Is God a Democrat or Republican?
- Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I receive a number of letters regarding Christians and politics. I hope my answers to several of them are helpful.
First, Is God a Republican or a Democrat?
Hi Pastor Barrier,
Many of my Christian friends are convinced that God is a Republican. They think that the liberal leanings of the Democrats are contrary to the teachings of the Bible and that we should use the political system to ensure that God’s teachings are the law of the land. What do you think?
Is God a Conservative Republican? No. Is He a Liberal Democrat? Certainly not. Is God a third party Libertarian? I think not.
Every society struggles with the conflict of liberals versus conservatives. These two political viewpoints seem to be built into the very essence of human nature.
I love what Winston Churchill said about this issue, “If you are not a liberal when you are young then you have no heart. If you are not a conservative when you are old then you have no brains.”
Of course, many others despise the essential values of both.
Israeli politics of the first century closely match what we see in America today:
The Pharisees (Republicans) were the religious and the more fiscal conservative party. They were deeply entrenched in money making and profiteering as evidenced from their business adventures in the Temple. They were for big business—especially when it lined their pockets. They were not particularly known as the party which championed the "down and outs" of society.
The Sadducees (Democrats) tended to be the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society. They were viewed as the more liberal party who were against big business and for more governmental involvement in public affairs. While they were often viewed as the less religious party, they embodied more humanistic leanings in contrast to religious ones. Their "big tent" included the “sinners and prostitutes”.
The Essenes (minor-third parties like the Libertine, Green Parties and Independents) were a party of desert dwelling separatists who had their own personal agendas and who seldom agreed with anyone.
Do you see the parallels with today? In broad sweeping terms the Republican Party looks a lot like the Pharisees and the Democrats look a lot like the Sadducees.
Of course, God is not a member of any party. As a Christian I am not so concerned with whether I am on the Republican or Democratic side. I am really concerned with whether or not I am on God’s side.
In Joshua 5:13-15 as he moved through the battle lines near Jericho, Joshua encountered a mighty soldier with a drawn sword. Joshua asked whether the soldier was on the side of Israel or on the side of Israel’s enemies. The soldier responded, “Neither. I am on the Lord’s side, on whose side are you?” Joshua fell on face and worshipped. May we never forget the God who transcends all human politics.
Second, How Much Should Religion Influence Who I Vote For?
When voting for a politician how much weight should the candidate's religious background play in my decision on who to vote for? It is okay to vote for a politician whose religious views are vastly different than my own? Should I consider their religion at all? Does the bible have any insight as to what to look for when deciding who I should cast my vote for?
There is an old proverb about good leadership: "It is better to be ruled by a good Turk than by a Christian who doesn't know what he is doing."
Referring to President Obama, Bill Clinton called him an amateur. Unable to work with Congress, he has twice brought America to the brink of financial disaster. Working successfully with Congress is a hall mark of effective presidential leadership. Lyndon Baines Johnson was a rough, tough, uncouth man but he knew how to govern and instituted much of his "Great Society.” I didn't necessarily agree with all of his politics, but at least the country was safe and secure under his leadership through very trying political times. President Obama's leadership and values give me little security that America is stable, safe and sound.
Yes, religion matters, but is not the deciding factor. It is more important to vote for someone whose values are like yours and who is able to govern well.
- The Sanctity of Life
- The Sanctity of the Family
- The National Debt
- Education and Revisionism
- The Economy
I hope this helps.
Third, How Involved Should Christians Be In The Political Process?
I am astounded that Jesus stayed completely out of politics. Think about it. Slavery was one of the top moral issues of His day. Some think that as many as 30 percent of the people in the ancient world were enslaved. He had many opportunities to address slave owners about this. He never said a word (by the way, Paul mentioned slavery but only to encourage Christians slaves to be the best slaves they could possibly be).
The tax system was rotten, unfair and full of theft and bribery. It was a Roman tool of social engineering. Jesus could have denounced it but He never said a word against. Instead He astounded all when He said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."
Jesus failed to address issues like abortion, usury and war. He could have, but He had a more significant mission: He was here to bring in the Kingdom of Love; social politics dimmed in light of more important matters.
We Christians might do well to remember that Jesus said to Pilate, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” Neither is ours.
I am not saying that we Christians should ignore these critical social practices. After all, Jesus said to "give to Caesar what was Caesar's and to God what was God's." I believe that Christians ought to be heavily involved in politics. We have a responsibility to influence our culture with Christian morals and values. However, I wonder if maybe we are going about it all wrong.
We have “shot ourselves in the foot” by the way we've entered the political arena. Studies of the first and early second-century-Christian church indicate that the early Christians were known as the people who loved God and others. They turned the world upside down for Christ.
One recent study revealed that 78 percent of Americans view the evangelical Christian church as the most judgmental segment in America.
Instead of drawing people to Christ through love and acceptance and then allowing Jesus to transform their behaviors, we're attempting to force Christian behaviors through the legal system. Unfortunately, forcing behavior never changes hearts—it just builds anger and resentment.
We have utilized the Old Testament Prophetical Model of yelling judgment at the people instead of Jesus's New Testament Model of loving the people.
Jesus never preached judgmental sermons to the down and out. Jesus spoke lovingly and compassionately with the "sinners and tax collectors," and they loved Him for it--and many flowed into the Kingdom of love with changed hearts and new behaviors.
Fourth, Should Pastors talk about politics from the pulpit?
Dear Roger, how much should pastors talk about politics from the pulpit?
My opinion is that talking about politics from the pulpit must be carefully done. Whenever the pastor takes up one side of a political issue to the exclusion of others he or she will alienate the others in the church who hold a different opinion, and the purpose of a church is unity not division.
Some issues, like the sanctity of life, seem so obvious that we wonder how any Christian can argue in favor of abortion. Yet, they do. Bill Clinton got his opinions about a child being a fetus until it drew his or her first breath from his pastor at the First Baptist Church in Little Rock Arkansas, Dr. W.O. Vaught. Things may not be as simple as they appear. The pastor must handle these issues carefully. After all, a pastor is not a politician. Nevertheless, he or she is one commissioned to declare the Word of God with integrity and truth. This responsibility is primary.
Well, Janice, I hope you find my answers helpful.
Dr. Roger Barrier recently retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
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