The degree to which one equates Christian with any of these is the degree to which he or she dilutes the power of Christian faith and the ability to critique and to speak truth to power.
First Century Christians knew this. On the one hand, the Apostle Paul enjoined Roman Christians to "be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established," and to not rebel, to pay taxes, and to give those in authority honor and respect (Romans 13:1-7). On the other hand, the Apostle Peter said, "We must obey God rather than human beings" (Acts 5:29), preserving for the faith its special higher station. Jesus referenced a similar thought saying, "So give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" (Matthew 22:21).
This does not mean that Christians cannot be Left or Right, Red or Blue. It just means Christian faith is the Christian's philosophy of life, once and always paramount. For those who name the name of Christ, Christian—or if you prefer, Christian teaching, Christianity, or Christian worldview—is one's faith, given of God for all times, countries, and cultures.
Ideology and partisanship, maybe even nation states, are the brainchild of human invention. As such, they are not inerrant, infinite, or eternal. They are the products of time and culture. They come, and they go. And gender, race, and ethnicity, though gifts of God and very important, are not the sum total of our beings and do not represent the essential part of what it means to be a reasoning human being. Whereas the basis of Christian faith, the Word of God or the Bible, is the revealed statement of God's moral will, once delivered. He is there, and He is not silent.
The Shepherd King David said it this way, "Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you" (Psalm 119:89-91).
About 370 or so years later, the book of Daniel makes the point like this: "He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning" (Daniel 2:21). In fact, Daniel is a good case study for how to engage in politics and make a public impact, yet never equate or subjugate one's Christian faith in reference to a governmental leader, regime, or political program. Daniel "lived out" his faith, even at risk of his life on more than one occasion (Remember Daniel in the lions' den?) yet he influenced a king, a generation, a foreign kingdom, and his own people.
Part of the problem today is that many American Christians seem to be looking to political leaders and/or politics as their primary hope for changing the culture and the nation, rather than acknowledging "it is time for judgment to begin with God's household" (1 Peter 4:17).
Some Christians want to change American culture—mostly back to a perceived better time—which may have some good points to recommend it, e.g. sense of community, shared ideals about what it meant to be an American, or social affirmation of a public moral consensus based upon Judeo-Christian values. But these Christians may also not have noticed that not everything was as good "back then" as their nostalgia suggests, e.g., to name just two, race relations and women's access. And the Church itself has evolved, not always in the best directions, e.g., social issue polarization, declining church attendance, (according to Barna Group's research) fewer Christians who understand and live based upon a Christian worldview. So, fixing the plank in our own eye before worrying about the specks in our culture's eye might be in order (Matthew 7:3-5).
This isn't to say, "Stay out of politics." Absolutely not. I've long believed any American citizen should be able to participate politically at any time on any issue. And I believe God actually calls some believers to a work "in politics." The worthy inheritance we received from Thomas Jefferson—"separation of church and state"—does not mean "separation of religion and politics," which is a practical impossibility anyway. No, by all means, if you can and if you care, get involved, but be thoughtful how you do so.
Don't transfer your trust in the Sovereign God to trust in a politician, party, program, or political philosophy. Critique them all with your faith. Influence them with your faith. Speak truth to power. Seek to transform culture with your Christian faith, i.e., proclaim the Lordship of Christ in all of life. But do not make the fatal mistake of believing your political candidate is the new messiah. This might produce short-term "gains," but it is most certainly deadly (and could be idolatry) to the future of Christian witness and the Church. Christians need not and must not sell their soul, their principles for a limited time at the political table.
As the old saying goes, "Nothing is certain in life but death and taxes." But I think I'm safe adding a corollary, "Nothing is certain in life but death, taxes, and disappointment in political leaders and their policies."
Now let's put a fine point on it. "Christian," understood as trust in Christ and a life rooted in a biblically Christian worldview, is not the same as Evangelical, Orthodox, Reformed, Charismatic, Fundamentalist, or any denomination. Christian is not the same as Male or Female, or any modern hybrids being marketed. Christian is not the same as race, ethnicity, tribe or tongue. Christian is not the same as Protestant, Catholic, or Judaic. Christian is not the same as Conservative, Liberal, Republican, Democrat, or third party. Christian is not the same as Western, Eastern, Northern, Southern, or Middle Eastern.
Christian is not the same as your favorite candidate or elected official. Christian is not the same as your position on a given political issue. Christian is not the same as American, USA, or red, white, and blue – that's a hard one for some, but it's true. This doesn't mean you can't be patriotic, just that you should exercise a responsible Christian patriotism.
In fact, Christian is more about unity than diversity: "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith...There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26-28).
Dr. Rex M. Rogers, President SAT-7 USA,
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