How Much Should Churches Engage in Politics?

It is important to me that I consider how far Christians and churches should be involved in politics. I question myself concerning the matter frequently, and of others occasionally, and (in a fashion) I blogged about it here. So of course I am interested in this article in which it is reported that Pastor Rick Warren has engaged Senators John McCain and Barack Obama to speak at his church.

One of our conversations when my oldest son, Steve, and I were together last week, was of this subject, and it sprang from a remark Steve made as we discussed the tragic condition of our world.

“We’ve stood by and let evil take over, Mom,” he said, and then gave me some examples.

“Part of the reason for that, Steve, is that for years, it seems the church was advised to not be directly involved in politics.” It wasn’t a long conversation, and we soon moved to something else.

Do you have an opinion about this? Is this something churches should be doing? Should Christians be involved in politics? Isn’t it a logical place for Christians to function? Shouldn’t we care about the direction of our country? of our world? Or should we merely listen and read and form opinions so that we can be responsible voters? Should we continue to focus on spreading the gospel to a lost world and leave the activist political work to others?

Rick Warren leads ‘Global Summit on AIDS and the Church’ at his Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., in November (WND photo)

Rick Warren’s Southern California megachurch announced today it will host the first joint campaign appearance of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama.

 

Warren will moderate the event with the presumed Republican and Democratic presidential nominees Aug.16 at Saddleback Church’s Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion.

“This is a critical time for our nation and the American people deserve to hear both candidates speak from the heart – without interruption – in a civil and thoughtful format absent the partisan ‘gotcha’ questions that typically produce heat instead of light,” Warren said in a statement.

Warren, founding pastor of the 22,000-member church, said the primaries “proved that Americans care deeply about the faith, values, character and leadership convictions of candidates as much as they do about the issues.”

20 thoughts on “How Much Should Churches Engage in Politics?

  1. Pingback: Comments around Wordpress « Pantheophany

  2. I don’t think the question is about whether Christians should be involved in politics. The question is, “Should Christians be political?” I think there is a difference from a Christian who is led by the Lord through their talents to serve their country and model Godly ethical values and a Pastor who is looking to be political to build a power base or promote his plan for world peace. If you look closely at Warren, you will see this move is political.

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  3. Sister Buxton:
    I do not believe that Apostolics should run for political offices nor campaign for any candidate. I do not believe that Pastors should have candidates or any other unbeliever in their pulpits. Nor tell their comgregation how to vote We are not politicions. We are gospel preachers. Christ tolld His disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. That does not leave any room, for politics.
    Bro. Webb

    Jerry has always taken this stance, too. He has never told our churches how to vote, nor opened our pulpits to politicians.

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  4. renaissanceguy

    We are not in the same position in the United States in 2008 that the early Christians were. They were living, most of them anyway, in the Roman Empire. The teachings of Jesus and Paul about government applied to that context.

    We live in a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It is not only our right to vote, but our civic duty. We also have recognized that we have an inherent right to practice our religious faith anyway we see fit. So here in America, it is incumbent upon Chrisitians as individuals to be involved and stay involved in the political arena.

    Laws will be made one way or another, and if Christians don’t help decide what those laws are, we will continue to live in an increasingly ungodly society.

    My personal view is that churches, as institutions, should stay out of politics directly. Pastors should teach biblical principles that will help individual Christians be better citizens and to “approve what is good.”

    I don’t think a church or a pastor should host a political event. However, if Rick Warren, as an individual, wants to host an event in a neutral location that includes both candidates, more power to him! It’s a bit tricky, because everybody still knows him as a prominent church pastor.

    Agree.

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  5. Speaking very generally…

    Politics is a very messy monster. And I can see why the church was advised to stay away from it.

    On the other hand, I do feel a certain responsibility as a Christian to vote for things that promote Christian values and against things that clearly oppose Christian values. And it seems Church services as a body of Christians would be a convenient venue to be informed of and discuss different issues to vote on at the polls.

    To my shame, I don’t vote and pay attention to politics like I should. Not because I don’t believe in it but because I don’t have time for it. It is all too complicated and doesn’t seem to motivate me to actually study out the issues and make an informed decision. So I waive my right to vote on almost all but major elections, and even then, it’s not a huge priority for me.

    Considering this, I think the Church would provide a relevant service to believers by helping us sort out the mess of politics. This service could potentially make a big difference and impact on our country and as I said, I do fell a responsibility as a Christian (and I think all Christians should feel this way) to make sure my voice is heard in voting. And if collectively the Church made it’s voice heard in voting, I think it wouldn’t go unnoticed.

    Never the less, I don’t blame anyone for advising to stay away from politics because it is such a big mess it’s hard to tell if and when it’s more trouble than it’s really worth.

