Posted Dec 14, 2016 by Michael L. Brown

Is it dangerous for Christian leaders to mix politics and religion? Is that a confusion of their calling? Or is it important for Christian leaders to address all areas of life, including politics?

I have had to address this question myself, since I might be preaching in a church service one day, teaching in a Bible school the next, and then talking politics on the radio the next (or, sometimes, doing all three in one day). How should we conduct ourselves as religious leaders?

If Donald Trump as president keeps his word and successfully repeals the Johnson Amendment, which has greatly muzzled religious political speech, this question will become all the more relevant for Christian leaders in America.

What exactly is our role?

It so happened that on the same day, in response to the same article, some old friends expressed their disapproval of my commenting on political issues. One posted on Facebook, “I remain disappointed that you continue to focus on politics Mike. Your mandate is higher! God’s purpose for you and Christian leaders is [God’s] Kingdom not this world. Leave that to others!”

Another emailed, asking, “Are you sure you want to cross over to being a daily political commentator, rather than speak primarily to spiritual issues?”

Neither of these men are critics, and both wrote in friendly tones, but the thrust of their message was clear: To write political commentaries is to detract from my higher, spiritual calling.

I’m confident they would say this to other spiritual leaders as well.

In stark contrast, I hear from readers and listeners on a regular basis who thank me – sometimes with tears – for addressing moral, cultural, and political issues, in particular, for doing so as a follower of Jesus who uses the Bible as his grid.

One man posted on Facebook, that during the elections, “The only media voice I listened [to] for counsel was Dr. Brown.”

Another wrote, “Dr. Brown I am greatly appreciative that you are engaging the political arena. It's seems that a fair amount of Christian leaders shy away from the political spectrum due to a fear of losing their audience. If we want to see change in this country, then we as Christians need to engage the political system. Encourage Christian leaders to run for office so that light can shine in the darkness of the corrupt leadership that this country has given over to itself.”

Which perspective is right? Would Paul or Peter or John have gotten involved in the presidential elections? Would they have endorsed a candidate or advised a candidate or commented on the various party platforms? Would they have even voted?

Some point to Jesus’ comment in John 18 when He said to Pilate shortly before His crucifixion, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). If it were of this world, He explained, then His servants would have been fighting for him not to be delivered up to His captors.

But in saying this, Jesus hardly meant that we should not be involved in the affairs of this world. After all, feeding the hungry and clothing the poor and educating our children and working our jobs are all “of this world.” Should we stop doing these things and simply go on a mountaintop to pray, waiting for the Lord’s return? (Of course, we’d soon have to figure out how to get food and where to sleep – all issues of this world.)

In reality, what Jesus was saying was this: “My kingship does not derive its authority from this world’s order of things. If it did, my men would have fought to keep me from being arrested by the Judeans. But my kingship does not come from here” (Jn. 18:36, CJB).

What about Philippians 3:20, where Paul wrote that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (ESV)?

Interestingly, it was this same Paul who, at strategic times, invoked the fact that he was a citizen of Rome, assuring that he would receive better treatment than a common criminal (see, for example, Acts 16:35-39; 21:37-39).

His point in Philippians 3 had to do with those who lived with a fleshly, earthly carnality (see Philippians 3:18-19), and he was saying to his readers, “You are not like them! You are a heavenly people living in this world.”

In the same way, Peter wrote, “Dear friends, I warn you as ‘temporary residents and foreigners’ to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls” (1 Pet. 2:11, NLT).

We are passing through this world, and it is not our eternal home, so we must not get entangled with worldly, carnal desires, which war against our souls. We should be above such things.

But that doesn’t meant that we don’t fight against injustice or champion the cause of the needy, nor does it mean that we remain silent on important political and social issues.

After all, slavery was the paramount hot-button, deeply-divisive, political and social issue of the 19th century, yet it would have been very wrong for Christian leaders to remain silent on this, just as it’s very wrong for Christian leaders to remain silent on issues like abortion and homosexual activism today.

