CEE's Education Newsline
Taken from the Spring 1997 issue of Education Newsline.
Your Political Involvement is Vital
. . . AND SCRIPTURAL!
By Bob & Geri Boyd, Hosts of CEE's Issues In Education Radio Show
Although we've heard some excellent sermons at a local Bible-believing church, we were shocked at the words of the pastor in a recent sermon. The pastor said very plainly and clearly, "I don't care who is President. Jesus wasn't a political reformer. Jesus wasn't involved in politics. Politics won't change people or America."
This sentiment among pastors is a common one throughout America. In another community, many people are upset because a cross on top of a hill since 1920 has been declared unconstitutional and ordered down. A local pastor said it didn't matter if the cross comes down as long as we have the cross in our hearts. He also said evangelism is the only solution and being involved in politics is a waste of time.
After forty plus years of Christians not being involved in politics, you would think that Christians could see the consequences of a nation where Christians have sat back and allowed pagans to take over. We've tried that; it doesn't work. The whole purpose of our radio ministry, Issues in Education, is to motivate Christians to impact our nation before it self-destructs. We felt some of the insights in our letter to the pastor might be of interest to you, so the following is taken from the letter we sent to him.
Before we get started let's define what we mean by the word "politics." New American Heritage dictionary defines "politics" as the art or science of political "government." Politics involves government. In fact, the word "government" is defined as, "The act of governing: especially, the administration of public policy in a political unit; political jurisdiction." Note the word political has the word government in its definition and the word government has the word political in its definition; therefore, the words political and government are synonymous and interchangeable.
As Christians, government (politics) is important because it affects our freedom to preach the gospel openly or be silenced. Obviously we have more freedom here than the Christians in communist China because our GOVERNMENT gives us the freedom. And our government can take the freedom away.
In America, in 1771, Baptist ministers were arrested and imprisoned for preaching without a license. Later they were whipped for refusing to yield to colonial authority by agreeing to obtain a license to preach the Gospel. Through the able defense of Patrick Henry, the ministers were acquitted, establishing their right to preach without government interference.
But today, almost 200 years later, this same church in Ruther Glen, Virginia, has faced fines of $250 a day for once again refusing to obtain a license from the state to operate its educational ministries (church school). What is happening to this church is not an isolated incident but an example of how the religious liberties most Americans take for granted are under attack and in danger of being lost.
Christian apathy never won us any of our freedoms!
Here is our letter to the pastor:
Pastor, in your sermon (on John 10), we know that you were intending to emphasize the need for evangelism over politics, but evangelism involves politics. We don't believe politics will save us--we don't worship our government--but politics are useful tools in the hands of the Lord, and his people.
We are a bit confused about what you believe regarding the role of Christians in politics. If you don't care who's President, then you really don't much care what happens to this country, or the people who live here. Anyone with six beautiful children should care who is President; he will affect their future.
If God judged ancient Israel, even though the people had no choice over having an evil king rule over them, how much more will God judge America, who has knowingly chosen an evil man, the most pro-abortion, pro-homosexual President to ever occupy the oval office.
We know some Christians who don't vote, because they say, "God will put into office who He wants." If that's true, then God is very much involved in politics, since He chooses our government leaders.
In the excellent book, Stand and Be Counted, Bob Dugan put it this way:
"This is a glaring inconsistency all too common in the Church today. When it comes to politics, we often behave as if God acts alone to put His candidates into office. But when it comes to evangelism, God suddenly becomes unable to accomplish His purposes without the sacrificial cooperation of the congregation" (p. 67).
Pastor, you said we just need to preach the gospel, to get more people saved. But never in history have there been so many CHRISTIANS per capita than today in America!
Surveys show the majority of Americans claim to be Christian, yet never have so many Christians been so powerless to impact a culture. The homosexuals, with a measly 1-2% have had much greater impact in recent years than we Christians. Do you really believe another few million converts will make that much difference when 50 million Christians are so powerless? Why are Christians so impotent, so silent? Have they gone into the closet the homosexuals abandoned?
