Does politics get in the way of the gospel?
Certainly, the effective dissemination of the Gospel is of paramount importance to all Christians. But reading many articles in elite publications today, one would think that the precious gospel of Jesus Christ is dangerously crippled by the wickedness of current partisan politics. Just this week The New York Times warned in a long article »a “seismic shift” Evangelical Fractures” because of politics and Atlanticwho seems to publish such catastrophic articles about every 6 months, explains “How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church.”
If these people are to be believed, Christians involved in politics are the biggest obstacle to the gospel today. But what these reporters don’t understand is that their neighboring “the sky is falling” warning to the Christian faithful is nothing new at all. It’s also not helpful or particularly insightful. Knowledgeable readers know this to be true. The reasons are many.
First, the elite press was predictably apoplectic for decades now on any movement involvement of biblical christians in politics. So their warnings ring hollow today. Just as we are now supposed to believe that this new thing called “Ultra Maga” is much worse than “Original Maga” which we have been told for years that it was literally naziimplication is that we should reject the “poisonous” faith-based politics of today and yearn longingly for the good old days of the moral majority and Christian Coalition.
Continuing to cry wolf has consequences.
Yes, we tire of the elite media’s false preoccupation with something they despise: the effectiveness of the gospel. He also fails to understand basic citizenship.
Second, all Christians are citizens of the nation in which they were born or legally resident. To be proud of the nation in which God has placed someone and to become involved in the politics of that nation is not supposedly “Christian nationalism.” This is called vibrant citizenship and democracy. Nations are stronger when everyone gets involved and brings their full conviction and participation to the public square. Same religious conviction. This is not the death of democracy, but exactly the opposite.
And yes, politics can be messy. But that doesn’t mean Christians should avoid it. This means that they should become serious students of how to do it well. If Jesus is Lord, and he is, he is Lord of all sphere of life. And Christians are called to participate in all areas of cultural life. Including politics, no matter what other people think. We are not hermits.
Third, to think that Christians do not have to interfere deeply in the politics of their respective nations misunderstands fundamental Christian history. Let’s start with Christianity’s first evangelist: John the Baptist. He way mixed politics and evangelical ministry. He did it until death.
Of course, John was the forerunner of Jesus, the Word made flesh. Jesus said there was no one was born of a woman greater than John the Baptist. His example is certainly worth following. John was imprisoned and lost his mind, literally, for speaking the truth directly to political power about the nature of marriage and sexual integrity, telling Herod Antipas that his marriage was illegal. His outspokenness cost him his vital ministry and his life.
Even the great Jewish historian Flavius Josephus details the facts of this early Christian political involvement explaining: “For Herod had slain that good man…John, who was called the Baptist,…who had commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, justice toward one another, and piety toward God .
It is clear that the forerunner of Jesus did not see expressing his Christian conviction on family matters directly to the highest political leaders as a challenge or a distraction from his mission, even if it ended up costing him his life. We neither.
The Savior himself was entangled in the politics of the time. After all, he was put to death by the state under enormous political pressure. But He was not concerned with the entanglement, knowing that His gospel was more powerful than the mess of these policies.
The early Church Fathers were extremely outspoken politically on the issue of abortion. OM Bakke, in When Children Became Persons: The Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity, explains early Christian apologists like Athenagoras and Tertullian “addressed their texts to Roman governors and emperors” likely influencing the criminalization of abortion there. He saw in it not a competition to the Gospel, but the very work of the Good News itself. They could walk and chew gum.
Throughout the history of the Church, Christians have unabashedly engaged in politics at great cost to themselves, their ministries, and their reputations. They did it to uphold God’s definition of marriage and family, to protect children, to fight slavery, to uplift women, to protect the vulnerable, and to secure justice for people of different skin colors. . All this is an integral part of the history of Christianity.
Christians must remember this: the Gospel is a lion, a mighty wind, a supernatural, unstoppable force. She’s not an old lady who needs help crossing the street. God’s holiness never contradicts God’s grace. Those who believe it do not understand either. People regularly turned away from Jesus and he let them. Others were attracted by his love and boldness
If Jesus is truly Lord, Christians are citizens called to commit everything aspects of civic life. Expensive and divisive engagement in politics has always been part of our history. It is certainly not a threat, but a demonstration of the dynamism and power of Christianity.
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