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Political Without Being Poisonous – Elections & Faith

Posted On June 21, 2024 By Peter In

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Believe it or not, Evangelical Christians are some of the least politically involved groups in American Politics, even though they have a reputation for being the opposite. What’s up with that?

Since the 1990’s 1 there’s been a lot of Christians who’ve tried to change this hyper-political accusation by being “non-political.” 2 Yet, in my opinion, I’m not sure Christians have played their cards very well. Thus, what I’m about to tell you could fundamentally change the way you engage in politics.

But lets back up a second: Is it true that Evangelicals consistently score as some of the least politically engaged religious groups in America. According to data from Harvards Cooperative Election Study, Atheists and Agnostics donate far more time, money and effort into political campaigns and causes – almost by a factor of two! And by the way, if you want more insights on this stuff, one of my favorite bloggers is data scientist @ryanBurge who has a crazy number of additional insights like this!

In some ways, a Christian could make the case that, we’re losing the majority of cultural wars exactly because we’re not involved enough.

To be fair, most of the Christians who say, “Evangelicals are too political” aren’t actually saying: “Don’t be political at all;” rather: (A). Don’t be mindlessly partisan – as if one political party is always in lockstep with God; (B). Don’t let the Great Commission become secondary to a short-term political agenda; or (C). Don’t assume that “changing laws is the same as changing hearts.” Indeed, changing laws without changing hearts is changing little.

And truth be told, I agree with all of these ideas. Thus, in June 2024, I did a series called “Diving Deeper” that explores many of these tensions.

However, I do believe it’s possible to be Political without Being Poisonous.

10 Questions to help you be Political without Being Poisonous:

Note: these questions are not designed to help you “pick a candidate;” rather, this is about you! For example, when it comes to my social media posts, actions and civic involvement, I always consider the following questions and verses:

  • Will my message/actions/money transform pain or merely transmit it? (Prov. 29:11) 3 Even more, will it make a point, or will it make a difference? (1 Jn 3:18; 4 Prov. 10:19). 5
  • Will it make me feel good & secure, or will it further the Great Commission? (Php 2:3-4; 6 Prov. 18:2). 7 Does your solution solve your short-term anxiety; or, does it solve God’s longer-term mission?
  • Does my message amplify fear or anxiety? If so, it’s demonic (see 1 Jn.4:8,18; 8 Php.4:8). It has a self-defeating cancer inside of it. I.e., Are you Uplifting people into action or Oppressing and scaring them?
  • Does it pass the James 3:17 test:  “Wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” If it doesn’t pass this test, then it is a truth encapsulated with a demonic self-defeating tactic. And it will fail to produce lasting results until it’s repackaged into the above vehicles.
  • Can I make the same point without making an enemy? (Prov. 6:16,19; 9 15:1; 10 25:15; 11 Eph.4:2). 12 If you worded things differently, would it enrich people instead of just enrage people?
  • Am I being “Reactive” or Proactive?  Anytime we see (1). Finger pointing; (2). “Us vs. Them” Narratives; or (3). an Amplification of Disagreements rather than a redirect towards common mission, we are looking at “Reactive Leadership” — a flawed and demonic type of leadership that shifts responsibility rather than takes responsibility. The Lord told Joshua to avoid “Us vs. Them” language in Joshua 5:13-14). 13  Indeed, the Lord promises to avoid fighting for the causes of finger pointers! (Isa. 58:9-10). 14 God literally removes his blessings from leaders like these! And why? It’s the model of Satan himself, who is “the Accuser of the Bretheren” – see Rev.12:10. And when we mirror him, we become like him. Thus, proactive leaders shift from “Here’s where they are wrong” towards, “Here’s a better mission for all of us to focus on, a bigger problem where WE all agree.” (1 Peter 3:8; 15 Prov. 20:3; 16 Psm. 133:1; 17 Prov. 16:7; 18 Prov. 11:14).
  • Do my CRITIQUES have the goal of CONVERTING my enemies?  Or am I DEMONIZING to DEFEAT my enemies? (1 Jn.4:20; 19 Prov.20:3). 20  Will it create Godly bipartisan evolution or temporary partisan revolution? (Psm 133:1; Prov. 16:7; 21 Romans 12:18). 22 Is your battle aimed at “Flesh and Blood” (Eph. 6:12) 23 instead of the devil, who’s mission is to get you to stop winning people (2 Cor. 5:18-20). 24
  • Have you prayed more than politicked? (2 Cor. 10:3-4; 25 Mt. 26:52-53; 26 Prov. 16:28; 27 Psm 20:7). 28 Indeed, the repentant prayers of God’s people is significantly more powerful and sure to work than any human (2 Chron.7:14). 29 Besides, many good kings in history have turned bad; And God has taken many bad kings and turned them good (Isa. 44:28; Ezra 1:1-2; 30 Daniel 4:36-37). 31 Or, he simply took them out (Acts 12:21-23; 32 2 Kings 19:35-37; 33 Dan.5:30-31). 34
  • Is your faith honestly in God more than in people or politics? If not, God will ironically put your enemies over you to expose your idolatry (Psm 146:3-5; 35 Jer. 17:5-8; 36 Isa. 31:1; 37 Psm. 118:8-9; 38 Hosea 10:13). 39
  • Are you attempting to change hearts or just change laws? (Mt. 23:23; 40 1 Sam. 15:22; 41 Heb. 8:10-12). 42 Legalism (using laws to force behavior change) is often a shortcut towards change (Mt. 15:8-9). 43 It creates compliance and ironically more rebellion not transformation (Rom.7:10). 44 Changing laws without changing hearts is changing little. Bipartisan evolution always beats partisan revolution in the long run.

