Church and Politics

I’ve been pondering the extent to which churches should be involved in politics. In particular, with 2008 around the corner, I’m wondering if churches should endorse specific candidates. Now, before we say, "no," too quickly, let’s imagine that one candidate was by far the more immoral, and opposed all the things of God. What about then? There’s no one like that in the 2008 election, but there may be down the road.

I’m also wondering if ministers’ political views should be consider a part of their theology or not? If so, should they be considered in the hiring process?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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7 thoughts on “Church and Politics

  1. Collin,
    I’d like to find something I disagree with in your post, but struggle to. I might only add that some (not saying you, of course) left-leaning Christians need to learn to love and accept right-leaning Christians, and vice versa, of course.
    I would love to see someone write a book about the dangers of ethnocentrism to Christianity.
    I also think this post and this discussion have a great deal to say to Tim’s next post on the challenges facing our world.
    Good stuff.

  2. Mitch, I agree completely with your thoughts. The American church has often done a terrible job of keeping its American status secondary to its role as a sign and foretaste of the kingdom of God. Once we are baptized, all other citizenships fade to the background as we become members of God’s kingdom. Thus, we no longer use means of power and violence in order to usher in our Christian ends because our means must consist of a similar ethic to our ends.
    One of the biggest problems I have seen in churches has to do with our pronouns. We speak of “our” troops and “our” nation, which clearly shows where our strongest allegiance lies. As members of the kingdom of God, these pronouns are troublesome. How is God supposed to hear a prayer for “our” troops when he is more concerned about all nations rather than merely protecting America’s interests. God has a bigger vision of the world, and our ethnocentric instincts must fall away as we are brought out of the waters of baptism. I have heard prayers for “our” troops, but I have never heard prayers on behalf of the insurgents of Iraq whom God loves just as much.
    Zack, I’m curious why you believe that a a person’s moral status should affect our voting. If given the choice between a homosexual whose main objective in office is to seek mercy and justice for the oppressed and a “Christian” whose main objective is preserve better tax laws for the wealthy and privileged, should we go with the “moral” one? Perhaps we need a more nuanced view of morality. While many churches would disagree with homosexuality, how many churches are willing denounce a candidate whose campaign is based on the immorality of greed?
    In America, it seems as though Christians are losing their favored place in the center of society. Thus since the late seventies, members of the Christian right have chosen to use politics to regain Christianity’s place at the center of society. But a close look at Jesus in the Gospels would point us in a different direction. Rather than seeking places of power and political clout, Jesus chose to accept his birth at the margins of society and continued his work for God’s kingdom “outside the camp.” Thus, should we, who have found ourselves in a marginalized position, seek to assert our way back to the center of society through moral candidates who can push our Christian agenda and legislate morality for a country that is certain it no longer wants the church to run it?
    In my reading of Scripture, God calls nations into existence in order to maintain justice and order in society. Even to punish Israel, God brings in unjust countries (Babylon, Assyria, etc.) to do his work in the world. Perhaps we should shy away from claiming that God is using us to affect his purposes in the world because this could mean that we are the Old Testament equivalent of Israel or Babylon.
    Early in our movement’s history, Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott, and other leaders mistakenly believed America was God’s nation that would bring in the millennium through its unity, mission, and evangelism. But these leaders lost their vision of America as God’s chosen nation when the Civil War dashed their political ideas of the kingdom. But Barton Stone and David Lipscomb longed for Christians to forsake political involvement in order to bring God’s kingdom through other means. Perhaps we should rethink our view of politics in light of Christianity’s varied history.
    As to a minister’s political views in the hiring process, I believe that it should play a role. If a minister is a pacifist and sees his role as ridding the world of militaristic and nationalistic Christians, then perhaps certain churches in Annapolis and Washington D.C. would not be the best place for him to minister (unless merely as a prophet). However, while I’d like to say Scripture is clear and univocal in these issues, the variety of viewpoints on a Christian’s relation to the state shows that these are difficult issues. Despite the ways politics tends to divide, perhaps this is a place where the church can show its countercultural nature. Part of unity is being able to exist with different viewpoints. Thus, a church should be able to stay united with differing opinions on these matters. So, it should play a role, but a mature congregation should be able to have ministers with different viewpoints coexist maturely.
    Tim, thanks for creating a place for Christians to discuss these issues. The church needs to create ways for the church to converse about difficult matters, such as politics, in an environment of love and respect.

  3. Interesting thoughts here. Yes , I think a political candidate should be boycotted as it were by the church if he or she is immoral. No I don’t think a minister’s political views shouldn’t play a role in if he should or shouldn’t be hired.
    By the way, I’m glad USC lost on Saturday. What a game that was. Be blessed.

  4. This is sometime that I have pondered also. At first I was completely opposed to any mention of politics from the pulpit, but recently I have discovered that “politics” (this really needs to be defined) cannot be separated from living as a disciple. Is justice politics, morally politics, and feeding the poor politics? I wrote a huge paper on Church-State separation if anyone would like it–let me know.

  5. I posted this comment last night but maybe it didn’t get through. I’ll try again.
    I have no problem with the church having a positive impact on earthly politics, however, I take issue with earthly politics creeping into the church. The latter is usually the case.
    My wife and I left the C of C the night the Iraq war started. We were sadened to see nationalism take over the church rather than Christ.
    We have been visiting HOCC as of late but this entry in Tim’s Blog makes me wonder where the church is headed. As Tim mentioned in his “Graduation Day” sermon a few weeks back, baptised believers are part of a spiritual community or kingdom that transcends earthly national boundaries. If this new covenant is active within us we would be regressing in profound ways to engage in the politics of the world. As hard as it may be to accept in the current political climate, an unsaved US soldier is no different than an unsaved Iraqi insurgent.
    Our fight is a spiritual one that is requires great spiritual maturity and fortitude. We must resist the pressures to join the world in its politics, wars, and weaknesses.
    The world seeks relief from these things.

  6. Hmmmm…where to start…how about with a question in response to your question.
    Is there a difference between the political ramifications of a church’s particular actions (i.e., providing help for poor illegal immigrants because they struggle to get on their feet in the current climate of distrust) and a church intentionally politicizing their actions? Is one right and the other not? What say you, oh wise one?