The Gospel and Politics

Is preaching the gospel compatible with a discussion of politics?  There are some who think not; indeed, who even get rather worked up about it, especially politicians. However, even a cursory reading of scripture will lead one to understand that one cannot communicate God’s Word without getting tied up in politics.  More than one of God’s prophets, before, after and including Jesus, was killed or imprisoned for ‘stepping on the toes’ of those in power.

Bearers of the Faith, would be less than disciples if they were to ignore the actions of those in power when such actions go against the grain of God’s will, e.g. when the poor suffer at the hands of the rich and powerful, when God’s creation and the well-being of future generations is plundered, when people are denied basic human rights, when the commandment to love is ignored in favour of war, revenge and punishment, when a culture of fear is fostered rather than a culture of faith.  All of the above are happening now.

Common sense will tell you, if the gospel has nothing to say about politics (i.e. the means by which human beings order their societies), it really has little relevance to our lives at all, and we may as well burn our Bibles and close the church.  

To believe in one God, and one God only, means patriotism and political partisanship must always take a back seat to discipleship.  As a people guided by God, there is no way that our political views ever can be free of the way of Jesus, nor should they be.  When God’s will and the will of our leaders conflict, there is no doubt where our allegiance must lie.

From time to time over the course of my career, I have preached sermons which were considered too political by some members of my congregations, but is it not the duty of every Christian to call our leaders to account for their actions when we think that they are acting contrary to gospel values?  Are we not called to name evil when it appears and to name its perpetrators?  

This is not a question of Labour vs. the Coalition or liberal vs. conservative.  The question is: Is our leadership, whichever party is in power, acting morally?  It is a question that should be asked everyday, and if the answer is ‘no’, then change is in order, and action is called for. 

Given that our responsibility in this matter is so blatantly obvious, it must be asked: Why would any Christian complain about bringing religion into politics?  I came up with three possibilities, but there may be others:

  1. The gospel conflicts with what we want, so to side with the gospel against the government would be to threaten the advantages we are getting from current political policies, be it security, money or support for our prejudices, or…
  2. We have a misguided sense of loyalty, mistakenly believing that it would be unpatriotic to criticise the government, even if we don’t agree with their policies, or….
  3. We are among those who are responsible for having cast our vote for the party in power, so it is better to not know about its immorality than to acknowledge we made a mistake.

If a person were to fall in the last category, it would seem that this person would have not only a greater sense of responsibility, but also more motivation to question the existing order.  After all, these are the people who should feel betrayed by the ones to whom they entrusted their power.  This is why we have elections every few years: so that we have a chance to fix our mistakes.

In my years of ministry it has frequently been necessary to speak out against specific policies that were clearly contrary to Christian values.  If I should ever stop doing so, I will have abrogated my responsibility as one who has vowed to spread the gospel.

As issues arise, you will hear politics from the pulpit; there is no other viable moral or theological alternative for a preacher.  It is a question of being faithful to the one God and to the way of Jesus, our teacher.

One church leader said before the American elections: “What would it mean to have a public voice in our community this year around issues that we care about?” she asked. “If God is still speaking, then God doesn’t shut up in the face of potentially controversial issues.”

Let’s ensure God always has a vote.

Bob Thomas

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