    John, I pretty much think that in simple terms you have concisely laid out the case; we need to be aware of the issues and of the candidates, need to feel our responsibility as a Christian to vote, but should remember that politics is not the main issue of our lives. God is…and spreading His Word should be our priority.

    Thanks for your comments.

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  6. Shirley,

    I think this is real sticky. There isn’t any reason a church shouldn’t host an event that promotes learning (so that members can vote intelligently), but I have a problem with allowing candidates to campaign (and that’s what it is) during a regularly scheduled service that serves another purpose (such as Bible study, prayer meeting, or a worship service).

    Sunday schools began so that children could learn to read, so the idea of learning at church (other than just Biblical history or doctrine) is historical in this country. And some denominations have a time (typically during the 11:00 worship service) when guests introduce themselves or when they sing “Happy Birthday” to members. It seems a brief hello from a candidate would be as welcome as from any other guest. If he’s there, he’s there. But unless the candidate is also a leader (pastor, deacon, etc.) in the same denomination as he is visiting, it seems kind of out of place to put him in a position of leadership during a worship service. But then again, some churches bring in the Chief of Police on some Sunday. (Go figure.) Also, the degree of formality in the church may weigh on the decision. For example, I can’t see where this could be fit into a Catholic Mass. My only real hang-up with asking candidates to come on Sunday morning is that time has a habit of slipping away. Time set aside to worship God should be considered sacred, because it is. We must “take time to be holy” before all other things. If we do not, our priorities will be unbalanced, and we will make the wrong choices anyway.

    I am no particular fan of Rick Warren, but I think he intends to keep the debate separate from regular services, so I don’t see a problem. Christians do have a responsibility to be informed citizens, and there is no reason why they shouldn’t learn about the candidates together.

    The church should not “stand by and let evil take over.” But does being “directly involved in politics” mean inviting the candidates in or going where the candidates are? In some ways it seems easier for the church to invite them in than to organize a group to go where the candidates are (such as, to organize a bus trip to hear a candidate speak), although that could be informative and fun. It seems as though there might be more opportunity to hear a candidates position on issues of interest at the church. But on the other hand, all issues are important in evaluating a candidate.

    You’re right, Helen. It’s a sticky issue, but I think we all agree that we need to be prepared for the election in November.

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  7. We must be informed of those running for office or why even go to the polls. As Christians we have to put God in the center of all we do. This means having faith that things are happening according to His plan. I would stay upset all of the time if I did not believe this. I think it is a good thing for our politicians to know how we feel about issues. I believe our time spent obeying God’s voice to reach the lost is more important than anything we could ever do. As for Rick Warren’s books, I have read a couple and find them to be full of good information in being an effective leader. Like any book you read, glean the best and leave the rest. I really can’t say my faith is in any politician. I choose as you, to keep my faith in the One that makes all of the difference.

    Nita, my dear. You are one smart cookie. 🙂

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  8. Shirley:
    Thanks for dropping by my site.
    I have a feeling you are probably the most intelligent person I’ll meet this week.

    Albert Einstein. “There is truth, it is our nature and obligation to seek it. But its true nature lies just beyond the veil of perception”.

    “When you refer me to your site, and to those linked there, aren’t you hoping I will perceive the truth to be as you see it? (as well, I think you should”.)

    Yes and no, if that makes any sense.
    I want people to look at all sides and from that, come to their own conclusion.

    When I ask someone a question and they give me an answer, I want to know if it is their answer, or are they just repeating something that was told to them by someone else.
    If you ask most people a question like – do you believe this to be true or untrue?
    After they answer, ask, why?

    If they have done their research and looked at it with a critical eye, they will have an intelligent answer. You don’t have to agree with it, that’s not important. A good healthy debate can now take place.

    Unfortunately, most of the time they will stumble with their answer, or they have accepted information as true without asking the source to justify it. In other words people have forgotten how to ask-why

    When people come to my site and read something, I want them to ask themselves, why should I believe what I have just read?
    Asking why, forces one to do research.
    Another problem occurs when someone is told something is true, then is told where to find the information. Once found they use it as verification of truth.
    They never asked why?

    One of the best things that a person can be taught, is to ask why.
    From there, knowledge can be gained.

    Why does Al Gore profess to be a Christian, while he is pushing the Green Agenda based on the pagan goddess Gaia?

    Why is it so important to be rid of the Christian faith?

    Why does Al Gore and those pushing the NWO Green Agenda want to replace the Ten Commandments with ten new commandments?

    These should be questions of utmost importance to anyone of the Christian faith.

    Please read and study the Green Agenda found on my blog.
    http://www.windfarms.wordpress.com

    Take care and always ask, why?

    Ron
    I agree essentially with what you have said here…except the “…most inteligent….” part. I do appreciate the compliment, however.

