righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the
flesh, but after the Spirit [sanctification]. Romans 8:3, 4
Indeed, the Lordís prayer joins together both
justification and sanctification.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors
[justification]. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
[sanctification]: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever. Matthew 6:12, 13
It is within the principle of sanctification, which is
often ignored by modern-day Christians, that our answer must be evaluated.
Faithful Christians must not only work to bring men and women to
forgiveness, but also to restoration and the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is first and foremost the work of teaching and example. But this does
not exclude the political process. It is understandable that many
Christians see the danger in party politics, in fierce loyalty to a partyís
platform, and therefore avoid either joining a political party, or voting
along political lines. We, ourselves, would never join or promote a
political party. We believe that no political party fully promotes godly
interests, so the gospel commission would be weakened by aligning
ourselves to worldly minded political parties. However, Christians do have
a responsibility to vote on moral issues. How far they intrude into the
political process is a matter of judgment. Yet, it is within the Christian
responsibility to do all that is possible to help in these troublous
times. Surely government has a responsibility to do all in its power to
protect children and youth from the perils of gangs terrorizing
communities, from pornography and other evils that truly destroy the moral
fiber of young people. Many live in drug-infested societies in which it
has become almost impossible for drug users to respond to the gospel.
The governmentís responsibility is not to dictate
religion. However, it has a responsibility to provide an environment that
does not destroy the capacity of children and youth to choose the way of
righteousness. Christians concerned for the salvation of all souls have a
responsibility to both encourage and uphold governments in this vital
role. Neither is it wrong for Christians to band together for a common
cause as they did in the temperance movement of the last century and early
One principle worthy of adoption is the practice that
the Christian should vote in each referendum or for each proposition which
presents clear options on moral issues. A Christian would, however, be
well advised to refrain from aligning himself with a political party even
if it professed some moral issue of merit, since virtually all political
parties promote a decidedly mixed agenda, in order to appeal to the
unconverted as well as the converted, and to please the money sources for
their political campaigns. While many argue that it is essential for them
to join a party so that they may thus influence the political agenda from
within, they will soon discover that they are surrounded by individuals of
self-serving influence and unholy ambition. Some are ruthless in their
pursuit of their own political preferment, or the promotion of political
platforms which will benefit, not the good of mankind, but their own
financial goals. A Christian has no business using his God-given talents
of time and speech to promote such a conglomeration of self interest. He
is a servant of God, and it is the Lordís work which must occupy his
endeavors. We must ever keep in mind the fact that no political party will
ever solve the problems of society. Only the Second Coming of our Lord
will achieve that aim, and it is the hastening of that great day which
merits the use of our energies and time.
Mistakes of the Past
We must learn from the mistakes of the past. There is
evidence that the politically active Christians of the nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries also failed to define clearly between their role
in the issues relevant to the obligations to God, and the obligations to
man. For example, the Womenís Christian Temperance Union, which did such
a mighty work on behalf of families and society, became embroiled in the
proposed Sunday legislation of the 1890s, which led to the jailing of some
citizens for working on Sunday. Such a law, regarding manís relationship
to God, falls entirely outside the prerogative of government, for it is a
matter of personal conscience. It violates the convictions of Jews,
Sabbath-keeping Christians, and Moslems, and the choices of those who do
not espouse any religion.
It is of no little significance that Paul in his
definition of the responsibility of Christians to government actually
quoted the last five Commandments, but referred to none of the first four.
For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt
not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou
shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly
comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself. Romans 13:9.
The highest moral battle is for the preservation of
religious liberty, which, while not supporting libertarian and laissez
faire concepts, does permit each individual, within the framework of
othersí freedom, to worship according to the dictates of conscience. It
would seem that there is cause for concern regarding the Christian
Coalition, which does not yet appear to have forged the clear line of
demarcation between laws relating to the protection of life, property, and
integrity, and laws that fail to respect the sacred choices regarding
religious life and practices. Now is the time to do so, for often
it is too late once momentum has been generated for harmful legislation.
It must never be forgotten that biblical prophecy
clearly states that we are nearing a time when religious coercion will be
thrust upon the world. It is our responsibility to educate those Christian
activists in the political arena to divide asunder the two areas of moral
obligation. Government, too, must be educated upon this theme, and
perceptive, dedicated Christians have a responsibility so to do.
Just as there is concern for those Christians who will
tend to move the moral agenda into the first four Commandments, so there
is a concern for those Christians who believe they have no responsibility
to cast their vote or to use their influence upon government for the
establishment of just and moral laws. There is no basis in Scripture to
justify the claims that government has no right to legislate morality, nor
can we support those who refuse to render taxes to the chosen government.
If Christ and Paul could call for Christians to render taxes to the
totalitarian government of their days, there is no case for Christians to
take a stand against taxation in the environment of today. Christians
surely must set the standard in responsible citizenship.
Those Christians who oppose the government enacting
laws related to protecting the moral fiber of society and securing the
citizens of the nation, need to be careful lest they be categorized with
the anarchists and libertarians. Christians do have a responsibility to
proclaim by voice, pen, and vote, the great principles of human morality.
There is a God-given responsibility, not only to seek the best for earthly
society, but to know, believe, live, and proclaim the matchless love of
The political process has no vehicle for the
transformation of the heart. At the best, it can provide a stable
environment that aims to protect its citizens against anarchy, chaos, and
mayhem. In its rightful sphere, every Christian should be supportive and
active in seeking to promote the best principles of society. But always
this will be subservient to the higher goal of leading men and women to
Christ and to His salvation.