In my city, we have one Evangelical Christian who is currently on city council and will be vacating his seat along with two other council members. To fill these three seats, there are three Evangelical Christian pastors, who are running among other candidates of different faiths. The opposition to these Christian candidates (because they are Christian and have been endorsed by the sitting Christian councilmember) has been nothing short of spiritual warfare at its best. The mud-slinging has been over the top. I admire these pastors for their strength, perseverance and faith in the midst of such hate being directed at them. The Bible tells us that if we experience persecution, that we are assured the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 5:10-11).
But we must not miss the very obvious assumption that underlies the hostility; that Christians should have no place in politics, including the city council. I believe this is a misunderstanding of what Christians are really trying to impose on the culture.
What Happens If Christians Are Left Out Of The Public Square?
If Christians have a commitment to stay out of politics, then all the other side has to do is call everything political to keep us out! When we’re pushed out of the public square, here is what happens:
- We have nothing left to talk about. In fact, what would we talk about? Baptism? Our salvation? God’s sovereignty? Oh sure, it would be okay for us to have religious conversations behind the closed doors of our church, but don’t even think about speaking anything about the real world into the minds of those we’re trying to reach!
- If we do this, then Christianity will be irrelevant. But we are not to be silent on all matters that have nothing to do with saving souls. We are to abide in Christ in every area of our lives. In our family life, work life, church life, socially, and in civic matters too. If one takes the Bible seriously, we must seriously consider what the church’s place is, in relation to civil government and society in general.
If the rulers of our society hold that man is the source of our authority, then a religious commitment has been made to man, and man is the center of our worship. He is the master of his fate, captain of his soul. In this case, the voice of the people is the voice of God because man is now his own God. This is the rationale of modern secular socialism. The voice of the majority is the ultimate (might makes right).When we worship man, now we have idolatry, which breaks the first commandment (Ex. 20:3).
- Historically, when Christians have been silent on moral issues, we were blamed for it. When we have been unwilling to speak on matters of injustice, what it communicated, was approval of those things.
- The law does have the ability to train up a child in the way he should go. For good or for evil. Bad laws teach bad character and bad conduct. Good laws teach good character and good conduct.
When my boys were small and I taught them about morality, I was showing them, “This is how it’s done.” I was trusting that by doing that, I would inform their conscience in a way that would help them grow as morally upright and virtuous men, so that they would love virtue for its own sake. This was imbedded into their hearts. Now I can thankfully say, (Big praise to God here!) that they are decent, honest, Bible believing young men who possess virtuous character traits (Okay, my boys aren’t perfect, and neither am I. But you get the idea).
If teaching virtue at home is good enough to raise a family, why can’t we do the same to raise a community? Author Greg Koukl asks, “Why do we believe in the transforming capability of moral instruction at home but consider it powerless to let it form the moral conscience of a community?”
What Are Christians Really Trying To Impose On The Culture?
Very recently, Christian author Tim Keller published an article in the N.Y. Times titled, How Do Christians Fit Into The Two-Party System? In response to his article, a lady named Rachel Bird commented on his article saying in a nutshell, that religion should have no place in public discourse, that religion should be done at home, and done in a way that does not deny her right to live as she sees fit. Bird started her comments by saying she believes in the separation of church and state.
Is the Separation of Church and State (SCS) in the constitution? This may surprise you but it’s not. So then how did this ideology of SCS get into the psyche of the American people that it’s in the constitution?
Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Connecticut Baptists in 1803, made reference to the SCS to assure them that he didn’t want the state involved in the church. That’s why he called it a wall between church and state. He didn’t mean the church could not influence the state. It was the other way around. He wanted to make sure the state didn’t influence the church. This was not in the constitution. It was in a letter.
Now, what if the SCS was in the constitution? It still wouldn’t prove Bird’s point. Here’s why. Most Christians aren’t trying to tell people what religion they should adhere to, or when or where they should worship. Christians are not trying to impose religious practices on people. What Christians are trying to do is impose morality, and everybody is trying to do that. One can’t say that laws can’t legislate morality. Because that’s all they do. The question is not whether or not we can legislate morality. The question is who’s morality can we legislate? A Christian’s morality is based on God’s morality. A non-Christian will base their morality on opinion. The problem with that is, what happens when someone has a different opinion? Morality must be based on a transcendent standard that doesn’t change, like a person’s preference changes. Morality is objective, not subjective.
Keep in mind, this is not Claudia’s morality. This is the morality, God’s morality. The one Thomas Jefferson said in the declaration of Independence, that is self-evident. The one that the Apostle Paul said is written on our hearts.
What’s my point? Bird missed the whole point of Christians in politics. We are not trying to impose religion. We are imposing God’s morality, which is the morality.
If you can’t impose anything that’s in the Bible, just because it’s in the Bible, then we couldn’t have virtually any laws. Virtually every law is based on some or one of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20). Murder, stealing, etc…One would have to say we couldn’t have laws about murder and theft because they’re in the Bible. If that were the case, we would have chaos and anarchy my friends. Quite often, religious and moral principles are consistent.
The truth is that everyone wants to legislate morality (their own morality), but not religion. But I ask you, where do you get morality without God? Where do rights come from if not from God? If rights come from man, then man can take them away. Without God, there would be no such thing as rights, because everything would be just a matter of opinion.
Last, who says only atheists can influence public policy? To run for public office or vote, one only has to be an American citizen. How is it not prejudice to say that Christians should stay out of politics?
Over the past 2000 years, Christians have done some incredible things for society. Christians helped abolish slavery, kidnapped brides, child labor, death games, child marriage, temple prostitution, wives as property, fair treatment of prisoners, and equality of mankind. If Christians hadn’t been in politics, who would have gotten rid of all those horrible things? Thankfully, our Founding Fathers were mostly Christian.
In Tim Keller’s N.Y. Times article, he said,
“Those who avoid all political discussions and engagement are essentially casting a vote for the social status quo. American churches in the early 19thcentury that did not speak out against slavery because that was what we would now call “getting political” were actually supporting slavery by doing so. To not be political is to be political.”
To say that Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics is historically wrong and would be disastrous. In addition, our constitution doesn’t say Christians can’t speak into politics. Jesus was involved in politics. He went after the Pharisees, and the Sanhedrin who were the politicians of that day. To them He said, “Your father is the devil” (John 8:44). In Matt. 23, Jesus said the Pharisees were “neglecting the weightier matters of the law.” Jesus was bold. He wasn’t Barney the purple dinosaur.
When Rachel Bird or anyone tells you to be quiet because you are a Christian, what they are really saying, is that we shouldn’t follow God. That we should follow what she says. But why does she get to bring her beliefs to the public square but Christian people can’t? Why does the religious person have to give way to the secular person? Our constitution doesn’t say we have to. So why do people like Rachel Bird get to dictate what religious people can and can’t do?
By saying Christians should keep quiet, Bird is pushing her morality on us, and doing the same thing she is accusing Christians of doing. The difference is that our moral position is the moral position because it’s grounded in the word of God and coincides with God’s nature. God’s morality is the standard by which our constitution was authored. Therefore, we have a right to speak. If you are a Christian, don’t be afraid to speak. There is nothing that man can do to you. Remember 2 Tim. 1:7.
“Christians live in the same world as everyone else, and we have the right to speak into that world and offer our knowledge and good sense.”—Greg Koukl
Robert D. Culver, Civil Government, A Biblical View, (Eugene, Or. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000), 52