Yes, there are times when predatory sin must be called out, contained or caged. There are times when extreme actions need to be taken (Ecc.3:1,3; 45 Numb 25:7-9) 46 In my blog called the “Traffic Light of Influence” I describe such occasions as “Red light forms of influence” which are times when “choosing right doesn’t mean ‘feeling right.’” But, over the years, I’ve watched many people pre-maturely jump to these coercive tactics too soon – due to insecurity and laziness. We pre-decide that our enemies are not rational, and thereby justify our our self-righteous sins (Titus 1:16; 47 James 1:26; 48 Isa.58:2,6-10). 49

And here’s the truth: The goal of this list isn’t to avoid offending people. As I shared in “The Mountain Mindset Pt. 2,” Jesus was constantly making intense political statements while simultaneously winning over his adversaries. And when he offended people it was always strategic and intensional — often to fulfill certain prophecies. But let’s be honest: when you and I offend people it’s usually because we’re dorks (Eph.4:29)! 50

There have been many leadership moments over the past 3 decades where the Lord “required me” to painfully take some offensive stances in order to protect a greater good. And those who take up service in politics are constantly having to make “unholy alliances” to achieve a greater good. Indeed, I would find it extremely difficult to apply the above ideas while running for political office. And I believe this is why Paul taught us:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.This is good, and pleases God our Savior,who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-3.

Political leaders have to live in a world where they constantly have to choose “the lesser of two evils.” And I believe that honor is due to those who take on this difficult mantle.

Yet, I also believe that when God is involved, his “perfect love casts out all fear.” (1 Jn.4:18). God fills us with his spirit of creativity. And let that be said of all of  you this election season!

 


Peter Haas – Lead Pastor of Substance Church – an international multisite church based in Minneapolis. Peter is also a dj-turntablist who song-writes & tours with Substance Variant. He writes comedy books on spirituality: “Pharisectomy: How to Remove Your Inner Pharisee and Other Religiously Transmitted Diseases” (2012) and Broken Escalators (2015). See www.SubstanceChurch.com – @peterhaas1 (X & instagram)

 

 

  1. This is probably due to the large success of Falwell’s “Moral Majority” movement followed by Robertson’s “Christian Coalition” which mobilized what’s known as the “‘Republican Revolution.'”
  2. In theology, this is often called the Anabaptist position.
  3. Proverbs 29:11: “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”
  4. 1 John 3:18: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
  5. Proverbs 10:19: “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.”
  6. Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
  7. Proverbs 18:2: “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.”
  8. 1 John 4:8: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
  9. Proverbs 6:16,19 “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: … a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”
  10. Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
  11. Proverbs 25:15: “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.”
  12. Ephesians 4:2: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
  13. Joshua 5:13-14 “Joshua went up to [the divine being] and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground.”
  14. Isa.58:9-10 “If you do away with…the pointing finger and malicious talk…then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”
  15. 1 Peter 3:8: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”
  16. Proverbs 20:3: “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.”
  17. Psalm 133:1: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”
  18. Proverbs 16:7: “When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them.”
  19. 1 John 4:20: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
  20. Proverbs 20:3: “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.”
  21. Proverbs 16:7: “When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them.”
  22. Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
  23. Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
  24. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
  25. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”
  26. Matthew 26:52-53: “‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?'”
  27. Proverbs 16:28: “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.”
  28. Psalm 20:7: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
  29. 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
  30. Ezra 1:1-2: “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing: ‘This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.'”
  31. Daniel 4:36-37: “At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”
  32. Acts 12:21-23: “On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, ‘This is the voice of a god, not of a man.’ Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.”
  33. 2 Kings 19:35-37: “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king.”
  34. Daniel 5:30-31: “That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.”
  35. Psalm 146:3-5: “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”
  36. Jeremiah 17:5-8: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
  37. Isaiah 31:1: “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord.”
  38. Psalm 118:8-9: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”
  39. Hosea 10:13: “But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors.”
  40. Matthew 23:23: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
  41. 1 Samuel 15:22: “But Samuel replied: ‘Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.'”
  42. Hebrews 8:10-12: “This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
  43. Matthew 15:8-9: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.'”
  44. Romans 7:10: “I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.”
  45. Ecclesiastes 3:1,3: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: …a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,”
  46. Numbers 25:7-9: “When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.”
  47. Titus 1:16: “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.”
  48. James 1:26: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”
  49. Isaiah 58:2, 6-10: “For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. …Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”
  50. Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

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