IFB Memories #12: Church and politics

There’s always been a tension within Christianity regarding what kind of a relationship the church should have with politics and the state. The early Reformers unfortunately adopted the Roman Catholic viewpoint that the state was the divinely ordained agent of the church. That concept still lingers in varying degrees throughout the West but especially in the United States. European countries still have official state-supported denominations although few people attend services.

In American evangelicalism today, at one end of the spectrum are Christians who argue the church and state should work hand in glove; elect Christian-friendly politicians, ensure the appointment of Christian-friendly judges, and legislate laws that reflect Judeo-Christian beliefs and values. At the other end of the spectrum are Christians who argue the job of the church is to evangelize and disciple and not to become entangled in worldly concerns. We are ambassadors of our Father in Heaven on a mission to evangelize, not to be deeply-rooted, nationalistic patriots.

My wife and I accepted Christ back in the early-1980s and we began attending an independent fundamental Baptist church that patterned itself after Jerry Falwell (pictured) and his Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Falwell and his Moral Majority were so focused on championing conservative causes that the Gospel was relegated to the back seat. Co-belligerency alongside religious unbelievers (e.g., conservative Catholics) eventually contributed to an “ecumenism of the trenches” as Chuck Colson once approvingly noted.

Our pastor regularly mixed the Gospel with politics from the pulpit. America was presented as a Christian nation that was in a covenant with God in the very same way as was ancient Israel. Old Testament passages meant only for Israel were regularly misapplied to the United States. Our church was heavily involved with New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a political advocacy group supported by IFB and conservative evangelical churches in the state (see last article below). During election years, candidates from both parties were invited to our church to discuss their political positions but only Republicans bothered to show up. That church’s heavy involvement in politics and the constant harangues about the culture wars from the pulpit led to our decision to leave, among other reasons.

I don’t know exactly where the line is regarding the church’s involvement with politics and the state but I’m quite happy politics are never mentioned from the pulpit of our current church.

I’m currently reading “The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America” by Frances FitzGerald, which was published in April. It’s a history of evangelicalism in America from an unbeliever’s perspective. It’s not always complimentary but the facts are fascinating, especially regarding the struggle to determine the church’s relationship with the state. Review to follow.

Below are a few articles that touch upon this church-state dichotomy:

With God on Their Side: How Evangelicals Entered American Politics

Don’t compromise the gospel in social cooperation
http://news.sbts.edu/2017/04/13/dont-compromise-gospel-social-cooperation-says-mohler-tgc-workshop/

Evangelicals gather in Albany
http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/273279/evangelicals-gather-in-albany/

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13 thoughts on “IFB Memories #12: Church and politics

    1. My wife and I could not worship at a church that mixed politics with the Gospel. Finding a conservative evangelical church that doesn’t mix the two is not an easy task.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I can’t seem to get this post off of my mind, Tom. In this particular election season, this problem was just endemic and pervasive. First, I am NOT NOT NOT making any particular political statement here, Lord forbid that I would. What I found that truly pushed my buttons, was that to vote for one candidate was the Godly thing to do, while to vote for another was clearly not Godly. Now, even I would agree that on way was going to go better for the Faith than another, but that way certainly did not represent the “Godly” candidate. Ugh. Amen that in my state I could cast a vote for a fellow who represented my beliefs pretty well, and didn’t have to make that choice. My point here is not to support anybody, but to illustrate that our recovery as a nation is not fore fronted by the person who leads us. We are not Israel. God has offered the salvation and changed life to each and every person to take or leave as they each wish. I wish somebody would take notice that we have, in fact, had very Godly presidents, and NOTHING changed. While God has certainly blessed this nation mightily at times and even now, that blessing is not tied to any relationship He has with us as a nation but rather on the relationship He has(or has not) with the individuals who live in it.

    I sometime shock my Sunday School class when I remind them that, really, the U.S is not a “Christian nation” in the sense that God has any covenant with us whatsoever. Then I explain yet again what I mean. What I mean is that our blessing as a nations, while many, are not predicated on God’s relationship with the country, but the countrymen. I guess nobody has found a good Biblical way to shut me up yet LOL, because I keep teaching it, and they keep listening.

    I personally think sometimes that we want a Christian leader so that we can sit back, wait for them to work, do nothing, then blame them we the country keeps going to Hell in a handbasket. (sorry if that was too graphic.)

    Okay, rant over my friend.

    P.S. Lest anybody misunderstand. I do love this country. At one time I would have willingly died for her. That is not what I am saying here. This is not an anti America rant, but a pro Jesus one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comments, Wally. The “America the Christian nation” idea is so ingrained and cherished among Christians in this country that to suggest otherwise is outright heresy. I know I’m really in the minority on this one so it’s always a pleasure to talk it over with a brother.

      After I wrote that post the other day I was thinking about the very popular patriotic song, “America the Beautiful.” A portion of the lyrics go, “America! America! God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!” That’s civic religion, not Christianity, but Christians sing it out with gusto. Christians living here in Western New York often gather with non-Christians at sporting and civic events and sing that song and feel closer kinship with their unbelieving fellow-Americans than they do with believing brothers and sisters living a few miles across the border in Canada. That doesn’t make sense to me. Whew! Now it’s my turn to say, Rant over!

      Don’t get me wrong, Wally. I’m very grateful I live in the U.S. and enjoy the freedoms here that were bought with the personal sacrifice of so many but I’ve definitely lost some (not all) of the patriotic pride I used to have.

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      1. Hi Tom

        Having said all of that, I still love my country and remain quite Patriotic. I would also gladly agree that we were founded on Judeo Christian principles primarily by people who understood and valued those principles. That is NOT the same thing as being founded as a Christian Nation. Not to be flip about that topic, but if we did become Christian who would the authority be? With my luck, it would be those foot washing Free Will Baptists LOL. Then what? Okay..poor humor there you can erase it if you want to my friend.

        Liked by 1 person

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