(OPINION): Churches, It’s Time to get Political
Updated: Oct 10, 2019
"While spreading the message of a new life in Christ or the completion of the sacraments is priority, civic involvement should be welcomed."
Author: Sergei Kelley
“We should just preach the Gospel and love of God. That is the only way we can change people’s hearts and society,” Pastors and worship leaders across America say this today. Their assumption is that politics in churches brings divide and uncivil discourse. Further, it takes away from the sole purpose of preaching God’s goodness and salvation in Jesus.
Many church-goers today welcome this notion of ignoring politics. They want to feel good at church, they want to feel free from the burdens of the world. Church leaders preach on these feelings of peace and want this for their community. The bonus of not talking politics in church is that these churches benefit via tax exemption for those that qualify as 501(c)3 churches. In his book Politics According to the Bible, Wayne Grudem dubs this notion as, “[d]o evangelism, not politics.”
The assumption that churches are better when exclusive to politics is dead wrong. I’m not saying churches should be campaign centers where 24-hour prayer is turned to 24-hour phone-bank, but civics and worship both have their place. While spreading the message of a new life in Christ or the completion of the sacraments is priority, civic involvement should be welcomed. Would not God want Christians to discuss issues from taxes to abortion? Furthermore, this includes conversation about which candidates would best reflect His will for mankind.
What have been the consequences of a-political churches? Two consequences that need to be highlighted are election absence and persecution of Christians in America. These consequences cannot be understated. Christianity is the largest religion in America. Over 70% of our nation’s population, as reported by the Pew Research Center, is Christian and an a-political segment of 70% can have massive repercussions from local to national elections.
We often point to China or the Middle East as epicenters of Christian persecution. While this is not inaccurate, America is not out of the picture. The book Undeniable, published by First Liberty, documented over 1,200 cases of religious hostility. The number of such cases have drastically increased. “More than 1,200 cases are documented but show a clear expansion during this past year [of 2016]. Quantitatively and qualitatively, the hostility is undeniable.” The consequences may have been slowly evolving since the 1930’s, but many want to dull the significance of this incline.
Not only can the effects of a-political churches be used to support “political churches,” but the Bible and the founding of America are enough to prove that within churches there should be no separation of pulpit and ballot.
In both Testaments, the Bible supports the believer’s involvement in government. One example exists in 1 Peter. In 62 A.D., the apostle Peter wrote to Christians, in what is now Turkey, “[s]ubmit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority…who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-14).
Furthermore, the founding of our nation is a case example of the need of biblically-based “political churches.” Commonly known as the Black Robed Regiment, pastors from the 17th through the 18th century were catalysts of the American Revolution. The congregations of these pastors were the first places in New England where pleas of independence and rebellion were heard. Not to mention, many of these “political churches” were places of mixed color communities and audiences, both blacks and whites. Sermons by such pastors, if read today would be condemned as radical and unwelcoming.
There is a biblical basis for political churches. Their importance is demonstrated by America’s founding. The separation of pulpit and ballot and bonus of 501(c)3 status will continue to weaken our churches. This weakening will result in higher persecution of Christians and voter absence.
2016 may have seen high Evangelical vote, but it was an anomaly within an ugly trend. Tax-exemption status for churches is an anchor. Not only are elements of politics not permitted, the importance of politics is degraded. Your attention to tax policy is much lower when you are absent from its effect. This absence or choice to avoid politics by churches has greatly hurt America - churches, it’s time to get political.
Contributor: Sergei Kelley