On Voting and Politics: A Pastor's Reflection
The pastors/elders at City on a Hill have so far said very little regarding the election. It’s a hard thing to talk about. I think that City on a Hill is one of those rare churches that’s probably a third “blue,” a third “red,” and a third “purple.” So, almost anything we say is bound to alienate and offend someone.
But I’ve come to realize that if we as church leadership refuse to speak about topics of a political nature, then we’re not shaping the consciences of our people and we’re allowing those consciences to be shaped by people and ideas which are often at odds with the gospel.
So I want to give you three simple things to ponder as you consider your political positions, your conversations with others, and your vote. I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but instead I want to give you some general guidelines and let you decide. And I’m always up for a good political conversation if you want my personal opinions!
Your vote = your governmental authority. You’d better wield that authority in good conscience.
Romans 13 tells us that God has appointed the government authorities, and that He will hold those government authorities accountable based upon how justly they rule. So, if you’re in politics (no matter the level) you have a higher responsibility than the rest of us.
BUT in a democratic society such as ours, the final authority for decisions rests with the people themselves. When you vote, you are in a sense “delegating to others how to swing the sword of public justice on your behalf.” (Russell Moore - Onward)
So how you vote is exceedingly important, not just in terms of the election, but also in terms of your conscience. When you vote for someone who will rule in such a way that violates what your conscience knows to be best for society, you are in a sense wielding your governmental authority sword in an unworthy way.
Don’t divorce your biblical worldview from your politics.
As a Christian, what you believe about political topics should line up with what you believe about what’s best for society according to God’s revelation in the Bible. In the name of human dignity—possessed by each person since they bear the very image of God—you should fight against any and all injustices against the vulnerable in our society. In the name of religious freedom, you should fight against the endorsement of any particular religion and the unjustified infringement by the government on the free exercise of any religion (not just Christianity), because we believe a pluralistic society with true tolerance, freedom of conscience, and free exercise of evangelism (for any religion) is best for society. We don’t want religious ideas to be suppressed or supported by the governing authorities.
With that in mind, a biblical worldview allows us substantial freedom to hold varying beliefs about specific political topics. The Bible tells us that all people are made in the image of God and thus have dignity, honor, and value. One obstacle to the realization of this dignity is poverty. When people are poor, they are often treated without dignity. Now, most Republicans and Democrats agree that poverty is a problem. They just differ on how they think poverty can be alleviated. And that’s an important debate to have. But it is one in which the Bible does not mandate specific policies; thus there is room for a variety of viewpoints within the people of God.
Lastly, I think I shouldn’t have to say this, but be nice. Not just nice, but kind. Love your political enemies. Refuse the temptation to crucify your political enemies with your sharp words. Instead, crucify your outrage. Remember that God is in charge. He is reigning and ruling, and no amount of political disaster can change that. Turn the other cheek when others slap you with unfair or unjust criticisms. “If outrage were a sign of godliness, then the devil would be the godliest soul in the cosmos.” (Moore). Show your opponents goodwill; assume the best of their motives and intentions. Respond to the best form of their argument; don’t cherry-pick the weakest or set up straw men.
When you speak up about controversial issues, some people will inevitably think you are mean or bigoted. The important thing is that you are not actually mean or bigoted. Don’t caricature those who differ from you politically in order to win more popularity among those who already agree with you. Remember that your goal is never to win people to political ideologies, but to Christ. And how will they listen to someone about Christ if his ambassadors are rude and obnoxious about politics? Those who oppose us are not any more deserving of hell than we are. Be careful not to talk about them, but to talk to them. Persuade, don’t attack.
Further Reading: I highly recommend the book Onward by Russell Moore. Many of the ideas and all the quotations in this article are taken from it.
-Pastor Fletcher Lang