The Impact of Politics on the Church
The Impact of Politics on the Church

By Bob Russell

Imagine that a godly couple unexpectedly inherits $10 million. How should they react? Their first response should be one of deep gratitude both to the benefactor and to God, the giver of every good gift. There should also be an overwhelming sense of responsibility to be wise stewards and not squander their fortune. Unearned wealth could spoil their kids or destroy their faith if unprepared, so they need to train their children to be sensible money managers. The Bible says, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).

The same stewardship principles apply to our country. We have inherited the invaluable gift of a constitutional republic from our forefathers—a unique government of the people, by the people, and for the people. This has produced the freest, most prosperous and opportunistic country in the history of the world. The precious liberty we enjoy cost the lives of thousands of American soldiers and patriots.

Sadly, Americans today have been very poor stewards of that trust. Instead of being grateful, we take it for granted. Instead of taking the necessary effort to preserve it, we don’t even bother to be informed voters. Instead of training our children to appreciate God’s magnificent gift, we have allowed Marxists and others intent on destroying the country to brainwash us with propaganda about what a racist, materialistic, war-mongering nation we have been. We are frittering away our precious heritage like the prodigal son who squandered his wealth in wild living.

It’s especially disappointing to encounter evangelical leaders who have very little appreciation for our nation’s uniqueness and spiritual heritage. Two recent Bible college graduates working on the staff of a local church taught their high school students that socialism was a good idea and reflected the spirit of Jesus.

That, folks, is the sad result of a church attempting to separate itself from politics. When youth are not taught a biblical worldview, they are easily influenced by the cunning propaganda of the left. Like the man in Jesus’ parable who evicted a demon from his house but failed to replace it with anything, we soon discover seven demons worse than the first come in to occupy the house.

In Kingdoms in Conflict, Charles Colson wrote, “[Christians have] always had trouble with the concept of patriotism. They have vacillated between two extremes—the God-and-country, wrap-the-flag-around-the-cross mentality and the simply-passing-through mind-set.” Colson points out that since the Vietnam War, the “passing-through” mind-set has become more prevalent among followers of Christ. “[It] is represented by those who believe they are simply sojourners with loyalties only in the Kingdom beyond. Patriotism has become a dirty word to them.”

Christian leaders excuse their political inactivity in one of three ways:

1. They contend, “We don’t want to be guilty of ‘nationalism’—worshipping our country rather than worshipping God.” But it’s not idolatry to give God thanks for a special country any more than it is idolatry to give God thanks for your beloved mother on Mother’s Day. Granted, patriotism can be taken to the extreme, but so can multiculturalism.

2. Some Christian leaders excuse their passivity by arguing, “The apostle Paul never advocated the overthrow of the corrupt Roman government; therefore, we should remain apolitical” because politics is sleazy. But the government of Paul’s day was more tyrannical. We live in a constitutional republic in which we are the government. That means we each have a stewardship responsibility to protect and preserve the Constitution of the United States.

3. Some believers reason, “We don’t want to alienate the seeker by getting involved in political issues. If there’s one thing that turns the millennial off to the church, it’s the preacher becoming political.” That’s true. But this is the problem: Politics has encroached on religious matters in recent years and our silence surrenders precious spiritual territory. Consider the current political subjects that were originally biblical issues: intelligent design; the right to life; the sanctity of marriage; racial equality; the proper treatment of the poor, widows, orphans, and aliens; religious freedom; parental rights; criminal justice; and especially the source of truth.

ERODING RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS

While churches withdraw from the public arena, godless policies, like a dangerous virus, invade spiritual territory and threaten the vitality of the church. If Christians don’t reverse the trend and get involved in political issues soon, the precious gift of liberty will be squandered and our grandchildren will not enjoy the religious freedoms we cavalierly take for granted.

