Virtual Voices

Mixing religion and politics

Campaign 2008

A law firm devoted to protecting religious freedom has said that a pastor should be able to endorse or condemn a candidate from the pulpit without risking the church's tax-exempt status. Setting aside the question of whether this is good law, is it good Christianity?

Non-Christians see Christianity as "too political," David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons say in UnChristian. Some Christians agree. Darryl Hart, author of A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State, told WoW that a pastor endorsing a candidate from the pulpit would be like "playing the Star Spangled Banner at the Lord's Supper."

Hart said, "Evangelicals used to realize that ultimately the salvation of men and women, boys and girls, was more important than the election of senators and presidents." When Christians infuse the political realm with divine status, they can miss the significance of the Gospel. Hart said politics and the created order are good, but if God laughs at the affairs of nations, if the grass withers and the flower fades, "in the larger scheme of things, the affairs of the 2008 presidential election are not going to be important."

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Hart doesn't think a candidate's personal faith should be a litmus test for public office. He said Christians should have more confidence in the checks and balances designed to restrain even the most unscrupulous leader.

Jim Skillen, president of Center for Public Justice, disagrees with Hart's separation of Christianity and politics. He told WoW Christians shouldn't deify America, dabble in interest group politics, or think that Christianity can save the world through politics. But Christians should ask themselves this question: "How do we as Christians respond in obedience to God's call to do justice, realizing that not all justice is done by government and that Christians can't escape that call from God?"

If doing justice is a Christian calling, Skillen said, Christians ought to be making "the Scriptural vision, the whole meaning of the unfolding of God's purposes in His creation as illuminated by Scripture" the context for fulfilling their responsibility. The Bible doesn't outline public policy minutiae any more than it gives detailed parenting instructions, but it does give general guidelines public servants can follow.

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