There’s an old adage, “Religion and politics don’t mix.” It suggests we can neatly separate issues of faith from practical issues of the world and keep everyone happy.
But in reality, the Bible is a very political book! Both the Old and New Testaments are chock-full of stories of people of faith sticking their noses into the politics of their day.
For example, when Moses led the Hebrew people out of the slavery of Egypt … this was a political move! Can’t you just hear old Pharaoh whining “Bring back my slaves, Moses! I thought you were a priest not a politician!”
But usually people complaining religion and politics don’t mix are really saying, “Your religion doesn’t mix with my politics!”
Yet there is no doubt about it. Any serious student of the Bible comes to see, God’s people have always been expected to speak out and work against injustice towards the poor, oppressed, hungry, imprisoned and the last and least of the world. (Deuteronomy 10:17-18, Isaiah 1:16-17, Luke 4:16-19, Matthew 25:34-36, Acts 19:23-29, etc.) This is bound to butt heads with somebody’s politics!
God’s people are charged to take bold stands on issues that affect the body, mind, and spirit of the human family (hunger, materialism, homelessness, abuse, racism, abortion, refugees, war, poverty, etc.) We really have no choice! Bishop Desmond Tutu has written, “When the elephant has his foot on the tail of the mouse, and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality … and neither with God!”
In recent years, American Christians have become more and more active in the political realm. It’s much more common to see Christians “step to the plate” and put their faith into play on vital issues.
What concerns me, however, is the strict and fierce identification with a single political party. (As if there’s only one way to approach an issue.) As human beings we all want to believe God thinks, acts, and votes like us. Yet the truth is, God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. (For that matter, God is not a capitalist, socialist or a communist, either.) When we try to drag God into our campaign headquarters and too closely associate God with either the “red or the blue” … then we’re on the road to idolatry (attempting to mold God into OUR image, rather than living and acting in GOD’S image.)
Don’t misunderstand -- it’s crucial for Christians to be active in the political arena, crucial for our discipleship as well as our patriotism. Yet it’s also crucial to distinguish where our first loyalty lies, and that is with God, and only later to a political ideology, party, or ballot.
Throughout American history, we’ve seen God work through Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, in the same way God worked through both Jews and Gentiles, believers and unbelievers, in the Bible. The real questions we need to be wrestling with are “What would the Lord think about this?” not “What does my party think?” We need to avoid asking, “Is God on my side?” and discern “Am I on God’s side?”
None of us has “the corner on the market” on God. Not in politics or religion. Christians have come a long way in recent years, recognizing and admitting there is salvation beyond our own denominations (Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, etc.) We’ve come to see there are various ways to live out our Christian commitments and we don’t have to doubt the faith of those who don’t attend OUR church. Now, if we can just make the same connection with our politics. God can, will and does use Christians of all parties to “make justice roll down like waters.”