Look at what 40 years of Christian withdrawal from politics has produced! Bill Bright wrote in The Coming Revival:
"America has become one of the most sinful nations in the world. We have done more to destroy the morality of other countries than any other nation in history. We have become the single greatest market for illegal drugs, we lead the world in exporting pornography in magazine and films. WE are leading a campaign to increase abortion in third world nations."
Where have the Christians been as America has been stolen from us? Listen to this indictment: we have millions of Christians with at least 400,000 pastors, Christian TV, Christian radio, Christian bookstores, church properties in the billions of dollars, Christian publishing companies, and donations to religious organizations exceeding $25 billion annually. With that much power, why aren't Christians impacting the morality of our country more than we are? WHY?
For more than 40 years, Christians have failed to be much of an influence because a large percentage has failed to even show up to vote. That's disobedience! Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and render unto God that which is God's." Christians who aren't involved in politics in this country are not rendering to Caesar that which is Caesar's.
Fortunately, now many Christians are beginning to realize the future of our country depends on them. It's obvious moral leaders won't be put into office by immoral people--especially the radicals who are against traditional values.
When will God's people begin to take seriously Jesus' words, "You are the salt of the earth . . . the light of the world?" In the book, Stand and Be Counted, Bob Dugan wrote:
"There are two ways Christians can change society. When they fulfill their functions as light, their nation can be transformed through the spiritual processes of evangelizing and equipping. When they fulfill their function as salt their nation can be reformed through the political processes of educating and electing."
We are called to both evangelism and social action, both light and salt! Without evangelism, we have a lot of do-gooders on their way to hell. Without social action we have people so heavenly-minded they are no earthly good. Jesus called it salt without saltiness. Good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled on by men.
But it didn't used to be this way. In times past, Christians were the ones who established the hospitals and schools, missions and orphanages. In his book, Operation Rescue, Randall Terry correctly observes:
"Our spiritual forefathers left us some shining examples of service to our fellow man. But their examples have been largely forgotten or ignored. Why? Because most American Christians, especially pastors and seminary professors, have been deceived by the "I'm only called to preach the gospel" mentality. (Gospel meaning a gospel of personal salvation--an escape from hell.)
"Christians in our nation have forgotten or deliberately ignored the justice and service our forefathers rendered to the needy and oppressed. Saints like Moody, Finney, Spurgeon, Amy Charmichael, and others are studied only for their `soul-winning efforts,' while their social activism is quietly ignored.
"Granted, their evangelistic endeavors were great, but the expression of their Christianity went far beyond saving lost souls. They were activists. Some would rather rewrite church history and cast spiritual giants of the past as being pietists, solely concerned with evangelism and the hereafter, than to admit the gross deficiency that exists in the church today" (p. 73).
Evangelistic pastors used to speak out on politics. Charles Finney was personally for the salvation of over 500,000 people. He was a leader in America's Second Great Awakening. This is what Finney said:
"God cannot sustain this free and blessed country which we love and pray for unless the Church will take right ground. Politics are a part of a religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to their country as part of their duty to God."
If Christians saw voting, running for office, donating time and money to candidates, writing Congressmen, etc., as part of our duty to God, as a sacred responsibility, we could return America to being one nation under GOD.
Was Jesus political?
Was Jesus involved in government? In John 10:30, when Jesus claimed to be God, He made a very strong political statement! Anyone claiming to be God was challenging Caesar's authority since Caesar claimed to be God. Anyone claiming to be God was soon rendered room temperature--dead meat! Caesar didn't like any political competition. And the Jewish political leaders, who were also the religious leaders of Israel, recognized Jesus was politically powerful as more and more people followed Him, wanting to make Him their king.
Was Jesus political?
