Some well-meaning person a couple of centuries ago laid down the etiquette dictum never to discuss religion and politics. That makes no sense for Christians or those living in a self-governing republic. And that’s putting it in the kindest words I can come up with.
First, the politics. Can effective citizens not discuss politics? Do political ads or the media tell us everything we need to know about candidates for office or important legislation being considered? I think not. Making informed votes and giving meaningful input to our representatives about important legislation require enough accurate information. Listening to other people, especially those we would normally disagree with, gets us out of the echo chamber of our favorite channels and websites and gives us a look at candidates and legislation from different perspectives.
What about religion? Isn’t that a personal, private matter not appropriate for the public square? It could be, for a personal, private religion. For religions people did not make up just to experience some kind of peace or joy within themselves, silence fails. Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and Muslims would be incredibly selfish to be silent about the only way to escape a present or future Hell.* For Christians and Muslims, it would also be disobedient. They are adherents of missionary religions–though the methods are quite different–which command that the believers tell others about their respective ways of salvation. To expect or demand that believers be silent about what and who they believe is ridiculous.
But won’t people get upset and argue about religion and politics? Some will. We can choose, however, to behave like mature, thoughtful adults. We can listen to other points of view without feeling so insecure in what we believe that we can’t handle any challenge to it. Who knows? We might even learn something. Perhaps we’re not 100 percent right about everything.
Here are some ways of mixing religion and politics for Christians. I won’t speak about mixing the other religions’ adherents’ political and religious responsibilities mainly because I don’t know them well enough to do so.
The best place to start is to look in the Bible for what God has to say about Christians’ political responsibilities. I could be a liar or talking through my nose, so it’s better to check what I say against the ultimate authority. Good books to look through for political principles are Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Judges, Ist Samuel through Nehemiah, the Gospels, Acts, and Romans.
The sine qua non of Christians’ religious responsibilities is to pray. Everything else we do–vote, discuss politics, contact our legislators, campaign, write, run for office or what have you–are pretty useless if we don’t. If we want God’s blessing on America, we need to ask for it. The Bible discusses a couple of specific ways for us to pray.
We need to pray for our leaders. Paul commands this in 1st Timothy 2:1-3.
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,…
Notice that this does not say to pray for leaders who we agree with or even good leaders. Paul lived in the Roman Empire under some very nasty emperors and governors. We might think that this or that president, governor, judge or congressman is awful, but we still need to pray for him or her. In fact, we need to pray for bad leaders all the more.
We don’t have to agree with everything that a leader does. We can pray for a president and still discuss how we disagree with a particular policy or decision. If we believe an official is doing something illegal or unconstitutional, speaking out against it is not only permissible but necessary. Our leaders are only human beings. They can make mistakes or hold immoral policy positions like anyone else. When a leader promotes injustice or immorality, we must speak out about that particular issue, while we are praying for him or her.
We also need to remember the most important leaders: the citizens. We live in a self-governing republic. That means our government works for and answers to us. Every election, we have the choice to keep the current leaders or elect new ones. The citizens are in charge. Therefore, we are to pray for the citizens just like we pray for any other leader.
This post went in unexpected directions. Maybe that’s a good thing or a God thing? In any case, this subject requires another post or two.
* I can’t speak about Jews’ missionary efforts because I’ve never heard a clear teaching about either a command to tell other people about Yahweh or heaven and hell. I don’t intend to denigrate Judaism in anyway. I was brought up a Jew and later was dragged kicking and screaming into faith in Christ.