Civic/Vote

Civic Responsibility, Role, Understanding, Vote,…

The 2010 elections will be one of the most important events in America’s recent history, and will likely impact the future of both America, humanity, and the world more and for a longer period of time than most of us would probably discern.

Please, register to vote, study the candidates and issues, and VOTE.

Here’s a very insightful article about the fundamental issues in a democracy:

Politics, faith and Mom

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“Never discuss religion or politics in public,” my mother used to say.  I’m about to do both, probably proving the wisdom of her advice.

This morning’s USA Today reports that four Christian lawyers who vowed to be God’s ambassadors on the bench lost their bids last Tuesday to replace four San Diego Superior Court judges.  The incumbents easily beat the conservative attorneys, who were backed by pastors, gun enthusiasts, and opponents of abortion and same-sex marriages.  Critics said their campaign threatened the impartiality of the court system and the separation of church and state.

I agree (which may anger some of you), but I also disagree (which may anger the rest of you).  Here’s why.

I am a passionate advocate of the separation of church and state.  Churches should not be political organizations, endorsing candidates and mobilizing their members as monolithic voting blocks.  To the degree that the San Diego pastors used their pulpits and churches to this end (this aspect of the issue is unclear in the news story), I would agree with the critics’ concerns.

John Leland, one of the most important Baptists in colonial history, spoke for me in 1791: “Government has no more to do with the religious opinions of men, than it has with the principles of mathematics.  Let every man speak freely without fear, maintain the principles he believes, worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods; and let government protect him in so doing.”  Churches and state should be separate, neither seeking to control the other.

But I am also a passionate advocate of the engagement of faith and state.  While churches should not engage in politics, Christians should be extremely involved in political and public service.  I am convinced that God is calling more Christians into public service than are answering the call.  To the degree that the San Diego candidates were simply Christians running for office, seeking to bring their faith to bear on their work, I cannot see why their political engagement is different from that of candidates committed to any other belief systems.

James Davison Hunter’s latest work, To Change the World, is a profound analysis of ways the culture changes, and doesn’t.  He proves, at least to my mind, that electing Christians to office isn’t enough to change the culture.  Divorce rates escalated during the Reagan administration; gay marriage first became legal during George W. Bush’s presidency.

But he also argues that Christians should be God’s “faithful presence,” his salt and light, at the highest places of influence we can attain in the culture.  If Elana Kagan is confirmed for the Supreme Court, all nine chief justices will have graduated from Harvard or Yale law schools.  The more Christians are engaged in positions of cultural influence, the more effective their salt and light will be.

Martin Luther said, “It is necessary to have government because we are sinners.”  He echoes the words of Paul: “The authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.  Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:6).

What does this divisive discussion mean for you personally?  Let’s see….

That is how today’s Newsweek website describes the upcoming fall elections.  We will see more rancor and rhetoric, red states vs. blue states, big business vs. big government.  One issue sure to make the debate is the role of faith in politics.

Yesterday we began a conversation on the subject.  Your comments in response to my suggestions were very kind and instructive.  As you know, I believe Scripture to teach that a free church in a free state is the best approach to our issue.  Churches should not be political organizations, but Christians should be extremely involved in politics and public service.  How?

First, we are called to pray daily for our leaders: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).  Have you obeyed God’s word today?

Second, we are to find our most effective way to influence our culture for Christ.  Have you prayed about running for public office?  Are you engaged personally in your community and culture?  How is our country different because of you?  Plato warned us, “The punishment of wise men who refuse to take part in the affairs of government is to live under the government of unwise men.”  Which do you choose?

Last, we are called to obey our highest authority.  Peter said, “Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17).  “Honor” rulers, but “fear” or reverence God alone.  When the authorities ordered him to cease preaching, Peter replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.  For we cannot help speaking about what we have heard and seen” (Acts 4:19-20).  He was later executed (crucified upside down, according to tradition) because he would not stop sharing the gospel.  The same apostle who taught us that “everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1) was beheaded because he would not submit to Rome’s order that he cease his ministry.

The Southern Baptist Convention met in Washington, D.C. in 1920.  Standing on the east steps of the Capitol on Sunday, May 16, Dr. George W. Truett delivered what I believe to be the most significant address on religious liberty in the history of Baptists in America.  Among his remarks were these paragraphs:

“That utterance of Jesus, ‘Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,’ is one of the most revolutionary and history-making utterances that ever fell from those lips divine.  That utterance, once for all, marked the divorcement of church and state.  It marked a new era for the creeds and deeds of men.  It was the sunrise gun of a new day, the echoes of which are to go on and on and on until in every land, whether great or small, the doctrine shall have absolute supremacy everywhere of a free church in a free state.

“In behalf of our Baptist people I am compelled to say that forgetfulness of the principles that I have just enumerated, in our judgment, explains many of the religious ills that now afflict the world.  All went well with the early churches in their earlier days.  They were incomparably triumphant days for the Christian faith.  Those early disciples of Jesus, without prestige and worldly power, yet aflame with the love of God and the passion of Christ, went out and shook the pagan Roman empire from center to circumference, even in one brief generation.  Christ’s religion needs no prop of any kind from any worldly source, and to the degree that it is thus supported is a millstone hanged about its neck.”

Catch Dr. Truett’s dream: “in every land, whether great or small, the doctrine shall have absolute supremacy everywhere of a free church in a free state.” How will you serve both?

Dr. James C. Denison, God’s Issues