In The Insanity of God, Nik Ripken relates the story of a minister in the former Soviet Union who was imprisoned and tortured for his gutsy loyalty to Christ. This courageous servant, whom the Communist Party singled out for abuse, gave Ripken this challenge, “Don’t ever give up in freedom what we would never have given up in persecution!”

Consider the little-publicized political decisions we nonchalantly release to the secular world that will impact the future church: tax exemptions for charitable organizations, minister’s housing allowances, minimum wage laws, zoning laws, and civil rights laws . . . to say nothing of freedom of speech from the pulpit. I fear our descendants living under severe restrictions will one day ask, “What were our grandparents thinking? Didn’t they believe Jesus is Lord of all . . . including politics?”

Consider the dangerous trend toward the forced endorsement of homosexuality that has taken place in America for the past 30 years:

1991: “We have no long-term agenda. We just want fairness. We want to end discrimination against the gay community in housing and the workplace.”

2009: “How is my gay marriage going to hurt you? We just want marriage equality.” 

2012: “Chick-fil-A restaurants are not welcome in our city as long as president Dan Cathy maintains his biblical view of marriage and the company contributes to hate groups like the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.”

2019: “We intend to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches, charities, and colleges for their failure to change their views on gay marriage.”

2030: ?

As the goalposts continue to move, it’s obvious the original agenda was not just to curtail discrimination but to completely eliminate the right to disagree respectfully. The LGBTQ goal is not just fair-minded tolerance but wholehearted endorsement of anti-biblical behavior. Even though the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom, anyone who holds to the biblical view of marriage and morality must be silenced.

Last spring, Attorney General William Barr delivered a powerful speech at the University of Notre Dame on the subject of eroding religious freedoms in America. He argued that “secularists” are now attacking the moral order that is the foundation of our liberty and threatening religious freedom in pursuit of their cause. He spoke of the “fervor and comprehensiveness of the assault on organized religion we are experiencing today.” Barr said, “This is not decay. This is organized destruction. Secularists and their allies have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.”

Barr boldly stated, “The problem is not that religion is being forced on others; the problem is that irreligion is being forced; secular values are being forced on people of faith.”

For example, the Obama administration’s Supreme Court fight to force Americans, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, to betray their conscience by mandating they buy insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.

Barr pointed out that the ultimate battle is for the hearts and minds of America’s children. “Ground zero for these attacks on religion are the schools.” As an example, he cited an opinion issued by the Orange County Board of Education in California that said, “Parents who disagree with the instructional materials related to gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation may not excuse their children from this instruction.” In other words, if you can’t afford to put your child in a private school, you must allow a government school to teach your child that a boy can become a girl and vice versa. 

AWAKENING THE NATION

If the attorney general of the United States is courageously sounding such a strong warning, how can church leaders possibly remain silent? The church is under a vicious, satanic attack! It’s one thing to be kind to those with whom we disagree. It’s quite another to be cowardly and say nothing when basic biblical principles are under assault.

America’s pulpits must awaken the nation while there is still time. Let’s not be more concerned about offending the seeker than we are about offending our Savior who commissions us to “preach the word in season and out of season” and urges us to “fight the good fight of faith.”

In the mid-19th century, Lord Melbourne, the chief political adviser to Queen Victoria, was pro-slavery. He objected to William Wilberforce and other Christians who used spiritual arguments for the abolition of the slave trade. Melbourne argued, “Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade public life.” Courageous abolitionists didn’t remain silent because slavery was a political issue. As the salt of the earth, they made a huge difference in the political arena. So should we.

A.W. Tozer wrote years ago, “A frightened world needs a fearless church.” It is time for God’s church to be aggressively strong and courageous in full belief the Lord our God will go before us. We don’t have to be angry or obnoxious, but we do need to be informed and involved. Carl Henry said the Christian has a duty “to work through civil authority for the advancement of justice and human good.”

