How much should spiritual leaders and groups get involved in politics?
The Christian's most powerful political tool is prayer
The Rev. Daniel Nicholson, pastor, Lawrence Christian Center, 416 Lincoln:
One of the great things about the United States of America is that we are a democratic society.
And that allows every citizen to be involved in the political process of making and changing laws and electing public officials.
I believe that every citizen, regardless of his or her religious beliefs, should be involved in the wonderful opportunity to express their opinions and cast a vote.
In a democratic society, the majority rules. This should motivate the minority in every issue to be even more involved.
As a Christian, I believe our first and most important responsibility as citizens is to pray for our elected officials to have the wisdom and compassion to maintain a government that is "of the people, by the people and for the people."
Christians have a biblical mandate to pray for others. The apostle Paul tells us in First Timothy 2:1-4, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone -- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."
Notice that this passage does not mention anything about complaining and protesting. Prayer is our most powerful tool for change.
Jesus lived under an oppressive Roman government, but he never protested or fought with government officials. Instead, he prayed and preached the word of God. He declared that the kingdom was "not of this world."
Politics will change, but the word of God remains forever the same. As citizens of a multicultural society, we have to learn to live together in harmony.
Spiritual leaders and congregations should be involved in political issues. But first, we should be involved in prayer, and then God will give us wisdom to the extent of our political involvement.
Send e-mail the Rev. Daniel Nicholson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caution needed for healthy separation of pulpit, politics
The Rev. Marcus McFaul, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, 1330 Kasold Drive:
A wise mentor of mine, commenting on the inevitable mixture of politics and religion, once remarked that faith and politics should meet at the dance but go home in separate cars. Religious values and public policy questions cannot be nicely compartmentalized. There is often overlap between the pulpit and pew and public square.
There is inevitable disagreement on how much is "too much." One person's prophetic witness is another's over-the-line, in-your-face politicking. Religious liberty allows for the free exercise of conscience on the full range of political issues. What worries me these days is the lack of both civility and humility.
A healthy nation respects the pluralism that exists and values dissent and dialogue. My father once walked out of a worship service in which the preacher endorsed a candidate as "the Christian choice." Far too many religious figures foster vituperative speech and are disingenuous with the truth. Issues can become embedded with a "crusade mentality," with disregard for inflicted harm.
Therefore, some caution should be exercised. Preachers mustn't confuse the kingdom of God with partisanship or political parties, and politicians shouldn't co-opt religious groups to prop up an overt agenda. Jesus has been made the honorary chairperson of a million irrelevant causes. Pastors can get too intoxicated with political power, and politicians can confuse theocracy for democracy.
Roger Williams knew that a nation cannot be Christian; only persons can be Christians. To call a nation Christian, he said, may make a nation of hypocrites but not one single true believer.
"How much?" Maybe the smell test helps here. Does the close alignment of religious figures and politicos just smell rotten? It reminds me of the boy who stood hip-deep in barnyard manure and said, "There's got to be a pony in here somewhere."
Take the pony (or car) and go home.
Send e-mail to the Rev. Marcus McFaul at email@example.com.