God and Government: Why Christians must be involved in the political process

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His statement was intended to protect religious expression by building a wall of separation between the church and the state; solidifying the fact that the federal government could not strike down religious freedoms. The government cannot establish a national religion, but it can openly and unapologetically acknowledge the sovereign hand of God. Acknowledgment is not establishment.

The No. The primary goal of the church is not to become a political movement, but a spiritual influence. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore our God-given civic responsibility and the enormous impact that politics has on our society. All we need to do is preach the gospel. Should we now neglect it? Why would God ordain a government such as ours in America and not ask us to be involved? As the moral and cultural war rages between our shores, the need to be awakened from our spiritual slumber has never been greater. This battle is for the very soul of our nation.

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I can no longer bear it. Politics is bad, offensive, and divisive. The church and the state are to be separate. Read More from Pastor Shane Idleman. A State of Emergency, Our Nations Only Hope While we are concerned with terrorism, and rightly so, there is a greater threat from within. We are witnessing the rapid deterioration of a nation before our eyes. But with man as his own master we fail to count the cost, our precious freedoms vanish and our liberty is lost.

America - Then vs. Listen to Sermons by Pastor Shane Idleman. Free Resources. Regaining Lost Ground Episode Reminder Get a sneak-peek into each new show, delivered straight to your inbox! Sign Up. If Jesse Jackson can preach and campaign in churches, black and white, why can't Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Bob Dole court the support of fundamentalists?

They can and they do.

But it is important to distinguish between the moral witness of religious people who speak out strongly about an issue that offends their moral conscience, and the use of religion as a strategic means to advance the fortunes of a particular party or candidate. Political religion can sometimes be divisive, as it was in the civil rights struggle.

What becomes worrisome is when that division follows party lines and no longer seems to have much to do with moral witness. Whatever the truth of the idea that God blesses Americans, God surely does not bless Americans as Republicans or Democrats. Strictly speaking, there are very few unconstitutional uses of religion in politics although there are violations of federal election laws. The disestablishment of religion gives ministers private professional status with as much right to run for office as doctors and lawyers, and the constitutional guarantee of free speech renders religious argument as legitimate as nonreligious argument in advancing a political goal.

Some political uses of religion, however, plainly undermine the protection the founders sought to construct for both sound politics and religious authority. Alexis de Tocqueville held as astute a view as anyone of what American religion can contribute to public life and what harm is done when it tries to do something else.

There was "no country in the world," he famously maintained, "where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America. In a critical passage in Democracy in America , he insisted that while religion must encourage virtue, it must never allow the claims of virtue to become infected with partisan politics. Tocqueville's warning echoed the precise reason that had motivated the founders to separate church and state in the first place. If religion were to become despised by one group of people because it let itself be closely allied to their entrenched political opponents, the moral capital that religion represented in American society would be squandered.

Whenever politically ambitious men tried to transfer God's work from churches and church groups to their self-interested political conventions, they injured the reputation of religion.

A lot of religious Americans know this better than our politicians do. In June the American Catholic bishops, who represent what has been since the s America's largest Christian denomination, issued a statement seeking to preserve for themselves a political voice on important moral issues, such as abortion, without involving themselves in moves "to advance or to undermine the electoral fortunes of any individual or party. Whatever their positions, however, the bishops have been content to state principles, and to advance moral and religious reasons for their political positions, but otherwise to avoid party endorsements or to issue statements suggesting that God has a stake in the outcome of American elections.

Like Tocqueville, a Catholic himself, they stated that "when religious leaders enter into electoral politics, it is more likely that religion will be debased than that politics will be elevated. The bishops' position does not seek to silence religion. It does not declare religion irrelevant to political debate. Far from it. Rather, it tries to mobilize moral conscience based on the importance and visibility of religion in American public life.

It bears witness to moral positions in a way that does not compromise that witness to short-term political gains. Nor does it declare war on other people's moral positions. To be sure, on the abortion issue many Catholic leaders are prepared, if they can prevail in the legislatures, to coerce people who do not agree with their moral stance.

