Dr. Doug Posey
Recently, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Christians in a couple of cases involving faith convictions. One having to do with a baker’s right not to make a cake expressing views in violation of his biblical perspective of marriage. Another protected “religiously oriented crisis pregnancy centers” from supplying “women with information about how to end their pregnancies.” When those like the baker and counselors at the pregnancy center act based upon their faith, some say, “Keep your views in church!”
Sadly, many today believe that all expressions of faith should be relegated to the structures designated for worship. And at the same time, many Christians believe that anything that smacks of the political should not make its way through the stained glass and dwell in proximity to the pews. In fact, surveys show that more and more, even conservatives feel the church should stay out of politics. A growing number of people are uncomfortable with candidates speaking out personally about religion. Where do they get that mistaken perspective? Certainly not the Bible, church history, or even American history.
To read our history books today, you wouldn’t necessarily catch the connection between things like Christianity and the highly political issue of something like the abolition of slavery. In fact, you really get a feel for the political vs. faith battle that raged over slavery when you go “across the pond” to the real roots of our struggle against slavery, which took place in England.
William Wilberforce was elected to Parliament in 1780. He came to Christ in 1785, through the influence of John Newton (who wrote “Amazing Grace”), a former slave trader who became a clergyman in the Church of England. Newton urged Wilberforce to use his position in Parliament to fight against slavery. It was his faith that led him to do so. It took 20 years and his critics sounded no different than those we hear today. Lord Melbourne complained, “Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade public life.” Sounds a lot like, “Keep your views in church!”
Many today look at any public expression of our faith as an invasion of public life. If you look at old sermons from the 18th and 19th centuries in our country, you'll find that not only did pastors freely engage the pulpit in so-called political issues, they "called out" public figures by name! They believed that as salt they had a responsibility to preserve truth. As light, they had to expose the deeds of darkness no matter where they may be found. We too are to be salt and light.
In the hefty two-volume set called Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730–1805, edited by Ellis Sandoz, one can clearly see that the early American culture and political issues were deeply influenced by the New England preachers. For example, how's this for a sermon title: Civil Magistrates Must Be Just, Ruling in the Fear of God ? Maybe I’ll suggest that as a theme, if I’m ever honored again with the opportunity to do the “Moment of Inspiration” (Not “Invocation”—too politically incorrect) at the Ventura County Board of Supervisors meeting. Imagine, “County Supervisors Must Rule in the Fear of God!” They’d love that.
Speaking truth to and about power is something Paul was not afraid to do. Jesus certainly did not shy away from it. That’s all God calls us to do. His is the true power and unless we are willing to be representatives of that power, we become representatives of weakness by default.
As we celebrate Independence Day, let’s remember that our founders did not envision independence from God, but independence under God and dependence upon God. To the degree that so-called political issues impact the spiritual health and morality of our country, we are compelled to be salt and light, making a difference for Christ. On issues where there is a clearly biblical perspective, pastors have the right and the duty to tell Christians how they should vote. Whether it’s from the pulpit or in personal interaction, Christians have an obligation to be God’s voice, unafraid to speak up, even when it’s something from the realm of the political.
“He is the head over all rule and authority” ─COLOSSIANS 2:10