I can’t tell you how many times readers and listeners and viewers have talked with me after hearing me speak – again, often with tears in their eyes – thanking me for addressing the divisive cultural issues of the day. These are issues they live with every day – in their homes, in their schools, in their places of business, and they are frustrated when their pastors and teachers fail to give them spiritual guidance to help navigate these troubled waters.

And this is not just happening in the States. During my annual trip to India earlier this month, pastors in Mumbai specifically asked me to address LGBT issues, while in other international trips in the last few years, Christian leaders in the government have met with me privately (or publicly), asking for input on these same pressing social issues. They want to know what they can do as believers to make a positive impact on their society, and that includes the realm of politics and government.

Of course, we can get involved in politics in a partisan way, becoming appendages of a particular political party, which is a real mistake. And we can easily get caught up in a divisive, immature political spirit, which is quite destructive, or we can become obsessed with politics, which would distract us from our larger calling.

That’s one reason that, on my radio show, we devote certain days to theology and Bible study, while I spend much of my time teaching and preaching in churches and conferences – and not talking about politics.

But there’s nothing stopping us from walking in the Spirit, maintaining an eternal perspective, and constructively addressing the political realm. In fact, it behooves us to do so, as long as we don’t neglect our primary calling of preaching and teaching the Scriptures. The Church needs us to do it and the society needs us to do it.

I’m confident that I am not alone in sensing that it pleases God and helps His people when we, as ministry leaders, bring the Word of God to bear on every area of life, politics included.

Do you agree?


