Mixing Religion and Politics Turns Things Upside Down

Part Two of Yesterday’s Post:  My Musings

Our friends south of the border have elected their President now so folks can take a deep breath and get back to everyday life.  I suppose some voters will be elated over the results while others are very disappointed; I even hear a bit of that up here.  Everyone seems to have an opinion regardless of how much or how little we actually know about the real issues.  We all hope our leaders will stand for truth and justice, but it seems unfair to expect one man to fix all the problems, economic and social, no matter how wise or wonderful he’d be.

Reading comments from various American bloggers who profess Christianity, I’ve picked up a certain attitude that surely must cause them frustrations – and we Canadians may well have some of this, too.  It feels like many North American Christians still have a WCTU or Prohibition mind-set:  “We are a Christian nation, therefore our government needs to enact laws to make people behave.  I.e., forbid same-sex marriage; repeal abortion; ban this or that.”

This didn’t work in the 1920s and probably never will, but some folks keep hoping.

It seems to me that Christians in democratic countries can get so wrapped up in getting the right people elected and choosing a government that will straighten things out.  The goal seems to be to make us politically Christian – but at the same time maintaining the separation of church and state.  How is this possible?

An unbeliever looking on would probably comment that Christians are such a crazy mixture; they can’t even agree among themselves what they want.  And those who are serious about their faith are such a minority anymore, but they still want to run the show.

We can get so occupied with fixing the world that we neglect the very tool we have in our hands – the only tool – that can change people’s lives and make folks want to be good: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel started as a grassroots movement in a pagan empire; it was like a leaven that spread through the empire and lifted the burdens from anyone who took it to heart.  It made such a dramatic difference in people’s lives that believers “turned the world upside down.”

The apostles worked with individuals; they never got involved in secular politics or tried to change society from the top down.  There was no way they could.  Neither did they need for the Emperor to take a stand for truth or morality in order for the Gospel to be effective.  Perhaps we in North America are somewhat misled by the idea that democracy is the “Christian” way, then frustrated when it doesn’t make people godly?

I’m wondering:  if the effort expended on political speeches were rather aimed at reaching out to individuals with the Gospel, wouldn’t it bear more fruit?  Better to share the life-changing power of Christ with our next-door neighbors than to bang our heads in frustration trying to get the right laws enacted.

(Let’s forget about glamorizing the good old days, too.  Read Charles Dickens if you think the world was a better place before “all these liberal laws” came into being.  The thing that made a big improvement in British society was the preaching of the Gospel by men like the Wesley brothers and William Booth.)

An elderly friend told me one time that Nellie McClung, a Women’s Christian Temperance Union leader and an ardent push behind getting the vote for Canadian women, said in the 50’s not long before she died:
“We thought when we got the vote for women, we’d outlaw liquor.  But we never thought we’d see the day when women would take to drinking.”

(There were a lot of “days” Nellie never lived to see.  Christian women of her day were dead-set against war; today women are demanding the right to front-line combat service.)

They “put up a fence round the edge of the cliff” but found that drinkers just found new ways to climb over and take the plunge.  Organized crime benefited greatly from the naivety of the WCTU.  Illegal bars or “speakeasies” sprang up everywhere in the “dry” states as people flouted the prohibition laws.  The fence couldn’t hold a lot of people in because society as a whole was not Christian.

The issues have changed, but aren’t we still holding up the same solutions?  For example, make abortion illegal.  Now, abortion is wrong, but so is harassment.  Wouldn’t it be better to reach out in love than to ban?  True, there are women who use abortion as a lazy form of birth control, but who is going to make them take responsibility for their offspring?  What is going to make us all good mothers other than the selfishness-crucifying power of the Gospel?

Law and order are desirable, but history has proved that using the law to make people good is futile.  As far as I can see, the Gospel has proven to be the only effective means of change in people’s lives – and thus in society.  Change has to start from the bottom up, not from the top down.

“What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me pure within?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

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9 thoughts on “Mixing Religion and Politics Turns Things Upside Down

  1. I have been depressed about the election ever since I heard the results. You have lifted my spirits with your thought-provoking article. No matter who is President, for a nation to change it must begin in the hearts of the people. An amen from this side of the border!

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  2. I too was so unhappy about the results of our Presidential Election. But I too realize that we must work in our own hearts and offer the kindness and compassion that Jesus came to give. This presidential campaign was one of the most hateful spectacle I have ever seen in my 61 yrs. So much negativity and “class warfare” that I just couldn’t stand it anymore.

    I for one am pledging to stay within the spirit of Christ and treat everyone as I would like to be treated and if I get annoyed at politicians, I will pray for them, that is after I turn them off!

    SandyO

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    • I guess if Christians could live through the days of Nero (those that did!) and the various Caesars, also the destruction of Jerusalem (God preserving them by sending them out of the city) we can live through the days to come if we stay close to Him.

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  3. I know this is quite an old post, but I ran across it doing some reading and decided to comment. While I would agree with most of what you said, the statement on abortion might be looked at in another light as well. There are things that a vast majority of us believe are wrong. One of those things is murder. We have laws against it because it is taking the life of someone else. When Science says that the point of conception is when that baby is actually a separate living organism from its mother, then it is hard for me to classify abortion as anything different than murder. While I would whole heartedly agree that making laws to make people moral will never work, I will beg the question of are their laws that do need to stay?

    A great point of view on this is from a movie called Time Changer. Law without moral backing struggles no matter what. While I do not believe laws should be made to correct spiritual or moral problems, I do believe they should be their to protect people. Drugs are illegal because they can cause people to harm others. I would say their are some boundaries their that need to change, but the laws are not based on moral obligation but on protection of other people. Protection can also limit freedom and liberty. This is a delicate balance that we must keep in mind in when voting for our government officials.

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    • Thanks so much for your long and thoughtful comment. Basically I would agree with you on your position; I don’t approve of abortion on demand myself. And murder is always wrong.

      But and however, you don’t have to read much in history to know that women who wanted abortions and could pay for them usually found (dangerous) ways and means. The baby died and often the mother, too. This risk doesn’t make abortion-on-demand right, but I can definitely understand where some people are coming from. On the other hand, if I take a gun to shoot someone and sneak around so that I end up killing myself by accident, that doesn’t mean it should be legal to take free shots at others.

      I worked with a girl that had two abortions, one when she was about fifteen and one when she was seventeen. There just was no simple way through her dilemma (except to have stayed sober in the first place.) The law could have made her HAVE those children, but what then? Especially when the second one was conceived when she’d done so much drinking. I asked a Christian mother if they would be interested in adopting this child and she said “No. Risk of FAS and all that.”

      Though I agree with the clear-cut idea that “We have to protect the unborn child,” I realize this answer doesn’t always bring the protection to said child one would hope for. If the State is going to restrict abortion to medical emergencies, the State (or someone) is going to have to take responsibility for the unwanted babies born. That’s where I see Christians coming alongside and filling that role — and I applaud those groups who do.

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