Analyzing the Bible S Influence on Political Thought and Action in US Culture … Research Paper
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¶ … Bible Influence Political Thought and Action in Our Culture?
One of the main challenges that Christians in the modern day world face, is thinking biblically about the issue of authority and power. The current world is shaped by false post Enlightenment divides between public political life and personal faith. Many Christians no longer adhere to the old understandings of how one should behave in relation to the state. Even Christian politicians are no longer vocal about their Christian faith or its impact on their lives. According to Alistair Campbell, if any Christian politician is asked why this is no longer the case, he or she is likely to say we don't do God (Rieger, 2007). However, it is important to note that the Christian faith is full of political tones. For instance, it is the aspiration of every Christian to enter the "kingdom of heaven." As Christians, we proclaim Christ as our "Lord." Yet, many of us still don't make that link between these terms and their political implications. It is easy to gather from the scriptures that politics is an important part of Christian discipleship. As Christians, we ought to be concerned and active participants in the politics of our country. We also need to understand how to use and react to authority and power not only in our churches, but also workplaces, and in relation to the government (Wright, 2004).
Religion and Political Values
According to Tocqueville (1956), religion is a vital part of the American democracy. Tocqueville further explained that religion helped guide politics and created a common political dialogue among the founding fathers of our nation. The relationship between religion and democracy has been supported by many more scholars since Tocqueville. For instance, Weithman (2002) argues in his work about how religion can influence both democracy and public policy. Other scholars, such as Woodberry and Shah (2004), found that religion can be the pillar behind stable political systems and can also drive social change. Religion does not just simply influence or inform the politics of many countries, but is also a source of political values. Researchers, Leege and Welch (1991), found that the Christian beliefs of American Catholics could predict their attitudinal positions of various public issues, their party affiliations and political ideologies. The researchers also argued that the political views of evangelical Christians were more conservative than those of non-evangelical Christians.
The process through which the bible influences and shapes politic views and values has been the subject of many studies. One of the popular findings in these studies is that preachers, who believe that they are compelled by the Lord to be active in politics, end up being involved in politics. For instance, Catholic priests are more likely to participate in politics, if their position on issues of public interest, such as abortion is similar to that of the majority of members of his parish (Jelen, 2003). Thus, the views of local congregations can greatly determine the participation of preachers in local politics.
Render to Caesar ... (Matthew 22:15-22)
This saying is perhaps one of the most known political sayings by Jesus. This saying has also been one of the most misused and misinterpreted sayings, that has been used by many theologians to try and keep religion out of politics (the realm of Caesar) (Wright, 2004). This is because many of these theologians have taken the text out of context. This is a trap set by Christ's detractors (vv. 15, 18) who hope that he will fall into it (v. 22), and it doesn't come to pass. His response on taxes is neither an acceptance of Roman rule (which would disenfranchise most of his followers) nor a rejection of political authority (which would have made him criminal before the Roman authorities).
Three things stand out. First, is that Jesus asks for a coin (v. 19), this somewhat suggests his detachment from Roman economics and the involvement of his detractors in the same; as they end up providing the coin. Secondly, Jesus asks whose image is on the coin. The issue about the image is not merely used by Jesus to draw the attention of his audience to the owner of the coin, but to the torah (Exodus 20:4), which prohibits the making of images; this position is indeed that of the many ordinary Jews who considered the coin blasphemous or idolatrous. Third, Jesus questions the inscription, which is obviously idolatrous, since the coin on one side is written, Tiberius Caesar, son of the deified Augustus, while on the other side, it heralds Caesar as the high priest (Ellul, 2003). Thus, in effect, Jesus tells the Pharisees that they ought to have no problem returning such sacrilegious coinage to its owners. But, there is a meaning attached to this. This answer is a call. A call for politics driven not by Caesar, but by those made in God's image, determining to respect God and the true authority He places over us, rather than choosing to live without giving thought to our spirituality (Rieger, 2007).
Reasons why the Church Should Not Be Involved in Politics
The Bible does not lead us towards political activism (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). The most significant reason as to why we should not get involved in political activism is because of our mission. We have been summoned to reach the world with the good news of salvation through Christ our Lord and savior (Bartley, 2003). We should conclude that political activism is really not significant to God, given that the Bible does not support us trying to utilize means to bring about governmental change.
Jesus did not seek to bring about modifications in the political sphere. He did not propose to his disciples to run for positions in the public office. He did not protest against the repressive Roman government. He did not come up with a national prayer day. Instead, Jesus called sinners to repentance, which turned them into citizens of heaven (Wright, 2004).
The mission of the ministry of the apostles to the world was to preach the gospel, and not restructuring the government. This particular pattern of ministry should direct us to operate in a similar fashion, making the preaching of the good news the vehicle for societal improvement (Ellul, 2003).
Political and biblical issues get confused together. Whereas abortion is a biblical concern and is argued in the political sphere, majority of the political concerns, which Christians advance are not as straightforward. Most frequently, matters that are not clearly moral are supported with the same fierceness like those that are directly moral (Ellul, 2003).
Political restructuring subtly substitutes spiritual change. When benefits are realized in political spheres, there could be a sense of accomplishment. However, the heart of man cannot be transformed by any government. It is only God who can change our spiritual life and this spiritual change leads to our service to others. No law can save an individual and no law can save a population either (Woodberry & Shah, 2004).
The purity of the Christian message is lost via political cooperation. It is quite tempting to desist from the clear declaration of the good news when you are in a relationship with those that counter it (Beyerlein & Chaves, 2003). In addition, as cooperation takes place, it is simple for even those in the church to presume that those who cooperate with us to share common social concerns are also theologically joined.
Our political points-of-view could hamper our ministry to those that do not agree. We should follow the example of Paul (1 Corinthians 11:1) by becoming all things to all men, so that we could save some (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). To support a certain political party or campaign for a certain issue shall lead to an uncalled for division with those who need Christ as their Lord and Savior. The outcome of political activism is that the very ministry that God has summoned us to shall be adversely affected (Wright, 2004).
Political benefits are just on the surface and could be quite brief. Political benefits are anticipated when there is a clear majority of support. We, however, as Christians know that we shall always be the minority and not the majority (Matthew 7:13-14). They make several hate attempts to moralize them and might react against those they view as stressing. This could result to overturning various political benefits with a reprisal. Eventually, the moral agenda might be better served having not even tried to apply political means. Prohibition is the classic case of this (Bartley, 2003).
We should not be seeing Christians campaigning for any contenders, arranging protest marches, handing out voter guides or even seeking to register voters any time soon. Exercising of the opportunity of Christians to vote shall, however, continue, since voting is considered as a private way of seeking to assist the community, and does not divert us from our calling as Christ's followers. It is the gospel's ministry that is a moral concern and all of… [END OF PREVIEW]
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