A poll released this week found that 54percent of Americans think churches should steer clear of politics. The number was even higher among Catholics, with 60 percent saying that churches should keep out of political issues entirely.
Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, which conducted the survey, noted that it was the third consecutive poll in the past four years in which more Americans said churches should not be involved in politics than those that think churches should express their opinions on social and political issues.
When it comes to politicians, the poll found that 38 percent of Americans thought there was too much religious expression from politicians, compared to the 30 percent who said there was too little. Twenty-five percent said the current level was the right amount.
This is the first time since 2001 that more Americans believe there is too much religious talk in politics rather than too little.
Eric Metaxas, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy, said in a recent interview with The Alliance Defense Fund that he believes the church's role in the world has to include politics.
"By being the church, you automatically bump up against the world and the state – and you have to push back. To know how to push back, as a Christian … it's a complicated thing," he said.
In the interview about the role of the church's responsibility to the state, Metaxas said Bonhoeffer, a German theologian, thought Christians should be involved in politics.
Bonhoeffer was one of the few Christians who fought the Nazi's push to silence the voice of the church in Germany during World War II. Metaxas said there are parallels between Bonhoeffer and Christians in America today.
Metaxas said that the church can't avoid being engaged in politics entirely because that would be saying to "the unborn, to the slave, to anybody who is a victim, 'You know what? We really don't care about you that much. We care about our own personal piety, and God is in charge of you.' As if God is requiring nothing of me."
The Pew Forum survey on religion and politics was conducted using telephone interviews from March 7-11, 2012, among a national sample of 1,503 adults.