The Church And Political Discourse
At one time in our nation’s history, churches had great influence over the way people viewed their politics and subsequently their own personal role in government. However, over the course of time churches (especially those of a more conservative persuasion) have grown silent regarding the civic lives of their congregants.
I am certain that there are exceptions to this statement. However, it cannot be ignored that many conservative-leaning churches may be losing their influence over how people view their role in government and how their faith impacts their civic duty as a citizen of the United States.
There are probably numerous reasons for this phenomenon, too many to delve into in this diary. However, three possible reasons come to my mind when I ponder the why behind the silence. The first involves the tax-exempt status of the church. Some churches avoid any hint of the discussion of politics or governing issues because they seek to keep their tax-exempt status and/or they want to be people of integrity and follow the law. Their motives are often pure, but I think at times this belief system can be taken to an extreme.
The second reason for the silence of the church is from the desire to not divide people along party lines. They don’t want to alienate people from the truth of God’s love for them. This is a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with. No one should ever be made to feel that they are unwanted at a church, no matter what their political background or belief system. But I believe that there is a way to discuss conservative values from the pulpit, without dividing people along party lines.
Last but not least, some religious people have bought into the “separation of Church and State” myth. The reality is that this phrase is not found in the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence. It actually originated from a letter to the Danbury Baptists from Thomas Jefferson. The Danbury Baptists were concerned that another denomination was going to be the declared the “state denomination.” Jefferson wrote to them, stating,
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’ , thus building a wall of separation between Church and State’.”
His statement was never meant to protect the government from religion, but religion from the government. It most certainly was not meant to remove all discussion of political issues from churches.
So what is the church’s role in politics and how do we defined it as Conservatives? We certainly don’t want churches funding political campaigns or telling people how to vote. This would constitute an abuse of power and would open the door for all means of corruption. But yet, we know that there is a prominent civic role that churches should play in a free and civilized society.
How do we find that middle ground? I do not have all of the answers, but one simple suggestion would be for churches to simply engage in more conversations regarding personal responsibility in all areas of life ( anti-entitlement thinking), the role of morality in society, and the value of a limited government. All of these values work in tandem with religious values. Churches are beginning to stress to their congregations about the importance of personal fiscal responsibility (thank you Dave Ramsey). But I would like to see more expansion into why it is important for their government to do the same. I know that churches can’t discuss these topics all of the time, that is not their primary function nor purpose. But I think they can at least incorporate these values into sermons a couple of times a year or maybe more often through individual classes and/or activities.
Those who are not of a religious persuasion may question why this is important to the Conservative cause or for that matter to the country. If you want the answer, look no further than the activities of the Left in local churches. It sounds ironic, doesn’t it? The very people who have advocated to remove religion out of the public square are beginning to infiltrate churches to further their own agenda. They are using the concept of “social justice” to appeal to religous peoples’ sense of compassion and strong desire to help those less fortunate. Many Christians voted for Obama based on these arguments. I know some of them personally.
Of course, the Left rarely uses the word “socialism” when speaking to religious people. If they did, people would be running down the aisles and out of the door. For most, a subtle “push” in that direction is what is applied. But there are some churches out there who utilize more overt attempts to “evangelize” congregants to the Leftist agenda
The bottom line is that if we are going to win the war of ideas, we must be willing to engage with people in every venue of public life; our local communities, states, and yes, even churches. If we cede any ground in any arena, we will be fighting an uphill battle for our country.