Should the church stay out of politics?
When I was a young teenager, I was into politics and Harold Wilson (remember him) was my hero. Then I got converted and went to a theologically conservative church that counselled me to not get involved in politics. My best friend, partner in crime and fellow left-wing activist and attendee at the church, managed to work out through subterfuge that members of my church, despite their “stay out of politics” position, were not only conservative theologically but most voted for the Conservative candidate come election time.
Moving on, I did take that advice although took at least a passing interest in politics and over the years after first gravitating toward the right because as a student and teacher observer I felt they were more into things like the rule of law (and this mattered), and after that I oscillated round the centre as different issues captured my attention, but never being convinced by any political party I should join them. I began to read subversive literature my early mentors would likely not have approved of, suggesting I should get involved.
I later came to a view that churches should focus on their core business of saving souls and discipling believers and while recognising many political issues do matter, there is a danger of aligning to one or other party or taking sides on one or other issue (other than on a purely personal basis in order to serve), especially when there are many aspects sound Christian folk do not agree on. I also noted that the conservative evangelicals were particularly concerned by issues like pro-life, traditional marriage and religious freedom, while those of a more liberal persuasion might be more concerned with issues like immigration, poverty and climate change and often to the extent they may focus more on this than preaching the gospel. The challenge for Christians of whatever ilk is the unity of the spirit and doing what is wise, right and true.
I write this in the light of my recent “What is happening in Ukraine and how to respond?” blog, the two memes giving the opinion of two prominent church leaders (see above) and the words of two respected Christians in my own circle that have taken issue with what the Russians have done and have called out Putin as being evil. The problem, as is often the case, there is more to these stories than meets the eye, and the challenge is seeing what God sees.
My concern is their views are one sided and that I will not be able to offer a hearty Amen to the whole of the prayers they pray, regretting concerns raised in my earlier blog meriting prayerful reflection are passed over. To answer the question “should the church stay out of politics”, on one hand I believe the church would be remiss in its obligations if that were to happen, but on the other a lot of grace, truth and wisdom is needed to maintain unity in what is essential.