Do you believe it is inappropriate for “politics” to enter into sermons, announcements from the pulpit, or Christian prayer? Most churches avoid such topics like the plague. And in the rare church that mentions anything that can be construed as “politics” there will invariably be those who are put off by such mention, believing that any reference to anything related to politics is inappropriate inside a church.
There are two problems with this intolerance of political talk in the church.
One problem is the definition of “politics.” The other is a lack of understanding of the content, context, and message of the Bible.
First, the definition:
No, it does not mean “many blood sucking insects fastened to the body”, as in “many ticks”, although politicians can come very close to that definition.
Webster defines politics as “the art or science of government.” A broader definition is “actions or activities concerned with achieving and using power in a country or society.” (Collins English Dictionary) Closely related to politics is power and authority: Who has the power and authority over whom.
These definitions are much different than popular usage of the term which too often includes name calling, lies, and greedy agendas of politicians, special interests, and yes, voters. These popularized examples of “politics” are as much a perversion of the term as “homosexual” is a perversion of the word “gay.”
With the Webster and Collins definitions in mind, lets look at politics in the context of the Bible.
First of all, the Old Testament is full of concepts relating to governance. First it was governance by judges, then by kings. The goodness and faithfulness of the subjects that sanctioned those judges and kings waxed and waned throughout the Old Testament history of Israel. The major themes revolved around the extent that both the leaders and the people were faithful to or rebelled against God. Should we be unconcerned about how faithful or faithless our leaders and fellow voters are today?
And then we have Bible prophecy. The biggie that comes to mind is Isaiah 9:6-7: “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever.”
There are dozens more examples like this.
And in the New Testament (and in the Old), we have the dynamic tension between obeying government versus obeying God. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” The problem is, we ignore what belongs to God. Acts 4:18-20 speaks to this problem by saying: “So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, "’Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
The whole Bible, the whole function of God, is to teach us who has power and authority over whom; who governs whom; what is the ideal nature of that government. The Bible is a book of governance.
Benjamin Franklin, addressing the President of the Constitutional Convention, declared: "I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, That God governs in the affairs of men!” Dang politics! There it is again – God “governing” in the affairs of men. Too bad we don’t have more of that – the “God governing” part.
But discuss the failures of our culture or problems with our government during church and all hell breaks loose, or at least, a few whispers about “oh, here he goes again with ‘politics’.”
If there is any problem in the Church, it is discussing too little politics, not too much. And no, the excuse about losing the church’s tax exempt status is bogus. We are so far from crossing that line that the danger is irrelevant and such thought foolish.
Coming soon: What “political” topics are ripe for discussion in Christian Churches.