Years ago, I listened as Chuck Colson spoke of his career in Washington D.C. as a member of Richard Nixon’s staff. The discussion covered Watergate and beyond since Mr. Colson had spent time in jail as a result of his actions. When asked why he did it, Mr. Colson spoke of believing that the President was more important than anything else: “He was the answer that the nation needed.” He admitted that it was a wrong idea later, but at the time, he completely believed that one man was more important than anything else.
Engaging in politics is a dangerous thing for Christians. The allure of power is more than many good men and women can resist. Too many good people have quickly become compromised by their political activities. As Christians, we tend to argue over issues and political personalities, and it is always difficult to avoid losing sight of the reason we are engaged in politics in the first place.
Paul tells us in Romans 13:1, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”
We must remember that Paul said these things at a time when Rome ruled the world. There was no democracy, and even the Republic that was Rome had simply become a world ruled by a dictator. Paul did not have our government in mind when he wrote; nevertheless, the principles of these words remain true.
As Americans, we live and work in a participatory democracy, which is a government that exists that is “of the people.” Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address, ”That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” We engage because the government is us. We have a Biblical obligation to involve ourselves in the political process as citizens of this country. We are to respect the authorities because we honor God, we vote because we honor God, and we seek to remove ungodly and unjust laws because we honor God.
Our involvement is to be God honoring, but in recent years, this idea has been lost to striving for political power and influence in American politics. As a result, we find Christians talking, behaving, and holding the same attitudes and behaviors as those who do not know God at all. While there may have been some short-term successes in those choices, long-term these behaviors have done damage to the Christian Church and its identity in America. So we have ultimately lost ground for the kingdom of God.
How do we engage in the American political process then? Here are seven critical issues for the believer.