Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible.
– Romans 13:1, 2 (The Message Bible)
Evidence reveals that voter turnout in 2010 was up in Florida over 2008, except for youth and Blacks. Youth and Blacks returned to the polls in 2012 and voted in record numbers, but many predict that with this November 2014 election being non-presidential, the response from youth and Blacks may wane again. Even more alarming is the news that of all eligible voters only 25 percent of Christians vote. Some of the 75 percent may be apathetic but many subscribe to the notion that religion (a system of faith) and politics don’t mix. Therefore, they contend that Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics.
Religion deals primarily with eternal things “not of this world,” or at least things hidden “in, with, and under” the things of this world. Politics deals with temporal matters: roads, taxes, welfare, marriage, safety, protection, and so on. So on the surface religion and politics don’t seem to have anything to do with each other, and therefore don’t mix.
Well, if religion and politics don’t mix, was David wrong when he killed Goliath? Remember, Goliath was the champion of the Philistine government and the confrontation between David and Goliath was, in fact, a political challenge. Or, was Daniel wrong when he disobeyed the law that ordered him to bow down and worship a pagan king? That king was head of the government of Babylon at the time and Daniel disobeyed a legitimate law. In the Christian Scriptures do you think John the Baptist was wrong to speak against Herod and Herodias? Herod was the governor of Galilee at the time.
Religion and politics mix necessarily. So it is the duty and burden of the Christian, the Jew, and any person of faith to vote for those who represent their values. When they fail to do so in a country like ours, the results are predictable. Religious values are then not represented in government. If people of faith value life, liberty, and the right to work for the things they desire, they have to vote. Former U.S. Sen. Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Thank God, for Moses, and Samson, Shadrach, Meshach Abednego, and Elijah, and Queen Esther, and the Apostle Peter, and Martin L. King, and many others who knew politics and religion mixed.
Now, there are some who would like to sweep the public square clean of all religion and create a kind of “naked, public square” where no religious ideas are expressed. Of course, this would favor the views of atheists, agnostics, and skeptics who believe that religion has no place in a rational society.
As children of God, we think that what we believe shapes our view of the world and of society and therefore our beliefs and behavior can’t be left out of our public life. We would rather have an open public square where everyone is free to speak their minds even if there is disagreement, than have a “naked public square” stripped bare of all considerations of religion. We believe this makes for a much better political discussion and a better representation of all the various people who live in our country.
No, the church should not tell people how to vote. Nor should the state tell people how to pray or worship. Each needs to be busy with its own vocation. The church needs to proclaim the kingdom of Christ, baptize, preach, teach, celebrate, forgive and retain sin. The state needs to protect its citizens and enforce the rule of law. But the individual Christian, who lives in church, state, and home, is always mixing religion and politics.
Rev. William Cwirla, pastor of the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Hacienda Heights, Calif., says, “The mix of politics and religion is really a one-way mixture. Our faith shapes our political thinking, but our politics should never influence our faith. Faith relies solely on the Word of God, while politics involves the use of reason. Reason is always a minister to the Word, never its master.”
As believers, we are citizens of two worlds, one temporal, the other eternal, and we have the right and the responsibility to participate in both.
Dr. Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net. Website: WTRMinistries.com