Political Disclaimers

It’s never comfortable when religion and politics meet. There’s a thin line that too often has not only been crossed but crossed to the extent that the line is no longer even in view. In light of that, perhaps I shouldn’t even write about politics because of the danger of crossing that line, but I’m going to take the risk and write about it anyway (which probably doesn’t surprise you if you know me).

But first, a few disclaimers to keep in mind when reading something I write on politics:

1. As Christians, our primary responsibility to the government is to pray for our leaders. Before you criticize, complain, or choose, take time to pray. Pray daily for our President, members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, and everyone else serving in federal, state, or local governments. Pray also for continued religious freedom “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2).

2. Another responsibility we have to the government is to be good citizens. As long as it does not command us to do something contrary to biblical imperatives and principles, we owe the government our allegiance, loyalty, and obedience (see Romans 13:1-7).

3. In America, being a good citizen includes participating in the democratic process by voting. There is no clear cut biblical standard for choosing representatives (though there might be some general principles that apply) so in no way do I think my views and opinion are explicitly “biblical” or necessarily more spiritual than someone else’s. I don’t think I am more “Christian” than a fellow believer who votes differently than me on subjects not directly addressed by Scripture. Nor do I believe it is the responsibility of the church to dictate to people how they should vote. We should instead pray for the Holy Spirit to apply the relevant biblical principles (which are appropriate to teach) to each person’s conscience as they prepare to vote.

4. I write about politics not to necessarily convince anyone to vote a certain way, but rather to simply explain my thinking. Quite frankly, since history and politics are passions of mine, I tend to follow the political process more closely than most, and if I can therefore be a resource for people who are unsure of the candidates and issues involved, then I want to be.

5. Using the terminology of the day, I would identify myself as a conservative and, therefore, I typically vote Republican. I do not, however, believe the Republican Party is more “Christian” or always right. I believe in voting according to my conscience and the political and economic principles I believe to be true. Politicians who hold those same principles tend to be members of the Republican Party. I do not have any animosity toward the Democratic Party or any of its members (and I pray for Democratic leaders as much as I do Republican ones), but we do tend to differ in opinion and conviction on most issues.

6. In the wide spectrum of conservatism, I lean toward the classically liberal position, which I believe is in between neo-conservatism and libertarianism (though closer to the latter than the former).

7. While in many areas I lean libertarian, I would not call myself one, mostly because I can’t get over the fact that everyone doing what is right in their own eyes is portrayed in a negative light in Scripture (see the book of Judges). I do believe, however, that liberty is a good thing. As a general rule, I believe that local government should not handle anything that can be responsibly handled by individual families, state government should not handle anything that can be responsibly handled at the local or family level, and the federal government should not handle anything that can be responsibly handled at the state, local, or family level. I therefore believe that national defense should be handled by the federal government, but issues dealing with charity and culture should not, as they can be better handled by families, private institutions, and local and state governments.

8. I believe in the separation of church and state, or, more accurately, in the separation of the institutional church and state. Historically whenever a particular church or denomination has gained political power, it has harmed both the church and the state, and the church more than the state. I do, however, believe that individual Christians may be called to serve in politics and government “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14) and that it is every Christian’s responsibility to participate in the political process as citizens and ensure that every individual’s basic human rights as image bearers of God are protected.

9. While I would prefer that those governing me share my religious beliefs, I see no biblical or historical precedent for making that a requirement to receive my vote. And frankly, I would rather be governed by a qualified, experienced, principled unbeliever who shares my political and economic beliefs than a Christian who doesn’t. If government is limited, it doesn’t matter if those governing disagree with an individual’s belief because they have no right to interfere. If government is not limited, even those who agree with me may soon become unbearable to me.

10. While I am interested in politics, I am as skeptical of politicians (from all political parties) as anyone. However, I also believe that we need to work within the system we have so I continue to vote and otherwise participate in the political process.

11. Politics are part of life in America, but real change can only come through Jesus Christ. Relying on government and politics to fix sin issues is nothing more than trusting in chariots instead of God (Ps. 20:7).

12. Our government is owed allegiance, but for Christians, our primary allegiances are to Jesus Christ and his Church universal. Christians in other nations are more our brethren than American unbelievers are. Similarly, unbelievers in America need to know Jesus just as much as unbelievers in foreign nations do. We should not be prejudiced against or in favor of any person or people group just because they happened to be born in a certain geographical area governed by a particular nation. Also, a fellow believer who holds differing political view is more of a brother than an unbeliever with whom you agree politically. The bond of fellowship within the church should never be threatened by people making others feel less worthy because they vote differently.

13. If you are a Christian, you should not remain ignorant about your responsibilities regarding the government or what biblical principles apply to how we view government and the political process. If you’ve never given it serious thought, start by reading Christian Principles for Realistic Politics by Kevin DeYoung and work from there.

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