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Politics and Churches: Silence is Golden

Given the choice between "yea" and "nay," New Testament writers elected to say "meh."  Then as now, politics were tense.  Now as then, the corporate voice of the Church of Christ needs to remain silent on the subject.

Tension, Temptation, and Taunts

Sometimes described as "controlled revolution," the American political system roils into spasm every four years with high-tension presidential elections.  The roil and tension tempt some preachers to pick winners, or at least "tsk, tsk" at losers.  They are also taunted.  Some brethren think that preachers are spineless who do not endorse candidates and promote political causes.  But preachers need to craft their message from God's Word, not according to the headlines of CNN or FOX.     

The "Mehs" Had It

If God wanted today's pulpits to be filled with political messages, we would expect to see first century pulpits filled with the same kind of political announcements.  We would also expect to see guidelines for crafting such messages.   We do not see such things in the pages of the New Testament.  Even though the Roman Empire definitely had its high-profile Trumps and Clintons, early Christian ministers turned aside, kept going, and stayed away.

In saying, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's" (Mk. 12;17), Jesus commanded us to pay our taxes.  These words remind us that God has placed governments over us to manage the affairs of men.  The rightness or wrongness of the infinite details of government are sidestepped by these words.  What cannot be avoided is our duty to "Render to Caesar" for the expenses of government programs and benefits, many of which we consume with pleasure. 

"For because of this you also pay taxes" said Paul (Rom. 13:1-7).  "Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed."  Nowhere among the revenue and respect is there any mention of leading congregations in political activism. 

Prayer is about as activist as churches are to get.  "Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions" (II Tim. 2:1-3).  Even then our prayers are to be much more about our "peaceful and quiet lives" than about the roil and tension of politics. 

Quiet "submission for the Lord’s sake to every human institution" is much more our style (I Pet. 2:13), submission, and "being ready for every good work" (Tit. 3:1).  "Christians are to show themselves good citizens, always ready to fulfill civic duty undertaken for city or state."  Beyond that...???

Beyond paying taxes, submitting to authority, praying for leaders, and fulfilling civic duties, the political trail through the New Testament grows cold.  Activists and agitators strain and fail to find biblical reasons to drag congregations into the political roil.  In fact, congregations can completely satisfy every single good work before ordained of God and Never.  Once.  Mention.  Politics. 

Conclusion: Christians and Congregations

Seldom is the distinction between individual Christian action and the corporate actions of Christians together as congregations clearer than this.  What individuals can do, congregations should not do.  While individuals can huff and puff about politics to their heart's content, congregations need to remain silent. 

And this silence is golden.  Preachers who break this silence risk much. 

Which candidate is so wholesome and upright as to deserve our full endorsement?  Although written about the appointment of elders, Paul's words in I Timothy 5:22 have a secondary application to political choices.  "Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others"; do not jump on a political bandwagon, in other words, because the bandmaster might not be entirely worthy.  I fear that no candidate is entirely worthy of the endorsement of Churches of Christ.

Preachers who declare for one political party or another also risk alienating just about half of all the people we might be able to influence.  In the 2012 presidential election, Barak Obama got 51.1 percent of the popular vote to Mitt Romney's 47.2 percent - very close to a 50/50 split.  What if we became known as the Republican Church or the Democrat Church that meet at 3201 North Main?  "Do everything we can to win everyone we possibly can" (I Cor. 9:22) requires that we do less politics and more Gospel.