Roy Moore, the War on Christmas, gay marriage and the Johnson Amendment. It seems that the political landscape has become a battle for the soul of the United States.
There are those who believe the United States is a Christian nation, that active participation in creating laws reflecting one particular denomination is the solution to the rapid pace of modernity and subsequent moral degradation it brings. But is political participation the correct path? Could there be another way to create more lasting change that has been with Christianity since its creation?
The recent debate about the lifting of the Johnson Amendment brings this into clear focus. The Johnson Amendment does not allow religious organizations to support political candidates through funding. Opponents of the bill argued this hurts the expression of churches and religious groups to participate fully in the political process. But there is a real danger in the direct support of political candidates by religious organizations. Beyond the increased likelihood of manipulation, it could create defining a church with a political movement or candidate. St. Augustine stated in City of God that we are both citizens of the "City of God" and the "City of Men" and must be good citizens in both. Therefore, we must honor the traditions of our government, that of a liberal democracy.
The evolution of our American democracy has been in the protection of vulnerable minorities who may suffer the tyranny of the majority. This has been the rallying cry for Christians in history. Two-thirds of abolitionists were Christian. The Christian Pastor Martin Luther King Jr. fought racial segregation. Christians have fought for human rights all over the world. "You shall love thy neighbor like yourself." (Mark 12:31)
When we engage in direct political support for a party or candidate we can possibly dilute our emphasis on social justice. Jesus did not focus on supporting political candidates or specific policies, "then render to Caesar the things that things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Our focus should be on our own spirituality and the ability to help our local communities. When Christians become identified with specific policies we risk isolating those who we are trying to help. The image of Christians has become myopic from external gaze. We are associated with a particular political party and with a minority opinion more focused on the division of groups rather than the universal principle that we are all God's children and we must dedicate our lives to the helping of others, without prejudice.
Albert Einsten once said "Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile." Is this not the sentiment of Paul "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them?" The focus should be directed to helping the downtrodden in our communities: helping to provide social services, aid, or spiritual guidance to those that desperately need it. The more we focus on issues of policy and laws, the less we can create direct change that is one of the fundamental aspects of being a Christian.