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On Christianity, Politics, and Power

Christianity does have power. This was true long before America existed, and, should America as we know her cease to exist, Christianity will still have power.

Earlier today Jack Posobiec tweeted this:

I attempted to allow it to slip from my mind, but you’re reading this, so those efforts were wholly unsuccessful. I’d like to share some thoughts on the interplay of Christianity, politics, and power. 

We do need Christian men and women to serve in public office. Unfortunately, the power they hold can and often does corrupt even those who initially seek office with honorable intentions. I don’t want political leaders who are unaware or easily forget they answer to a higher power. They need a constant, heaping dose of humility I believe a firm relationship with Christ provides. Christians holding political power is not inherently a bad thing, and it has the potential to be a wonderful thing, but make no mistake about it: the purpose of electing Christian men and women to office is not to ensure some Christian rise to power. 

The separation of church and state is crucial. It is no accident this was nonnegotiable for many of our founding fathers considering they were well aware of the sordid history of the British crown and the Catholic Church and, after Henry VIII, the Church of England. 

The Old Testament catalogues the Israelites’ cries for an earthly king. They saw mighty nations rise to power all around them, many of them becoming their captors, and they begged God for a tangible, physical counterpart to the powerful kings of other nations. They were warned, but their demands continued until eventually they were granted their wish. Saul, like so many modern men and women, was a good man until he was corrupted by power. Even Christ Himself was a disappointment. They wanted an earthly answer to the might of the seemingly untouchable power of Rome that dominated their lives, and yet God sent a carpenter of lowly birth. The Old and the New Testaments are, among other things, warnings against seeking earthly power. 

Ideally a Christian politician will boldly fight for religious freedom so that Christians can meekly continue to serve without fear of reprisal from the government. Make no mistake about it: I fear government encroaching on religious freedom, especially after the last few months. How do we answer this?

The short term goal is to protect freedom for all, religious and otherwise, including but not limited to Christians. The ultimate goal for a Christian, of course, is Heaven, and that’s attainable regardless of what befalls the United States of America, praise the Lord. We could elect Christians to every political office in this land, we could mandate church attendance, and we would still be nothing more than a gaggle of  fallible humans squabbling over policy. 

C.S. Lewis says it best in The Case for Christianity:

God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having . . . The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.

Christians, more than any other group, ought to understand the necessity of and the beauty of freedom. The Lord could compel us, but He does not. We are His joy because we come to Him freely. A bride is her husband’s joy because she chooses him freely. Without the freedom to choose there is no true, honest, loving relationship. 

Freedom also means men are free to make terrible choices, but freedom is still the only way. Coercion and force produce good little soldiers and simultaneous misery. A Christian seeking and holding political power must understand and be reminded often that the best use of whatever political power Christians wield is in the constant pursuit of freedom.

As a former high school English teacher I cannot help but notice the chosen future-tense verb, will, in the aforementioned tweet. Christianity does have power. This was true long before America existed, and, should America as we know her cease to exist, Christianity will still have power. It is not and has never been a power easily understood by those tied to earthly things, those who have earthly ideas of power, but Christianity, the power of the cross, remains the most consequential and compelling power ever to impact men.

I am blessed to live in and raise my kids in a nation in which I can write boldly about the power of Christianity, but should that ever change the power of Christianity will remain the same. It is important to fight to protect the religious freedoms that have shaped America’s story since her inception, but it is crucial that Christians remain focused not on earthly power but on Heaven even as we toil in the trenches awaiting our call Home.

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