Why All Christians Should Care About Politics

I’m sure you’ve heard it.

It’s a common dismissive comment among Christians. Maybe even one you’ve made yourself.

“I’m just not all that in to politics.”

The comment about Christians and politics is usually accompanied by a shrug, a sympathetic smile, and a dismissive wave. “It’s just not my thing.”

As if I’ll understand. As if I’ll get it. As if I will be fine with their choosing to ignore the call of Christ to love their neighbor as themselves.

I know, we all have different passions that draw our gaze. Some people could work numbers all day — a God-reflecting exercise if there ever was one. I’d prefer to study history and theology, think, and write. I get that we’re all uniquely wired to focus on a wide array of options in God’s creativity multi-plex.

But all Christians should care about politics. Here’s why.

What Is Politics?

We get the word politics itself from the Greek root polis. Those who paid attention during their studies of Homer, Sophocles, or Plato will recall that the polis was simply the Greek city-state. It stood for the collective will or good of the citizens as a group.

Unfortunately, the Greeks embraced a split thinking that often set the will of the people as a group in tension against the will of an individual. You may recall Antigone’s infamous and tragic stand against the will of the polis in desiring to bury her brother. The Greek’s often saw the two as in opposition with one another.

Yet they got one thing right. Politics simply deals with the stuff that affects people — all of us in the polis, together as a group. And aren’t people the task to which Christ called us? In fact, often, we can’t really help people without dealing with the political issues that bind them.

To Really Help the Least of These

I saw this call of Christ to help people through the public arena of ideas and politics most clearly when I visited Mexico a few years ago. We had caravaned up into the remote mountain regions of the Baja Peninsula to migrant worker villages. We passed out clothing, Bibles, and shared some hot dogs and nachos for Christ.

And yet I felt intensely depressed. Afterwards, as I sat processing my feelings, I was overwhelmed with how little good I had actually done — like spitting into a hurricane. The people were still held captive by the political forces of socialism and corruption in their political system. As much as I’m sure they enjoyed a meal that night, they needed ideas and leadership in the polis to deal with the political issues that bound them in poverty.

How could I say I cared for them in the name of Christ, if I was not willing to engage in the arena that mattered most to their future and freedom?

So what’s stopping us?

Why Some Christians Don’t Care About Politics

  • We don’t understand the political process. Let’s face it. Some political or bureaucratic structures have become down-right mind-numbing in their complexity. But most political processes are simple at the core. If we’re going to be faithful to Christ’s call to care for all people, we’ll need to stretch our brains and grow our vocabulary.
  • We don’t know what we’re talking about. This concern is different from the first. It has to do more with our being too busy — or too lazy — to get to know the issues that affect so many people’s lives so deeply. For most of us, it’s just easier to watch some television than to research tax policy.
  • We don’t like sinful people. Because politics involves ambition of various sorts, it brings out the worst of fallen people. But why should sin surprise us? Didn’t Christ still call us to go and make disciples of — get this — all nations? Perhaps people groups would be the better translation, but the message remains.  And why is the homeless man battling painful addictions more worthy of grace than the politician twisted by an addiction to ambition? Christ died for both.
  • We’ve believed a lie. The last five decades saw a revival of Greek ideology that champions a chasm between the sacred and the secular — between the private and the public. For the Greeks, it most often surfaced in their tension between the individual and the polis or between the spiritual and physical worlds. For far too many Christians today, politics represents the physical — read evil — world while attending church and feeding the homeless a bowl of nachos typifies spiritual — read good — endeavors.

This split line of reasoning tries to at once praise faith while constraining it to the private sphere. There it can be safely separated from the public square, the arena of the polis or politics. But it just doesn’t square with the the nature of God, reality, and the Great Commission.

Like it or not, we all act based on what we believe to be true, even when our actions reveal our true beliefs. The world of politics is no exception. It is not and cannot be a faith-free zone. It is always only a question of what faith will decide our public policies not if faith will affect them.

If you’re a Christ follower, do you care about politics? If not, why not? Leave a comment with a click here.

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  • Jay Saldana

    Afternoon Bill,
    Well lets look at this generally first. To suggest that tension does not belong in the political system between the individual(Boethius: De persona et duabus naturis or Greek ἰδιώτης) and the general group (polis) is just plain ignorant or manipulative – you choose – and contrary to many things that you often say you know about: a) Jesus (if they were designed to operate in cooperation He would not have mentioned render to one as is required and to Him as required). b: Constitution: Our law does not allow the majority to squash the minority as some parts of are law are considered unchangeable (for instance, as some conservative Christians seek to suppress voting of minorities and the aged – and ministers are not fighting against it – merely for a greater earthly good, by their interpretation, while denying and purposely hurting others contrary to Christian Values. All this, of course, hurts the the ongoing need to come together to fight some real evils and further the Great Commission by damaging once again the Evangelical reputation. Lastly, if this is “helping people”, at its very best, it is misapplied.
    1: the political process: You have spent reams of paper denigrating the political process and to some extent the polemical process by demonizing the opposition. While is some cases they are behaving in a more than sinful manner, I don’t think the example we are all called by Jesus to live by are best demonstrated by your “generosity” to the other side. Or your “call” that we understand them in any way except as the “evil ones” or liberals to be avoided at all costs. On this issue, you are the best example for not doing that.
    2: Not knowing what we are talking about: I can’t remember reading anytime that you took the irenic solution of attempting to fully explain the other side of the argument in a “generous way so that others might understand. So if you don’t know what we are talking about ( at least only vaguely demonstrated) why should
    we bother or we can just read you as you are the expert (sic).
    We don’t like sinful people: Frankly, this one surprises me. Even you have to know that not everyone in Politics opposing you is “sinful”. Strange that you did not state that! Even more strange that you did not remind your reader that we are ALL sinful. But this last paragraph suggests that I suggested generally at the beginning: “they are demons we are not”.
    The Lie: The “Chasm” exists unless you are smarter than Jesus as I have already suggested. As I understand it, we are to live as “Christ Like” in a “fallen world” that belongs to the Evil One till he is defeated and Christ, on His return, reestablishes the new creation. Now if you have a different interpretation please let me know.
    Finally: I support your call for support of the great commission and involvement in the public square. And from my perspective that calls for living a life of Christ Like dialogue, fully realizing that it is not I but the Holy Spirit that moves people. I am only a vessel of His Grace. When people are moved, then God has directed it. When people are not moved then prayer is called for to get better direction in order to achieve God’s plan. It does not call for demonizing people for the noetic effects of their sin or being so hostile they no longer talk to me and I lose my value as God’s vessel.
    Have a God filled Weekend.

