Should Christians be political?

Karlowac / Alamy ALAMY Question mark outline made from wooden rosary on white background Christians often struggle with Romans 13:1-5, … Continued

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ALAMY

Question mark outline made from wooden rosary on white background

Christians often struggle with Romans 13:1-5, which talks about a Christian’s duties to the state.

“Everyone must submit to the governing authorities,” the passage reads, “for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God.” After reading that passage, some ask “why, then should we be involved in politics, support wars, or campaign for human rights?“ If we stop reading there, it is easy to conclude that not only is it unimportant but that it is actually wrong for Christians to be active in politics, whether through grassroots electoral efforts, lawsuits protecting religious freedom or questioning the government.

Eric Metaxas, author of the celebrated, comprehensive biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer shed some light on this tension on my radio show this week.

“God forbid that the church would just hide in little religious issues and say, you know, ‘That’s not my business, I can’t get involved in politics,’ ” Metaxas said. “Not getting involved in politics is just as bad, just as heretical, as making an idol of politics.”

How do we get from Romans 13:1 to calling the church’s political silence heretical?

Bonhoeffer himself, as well as the verses that follow Romans 13:1, help us get there. Let’s begin with the Scripture:

The government in Romans 13 is a godly government. This does not mean that to meet this definition a government needs to be Christian, nor should it be a theocracy. A Romans 13 government promotes justice, provides security, and protects the freedom of its people, regardless of religious belief or background. In the United States, we shape the government with our votes. Thus, it is our responsibility to do what we can to ensure that our government lives up to these basic principles.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and outspoken opponent of the Third Reich. When the Nazis found out that he was assisting Jews, he was thrown in jail and later transferred to and executed in a concentration camp because of his role in a plot to kill Hitler.

Fortunately, many of Bonhoeffer’s speeches, personal notes, and letters are accessible to all of us thanks to Metaxas. As he worked to build church opposition to the Reich, Bonhoeffer offered “three possible ways in which the church can act towards the state.” Metaxas explains:

Second, the church must “aid the victims of state action.” We have an “unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community.”

Third, the church should not merely “bandage the victims under the wheel, but … put a spoke in the wheel itself.” As Metaxas explains,

In America, individual Christians and the church have an “unconditional obligation” to be involved in politics. The government of the United States is a direct reflection of the people of the United States. We elect our leaders and are to a great extent responsible for their conduct. Unlike Bonhoeffer and others who to this day are forced by their conscience to put their lives at risk and join resistance movements, in America, we can “put a spoke in the wheel” of our government by simply casting a vote and speaking out for what we believe in.

  • sandrameyer91

    My comment has been erased. Why?

  • spookycat

    “Unlimited submission and obedience is due to none but God alone. He has an absolute right to command; he alone has an uncontrollable sovereignty over us, because he alone is unchangeably good. He never will nor can require of us, consistent with his nature and attributes, anything which is not fit and reasonable. His commands are all just and good. And to suppose that he has given to any particular set of men a power to require obedience to that which is unreasonable , cruel, and unjust, is robbing the Deity of his justice and goodness.”

    Rev. Samuel West of Dartmouth, Massachusetts Election Sermon, 1767.

  • DavidDR2

    In the USA, or government was set up to be of the people, by the people, and for the people; while keeping in mind that the rights of the people come from God.
    The founding fathers of this country stated this in our Constitution. But the rights of the people in are government are directly effected by the laws that Government makes. So it is the responsibility of the people to be involved and make sure that the laws being made by government do not take away the God given rights which the constitution refers to. These rights include the free expression of religious beliefs. If people from any belief are forced to be silent by any government authority, then real freedom does not exist.

  • Sara121

    “the rights of the people come from God.
    The founding fathers of this country stated this in our Constitution.”

    What clause would that be?

    The word “religion” appears exactly twice in the Constitution, once to say that leaders shall not be subject to religious tests as a qualifier for office and once to say that government won’t establish any religion as law. The words “god” “Jesus” and “Christian” don’t appear at all.

  • Sara121

    “If people from any belief are forced to be silent by any government authority, then real freedom does not exist. ”

    Which is true. Religious freedom is for everyone, not just Christians. Everyone has the freedom to believe and to not have to live under the arbitrary religious laws of another group. The best way to protect non-Muslims from living under Sharia and non-Christians from living under Biblical law is for laws to be secularly derived, with an emphasis on ensuring that people will not be punished for holding, espousing, or practicing a particular belief. That doesn’t mean that people of any particular religious belief can’t or shouldn’t vote or can’t or shouldn’t run for office. It means that people of religious belief need to realize that their right to religious freedom is not more (or less) important than the religious freedom of people who believe differently.

    One of the governing principles of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 was “whoever’s rule, his religion” meaning whoever ruled that country, his religion was the dominant state religion and people of other beliefs had to abide by it or potentially be subject to penalty of taxes or general discrimination. The no establishment clause is a direct rejection of that principle. Regardless of who is in charge or what the religious belief of the majority happens to be, there is no government sponsored or favored religion, and people ought not to be subject to special punitive laws simply for holding, or not holding, a particular set of religious beliefs.