Some who are influenced by hyper-Calvinism assert, “God is Sovereign, he’s ultimately in control. He doesn’t need us being concerned about politics to accomplish his will.” With that kind of reasoning, we needn’t bother to fasten seat belts, support the military, or invite neighbors to church.

Let’s wake up before it’s too late! Our hope is not in the government; it’s in God. But God works through committed people. He warns: “The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). Some think America has already passed the point of no return. They say, “It’s all over but the funeral. The coronavirus is just the beginning of God’s judgment on this country.”

However, nothing is impossible with God. If God’s people will repent, pray, and seek his face, he still assures us he will hear from Heaven and heal our land. As long as we have breath, we can still lay claim to his promise: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance” (Psalm 33:12).

Bob Russell retired as senior minister of Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky, in 2006.

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6 Comments

  1. Larry Balden
    July 3, 2020 at 11:44 pm

    I wonder how much leeway we will grant elected officials in order to fight some issues. He’s anti-(whatever evil we emphasize), so what if he (or she) undermines the Constitution a little, or is a bit racist. Those kinds of things can seem small, perhaps because we practice or benefit from them, but just like the campaign for LGBTQ endorsement, they erode democracy. Are Christians allowed that kind of bargaining freedom? I agree with Mr. Russell that we cannot hide from politics and must be willing to take our faith seriously on more than one or two issues. Clear-eyed understanding takes clear-eyed study. But it should be a quick study. Power-hungry people from any direction will avoid attempts to hold them accountable for wrongdoing while they grasp after more power and fewer restraints.

  2. Jim Hutchison
    July 4, 2020 at 9:45 am

    Well said Brother Bob!

  3. Ken Cooper
    July 5, 2020 at 7:39 pm

    The attitude displayed by Mr. Russell in this article is exactly why churches do not get involved in politics. It is clear to me that Mr. Russell considers the extreme right-wing political views of most Midwestern evangelicals to somehow be endorsed by Jesus himself. There is no toleration of even somewhat more “moderate” political views. It sounds to me like Mr. Russell is displaying the “God-and-country, wrap-the-flag-around-the-cross mentality” that Chuck Colson calls an “extreme.”

    Who says that suggesting the United States is a racist, materialistic, war-mongering nation is Marxist propaganda?

    We stole innocent African human beings, born in the image of God, from their homes and made them into slaves, treating them like animals, and we wrote it into the Constitution. And racism continued to be written into the laws of the nation for another 100 years after the Civil War, with the endorsement of many “Bible-believing” Christians and churches. And I fear most evangelicals today are not willing to listen to African-American citizens as they say that they still live in an atmosphere of intimidation and fear.

    We treated Native Americans like animals, taking their land without compensation, and herding them onto “reservations” in barely inhabitable areas.

    Our whole economy is based on personal material consumption; the profits of businesses depend on promoting more and more materialism; more and more wealth is flowing upward toward a few wealthy individuals while others with low incomes go without necessities.

    I don’t believe that any war the United States has waged since the Korean Conflict can be justified from a Christian perspective (and no, I am not a “pacifist”); but do you think that I can have a civil discussion about that with Midwestern evangelicals? I don’t think so.

    Finally, regarding “our nation’s uniqueness and spiritual heritage,” the United States is NOT God’s chosen nation and it is not God’s kingdom. And as for the founding of the nation, the Revolutionary War was sparked by a dispute over money and taxes, not by a desire for religious liberty. Does capitalism (“capital”=”money”) reflect the spirit of Jesus? “No one can server two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Does socialism reflect the spirit of Jesus? “And all who believed were together and had everything in common” (Acts 2:44). “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32).

    Are evangelical Christians really ready to have an open and honest discussion of politics with a view toward helping our nation better “reflect the spirit of Jesus”?

