Should so-called “Christians” and “Clergy” get involved in politics?! Is it a “correct” move for a ‘Christian?’
Politics has been defined as “the activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate or conflict between individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.”—The New Oxford Dictionary of English.
Relevant excerpted reading: “Should the Clergy Preach Politics?” w ’04… (my highlights)
“INVOLVEMENT in politics can help the poor, a Canadian archbishop told pilgrims . . . Even if the political system does not seem to be according to God’s will, ‘we need to get involved so that we can bring justice to the poor.’”—Catholic News
Can preachers of Christianity clean up politics? Is preaching politics God’s way of achieving better government and a better world? Did Christianity start out as a new way to practice politics?
How Politics in Christ’s Name Began
In The Early Church, historian Henry Chadwick says that the early Christian congregation was known for its “indifference to the possession of power in this world.” It was a “non-political, quietist, and pacifist community.” A History of Christianity says: “There was a conviction widely held among Christians that none of their number should hold office under the state . . . As late as the beginning of the third century Hippolytus said that historic Christian custom required a civic magistrate to resign his office as a condition of joining the Church.” Gradually, though, men coveting power began taking the lead in many congregations, giving themselves high-sounding titles. (Acts 20:29, 30) Some wanted to be both religious leaders and politicians. A sudden change in Rome’s government gave such churchmen the opportunity they wanted.
In the year 312 C.E., the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine turned a friendly eye toward nominal Christianity. Astonishingly, the church bishops were content to compromise with the pagan emperor in exchange for the privileges he conferred on them. “The Church became more and more implicated in high political decisions,” wrote Henry Chadwick. What effect did involvement in politics have on churchmen?
How Politics Affected Preachers
The idea that God would use churchmen as politicians was promoted especially by Augustine, an influential fifth-century Catholic theologian. He envisioned the church ruling over the nations and bringing peace to mankind. But historian H. G. Wells wrote: “The history of Europe from the fifth century onward to the fifteenth is very largely the history of the failure of this great idea of a divine world government to realize itself in practice.” Christendom did not bring peace even to Europe, much less to the world. What had been thought of as being Christianity lost its standing in the eyes of many. What went wrong?
Many who claimed to preach Christianity were drawn into politics with good intentions, but then they found themselves participating in evil. Martin Luther, a preacher and a translator of the Bible, is famous for his efforts to reform the Catholic Church. However, his bold stand against church doctrines made him popular with those who had political motives for rebellion. Luther lost the respect of many when he too began to speak out on political issues. Initially he favored the peasants who were rebelling against oppressive nobles. Then, when the rebellion turned savage, he encouraged the nobles to crush the rebellion, which they did, butchering thousands. Not surprisingly, the peasants considered him a traitor. Luther also encouraged the nobles in their own rebellion against the Catholic emperor. In fact, Protestants, as Luther’s followers came to be known, formed a political movement from the beginning. How did power affect Luther? It corrupted him. For example, although he at first opposed coercing religious dissidents, he later encouraged his political friends to execute by burning those who opposed infant baptism.
John Calvin was a famous clergyman in Geneva, but he came to have enormous political influence as well. When Michael Servetus demonstrated that the Trinity has no basis in Scripture, Calvin used his political influence to support the execution of Servetus, who was burned at the stake. What a horrific departure from Jesus’ teachings!
Perhaps these men forgot what the Bible says at 1 John 5:19: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” Did they have a sincere desire to clean up the politics of their day, or was it the prospect of power and of having friends in high places that attracted them? In any case, they should have remembered the inspired words of Jesus’ disciple James: “Do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) James knew that Jesus had said of his followers: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.”—John 17:14.
“Something better than politics”…(my highlights)
BEING a Christian embraces more than reading the Bible, praying, and singing hymns on Sundays. It involves doing things both for God and for people. The Bible says: “Let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18) Jesus had sincere concern for others, and Christians want to imitate him. The apostle Paul urged fellow believers always to have “plenty to do in the work of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) But what is the work of the Lord? Does it include trying to change government policy for the benefit of the poor and the oppressed? Is that what Jesus did?
Although Jesus was urged to intervene in political matters or take sides, he refused to do so. He turned down Satan’s offer of power over all the kingdoms of the world, he refused to be drawn into an argument over the paying of taxes, and he withdrew when a popular movement wanted to make him king. (Matthew 4:8-10; 22:17-21; John 6:15) But his neutrality did not prevent him from working for the benefit of others.
Jesus concentrated on what would bring lasting good to others. While his feeding the five thousand and curing the sick brought temporary relief for a few, his teaching made everlasting blessings available to all mankind. Jesus became known, not as an organizer of relief campaigns, but simply as “the Teacher.” (Matthew 26:18; Mark 5:35; John 11:28) He said: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.”—John 18:37.
Preaching Something Better Than Politics
The truth Jesus taught was not political theory. Rather, it centered on the Kingdom of which he himself would be King. (Luke 4:43) This Kingdom is a heavenly government, and it will replace all human administrations and bring permanent peace to mankind. (Isaiah 9:6, 7; 11:9; Daniel 2:44) It is, therefore, the only true hope for mankind. Is it not more loving to declare such a sure hope for the future than to encourage people to trust in men to provide a secure future? The Bible says: “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs. His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish. Happy is the one who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in Jehovah his God.” (Psalm 146:3-5) So rather than sending his disciples out to preach a better way of organizing governments, Jesus taught them to preach the “good news of the kingdom.”—Matthew 10:6, 7; 24:14.
This, then, is “the work of the Lord” that Christian preachers are commissioned to do. Because subjects of God’s Kingdom are required to love one another, the Kingdom will succeed in eliminating poverty by distributing mankind’s resources in a balanced way. (Psalm 72:8, 12, 13) This is good news and is certainly worth preaching.
[Excerpted: Does Neutrality Hinder Christian Love? w ’04]
2/26/19 @ 5:43 p.m.