  • HiAll

    There’s only one mention of God in the Constitution. They signed the Constitution “in the Year of our Lord.” I think it’s a fair assumption that the Lord they were referring to is our Lord Jesus Christ.

    My guess is that David was thinking of the Declaration of Independence, which refers to God a couple times, in a couple different ways. The first 2 sentences:

    “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them…”

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator…”

    and the last sentence:

    “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

  • HiAll

    Religious freedom is for everyone, not just Christians.

    That is true. Unfortunately, Shari’ah (Shari’ah means “law”) contradicts many of our laws here in the USA. One of the most obvious examples is the Hadith that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s. “The Prophet said, ‘Isn’t the witness of a woman equal to half that of a man?’ The womens said, ‘Yes.’ He said, “This is because of the deficiency of a woman’s mind.” When a follower of Islam is put in a situation where a country’s laws conflict with Shari’ah, the follower is supposed to follow Shari’ah.
    Because Shari’ah, unlike Judeo-Christian religions, has a political code that followers are supposed to adhere to – one that includes the death penalty for certain crimes.
    To me, the problem is: how do you allow religious freedom to a group that includes, as part of its religion, following a political code that includes, for example, “honor killings” (that we would regard as murder)? Whose political code directly violates our liberties?

  • HiAll

    The Constitution only mentions God once. The document notes the date “in the Year of our Lord.” I think it’s safe to assume that they were referring to our Lord Jesus Christ.

    My guess is that David was thinking of the Declaration of Independence, where the first sentence refers to “nature’s God,” the second sentence to our “Creator”, and the last sentence refers their “firm reliance on Divine Providence.”

  • acebojangles

    Should Christians be political? Sure, but what does that mean? It’s not like each election has a pro-Christian candidate and an anti-Christian candidate. Should churches be helping to raise money for candidates and telling their members who to vote for?

  • kapahayagan

    Did Christ when he was here on earth run for public office? did his apostles do the same? If not, what are you suppose to see those claiming to be sents of God, is it not also fitting that they must live to what Christ and his disciples left for an example to do the same? If the so called men of God in our time are enjoying in the arena of politics, then their christ they are serving, must be one of what Christ has said in the bible, that in the last days Many false christs shall arise and shall deceive many, for their christs are even incharge and source of trouble and strifes of the world politics,

  • calvinccfritz

    I put a post it must not of showed. No, Christians should not be involved in politics. Christ taught a quiet and peaceful life, politics is not quiet and as we have seen most certainly not peaceful. Early Christians those who were taught by the disciples also say we should not from the countless number of records we have of what they said. In fact All early Christians ( Those of the first 300 years before Constantine came) did not participate in politics or war shocking as it may seem. People want to control politics b/c of fear. Fear that the govt will tell us what we can and can not do. If we listened more to what God has told us and less of worrying (which is also a sin) about what will happen to us which is only a selfish desire, lets be honest with ourselves this is about us not others. If we really cared about others we would be preaching more and watching tv less. If you look all throughout Christian history Christians grew stronger during persecution and dwindled down when persecution was taken away. Jesus says rejoice when ye are persecuted but your very mindset is opposite of that and look at it as God punishing us. God chastises His children, so if He is not chastising you you may not be His child. There is not ONE scriptural passage that supports anything to do with being involved in politics. Yes, there are wolves who come into the flock and twist scripture to support there opinion but still no doctrinal proof. If we look on the other side there is countless number of scriptures to point to the other end of the spectrum aka not being involved in politics. Money is the route of all evil and being involved in politics when boiled down is just about keeping money in your pocket b/c you wont be able to have as nice of a house or as nice of possessions which isn’t important in the first place

  • ThomasBaum

    HiAll wrote:

    “If anything, this country is moving away from Christianity. Business are open on Sundays and Christmas, for example. The modesty standards once embraced are out the window, and prayer has been banned in public schools.”

    Do you have electricity in your house, if you do you should get rid of it because by its very nature of being produced forces people to work on Sundays.

    Do you think that you should be forced to pray to the god of islam, to the gods of Hinduism, the various gods of paganism, to god or gods other than the god or gods or God of your choice?

    Should people have to conform to your “modesty standards”?

    Jesus never forced Himself on others, where have we gotten the idea that Jesus wants us to force God on others?

    See you all in the Kingdom.

    Take care, be ready.

    Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • calvinccfritz

    I agree except man was not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath for man. Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath(also the Sabbath is saturday not sunday) which would be considered work, I don’t find it wrong to work on sunday

  • ThomasBaum

    sclauther wrote:

    “What, exactly, do you mean when you say “not only should ‘freedom of religion’ prevent the State from interfering with the Church, it should prevent the Church from interferring with the State, this does not prevent people from participating in the process as they feel themself called too”?”

    Maybe Jesus put it better than I did, “Give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s”.

    Church, religion, faith, belief, whatever should come from within and the State, by its very nature, is something that is imposed from the outside.

    See you all in the Kingdom.

