Thinking out loud – The Church and Political Process

Political ProcessThinking out loud often gets me into trouble, but being slow to learn, I thought I’d record some thoughts prompted by a conversation.

Waiting in line to get some pizza at the Costco snack bar, we met a couple that we recognized from church but did not know well. We ended up getting to know each other better over a few slices of supreme pizza.

My new friend began to tell me how he is burdened by the American church’s lack of involvement in the political process and her seeming reluctance to speak out on issues that are affecting our society. He is especially troubled by the impact that current culture is having on the next generation. He would like to see church leaders of various denominations unite to rally the faithful as a voting block to demand change at the local, state and national levels.

To borrow a phrase from the book of James, I am double minded (literally double souled) on this topic.

On one hand, every time the church has gotten political power, it has gone badly for both the church and society. As Lord Acton observed, power corrupts and when the church has gotten political power, she attracts the bad men to which Lord Acton refers. Those who seek power then use the church toward their own ends rather than submit to the head of the Church, Jesus Christ. The wisdom of our forefathers to prevent America from having a state religion prevents the church from wielding this type of power; I see this as a good thing.

On the other hand, there have been times when the church began living out the truth of the gospel and society was changed as a result. When the church is living out the gospel she can then be used as a tool in the hands of God to bring about revival. A spiritual revival will change the way people vote and the types of candidates that are put in office. When the church becomes the Church (small “c” the visible church organization, large “C” the gathering of the redeemed), then good things happen. Spiritual revival in the Church brings reformation of the culture.

So how should the church proceed? How do we hold these things in tension? How do we find balance? Do we redouble our efforts to live out the gospel and make disciples? Do we get more active in the political process?

I think the answers to these questions will be different for each of us as we seek to be guided by God. I am glad that there have been men such as William Wilberforce who felt called to operate within the halls of power to reform society. Yet I am also glad that there have been preachers and pastors who have felt called to equip the saints for the work of ministry.

How think ye? Please share your thoughts on these questions below.