    An exception I want to point to, Ron, is that the Bible clearly teaches the need for pastors to preach and teach the Word of God, which indicates that in the extremely important realm of the Spirit, we need someone to help us interpret God’s word.

    Love your comments.

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  9. Sister Buxton:
    Apostle Paul told Timothy “He that wareth entangleth not himself with the affairs of this life that he may please Him who has called ue to be a souldier.”
    Nio, No No. The Apostolic church has no place in politics.
    Brother Webb
    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I value your opinion.

    What do you mean “The Apostolic church has no place in politics?” Are you referring to holding office, voting, talking about the candidates, or are you thinking of the original post in which Rev. Warren is having both candidates at his church?

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  10. Dave

    Shirley, you must spend a LOT of time just answering all of us who leave comments. Wow!

    I enjoy your blogs.

    Dave, I hanker after opinionated comments from you. 🙂

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  11. Question possibly should be: What Would Jesus Do? Would he stand by or would he participate in the process?

    Herman, anytime someone states that question, it brings me up short, causes me to pause, and insures that I really think. What would He do? Would Jesus speak to the policy of either candidate? What if one of their agendas was contrary to the righteous life? Would He speak against it?

    Thank you for the post.

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  12. pantheophany

    Society seems more lost to me than it did–say 20 years ago. I know that is merely subjective, and I may be quite wrong.

    Has there ever been a generation who didn’t say exactly the same? But it’s hard to imagine that it has been nothing but a downhill slide since the day Socrates said “the children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” Times change, but again, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

    Thirty-five years ago, X-rated pornography played in mainstream move theaters and married couples “dabbled” in ways that few would admit in public today. You’ve seen much more than I have. Is two men committing themselves to a permanent, loving relationship (the one that 40% of heterosexual couples are abandoning) really the most “lost” thing you’ve seen?

    The New Testament is either an eternal guide for Christian life, or it is only a snapshot from the 1st century that later generations may pick and choose from. If it is eternal, then the Bible is clear. Keep your eye on the prize. Tell the good news as Paul did, boldly and without fear, and put away other distractions. Paul even tells Christians it better that they not marry lest they be distracted, something Christians have clearly forgotten.

    On the other hand, if parts of the Bible were right for the dictatorship of Rome, but not the democracy of Washington, then Christians must reevaluate all of it. Perhaps prohibitions on homosexuality, like prohibitions on mixing fibers or women speaking in Church, are not so applicable today. If we can choose, then what guides us but our own prayer and conscience? And if prayer and conscience guide us, what is special about the Bible?

    Let me be honest with you, because I don’t want to seem like the devil quoting scripture. I am not a Christian, and I believe that prayer and conscience are exactly what should guide us. But in love for my Christian brothers and sisters, I want Christians to either return to the Bible and the Church of Acts and the churches of Paul, or let the Bible go as the eternal and unique standard of righteousness. Today I see Christians picking a verse here and a verse there. If the Bible is the word of God, then let go of preconceived notions of what it means and read it again. What it teaches is not what the Christianity has become. If you’re willing to read the Christian thoughts of a non-Christian, I discuss this more at length in A Biblical Church and Biblical Marriage and don’t mean to repeat it all in a comment.

    Thank you for hosting one of the most hospitable Christian blogs I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. Happy Birthday.

    Pan, thank you for your honesty and for your provocative remarks. I’m a Christian who is associated with ministers who strive to have “Book of Acts” churches. We know we’re not perfect at it, talk about that honestly, but continue trying, knowing we can’t at all do it in our own power; it takes God. Humans are at once magnificent and pitiful…don’t you think?

    Thanks for the birthday wish. Your second to last sentence touched me deeply; bittersweet. It saddens me that as Christians we’re not always as kind and hospitable as we should be.

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  13. This past sunday our pastor barely touched on politics, but he did mention the moral chaos of our society and how SIN must be confessed, repentence done and forgiveness given.
    If Rick Warren would spend more time preaching that basic message, he would have less time to write “how to” books and more time helping the lost get into Heaven before it is too late.
    I have 0 respect for the Warren’s of the world.
    “We are aliens and strangers in this land”. I love politics but as a Christian my first duty is to spread the gospel. For a pastor, it is a thousand times more duty. “Pastors and teachers will be held to a higher accounting”.
    I want neither Obama nor McCain coming into my church except to hear a message of salvation and to receive Christ, then they will have the answer to what ails this country.

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  14. Pantheophany–

    I don’t know who through history has been the most wicked. In the eyes of God sin is sin, and are there degrees with Him? I agree it was terrible that men owned men, and I’m thankful that for the most part has been rectified.

    Society seems more lost to me than it did–say 20 years ago. I know that is merely subjective, and I may be quite wrong.

    I’m not pressing for the church to be more politically involved, for I certainly don’t know if that is a correct move or not. I’m merely raising the question with myself…and with others.

