Thursday, October 12, 2006

Politics and the SBC pt.2

In my previous post I discussed my views on the issue of politics within the SBC. I discussed a few definitions of politics and I made this statement:
The Church in America must stop playing politics, but must not retreat from the political realm altogether.

Having discussed this issue of playing politics within the Church, I believe it is important to look at the role the Church (and the SBC in particular since that is the church or group of church of which I am a part) within the political realm.

First, what I’m not saying. I am not doing an about-face on my previous post. I am not advocating that the church ought to “play politics” outside its boundaries while not playing politics within. My views on this issue are somewhat Falwellian, this I admit up front. I was a student at Liberty University for four years and agree in many respects with his philosophy of political involvement. With that said I will proceed to lay out my own view (not necessarily his view).

Should the church be involved in the political realm? YES!

It seems foolish to ignore the political realm because we believe in separation of church and state. Separation of Church and State may be a good policy in a number of respects, but it ought not equate to separation of Christians from government. When we surrender the political realm to those whose worldviews are diametrically opposed to ours we are not being godly, we are being negligent. I am not saying that America should be ruled by the Bible, but that I would much rather have advocates within the government who will be sympathetic to the Church and allow the free spread of the gospel than be ruled by those who are more sympathetic toward Muslim or atheistic influences to the exclusion of Christianity.

As to the issue of persecution, I too agree that the church often grows through persecution, yet I recall that persecution and subjugation in the Old Testament are punishments for not honoring God in the first place. We should desire to be more Christ-like, and as we pursue that goal we will encounter more than enough suffering without actively seeking it. Our goal should be godliness, and not the persecution that often leads to it.

Having answered one objection I’ll move to another. Some will say that we ought to stay out of the political realm because “politics is evil,” or “the devil’s business,” or some such nonsense. These arguments ultimately fall flat because their foundation—the premise that politics is wicked simply is not so. The fact that many politicians are not good people, or do not hold to a standard of Christian morality does not make the science of politics inherently evil. With that said, however, I do agree that we must guard our hearts when we do foray into that arena, for we know that power and money can often lead to corruption (but that’s a post for another day).

The corruption within the political realm seems to be all the more reason for the church to go there. Three of the gospels give an account of Jesus dining with Matthew (who had been a tax collector). The Pharisees question Him and here is what Matthew’s own account says:
“And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard it, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’” Matthew 9:11-13

There’s a post on Bowden McElroy’s blog about some others who are going where the sinners are here. We must be willing to go where the gospel is needed – this includes confronting our leaders with the message of Christ.

What is our role to be?
A) Be Good Citizens
The New Testament seems to indicate that Christians are to be good citizens of the community, nation, or kingdom of which they are a part. In Romans 13 Paul tells us that we are to subject ourselves to our authorities and give them the honor that they are due (including the confiscatory taxes they charge). Peter likewise exhorts us in 1 Peter 2 to honor the authorities and do good as a way of honoring God. Jesus himself in the first three gospels encourages submission to Caesar.

In America, we are in a unique position. The democratic republic did not exist in Jesus’ day. Christians then did not get to choose who would govern them. I believe that we are to engage in the political process and choose godly leaders.

B) The SBC should work to advance the gospel, using social programs to advance that goal if necessary.
I do not believe in big government. I do believe, as a political and religious conservative that individuals are to take personal responsibility for their conduct and well-being. It is not the government’s job to care for the needy in the community—it is the job of the church. The scriptures exhort us to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and visit those in prison. I’ll admit this is a challenge that I don’t often feel up to. I am thankful that we have ministries that are designed to reach out to those who are in need and who are hurting and I confess that I often feel inadequate to meet those needs.

C) Be Advocates for Godliness in our Sphere of Influence.
Some may be wondering, “Does this include lobbying?" Absolutely! Since we have a say in what our government does and the laws it passes, we have a responsibility to advocate for Christ’s interests (as His ambassadors!). I hear some saying already “But you can’t legislate morality!” This is true and I agree. However, we can and should have laws that dictate and enforce civil order. The New Testament says that the government’s role is to punish the evil and reward the good. This ought to be our framework as we advocate for godliness. Murder, rape, theft, adultery, kidnapping, and the like are evil, and should be punished. Do we not also believe that homosexuality, polygamy, fornication, and drug and alcohol abuse are immoral behaviors? We can and should have laws that protect the institutions that we hold dear, such as the church and the family.

As Christians we believe that the Christian worldview is superior to all others. That is the nature of our faith—it is (rightly) exclusive. In a nation that will be ruled by men and women who have worldviews, we must choose the leaders with the worldviews that most closely align with ours, and encourage others to be sympathetic to our views. America will be ruled by our worldview or by another worldview. As I said before, we may be persecuted. If it comes to that during our lifetime then I will submit to it as the will of God, but we have a choice.

Let us not be found negligent or apathetic when the time comes to choose freedom or persecution. God can use a free people to spread the gospel—it has happened in the past and will happen in the future. The SBC ought to stand together to advocate for what we believe is right. God has given us the influence that we have, but when we cease to use it wisely, it will be taken from us and given to someone else.

1 comment:

Ronan Jimson said...
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