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J posted a comment · Dec 25, 2016
Some make the claim that Paul, John and Peter were examples as to how Christians should not be involved in political affairs. It is usually a common assessment that if compared to today's examples of Christians participating in government, they had comparatively minimal involvement in politics. They did have encounters with the rulers of their day, but usually it was on the basis of defending the faith after having being arrested or detained. As apostles of the faith in the first century, this stance was a part of the norm in defending the faith. None ran for any secular office, nor were any called to do so. The first century landscape where church planting primarily took place was within the Roman Empire. This was where the apostle's main work took place. Paul did use his Roman citizenship as an appeal to continue his ministry of propagating the gospel, let alone preventing any illegal judicial indictments that sought to hinder him. But that in of itself should indicate right away a basic principle that should universally extend throughout the church age: it is perfectly justifiable for any believer who is a citizen of a nation to use the laws of that nation to defend and in essence advance the kingdom. It is important to note, that compared to today, the first century apostles were more characteristically the trailblazers of Christianity throughout the known civilized world, the very first fruits of Christ reaching out unto the nations with the gospel. That was their particular calling. They may have not been called to do anything else, but that didn't prevent them from utilizing their rights as citizens to advance the kingdom. Thus it can reasonably be deduced that it can even more so apply to believers, who were not necessarily called to be apostles, from being involved in public office. Ever since that time however, especially beginning in the third century through the Middle Ages and the renaissance, there have been new dynamics in terms of how the church engaged with the nations, even developing to the point where Christianity as a denominational religious institution dominated national politics, this type of admixture often resulting in bad results. The church as a whole, since the third century, has established itself throughout much of the known world, whereby it has developed as a major influence upon the greater part of the world's nations. This has particularly occurred in Europe and Asia Minor disseminating throughout the known world. The development of the United States, however, was unique because the constitution had been established with biblical principles that protected the church apart from the state. It was these principles written as law that established the freedoms as well as checks and balances unlike most other nations. This greater freedom in of itself necessitated a greater accountability (and opportunity) for believers to be involved in governmental affairs in order to maintain those freedoms that benefitted church assemblies [and faith in Christ] [within the nation, benefits which first came about by the influence, not interference, of the church]]]. The United States in particular has written in its constitution [the inalienable right of each citizen to exercise] freedom of speech and religion, two crucial elements that were guided by biblical principles that the forefathers knew to be indispensable. This is crucial for believers to realize as being integral in propagating the gospel. Yet as can be expected in an evil world system that is antichrist by nature, forces have progressively limited, diminished and blatantly ignored key elements of the constitution to the detriment of the church and its freedoms, whereas much of the church became complacent, for the most part taking their freedoms for granted, or having a naive and/or passive understanding of how they were to live their lives as believer citizens. In the first century, the church was just forming and establishing its identity in a world mostly made up of paganism sects and Judaism, whereby local assemblies within different countries were just beginning to be formed. Persecutions were more apt to be openly violent in those times. In contrast to this early era, centuries later, the church has become a primal force in forming national governments, something not experienced in the past, even though too often it became perverted and distorted by admixtures of religious/political expediency. Nevertheless, this became a basic distinction of what the church of the modern era has attained in contrast to what it attained in the first century. The fundamental momentum and purpose of the pilgrims that arrived to the new land was to seek freedom of worship and an asylum from persecution from these church states. The earliest development of this nation was built upon a mandate that was not at the expense of the churches calling, but in the desire to maintain its validity. This was a mandate that was established in the founding of this nation, something that should not be misunderstood or neglected. By extension, the constitution was founded upon biblical principles by men who knew history and so realized the necessity to protect the church from any state abuse and the state from one denominational rule, something that the world had up to that point failed in far too often. Our country's constitution was originally written in order to support and sustain freedoms for the church throughout its existence. However, even though these freedoms were originally granted under law, they still can be incrementally challenged, diminished and perverted into something alienated from the original intent of the writers. This is why we are in a different place than in the first century. Anything that aids in promoting the gospel should be preserved for the sake of the gospel. All the more reason it has become incumbent upon us to retain the freedoms that were forged for us in order to proclaim the truth all the more so. This nation is not to become our idol, nor is it perfect, but it's constitution is to rightfully be seen in its true perspective as a gift of God, an established vehicle from which we can fully express Christ and reach the world. But in being given these freedoms it has taken on that much more of an accountability to retain those freedoms, and there is no citizen better than a believer who is informed and enabled in being the salt to do