Being Politically Naïve is no Better than Being a Political Stooge
By Steve “Doc” Troxel, Ph.D. 7/2/2019
The President of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), J.D. Greear, told last week’s annual gathering of SBC church leaders that they should not become a “stooge for one [political] party.” He said, “When we tie our message too closely to a political platform, we put an unnecessary obstacle in the way of the Gospel for half of our mission field.” Let us hope that Christians do not interpret those remarks to mean that they are not to be involved in politics at all, because if Christians fail to be involved with politics then they have by default become stooges for one of the political parties. Now Greear, in an interview last month did clarify that Christians “have to be clear on the things that we disagree with as much as we champion the things that we agree with in our particular candidate.”
Yet I have heard some well-respected Christian leaders say that the church should abandon politics altogether. The liberals in our government sincerely hope that evangelical Christians — who are generally conservative in their views — will do just that so that Christians will not bring their conservative values to the ballot box nor their biblical ideas to the centers of power in our government. Christians desperately need to look at what they stand to lose if they fail to engage as Christians in the political process.
More importantly, Christians need to remember what Jesus taught his followers in the Sermon on the Mount, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15). Christians need to ask themselves why they fail to shed the light of Christ in the political process. If they say it is because politics is too dirty, then they have identified the very reason they should be involved,
Christians should not let politics rule their faith. Christians should be injecting their faith into politics. Understand that “the separation of church and state” is not found in the Constitution. It is a phrase Thomas Jefferson used in a letter to Rhode Island Baptists. It’s a personal opinion, not a law.
Note the differences between the Republican Party Platform and the Democratic Party platform. The Democrats’ 45-page platform has one paragraph about religion: “Democrats know that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith in many forms and the countless acts of justice, mercy, and tolerance it inspires. We believe in lifting up and valuing the good work of people of faith and religious organizations and finding ways to support that work where possible.” But don’t believe that the Democrats are talking about Christian values here. They spend much more space in their platform supporting things that are antithetical to biblical teaching. And Democratic officials across the country actively work against Christians’ freedom to practice their faith. If Reverend Greear wants to have a ministry to the entire country, then Christians need to help preserve a government that allows it. Christians apparently do not understand just how at risk their freedoms are.
On the other hand, the Republican Party platform offers a number of statements of support for biblical morality and the rights of Christians to practice their beliefs, such as: “We pledge to defend the religious beliefs and rights of conscience of all Americans and to safeguard religious institutions against government control…. [We will] protect the non-profit tax status of faith-based adoption agencies, the accreditation of religious educational institutions, the grants and contracts of faith-based charities and small businesses, and the licensing of religious professions — all of which are under assault by elements of the Democratic Party” (p. 11)
I know the Christians who were largely responsible for adding the pro-Christian language to the Republican Party platform. They are not stooges for the Party; they are Christians who let their light shine in the darkness of politics.
Too many Christians don’t vote in November because they don’t like their choices. Christians must make their voices heard during the nomination process. That’s the only way to get candidates on the ballot in whom they can believe. And Christians must stay engaged during the election winner’s term of office. The Bible tells Christians to pray for those elected officials. But Christians also need to hold those officials accountable to vote in ways that allow a Christian to support them.
If Christians fail to stay engaged in their government, in the politics that elect our representatives to that government, then sleaze and corruption will continue to proliferate. Sleaze and corruption grow in the darkness. Only by shining the light of God’s Truth into politics will we ever clean up the mess we have that threatens our country and that threatens the very freedoms that allow Christians to fulfill the mission Jesus gave them — that is to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to people of all political persuasions.
Steve “Doc” Troxel taught at Liberty University for 21 years. He currently serves as vice-chairman of the local board of Central Virginia Community College. Doc has served as Chairman of the Lynchburg Republican City Committee and mentors other Republican leaders.