Are kings political? Didn't Jesus say He was a king? Even if His kingdom is "of another world," Jesus had influence and authority here on earth. In fact, wasn't that Rome's reason for executing Jesus, since he was seen as a POLITICAL challenge to Roman authority as the crowds following Jesus grew? And wasn't that the reason for the martyrdom of so many Christians who submitted to Christ rather than Caesar? Although Christ's Kingdom is not of this world, it has real political power and authority on earth. Jewish leaders and Caesar had no trouble understanding Jesus was establishing a competing government that vied for people's loyalties.
Robert McAfee Brown wrote:
"Many people might say the Ten Commandments are `religious.' But listen to one of the most political statements in the Bible: `I am the Lord your God . . . you shall have no other gods before me.' (Ex. 20:23)
"What does this have to do with politics? Everything. It means we can only give our final allegiance to the living God, not to Caesar or any political system. The early Christians had to choose between worshipping Caesar or Christ." (The Bible Speaks to You, 1955, Robert McAfee Brown, p. 285).
Jesus said, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor . . . to proclaim freedom for the prisoners . . . to release the oppressed . . ." (Luke 4:18).
Promising to set the slaves free was a strong political statement. Although Jesus set believers free from sin, one of His later followers, William Wilberforce, devoted nearly fifty years of his life to abolishing the slave trade. Wilberforce, like Christ, saw slaves as a people of eternal worth and slavery as an affront to God.
More importantly, is Jesus involved today in politics? Do we have born again, spirit-filled, Christian Congressmen and Senators? Isn't Jesus "in" them? Of course He is (John 14:20). Jesus is "in" the Congressional prayer sessions and "in" the men and women who serve in government. Hence, Jesus is political today. And these very Christians (serving in politics) may be the only ones who can evangelize their peers.
Listen to what Jesus taught! In Luke 19:11, Jesus told a parable of the ten pounds (NIV: minas); a man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. He gave ten servants ten pounds and told them to put the money to work until he would come back the following year. When the king returned the one that had 10 pounds earned 10 more. The king said, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. Because you have been trustworthy in a small matter, be ruler over ten cities."
Being a ruler, or governor, over ten cities, sounds like someone involved in politics.
But the one who had given just one pound was scolded and his one pound was taken away and given to the one who had ten. For those who didn't want the king (implying Jesus) to be king over them, they were brought to him and executed. Sounds like a challenge not only to Jewish and Roman authority, but the liberal-socialist politicians in this country--who would tax away half the 10 pounds and give them to the lazy welfare recipient who has only one, so they'd all be equal. But that's not the way it is in Christ's kingdom, nor in the free enterprise system that established this country.
John Stott, in his book, Issues Facing Christians Today, wrote:
"It is no good saying that Jesus and his apostles were not interested in politics. They were a tiny, insignificant minority under the dictatorship of Rome. The legions were everywhere, and were under orders to suppress dissent, and to crush opposition.
"The fact that the first century Christians did not take political action, because they could not, is no reason why we should not--if we can.
"The question is: would they have been politically active if they had the opportunity? I believe they would. For without appropriate political action some social needs simply cannot be met.
"The apostles did not demand the abolition of slavery. But are we not glad and proud that nineteenth century Christians did? The apostles didn't build hospitals, or require them to be built, but Christian hospitals are in line with Jesus' concern for the sick. And so, political action (which is love seeking justice for the oppressed) is in line with the teaching and ministry of Jesus."
Even if Jesus wasn't directly involved in politics, does that mean we shouldn't be? Jesus didn't marry or have children either.
Are you aware that the biblical word from which "politics" is derived appears in the New Testament 169 times? It means a variety of things, such as "city," "citizenship," "citizen," and "freedom." (Is Politics a Dirty Word? Christian Political Education Publishers Inc., Washington, D.C.).
