Christians and the societies we populate have debated for centuries the extent to which we should be involved in the political process and in government. The wider culture also debates how much influence Christianity, and religion in general, should influence government, as evidenced by the near universal recitation of the “separation of church and state” mantra.
Despite all this, or because of it, politicians increasingly guilt the populate into either supporting or rejecting proposed government initiatives by telling us what Jesus or the Bible requires us to do.
Christians, too, maintain a vigorous intramural debate over what particular form of government and what sorts of rulers we should prefer. That is, Christians cite the Bible to one another as proof that Christians can’t vote Democrat, or Christians can’t vote Republican, and to resolve questions such as whether we should be conservative or liberal, right or left, capitalist or socialist, as well as to rally support for particular government causes, laws and programs.
Rather than approach this brier patch of issues head on, it might be better for the believer to understand what the Bible might says about goals for governmental and personal action, and the differences between them. Accordingly, I plan to post a series of articles about how the Bible guides the Christian’s preferences for government, and how those core goals or priorities then affect the various issues we might face.
I will operate under a couple of assumptions. First, I will be speaking to those who agree that the Bible is the Word of God, and is our functional authority for faith and life. Where it speaks to issues of government, or where reasonable inferences can be drawn, our thought and practice should yield to its direction. I hope that those who do not see the Bible this way will nevertheless find the discussion beneficial as a window into the manner in which the typical believer might navigate matters of faith and citizenry.
Second, I assume that we agree that the believer should maintain some level of involvement with the broader culture, specifically government, even if it is merely to wisely steward the privilege of participating in government through voting in an informed fashion.
For those who fear (or hope) that I might advocate for some kind of “Christian rule,” a word of comfort (or correction): it is not necessary that government officials — our “rulers” — be Christian. Neither is it prohibited. To paraphrase the late Justice Antonin Scalia, there is no “Christian way” to govern, or to flip a hamburger.
In fact, I submit that it is terribly difficult for the average Christian voter living in Alabama or Wisconsin to discern, from a distance, the legitimacy of a Washington politician’s profession of faith, or the bona fides of his theological acumen. Those determinations are not off limits for everyone, but they are instead the responsibility of the professing Christian’s local church. It would certainly be relevant, however, if one who desires us to submit to his governance does not submit himself to the local church, for it to make those determinations.
The goal for the Christian voter is not to enter the misty realm of determining whether the ruler is a good Christian, but to assess whether what he proposes is consistent with good government.
In other words, it is not required that a man be a good Christian — or a Christian at all — in order for him to be a good governor. What I hope to demonstrate is that there are, for the Christian citizen-voter, there are other biblical concepts that are better indicators of both good government and good governors.
What I will propose here are preferences — informed by the Bible — that equip the believer to vote and advocate for good government in a godly fashion.