    • Maryanne Hussar


      I don’t think you are being fair to Bill in your response to his post. You accuse Bill of demonizing what you call “the opposition,” yet you admit that at times they (whoever “they” are), behaving in a more than sinful manner. If someone holds a sinful belief, such as a belief that abortion is an acceptable form of birth control, one can attempt to understand where they are coming from, while still maintaining that what they believe is sinful. What I believe Christ calls us to do is to show them a better way, a way that leads to life and not death.

      Also, you criticized the reasons Bill cited for Christians not being interested in politics. He did not say that these reasons were acceptable. The whole point of the article was that Christians have an obligation to be informed and involved citizens because we are called to love our brothers (Ok and sisters).

      I don’t understand your response to Bill’s writing about the “Chasm.” I have heard, however many Christians comment that they do not wish to be involved in “secular” issues, but are only interested in “spiritual” matters.

      I believe that the purpose of Bill’s post was to encourage Christians, both liberal and conservative to become knowledgeable, active, and involved in our political process. I think you and I could agree that this is an important aspect of our Christian calling.

  • Jay Saldana

    Maryanne, thank you for your remarks. “they” is the other side of the argument. Personalized, it is often a liberal, democratic or less conservative point of view, generally speaking, than the topic under consideration.
    I do admit to accusing Bill of demonizing the opposition. It is my principal complaint against Bill’s arguments. I do not think it is “usefully Christian” or helpful. Since Bill has asked for my opinion, I am free to so state. I am not saying Bill is not a Christian but his arguments are many times , in my opinion, not helpful to the Christian Cause. This topic is a perfect example. If you demonize the opposition you declare them without merit. If your arguments are broad enough the reader is left with a us/them psychology. We are good. They are bad. That point of view does not encourage discussion. That point of view encourages aversion. If you, more or less, consistently argue from that point of view you suppress discussion and participation not encourage it. So when the writer comes back and argues “the reader has a duty to be involved”, the argument is intellectually dishonest either with the writer or the readers – actually both. This sort of intellectual and/or emotional one-ups man-ship is easy to do. We see it all the time in negative ads on both the right and left.
    The end result of this kind of presentation is that fewer and fewer participate.

    What I am saying is that when we become “the accuser” we assume a ‘god-like” responsibility that is best left to God’s Justice and Mercy. After all that is what the commandment meant when it said to “not take the name of the Lord in vain”. When we speak for God we take on the wrath of God in our error. When you “demonize” you speak for the “voice of God” and you solidify (harden or encourage) the opposition. When WE are absolute we present ourselves as a prophet speaking for God. Scripture is very clear about the requirements for being a prophet. Scripture is also clear about what happens to false prophets.
    When we live our lives as a reflection of a life in Christ, the light of our life is reflected to others and that allows them to see the darkness in their life. We did not accuse them of anything, the Holy Spirit used the light of our life to convict them of some error. In my opinion, that is a very useful person for the completion of the Great Commission.
    I would disagree with your opinion “about show them a better way”. That implies that you “know” something better than they do. REALLY? We know that we are not free of sin. We know that ALL sin. WE know becasue we are saved that we are held to a higher standard than our less educated brothers and sisters. We know that God is always calling us in our ignorance to change and grow. So how are we better? Lastly, do WE DO IT?
    Or does God through the Holy Spirit? If that is true, then why are we so proud?
    Some have called the way we speak about others and our righteousness, “Evangelical Tribalism”, I am not sure how I feel about that term yet, but it does evoke a certain image of how we are right with a “certainty” and others are wrong becasue they are not of our tribe. How we are better and they are less. Something that is not supported anywhere in scripture.
    The “Chasm” statement is that the chasm is created by God. It is why Jesus asked us to “render to Caesar” and to “render to God”. The chasm is a natural part of things. A natural division. Bill in my opinion, was calling for a merger of the two. Something that seems to be not supported by Jesus. We avoid secular issues becasue it is hard work living a “Christ like” life. Jesus Christ was not a religious person. Jesus was secular. But it is a hard way of life to live – maybe burdensome is a better word than hard. When we as religious people say we want to live as Christians (that is Christ-like), we are choosing to be involved. No on asked us to like it.

    Just like you I think Bill wants to encourage us to be involved. My argument with him is that he is working at cross purposes given the way he argues in his blog.

    • Jon

      Jay, I just wanted to address the verse you are using. When Jesus said “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s…”, he was essentially saying, “if you believe that Caesar is god, then obey him, and if you believe that I am God, obey Me.” The coins back then had a latin phrase on them, which basically meant “Caesar is god”. Jesus was addressing this, but in a way that neither the Pharisees nor the Roman authorities understood what he was saying…