There are countries and circumstances in which the persecuted Church of Jesus Christ cannot even publicly identify itself, much less talk about getting involved in the decisions of our civic leaders. There are countries today in which Christians are arrested, detained and killed for no reason other than being Christian. There are countries that are being run by dictators, and in those countries wisdom may very well determine the level of involvement that a Christian will attempt to achieve in the decisions of their civic leaders.
But thank God that for the time being America still proudly parades itself as the world's greatest and freest democracy. Under that disguise, Christians in 2008 can still publicly assert their right to involvement in the system established for the making and/or breaking of laws in the United States of America. God expects us to make use of this privilege. The fact that our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, and especially in countries where Islam is the established religion, cannot freely and openly practice their Christian faith without risking their lives is all the more reason for us to militantly exploit the privileges associated with the democracy that we enjoy in the United States of America.
I borrow from the title of a sermon preached in Jamaica by Bishop Vaughn McLaughlin of The Potter's House Christian Fellowship, Jacksonville, FL: "Our Normal is Another Man's Miracle." The two feet we take for granted represent a miracle for the man who has only one. Our ability to speak represents a miracle for the man who is dumb, and our ability to see represents a miracle for the man who is blind. The right to involvement in public life in America must never be taken for granted. On the contrary, it must be vigorously defended and preserved by aggressive use.
Christians Must Vote
God has allowed members of the Body of Jesus Christ in America to function as light and salt through access to the highest corridors of earthly power and influence. Every Christian in America must vote every time they get the opportunity. To not vote is irresponsibility of the highest order. Not even the Founding Fathers of America got the concept of voting right. In the days of George Washington, poor white men who did not own land were not allowed to vote. Black men were not allowed to vote. Wealthy and or bright white women were not allowed to vote either.
It took time, great debate, ill will and struggles to set the stage for what we now call universal, adult suffrage, or the right of every adult to vote. Every Christian from the age of eighteen must therefore make full use of the priceless privilege of voting. And just in case you know of any 'smart' people who still insist on not voting, be kind enough to give them a message for me – tell them that everyone votes. Those who do not vote decisively or deliberately do so by default. You either vote for the candidate of your choice by marking the X beside your candidate or pressing the appropriate button on the one hand, or you vote for the majority's candidate whether you endorse him or not. It is that simple. Failing to vote is to vote for the winner. And needless to say, you become subject to whoever is elected, whether you like it or not.
However, voting is clearly not an end in itself and must not be seen as such. It is a reasonably nonconfrontational way for Christians to select leaders who are either committed Christians themselves, or at least leaders who are demonstratively sympathetic to all that is necessary for the expansion of the kingdom of heaven on earth. This means that the Christian must vote intelligently and must submit their choice of candidate for God's approval. The Christian must vote for candidates who as close as possible represent the ideal of the Christian faith and philosophy. Christian voters must therefore research their candidates and at all times be in a position to evaluate their performance.
Christians Must Actively Lobby
However, there is more. Not only must the Christian research and observe electoral candidates, but the Christian must attempt to influence willing candidates to represent what is right and pleasing in God's eyes. Christians must monitor the performance of elected representatives with a view to determining whether or not to reelect them. And since the Christian is to be wise like the serpent and harmless as the dove, he or she must understand the nature of majority rule in a democracy and make use of the political leverage of numbers in the Christian community as well as that of non-Christians who are supportive of Christian positions. Christians should therefore add their voice to any for a specific Christian value, unless of course that lobby is already identified with anti-Christian values. However, even in such a case, God will give wisdom to Christians so that they can support the good message of an otherwise evil messenger.
Think it through. Is it not hypocritical for the individual Christian as well as the Christian Church to denounce homosexuality and engage resources in preaching against its inherent sinfulness and social ills on the one hand, and yet refuse to lobby against a political candidate with a known homosexual agenda? Put another way, would it not be wiser and more consistent for the Christian to help prevent a candidate with a known homosexual agenda from being elected, rather than sit back and do nothing to dissuade the majority from electing him and then become very active in condemning his agenda after he is elected?
Admittedly, the decision becomes more difficult when electing the President of the United States as against electing a State Senator. A Presidential candidate who supports one or even two distinctly anti-Christian values may otherwise be evaluated as being the more suitable of two candidates for the top job in America. On the other hand, a Presidential candidate may line up with all major, socially visible values, but may otherwise be evaluated as being the less suitable of two candidates for the top job in America. How then should the Christian vote in an American democracy in which the President seldom has the final say? Fortunately for me, I do not have to provide that answer outside of the context of specifics. The Christian experience is characterized by a dynamic relationship between God's Holy Spirit and the individual Christian. God requires that the Christian be aware of the issues and He is willing and able to guide decisions.
In the area of the discharge of our civic duties, the Christian must subscribe to the maxim that 'an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure'. 'A stitch in time saves nine'. If the aim is to expand the kingdom of God on earth and cover the earth with His righteousness, then the Christian must strategically identify and give his support to all that will help to make that possible. All laws, programs, ideologies along with their proposers and backers that will work contrary to that goal must be identified the moment they are first put forward, and, as William Shakespeare said, "think him as a serpent's egg, which hatched, would as its kind grow mischievous, and kill him in the shell." On the other hand, the Christian should identify all laws, programs and projects – as well as their proposers and backers – that are consistent with and supportive of the expansion of the kingdom of God on earth and give those their full support and backing. It is ultimately easier to prevent a problem from developing than it is to cure it after it has developed.
Christian Political Candidates
Not only must Christians vote, but Christians must also offer themselves to be voted for. Is it not hypocritical for the Christian to criticize and condemn those who run for public office as being unrighteous and unworthy while at the same time placing restrictions on the righteous and worthy from offering themselves as alternatives? And is it not hypocritical to claim to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world while maintaining the claim that involvement in politics will damage the Christian's testimony? Or is it true that if the truth be told, many Christians feel comfortable in the safety of the sanctuary but scared in the cauldron of the society?
If there is a large enough constituency of Christians or Christian sympathizers who effectively believe that a Christian candidate will do a better job for the community than would a non-Christian, then the Christian will be elected. If the Christian candidate fails to be elected, they would have made good use of an opportunity for their voice to be heard and their values to be shared. If they remain faithful to their public ministry, their voice will continue to be heard even though they were not elected. Moreover, at any time there is a problem with the performance of the incumbent, the Christian alternative will have first right of audience. If the Christian were elected, they would then have the opportunity of leveraging their testimony with the facilities of the state, which is nothing more than the collective resources of the same people who elected them. Under God's guidance, God will now have access to a 21st century Shedrach, Meshach, Abednego, Daniel or Joseph, all of whom were minority servants of God who became effective politicians and brought honor and glory to the name of God.
So, whether elected or unelected, Christians and the church must analytically and critically comment on the administration of the state so as to facilitate the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth.
And because to whom much is given, much is expected, the church of Jesus Christ in America must use the influence and freedom guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America to influence the government of the USA to support the defense of the inalienable rights of Christians in oppressed countries throughout the world.
Adapted from an excerpt from pages 135-140 of the brand new book Put Him Back… America! by Godfrey E. McAllister, Ph.D.