  4. July 7, 2020 at 11:01 am

    Mr. Russell,

    Thank you for your call to action. Christians need to wake up before it is too late. A conversation is going on among Christians about wanting to get involved and how to do it. I tell them to find someone who can be their mouthpiece and support them. I will share your editorial just like it was shared with me. It is time for us as Christians to . . . get off the bench and take a side. If we don’t, we are in danger of losing our religious freedom and the country we love. You have spoken important biblical truths that cannot be denied.

  5. Brian T Moll
    July 10, 2020 at 10:39 am

    With the influence Bob has, I fear he’s using it to shield people from the realities of our racist past that continues to haunt us during this present day. Bob knows that God is on the side of the oppressed, so like Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and the founders of the Moral Majority, Bob is attempting to posture (far) right-wing conservative Christians as the oppressed when in reality it has been the right-wing conservative Christians — as far back as the doctrine of discovery and Manifest Destiny — who have been the oppressors in our country. BOB — please wake up to this reality. You speak about those “not able to afford private schools” needing to be forced to learn about diversity and sexuality. However, the reality is that private Christian schools were birthed when Jim Crow laws were struck down & Brown V. The Board of Education integrated school. Private Christian schools THRIVED because they (read: Bob Jones & the Moral Majority) didn’t want to integrate with black people. That is YOUR HISTORY — please don’t whitewash it. You are better than that. Use your voice to speak truth to power rather than twisting God’s Scriptures and the political posture of Jesus so you may dine with the powerful in their mansions while simultaneously crying wolf. You are way better than this article. You’re making things extraordinarily difficult for your former church & its leaders by writing divisive, far right-wing commentary. I pray you’ll listen to the voice of the marginalized rather than pretending to be marginalized yourself.

  6. Gregory Newell
    July 11, 2020 at 8:31 pm

    Dear Bob, “Racism is so American that when you protest it, people think you are protesting America“

    Bob, I’m a 58-year-old black man and a United States Air Force Active-Duty Retiree with 22 years of service (I loved serving my country). I was born and raised in Cleveland Ohio. I’ve lived in upstate New York, Kunsan Korea, Minot North Dakota, Yuba City California, Cocoa Beach Florida, Louisville Kentucky, Aberdeen Maryland, and Houston Texas.

    I graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) with an M-Div in Pastoral Counseling. Do you really want me to believe for one second that you are unaware of the current systemic racism in our great country or that only a Marxist would point out our sins as a country?

    News flash Mr. Russell, people in countries around the world are aware of America’s systemic racism! Please ask yourself why Russia and other enemies of the USA used this fact as a way to attempt to sway the 2016 & 2018 elections.

    I’d be willing to bet that your son Rusty and the other members of the immediate family that God blessed you with could describe many of your sins and shortcomings if needed.

    If they did describe those sins in the context of encouragement for you to change your behavior and stop hurting others, would that mean they don’t love you? Of course not!

    I’m not really surprised that since you’ve retired from pastoring at Southeast Christian Church that you feel more comfortable expressing your far Right political views. I guess since you no longer have to balance the diverse expectations of the people you pastored at SECC you have a new comfort level.

    I am surprised however, that you would basically recite Fox News talking points and have the audacity to endorse a speech by a man like attorney general William Barr who openly, actively and unethically is helping POTUS obstruct Justice and use the Justice Dept to attack his political enemies and free his friends from accountability.

    No matter how hard I try, I can’t understand how seemingly respected people like you will one after the other sacrifice their dignity and reputation to endorse and support a president who doesn’t hide his contempt for morality, the law and justice.

    I am a former SECC member from 2007-2011. Even though you were retired by the time we joined SECC, it was your ministry and your sermons that drew us to join the church. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was to see you sacrifice yourself on the alter of Trump!

    I have my share of friends and Associates who are Trump voters but at least they have the integrity to acknowledge what a terrible and corrupt person he is and what a corrupt Administration he runs.

    Mr. Russell, It is IMPOSSIBLE for All Lives to Matter until Black Lives Matter!

    Let God Arise and his enemies be scattered!!

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