Can you imagine King David saying he didn't want to be involved in politics, and that no other Israelite should be either? That would leave the position open for a Philistine to be king of Israel. Some of the greatest men of the Bible were involved in politics! Men such as Moses and Joshua. Daniel held high offices in both Babylon and Persia.
Samuel was a judge over Israel but governed like their king.
George Grant, in The Changing of the Guard, talks about the ministry of political action:
"God called Joseph, Gideon, Deborah, Samuel, Nehemiah, Daniel, David and Josiah into the ministry of political action. Each of these heroes of the faith understood clearly that there was no wall of separation between God and the state. They knew that God had ordained and established civil government just as surely as He had the family and the Church. So they looked upon political action as a holy calling" (pg. 21).
If Joseph had not been ruler next to Pharaoh of Egypt, his family would have starved.
Christians throughout history have been involved in politics. Listen to the words of our founders:
In 1782, Congress approved of printing Bibles for use in the schools. Today, Bibles are not even permitted in the schools. In 1962, our government took prayer out of the schools, and there was not one dissenting brief filed to keep prayer in schools. How little we value the freedom we have. Certainly, our leaders, the pastors, have to accept some responsibility for this. They were not politically involved.
Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration, stated:
"The great enemy of the salvation of man, in my opinion, never invented a more effectual means of extinguishing Christianity from the world than by persuading mankind that it was improper to read the Bible at schools. The Bible, when not read in schools, is seldom red in any subsequent period of time . . . It should be read in our schools in preference to all others books . . ."
Yet ninety percent (90%) of evangelical Christians give their impressionable children over to a system of education that denies God was the Creator, denies the virgin birth, ridicules the resurrection and teaches that homosexuality and fornication are acceptable. Is it any wonder that 70%* of Christian youth don't return to church two years after high school graduation? (*Focus on the Family).
French historian and statesman Alexis de Toqueville came to America and searched for the key to this country's greatness. He wrote:
"Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."
The key to our greatness was in our zeal for Christ, with an application in every area of American life, that made this a great nation.
Some pastors avoid politics because they worry about losing their tax exempt status. But according to Bob Dugan:
"Neither the IRS nor the Federal Election Commission has ever interfered with a church's right to educate its people on moral or political issues. In our history as a nation, no church has yet lost its tax-exempt status with the IRS for being too political. None. Zero.
"Early in this century pastors were respected as the best educated leaders in the community. People got their morals from the church instead of the media. Evangelical leaders who limit their content to a personal, `what God can do for ME'-type of message are shrinking the Bible. God's Word must be related to justice, and social values" (Stand and Be Counted, pg. 47).
Pastors are commanded to pray for our political leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-4)! And to show their concern for social issues and leaders. Yet many Christians don't even know the names or offices of their elected officials.
If pastors stay out of politics, so will their followers. Like pastor, like people. Pastors set an example by being active in politics Pastor Peter Marshall tells the following inspirational story:
"Pastor Muhlenberg, of Virginia, delivered many inspiring sermons prior to our War for Independence. One Sunday morning, after a particularly fiery sermon, the pastor declared, `There's a time to preach and a time to fight.'
"Then he shocked his congregation by throwing off his pastor's robe to show he was wearing the uniform of a colonel in the Continental Army. He marched down the center aisle and into the street where his troops waited for him. Many from his church followed their pastor off to war. And the pastor, who was now a colonel, marched off at the head of a column of three hundred men. His regiment was to earn fame as the 8th Virginia regiment" (The Light & The Glory, P. Marshall).
Pastors not only preached about American independence, they fought for it. Today, I honestly don't know if we would be an independent nation if it depended on pastors. The early American Christians saw God at work in the whole culture (including politics--not merely in the heart of man).
Freedom is never free! It always has to be purchased at great cost.
John Quincy Adams wrote this TO US: ". . . you will never know how much it has cost MY generation to preserve YOUR freedom. I hope you will make good use of it!"
Thomas Payne, in 1776, said: "What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly."