    Does it at all make a difference in your opinion? Should you and I have such a discussion as this? Should my son and I? Does it matter who is the President, and which judges are appointed…?
    Does your referenced scripture in Romans and others which say in essence “God puts up whomsoever He will” mean we shouldn’t even vote?

    “Christians should focus on the eternal, changing immortal hearts rather than changing temporary laws.” Of course it is valid for you to say this, for that is the crux of the matter. Should we at all be involved in politics, or rather should we spend all our time spreading the Gospel?

    Perhaps the bottom line is the issue of what will happen if we do nothing–but then if we believe God will set up whomsoever He will…

    Serious questions, these.

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  15. pantheophany

    I’m interested in how you judge the behavior of people. Are we truly more wicked today when men can marry men than 200 years ago when men could own men?

    But if we are truly in the last days, doesn’t that redouble Paul’s point that “time is short” and that Christians should focus on the eternal, changing immortal hearts rather than changing temporary laws? Isn’t 1 Cor 7 even more applicable in the end days, telling Christians to ignore the world and focus on heaven?

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  16. Hello, pantheophany–Welcome to my site.

    I appreciate your considered remarks so much, and there is much with which I certainly agree, and I know it is scriptural to state there is nothing new under the sun.

    From the earliest acts in Genesis there were deceit and murder–I do understand that, so in principle I comprehend that from the beginning there has been trouble and evil.

    Yet Paul writes to Timothy saying that in the last days evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse… Though many think we are, no one knows for sure if we are living in the last days. But according to this scripture there will be days when men act in worse ways than previously.

    It seems our society is worse today than a few generations ago, when the sucking out of a child’s brain was illegal–and now is perfectly fine–and when marriage was sacred and between one man and one woman–and now in some states, can be between two men or two women.

    For the record, my son was not advocating taking politics into the church. But he was emphasizing our need to speak against evil in this world.

    Again, I do appreciate your being here. Hope you return often.

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  17. pantheophany

    “We’ve stood by and let evil take over, Mom,”

    2000 years ago, the author of John wrote “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19) And yet John never suggests that Christians should involve themselves in politics or even fighting against injustice.

    When asked one of the most political questions of his day, whether Jews should support their quasi-occupation by Rome by paying Roman taxes, Jesus refused to be dragged into the political discussion. He said simply “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Of course he knew that giving Rome its taxes would empower them even further to oppress the Jews, but he did not involve himself in the earthly politics of the moment.

    Paul told the Romans, residents at the heart of an oppressive empire which was moving to occupy the Jews, himself a citizen of Rome, “everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”(Romans 13:1) Perhaps the Roman church could not vote, but they could have resisted. Paul may not have been able to overturn Caesar, but he could have spoken out against him. There are politics even in a dictatorship. But he tells them to submit to whatever government there is, secure in the fact that God installs all governments.

    Where in Christianity can we find a call to politics? Personally helping the poor and unprotected? Absolutely. Personally changing hearts through words and deeds? All over the Bible. But politics? No.

    If your son thinks the world is evil today, he should study history. There is nothing new under the sun. It’s not some recent generation that “let evil take over.” The Bible speaks to this issue and it tells Christians to focus on the eternal, not the fleeting.

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  18. Hi, Tom–Welcome to my site.

    I’ve read a bit at your place, clicked a couple of links and said, “Hmm…,” agree with much of it, but some of it, as you intimated, is new to me. I’ll read more.

    I do believe Al Gore is making millions from his “agenda,” and had previously read that windfarms are not as productive as was first imagined.

    Otherwise, the church crosses the line by attempting to influence the political thoughts of a person.
    Not the job of the church or anyone else.

    I’m not quite sure I understand these statements of yours, for when we offer what we believe to be reliable information, aren’t we in fact trying to influence those who hear us to “our corner?”

    When you refer me to your site, and to those linked there, aren’t you hoping I will perceive the truth to be as you see it? (as well, I think you should.)

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  19. Engaged yes-but only in the sense of teaching people how to ask questions and be critical thinkers.
    Otherwise, the church crosses the line by attempting to influence the political thoughts of a person.
    Not the job of the church or anyone else.
    People need to be taught to think for themselves.
    The world will be a much better place when that happens.

    Please do yourself a favor.

    Read The Green Agenda. Meet the real Al Gore.
    Find out what he and his friends are really up to.
    Discover what they really have to say and what it means.

    I was as shocked as you will be.
    I learned a long time ago that when there seems to be too much hype about anything there is probably something we aren’t being told.
    Keep an open mind and give it a read.
    You might also want to give Cloak of Green a read.

    Both can be found on the page bar of my blog.
    http://www.windfarms.wordpress.com

    Enjoy the day-life is going to get very interesting.

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