Why Politics is Necessary

by Gary DeMar

America is a mess, and we can include the world as well, because Christians, who say they have undergone a redemptive change, are keeping their personal transformation under wraps. There is fear by some Christian leaders that if Christians get involved in politics, the gospel message will be diluted. There are Christians who don’t get involved in politics and have moral lapses. Jimmy Swaggart comes to mind. It doesn’t seem to register with these same critics that our non-involvement does not enhance the spread of the gospel. It is not inevitable that Christians, once successful in the political realm, will get “blinded by might.”

Christians are still sinners and there are always pitfalls and dangers in any endeavor, even those distant from so-called worldly pursuits. The church is not a haven from corruption. Have you noticed how often Paul deals with problems within the church (e.g., 1 Cor. 5:1–2; 6:1–11)? Paul knows the temptation that some have in lording “it over the faith” (2 Cor. 1:24). Corrupt leaders (1 Sam. 2:12–25) and “savage wolves” (Acts 20:29) are not exclusive to politics. The Church is no more immune to “power politics” than the State. Have you ever been in a congregational meeting to vote on what color the drapes in the library are going to be?

No one I know is claiming that government can save anyone or that politics is a substitute for the cross of Christ.1 The assumption of so many opposed to almost any kind of social activism by Christians is the belief that social activism must always be preceded by gospel proclamation. Must we wait until pro-abortionists become Christians before we can pass laws outlawing abortion? I just heard recently from one critic who said that all we need to do is love people. I’m all for that. But while I’m loving my enemy, I still have my guard up. Jesus was the epitome of love. He healed people, fed thousands, and forgave sins. Still, He was crucified.

Ultimately, Christians who are faithful to the demands of the gospel, without the need of coercion or special laws, will make society better for everyone. As Michael Novak, holder of the Jewett Chair in Religion and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute, observes, “When there are 250 million consciences on guard, it is surprising how few police are needed on the streets.”2 But right now we do not have 250 million consciences on guard, and until we do, certain precautions need to be taken because of the sinful nature of man. Our founding fathers understood this. John Adams wrote:

The moral government of God, and his viceregent, Conscience, ought to be sufficient to restrain men to obedience, to justice, and benevolence at all times and in all places; we must therefore descend from the dignity of our nature when we think of civil government at all. But the nature of mankind is one thing, and the reason of mankind another; and the first has the same relation to the last as the whole to a part. The passions and appetites are parts of human nature as well as reason and the moral sense. In the institution of government it must be remembered that, although reason ought always to govern individuals, it certainly never did since the Fall, and never will till the Millennium; and human nature must be taken as it is, as it has been, and will be.3

At this point in time, Christians are out of necessity playing defense, and this means politics is a necessary endeavor. We are like Peter of Haarlem, the lockkeeper’s son who stuck his finger in a dike when he saw that his town was threatened by flood waters. Peter could have gone about preaching the gospel, but at the moment, the town needed to be saved from an impending disaster. We are in a similar situation. We are about to be overwhelmed by a flood of governmental oppression.

The Christian faith and Christians are under attack. The day may come, because of our self-imposed silence, that we will be forced to be silent as a matter of law. Then what will we do?

  1. Edwin W. Lutzer, Why the Cross Can Do What Politics Can’t (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1999).
  2. Michael Novak, “The Causes of Virtue” (a speech given in Washington, D.C., January 31, 1994). Quoted in Charles Colson, Justice that Restores: Why Our Justice System Doesn’t Work and the Only Method of True Reform (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale Publishers, 2001), 105.
  3. John Adams. Cited by Michael Novak, On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding (San Francisco, CA: Encounter Books, 2002), 49.

Originally published on visiontoamerica.org.

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