so. Politics for the most part may be a compromising form of profession among the unsaved, but for believers it should be understood as a valid occupation that is just as sacred as anything else they may do. Believers should never compartmentalize their lives as either sacred or profane, but everything as being sacred. This becomes all the more significant for Christians as citizens of this nation, since the cherished freedoms established by the forefathers for those who worship God requires no less than believers themselves to remind its citizens of what rights they were originally granted, and to not allow these constitutional rights to be reinterpreted, removed or compromised and thus diminished into irrelevancy. America was never a Christian nation in terms of a theocracy, as some accuse Christians of believing and falsely imply they are seeking to advance. But it is, nevertheless, a nation that was founded upon Christian principles: separation of powers, checks and balances, freedom of speech and worship (i.e. conscience). It was created as a republic, a nation which constitutionally secured representation for all the people. All the other amendments catered around these principles and doctrines. So long as anyone doesn't seek to repress or diminish the freedom of speech, self defense, worship or seeks to undermine limited government, they are free to express themselves. Every born again believer should realize that they do not battle against flesh and blood, but that doesn't excuse them from not being engaged as citizens in the affairs of the nation they abide in. As a matter of fact, it stands to reason that the more a nation reflects biblical values, it all the more gives believers the ability to engage and influence that form of government in the way it was intended. Thus any member in the body of Christ who works in government, should do it unto the glory of God. The lord never told the centurion to give up his occupation, but in essence to simply glorify God in it. Paul told King Agrippa that he wished he was as he was (to be a believer), only without the chains. Nothing implied about changing his rulership. The three wise kings remained kings after finding the Christ child. America, by and large, is unique among the nations. It has laws established that were based upon biblical principles. It's worth the fight to keep these truths in perspective and in the forefront, undiminished, undiluted. Who better than believers who are informed and disciplined in proper understanding to preserve the true interpretations of what the forefathers wrote. They don't have to necessarily be pastors, nor even politicians, but at the least be citizen statesmen. It should always be so in the firm strength and wisdom of gods grace, not legalistic tyranny. Preservation of a nation that basically protects the rights of believers to proclaim the good news and to worship as their conscience dictates, would indeed compliment Gods work on the earth. If we in our time can only begin to realize that therein lies a viable reason and opportunity to fight for the preservation of a nation that is unlike most other nations throughout all of history. One would think that the Lord would see the wisdom in this and would have been pleased if we, as believers and fellow citizens, had, as Paul had, used our rights as citizens, to maintain the preservation of those very freedoms, in other words to be salt in our times. Otherwise, it would be safe to assume that He would have considered it a great loss if we had the opportunity, but instead chose to neglect exercising any of our given rights as citizens towards those ends, allowing the [radical left as] enemies of the cross to prevail in diminishing and in essence removing those freedoms. This would inevitably allow the nation to decay and to be decimated without any real resisting force, letting all opportunities to just slip on by while the nation sinks into a morass of rebellion, unbelief and global determinism. [incrementally, ultimately removing the rights of the church] Looking back in history, one could see how Christianity had been abused and distorted so often when denominations were made into national religions, developing even into empires. Too often the nationalizing of religion distorted the real purpose in revealing Gods true nature and character. But America was unique. It was the great new experiment that finally got it right, at least in terms of its constitutional laws founded upon biblical principles that recognized man's fallibility while uniting its people without the infliction of denominational dominance, yet transcending tolerance to allow genuine freedoms. The United States protected the right of free worship and evangelical activity while the church, as an adjunct, was meant to preserve the soul of the nation. But freedoms, no matter well written or how good they may be, without accountability, often leads to anarchy, things we see today happening (right before our eyes) within our nation. In the last hundred years America has to a great extent been diminished by a continual undermining of the very freedoms through the misconstruing of those freedoms which our forefathers established. It is time that believers take up the mantle, to not be silent when it is necessary to speak, and to learn to be informed and wise when they do. As proverbs states: Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man.
Royce posted a comment · Dec 17, 2016
Yes, I agree. It's really quite simple. Is Jesus "Lord" or not? If so, then that includes your politics. If not, well, then I guess it really doesn't matter.
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cmorrissey75 posted a comment · Dec 16, 2016
Dr. Brown, I thought of this scripture when you asked this question, from Ezekiel 3:17-19 "Son of man, I have made you a watchman over the house of Israel. When you hear a word from My mouth, give them a warning from Me. If I say to the wicked person, 'You will surely die', but you do not warn him-you don't speak out to warn him about his wicked way in order to save his life-that wicked person will die for his iniquity. Yet I will hold you responsible for his blood. But if you warn a wicked person and he does not turn from his wickedness or his wicked way, he will die for his iniquity, but you will have saved your life." Now I know we are in America and not Israel, but I cannot help but feel this applies to all of us when it comes to the world. When we see our society crumbling, I feel we all have a responsibility to warn everyone what is going on, whether it be politics or social issues no matter what the cost. Be the watchman Dr. Brown.