That is so true. Where would we be today, if there had not been those who counted the cost of freedom and willingly paid for it?
Some pastors don't get involved because they say, "The Lord will put into office who He wants." Usually the same ones also say, "Jesus wasn't involved in politics." But that's a contradiction. If the Lord puts into office those He chooses, then the Lord is involved in politics, right?
We need leaders. If pastors aren't involved, then neither will their people be. Pastors are the key to revival and restoration of our nation. If pastors are not involved in the social issues that threaten our existence as a nation, we have to ask, what are they doing? Do they think their church shouldn't be involved in controversy, even if it involves basic morality? How can the Church NOT be involved in morality? Moral and political issues are entwined! You can't separate them.
Legalized abortion involves politics. The removal of the Bible, the Ten Commandments and prayer from schools all involve politics. Moral issues involve politics. Tax exempt status for churches involves politics. If Christians weren't involved in politics, there would be no Bible clubs on the 10,000 campuses they're on now.
If there was ever a lesson to be learned from the past 40 years of Christian un-involvement in government, it's this: If Christians aren't involved in government, pagans are! And that's why we have a pagan society, with all the things that go with a pagan nation--rampant immorality, drugs, crime, abortion, etc.
Why do we want Christians involved in politics? From purely selfish reasons--I would rather rejoice than mourn. Proverbs 29:2:
"When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule the people mourn."
In this country, Christians have the choice. But maybe the real reason Christians have abandoned political involvement, until very recently, isn't so much because of theology, but because of apathy. Nothing offends God more than indifference. Scripture uses the harshest language in expressing God's displeasure with apathy. Revelations 3, to the church at Laodicea, says:
"Because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will spew [or vomit--as in being made sick] you out of my mouth."
Jesus said, "You are either with me or against me." If you're in the middle, and not really with Him, you're against Him.
In Germany, during the 1930's, how could Hitler, who represented everything the church opposed, rise to power? How could Christians sitting in church next to the railroad tracks that carried Jews to the gas chambers, simply sing louder to drown out the desperate cries of the Jews? One German Christian later said that when the trains would go by their church the people inside the church could actually hear screams coming from the trains. He said they just sang louder to drown out the Jews' desperate cries for help.
What a disgrace, an embarrassment to the cause of Christ. How could this happen to Christians?
It was fear, apathy and leadership that didn't want to get involved. The Church turned inward, to buildings, and programs inside their church, while they ignored what was happening in their society. Oh sure, pastors preached the gospel, but they left this world to Hitler. In fact, Hitler said to the pastors, "You worry about getting people into heaven (just preach the gospel), and leave this world to me." But what kind of gospel were the German pastors preaching? A Jesus who is passive and weak and unconcerned about Jews on the way to be gassed! A Jesus who is unconcerned about politics and people. It's good that Jesus was involved with politics and people or he would never have left heaven.
What kind of gospel are pastors preaching today if it doesn't impact the culture? Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, said this truly great quote:
"Church is not church, Christianity is not Christianity, until it impacts the culture. It is cowardice to claim that you're preaching the gospel if the gospel you're preaching isn't impacting the culture in which it is placed. Anything less is simply religiosity."The gospel must impact our culture! That involves politics!
You would think that, with about 40% of our population identifying themselves as "born-again" Christians, it would be easy to get people interested in the moral issues of our day. But it isn't. Like the Church in pre-Hitler Germany, who didn't want to get involved in politics, the American church has turned inward also--to just church activities. And so the gospel preached today in America has little to say beyond personal salvation.
But there were some who saw the importance of being involved. In the book THE HIDING PLACE, the Ten Boom family had recently taken a young Jewish mother and her child into their home to protect them from the Nazis. When Corrie stopped a clergyman friend, she asked him, "Pastor, would you be willing to take a Jewish mother and her baby into your home? They will almost certainly be arrested otherwise."
