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SHOULD RELIGION INCLUDE POLITICS? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jim Jordal   
Monday, 06 February 2012

SHOULD RELIGION INCLUDE POLITICS?

By Jim Jordal

 Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.

Isaiah 58:1, KJV

Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.  Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

Prov. 31:8-9, KJV

According to the above scriptures one of the major functions of God’s people and their prophets and clergy is to cry out against evil in their societies. It’s to expose sinful behaviors of political and economic leaders to the light of God’s word. And it’s to offer Divine deliverance from this sin, both to individuals and the nation. So why do we today offer copious forgiveness to sinful individuals, but seldom utter a peep about national evil and forgiveness?

Sojourner’s Jim Wallis relates this account of one transforming experience on his path toward public advocacy of righteousness and justice. It seems that he was a 15-year-old boy concerned over racism and how it damages society. So he went to an elder of his church to ask why the church said nothing about racism. The elder replied, "Jim, Christianity has nothing to do with racism. That’s political, and our faith is personal." As Wallis reports, "That’s the night I left my church."

So the question persists: Is Christianity purely a private personal relationship between you and God, or is there also a public side to this relationship? Do Christians have any duty to speak out on perceived evils of society, even at the cost of social and political ostracism, often by other Christians? Does faith have a political side? If so, what is it?

The church ought not to take sides politically, but it should have much to say on current issues in the light of God’s word. Christianity is not just a personal matter or relationship between you and God. Yes, there is a deeply personal relationship between you and God, but that’s only the starting point. Following Jesus means going where he went, meeting the same types of people he met, and teaching the same message he taught. How can we teach what Jesus taught when we perceive his only message to have been salvation for the individual people of his community? Didn’t he also interact with local and national leaders, not always directly or in confrontation, but always with the idea that they needed to hear the word of God and how it applied to the crucial issues of the day. Jesus said that he was of another world, meaning that what he modeled and taught transcended the values of the present world. He did not mean that his followers should ignore or excuse evil, but that they should confront it with the law of God and the testimonies of the prophets.

Throughout history various domination systems have attempted---usually with considerable success—to suborn religion into lending legitimacy to the system, no matter what its falsehoods or oppressions. Churches thus became kept creatures of whatever domination system prevailed at the time. The function of the church was to lend the legitimacy of God’s word to the system, and also to keep disenchanted citizens in check by promising them something better in-the-sweet-by-and-by. And there was something better awaiting suffering Christians, but that eventual reward in no way meant that the church should abdicate its role of speaking truth to power.

Several hundred years ago the movement to abolish slavery had its roots in the Christian church. Abolitionists led by people like William Wilberforce in England and William Lloyd Garrison in the U.S. were motivated by Christian values. And preachers all over the North thundered against the evils of slavery, using Bible texts to back up their comments. They did not say that slavery was God’s will and that free people should accept it as such. It was viewed as a monstrous societal evil that needed to be exposed and discredited wherever possible so that the public would turn against it. And that’s what eventually happened.

Today’s church does attack the institution of war, probably because that’s one moral position they can take using the direct comments of Jesus on the value of peace. But Jesus also spoke eloquently on other issues like poverty, injustice, and oppression, most of which the modern church ignores. When will the Christian church begin speaking out against the causes of poverty, homelessness, joblessness, and all the other factors in society that create rather then alleviate human suffering.

That’s what Jesus would be doing if he were here, and that’s what his words do whenever they are heeded. Following Jesus is not just hearing his words, but doing what he said.