That, however, is not per se illegitimate as long as civil rights are protected and their moral arguments carry no privileged political authority. What is always unacceptable is for religious certainty to trump politics and for government policy to privilege or codify religious belief in ways that preempt a pluralist democratic process. In politics, a religious lobbyist stands on the same footing as a lobbyist for General Motors.

What they advocate may be good for the country, but that benefit has to be demonstrated. The pragmatic issue, from the standpoint of the churches and religious leaders, is the cost of their political involvement to the prestige and moral authority of religion.


4 reasons Christians should care about politics | ERLC

When religious leaders act in ways that render them indistinguishable from the Doles and the Clintons, they jeopardize the respect that they otherwise enjoy. This is what the Christian Coalition and its leaders are risking. Installed as head of the Christian Coalition by Pat Robertson, who created it from the ruins of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, Ralph Reed found himself in charge of a well-financed organization that had a deserved reputation for extreme statements.

People involved with the organization were continually saying that America was a Christian nation and the task of politics was to restore God to the center of American life. Pat Robertson was on record stating that separation of church and state was a lie of the left. Reed knew his American history well enough to recognize that such statements were not only wildly at odds with the Constitution but also an impediment to gaining national power.

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Stealth victories in local school board elections might be useful for organizing a grassroots movement. But a seat at the table in Washington, which conservatives covet as much as liberals, was a far better thing.

Religion and politics in the United States

Reed's mission from the beginning was to clean up the coalition's act. And so he has, even if it has meant making some of the other leaders associated with conservative religious causes, especially Jerry Falwell, look inept. Reed has proclaimed his respect for separation of church and state. He has muted claims in the coalition's publications about Christian nationhood and has invited Jews and Catholics into an organization whose base was, and remains, overwhelmingly Protestant and white.

He has pulled the coalition away from the language of cultural warfare that sank Pat Buchanan as a national leader and has shown a willingness to put off moral issues that threaten to draw away too many votes from conservative Republican candidates. He has denied that the faith claims of the Christian Coalition override the faith claims of other people. In steering this corrective course, however, Reed has stuck by the man who butters his bread, Pat Robertson.

Robertson's many blundering statements, according to Reed, never mean what they seem to mean. And in the end, Reed's efforts to arrange what he calls a "marriage of a sense of social justice with the practical world of modern politics" transform religious witness into a politics where nothing must get in the way of winning. Reed is not a spiritual leader, but, in his own phrase, a "political junkie. He claims that the Christian Coalition is a nonpartisan organization, but that is patent nonsense.

We can think of no religious organization in American history that has so manifestly tied itself to one political party, indeed, to a particular wing within it. Reed's recent book, Active Faith , is only sporadically about religion. In fact, it is hard sometimes to figure out whether his faith has anything to do with his politics "My religious beliefs never changed my views on the issues to any great degree" or whether it acts just as a sort of energizing bunny.

In a disarmingly candid but unmistakably arrogant way, Active Faith is about one man's quest for influence, his thrill of traveling in police-escorted limousines that screech to stops and burn rubber on their way to rallies where audiences stomp their feet, wave banners, and blow horns when he appears. Reed has won that influence for the moment.

The media assiduously court him, and candidates line up to seek his advice and intervention. B ut there is a price. Reed's influence depends on the outcome of elections and whether his movement appears to offer candidates more support than it costs. Our own guess is that Reed's influence will wane sooner rather than later because for all his cautious bargaining among leaders of the Republican Party he has yet to get his troops under control.

Reed may have tailored a moderate image for himself, but his followers too enthusiastically subscribe to Reed's view that people of faith have fled the Democratic Party; these followers often speak of their opponents as evil men and women whose moral positions reek of hellfire. Christian Coalition conventions have nothing in common with the Social Gospel crusades that Reed wants to emulate. The delegates are too angry. Their televised images and their frankly smutty literature suggest neither piety nor political tolerance.

That is among the reasons why many conservative Christians who vote Republican want no part of them. Media attention notwithstanding, the Christian Coalition has not spoken in this year for all of evangelical America.