Listen to his compassionate, un-Christ-like answer:
" . . . color drained from the pastor's face. He took a step back, and said, `Miss Ten Boom! I do hope you're not involved with any of this illegal concealment and undercover business. It's not safe! Think of your father!'
"On impulse I told the pastor to wait and ran upstairs. I asked the Jewish mother's permission to borrow her infant. When I brought the baby down into the dining room, I pulled back the covers to show the pastor the beautiful Jewish baby's face. There was a long silence. Then the pastor bent forward, his hand, in spite of himself, reaching for the tiny fist curled around the blanket. For a moment I saw compassion and fear struggle in his face. Then he straightened. `No! Definitely not. We could lose our lives for this Jewish child.'
"Unseen by either of us, father had appeared in the doorway. `Give the child to me, Corrie,' he said. Father held the baby close. Then at last he looked up at the pastor. `You say we could lose our lives for this child. I would consider that the greatest honor that could come to my family.'"
BEAUTIFUL! Isn't father Ten Boom just like our Lord? Just as the Ten Booms suffered in Nazi concentration camps for rescuing Jews, our Lord left the safety of heaven to come to earth and suffer on the cross to rescue us--from eternal hell. That should be our example.
Where will our nation be in a few years if Christians don't get involved in politics? As each moral crisis arises, we think this will surely wake up the Church. But nothing yet has. To show how far the Church will retreat from confrontation with evil, Randall Terry describes how German Christians caved in when they were threatened by Hitler:
"We German Protestant Christians accept the saving of our nation by our leader Adolf Hitler as a gift from God's hand. [They affirmed `unanimously' their unlimited loyalty to the Third Reich and its leader!] The praise they gave Hitler now stands as a disgrace to the Church of Jesus Christ. Yet in that hour, extolling Hitler, compromising with him, and ignoring the plight of the Jews, was the acceptable norm for most Christians and church leaders!
"Perhaps some of those churches had wonderful covered dish dinners or stirring seminars on eschatology. But now, from a distance, the light of history casts a hue of contempt over their lives and ministries. Why? Because in a season of crisis, they failed to stand for the whole counsel of God, and they fled when faced with adversity.
"Throughout Europe a compromising clergy lulled their congregations to sleep, convincing them by: 1. argument, 2. by silence, and 3. by example that confrontation with Nazi Germany should be avoided at all costs.
"By doing nothing Christians in Germany said injustice, violence, and oppression should be ignored. Pastors preferred convenience to conviction. They offered a Christ who was passive and weak. A Jesus who ignored the Jewish orphan on his way to be gassed.
"In stark contrast to the compromising clergy that went along with the Nazis, history remembers the courage of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young German pastor who warned his contemporaries and rebuked his fellow ministers for their compromises with Hitler. Although Bonhoeffer smuggled Jews to safety and freedom he was martyred for his work about a week before the war ended.
"Bonhoeffer was criticized and looked down upon by the other pastors of his day. He was an irritation to their safe, smooth Christianity, and their compromise with Satan. But today he towers over his contemporaries as a hero of the faith who wasn't afraid to get involved in politics." (Operation Rescue, p. 34)
This could happen here, in America, as it did then, in Germany. What's the answer? Even though the following promise was made to ancient Israel, it applies to us today, because it says what God requires to save a culture from destruction. Second Chronicles 7:14:
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land."
Notice! God doesn't require that we get more people saved for Him to save our nation. But God requires that those who are already saved need to humble themselves, pray and turn from their wicked ways of apathy and unconcern, for Him to save our nation.
When enough of us do that, God will save our nation. That's it. Let's face it, most of us Christians haven't cared about politics, we've been unconcerned about the culture war, selfishly tending to our own interests. Even if we'd been praying, we'd probably omitted participating. Christians need to repent of our apathy! When God sees enough of us, His children, repenting, God as a loving parent, will respond, and intervene supernaturally and give us a new start.
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