Mixing Religion and Politics
John Dickson writing at the Centre for Public Christianity has a thoughtful piece on Mixing Religion and Politics where he lists several ways Christians should and should not vote. Most helpful for me was the application of Phil. 2:3-11 to how one votes, which places greater concern on the other (what is good for your neighbor and wider social good), rather than on oneself (i.e., economic, health care, and education narrowly understood). He argues that voting this way will make us (Christians) perhaps more ‘liberal’ and more ‘conservative’ than we are typically comfortable with. It is worth reading to feel all of the nuance. In closing, he comments on I Tim. 2:1-3, where the Apostle Paul urges Christians to pray for their leaders. Dickson writes,
The connection between these sentences is subtle and fascinating. God’s people are urged to pray for those in power (vv.1-2a) with the result that ‘we’ (God’s people) can get on with the business of living peaceful and godly lives (v.2b). Moreover, this outcome somehow works to the pleasure of the God who wants all people to be saved (vv.3-4). In other words, good government enables the church to live its life of good works and God’s missionary desires to be fulfilled. This comes about not through the vote—as important as that is—but through prayer. Christian activism is expressed most pertinently on the knees. There is nothing here about praying for a ‘Christian society’—whatever that is—only that prayers should be offered for the (secular) leadership of a nation so that God’s people can get on with their core business of living lives of peace and goodness and seeking to promote the news of ‘God as Saviour.’ It is a mistake, in other words, for Christians to pin their hopes for a nation on a political process. The ‘Christian vote’ will always remain a secondary tool in the church’s repertoire of involvement for the good of the world.
Seeing prayer as the primary way in which we can be actively involved in the world is so counter to the way many of this think, myself included. For those of us who are busy, active, educated, employed, and generally successful, prayer seems lazy, counter-productive, and weak. But it is the way of God’s kingdom, for “Christ moves forward by spiritual rather than human power.” So while we may be educationally and productively powerful, sadly, we are spiritually anemic.