The Church, Politics, and Idols

Now that the Republican party has taken—as President George W. Bush put it—a thumping at the hands of the Democrats, can the Church finally get back to the business to which it has been called? Despite mass mailings by prominent televangelists claiming otherwise, the realm of politics is not the answer for America’s ills; it is not the vehicle through which the Church is to work to impact the world. “…why can’t the church… realize that we are a political force to be reckoned with?” asks John Hagee in a pre-election mailing. “As Christians, we must exercise our sacred right to vote… If you vote the Bible, you are voting for the right candidate.” Luke tells us in Acts 17:11 that the Bereans “were more noble” because they “searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” Shouldn’t we search the scriptures as the Bereans did to see if the claims Mr. Hagee makes are true? A reading of the New Testament shows us that at no time did Jesus or any of the apostles call upon the Church to change society in a political manner. We are told to “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Mat 22:21). We are told to “be subject unto the higher powers” (Rom 13:1). We are told to pay our taxes (Mat 17:27; Rom 13:7). Certain constraints have been put upon us as Christians and it is our responsibility to live out our Christian walk within those constraints. Mr. Hagee refers to a “sacred right to vote.” Sacred means “dedicated to or set apart for the worship of a deity; worthy of religious veneration; made or declared holy.” Can we as Christians honestly describe the privileged right of voting in such a way? And what does Mr. Hagee mean when he talks of “voting the Bible”? Does that mean his interpretation of various passages? In “voting the Bible,” does he include justice for the poor? Healthcare for the ill? Protection for the oppressed? Accepting with open arms the foreigner? When promoting biblical “family values,” does Mr. Hagee support raising the minimum wage so that, perhaps, fathers can make enough money to support their families without the mother having to be in the workforce as well? Jesus told his followers, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This has become known as

“The Great Commission.” The number one responsibility left to the Church was to evangelize, not politicize. Jesus did not say, “Go ye therefore, and register voters of all states, baptizing them in the name of the Republican party.” What are the dangers of the political Church? First, it makes us take our eyes off Jesus as our source of hope, peace, and blessings. The political realm becomes our source, our vehicle to spread “Christianity.” Instead of looking to Jesus as our strength, we, as Christians, use the strength of our own arm. One only need look at the Holy Roman Empire, Geneva following the Reformation, Great Britain, or Massachusetts Bay Colony to see that politics and Christianity do not mesh. Martyrdom was a common occurrence in those societies. Political involvement almost necessarily involves compromise. Consider this scenario: You are a senator and the parental notification bill you have sponsored is close to passing… but you need to swing one more vote. A colleague from the other side of the aisle offers to swap votes. He’ll support your bill if you’ll vote to confirm the homosexual nominee for an ambassadorship. You weigh the consequences… and make the deal. You compromise. Over the past few decades, evangelical Christianity has married itself to the Republican party. America, right or wrong, has given way to The Republicans, right or wrong. Where were the howls of protest from the Christian right when President Bush—their man—named more open homosexuals to government positions than any previous president… including Bill Clinton! A quick search of the facts will reveal that Republican lawmakers have been at least as guilty as Democratic solons when it comes to violating basic Christian principles such as marital fidelity and refraining from homosexuality yet in many if not most cases they have been given a “get out of jail free” card from the Church. And no wonder since so many evangelical leaders have succumbed to the very same sins! I believe the passage in Matthew 22:18-22 is key: “But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.”

This exchange is not simply about whether we should pay taxes or not. It goes much deeper. It tells us that the things of the world—government, financial systems, etc.—are Caesar’s, i.e., Satan’s. Jesus did not lay claim to the monetary system. He did not lay claim to the civil government. He said, “Those things belong to Caesar; give them to him… But give to God all the things that are His.” Yet, here is the Church committing spiritual adultery as it cavorts with a political party. We can trace our present dilemma all the way back to the year 313 when Constantine and his brother-in-law Licinius signed the Edict of Milan, officially ending persecution of the Christians. Over the next decade the intermingling of Church and state intensified, until we finally ended up with the quasi-religious institution that brought us such despicable atrocities as the Crusades and the Inquisition. These hellacious activities were not limited to the Roman Catholic Church… after the Reformation, Protestant denominations were also very busy persecuting and killing Christians who did not toe their doctrinal line. The civil power that came with the marriage of Church and state wreaked havoc on the Church and her testimony for centuries. Today, many evangelical Christians have embarked on a new crusade to “take back” society, government, and the rest of Caesar’s world rather than perform the grassroots tasks commanded by Jesus: to preach the Good News, meet the physical needs of others, and to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind, as well as love our neighbor as ourselves.