Separation of Politics and Faith?

We often hear in our society that our spiritual beliefs shouldn't influence our politics. That view can only come from people who have superficial beliefs (beliefs that they intellectually assent to but practically avoid) or none at all. I don’t mean that to be offensive to those who separate their faith from their politics, but let’s be honest. If your beliefs don’t influence the way that you view the world and the way that the world should operate, then your beliefs are not really beliefs; they are just part of some religious ritual that you give intellectual assent to.

Our deeply held spiritual beliefs will influence our politics. They aren’t contained in some fictitious fairy tale section of our minds. Instead, they transform the way we live and view the world. If we really believe the spiritual things we claim to believe, then those beliefs will permeate our entire life. If we compartmentalize the practical applications of our spiritual beliefs to our church life or our life around a certain group of people, then we really don’t believe the beliefs that we claim to believe; we just give them lip service. Authentic belief influences the way we live, everywhere we find ourselves living.  That is what genuine, true belief is. The truth of the matter is that our beliefs always influence our politics. The question is, “What do we really believe?”

Now this doesn’t mean that we should have to spout off about Scripture in the political arena. What it means is that our politics are shaped by our beliefs, and those beliefs should be able to hold their own without referring back to Scripture with those who do not believe in Scripture. Truth doesn’t need Scripture to show that it is true. It is the truth. It is in Scripture because Scripture contains the truth, but the truth is not confined to Scripture.

Let us look at some clear, Christian teachings from Scripture and see how those should influence what our political views are. We need to recognize these problems in our nation and work to resolve them rather than turning a blind eye toward them or, even worse, supporting these sinful actions that are contrary to the teachings of God.

Jesus teaches us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). All too often our society’s fervent nationalism will spur us to dehumanize our enemies and harm them. Jesus went so far as to say that we are to love those who persecute us. So these enemies are doing harm to us, yet we are still supposed to love them. This might be difficult to iron out politically, but we must always remember that we are called to be faithful, not effective.

The Bible is filled with passages on how we are to treat the immigrant (Leviticus 19:33-34). We are taught to treat the immigrant as a native and love them as we love ourselves. Yet all too often the mentality of many politically active Christians is to speak against the illegal immigrant who has a worse life than us, not because of his or her work ethic, but because of the place they were born. This hatred has no room in the Kingdom of God because a brother or sister in Jesus who is from a foreign nation shares their primary citizenship with us in the Kingdom of God. We should be concerned about their well-being, not attacking them or making things difficult for them.

When it comes to abortion, the church is typically against it. Unfortunately, we often stand against it in a "you should do things my way" approach rather than a "we will sacrifice ourselves to help you despite your bad decision" approach.  Many people are hurt by abortions. We need to be willing to take the burden of sacrifice necessary to help the women who wind up being unwanted mothers. We need to make the sacrifice and adopt the unwanted children. We serve a savior who died for us despite us not deserving it; we are called to do the same for the others (Galatians 5:13-15).

One of the biggest dilemmas facing our society is the increasing income gap between the rich and everyone else. Not paying workers a fair wage, profiting off of unrighteousness and injustice, and ignoring the plight of the poor and needy are all actions that disgust God (Jeremiah 22:13-17). We may or may not think the government is the solution to these problems facing our society, but we, as followers of Jesus, cannot be complicit in, participate in, or even be supportive of those who bring these problems about.

Those are just a few of the issues where following Jesus criss-crosses with society.

We must make sure that in the process of being politically alive, we never compromise important beliefs. The ends never justify the means. However, that expression is often used as an excuse to be an obnoxious jerk, one who is unwavering and unwilling to compromise. We must realize that it is better to head in the right direction than to hide in our ivory towers, be self-righteous, and make no progress for the betterment of those who need help. We understand that this world will never be what God intended it to be prior to Jesus’ second coming, but we also recognize that striving for His ideal is what will make life better in the here and now.

We must be vigilant that we never lose our focus on Jesus in the mire of politics. This nation will not be transformed into what God wants it to be through political action. The key problem is a problem of the heart. But that does not mean that a follower of Jesus cannot be involved in shaping laws to promote the common good. We might hear the retort, “You can’t legislate morality.” But that is nonsense. Every law is a moral teaching, even in a secular nation.

When talking about politics, we must never forget that our primary witness for Jesus is our not our political stances; it’s our life together as a church. The government is not the salvation of the world; Jesus is. And He reveals Himself to the world through the local church. We must love one another and be the light of the world that we were intended to be.

It is my hope that the laws of the land I live in reflect the teachings of the spiritual kingdom I exist in. Everyone wants the laws of the land to reflect their own personal beliefs. The question is “What do we really believe?” Do we really believe in Jesus? Or do we believe in some warped rendition of nationalism? Or a gospel of selfishness? Or something else? Are we really agnostic? Our actions show what we really believe. I hope and pray that we, the people who claim to follow Jesus in America, will begin to truly live as if we really believe. What a difference that would truly make. We would really be a city on a hill.