    Take care, be ready.

    Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • steinsign

    The government we live under is quite different that Rome was at the time of the writing.
    our government is more than a democracy, A Republic designed that the people would be involved, and specifically so that minority groups would be protected from majority persecution. the propensity which tyranny historically ensued from democracy.
    In the days of our fonding, such was ensuing from and against Christian sects, since then applied to race and other categories, and perhaps Christian sects again.
    Thus the submitting that Romans speaks of, requires Christian believers active involvement, influence, and protection of this form of government, otherwise the liberty and freedom required of the Republic will morph into tyranny. Jim Stein

  • ThomasBaum

    I didn’t say that I found it wrong to work on Sunday, I was referring to the comments made by HiAll.

    Different people look at different days as the Sabbath:

    1. the seventh day of the week, Saturday, as the day of rest and religious observance among Jews and some Christians. Ex. 20:8–11.
    2. the first day of the week, Sunday, similarly observed by most Christians in commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ.
    3. any special day of prayer or rest resembling the Sabbath: Friday is the Muslim Sabbath.

    By the way, the “Sabbath” was not mentioned in either of our posts, what was mentioned was Sunday and Christmas.

    Take care, be ready.

    Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    steinsign wrote:

    “A Republic designed that the people would be involved, and specifically so that minority groups would be protected from majority persecution. the propensity which tyranny historically ensued from democracy.”

    Have you ever pondered that the “Republic” started out as a “tyranny” whereas some “minority groups” were not protected from “majority persecution” but was part of the fabric of its conception?

    Seems as if the founding fathers were divinely inspired in spite of themselves.

    The “seeds” of the abolition of slavery were sown in the founding papers even tho the founders, for the most part, ignored them.

    As it is written, “God works in mysterious ways”.

    See you ALL in the Kingdom.

    Take care, be ready.

    Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • jivemom

    We Americans and especially American Christians have been complacent for too long. If 9/11 was a wake up call, too many hit the snooze button.

  • Olaf1

    It seems clear that Jordan S has a personal agenda and pre-conceived ideas what the bible should say “resulting” that governments live outside the law of God with impunity and all others must live the Christian life-style, that is if you want to call yourself a Christian. No, the requirements are for all mortals the same, no matter what position anyone holds. Therefore, if a government supports abortion, war, gangs, homosexuality etc. etc. this can not be supported by a committed Christian because this makes him an associate in this evil with dire consequences.

  • IrishElf

    ABSOLUTELY. The religious right seems to have a corner on that market, but there are other views. Jesus weighed in on the Ryan budget on aliberalpatriot.com.

  • clzion777

    We in this country should understand the dangers of a tax exempt status. Hitler controlled the ‘church’ by threatening to remove their exempt status to keep them from speaking out against the government. Isn’t that what our government does to us as Believers. Don’t address any political issues from the pulpit or we will take away your tax exempt status and even throw you in jail it you protest abortion on the streets near an abortion clinic. But others can protest at funerals of out service men and women!!!! The tax issue puts a gag in our mouths and the Word does not stand behind that kind of government. We have bowed the knee to the IRS long enough–pay your taxes and speak out like you should for the Kingdom of G-d!!! Don’t be whipping dogs for the government of any country!!! Violence is not the L-rd’s way, but to keep silent to injustice is a sin. Call sin sin, don’t sweep it under the rug as if it does not exist. Render unto ‘Cesar’ that which belongs to the US government and unto G-d that which belongs to HIM!!!! Pay your taxes and be free to follow the L-rd where HE leads. Quit kissing up to the government, already.

  • brandon091405

    “calvinccfritz
    I put a post it must not of showed. No, Christians should not be involved in politics. Christ taught a quiet and peaceful life, politics is not quiet and as we have seen most certainly not peaceful. Early Christians those who were taught by the disciples also say we should not from the countless number of records we have of what they said. In fact All early Christians ( Those of the first 300 years before Constantine came) did not participate in politics or war shocking as it may seem. People want to control politics b/c of fear. Fear that the govt will tell us what we can and can not do. If we listened more to what God has told us and less of worrying (which is also a sin) about what will happen to us which is only a selfish desire, lets be honest with ourselves this is about us not others. If we really cared about others we would be preaching more and watching tv less. If you look all throughout Christian history Christians grew stronger during persecution and dwindled down when persecution was taken away. Jesus says rejoice when ye are persecuted but your very mindset is opposite of that and look at it as God punishing us. God chastises His children, so if He is not chastising you you may not be His child. There is not ONE scriptural passage that supports anything to do with being involved in politics. Yes, there are wolves who come into the flock and twist scripture to support there opinion but still no doctrinal proof. If we look on the other side there is countless number of scriptures to point to the other end of the spectrum aka not being involved in politics. Money is the route of all evil and being involved in politics when boiled down is just about keeping money in your pocket b/c you wont be able to have as nice of a house or as nice of possessions which isn’t important in the first place”

    Well this is pretty awesome. The Bible doesn’t say money is the root of all evil it says the *love* of money is the root of all evil. The Christian who