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BOUDICCA posted a comment · Dec 16, 2016
Only conservative Christian leaders need to keep out of politics; Libs' opinions are cool. Right?
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Christian Party posted a comment · Dec 16, 2016
Christian shy away from politics because pastors refuse to engage for fear of losing their tax benefits. That's why the repeal of the Johnson amendment will separate the men from the boys. Our question to pastors and leaders is 'Who is your provider ?' We have the same lame excuse from churches in the UK for not getting involved. We have the Charities Commission here which in effect silences the churches. Franklin Graham's Decision America 2016 campaign in the run up to the Trump elections we believe was totally God ordained and a great example of Christians in action. Christians got engaged in politics and got out to vote. But why would we not vote ? That's the lowest common denominator. There's so much more than that. We need to understand the issues, read, study, know God's will and get active. Passionate Christians who put forward a moral, ethical and scriptural perspective on issues under scrutiny will see righteousness, truth and justice manifest in law making in your nation and ours. We believe Christians should vote, speak, canvass, stand , campaign and run for office. As Stephen Green, Christian Voice UK, recently stated: It is not so often understood today that politics and religion are closely intertwined. The one depends firmly on the other. In any ideologically-coherent society, the laws which are passed are informed by its moral code, and that rests on its religious world-view. So our Christian foundations in both nations should shape and determine everything that happens. When it strays off course, if we don't speak up, who will ? If you remain unconvinced speak to Mike Pence !
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Nate H posted a comment · Dec 16, 2016
I think there absolutely needs to be a voice of reason in the political realm, to speak the truth, and I believe you have been selected for this Dr. Brown and I think you do an excellent job. But I do have an issue with Christianity as a whole being tied to politics, I feel the church has almost backed itself into a corner. More often than not when someone finds out a person is a Christian, they then label them as a conservative, pro-life, and so on and so forth (which are probably true). But this is not so much the issue, the issue is we have not only done this to ourselves, the Christian, we have done this to Jesus - and that is the problem. So now we have a non-believer who is not only struggling with accepting Jesus but is now having to accept the political party that "corresponds" with Jesus as well. I think as Christians we have to do our best to make the Kingdom of God stand on its own and separate it from the things of this world. It shouldn't be Jesus and Conservative, it should be Jesus (period).
mjordan posted a comment · Dec 15, 2016
Interesting article Mike, but you haven't really brought clear positive scriptures to support a Christians involvement in politics. Jesus of course is the example and I can't think of anywhere in the gospels where he was involved in something political? He mentioned 'give to Caesar what belongs to him...' but that's about it. Considering also the fact that the Jews where under the tyranny of Rome, it's amazing he still didn't try to change anything. Why didn't he himself defend the needy and those where being mistreated under Rome? In fact he said, 'if you are forced to carry a coat one mile, go two...' Why didn't he address the injustice and try to change it? I can only think that his faith rested on the fact that every power is ordained of God and with the right attitude it will be a tool to work into us his character. Personally I think we should rather make our appeal to God, knowing that the heavens do rule and remember that the darker the world gets the brighter we will shine.
mjordan posted a comment · Dec 15, 2016
Interesting article Mike, but you haven't really brought clear positive scriptures to support a Christians involvement in politics. Jesus of course is the example and I can't think of anywhere in the gospels where he was involved in something political? He mentioned 'give to Caesar what belongs to him...' but that's about it. Considering also the fact that the Jews where under the tyranny of Rome, it's amazing he still didn't try to change anything. Why didn't he himself defend the needy and those where being mistreated under Rome? In fact he said, 'if you are forced to carry a coat one mile, go two...' Why didn't he address the injustice and try to change it? I can only think that his faith rested on the fact that every power is ordained of God and with the right attitude it will be a tool to work into us his character. Personally I think we should rather make our appeal to God, knowing that the heavens do rule and remember that the darker the world gets the brighter we will shine.
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Mike on the Wall posted a comment · Dec 14, 2016
Only if you can compromise nothing and judge righteously - Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil -- Matthew 5:37
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SMac77 posted a comment · Dec 14, 2016
Dr. Brown, I really like this article. I think it is of great relevance, and I think it is a complicated topic. People in the West and particularly in the US attempt to divorce the secular from the religious (Church vs. State). I guess it's a nice sentiment, but it is usually misused. The whole dichotomy of church and state was meant as a protection for the church, not that people of conviction would be forced to set aside their convictions when participating in civic life. Besides that though, I don't think such a clean dichotomy between secular and religious issues can be made. If one truly holds to the view that we have a creator, and that because of his position and nature as a creator who made things with a specific purpose in mind, and that with that purpose in mind he has revealed values, morals, and ethical behavior that should govern our actions in line with that purpose, then we cannot help but bring that view to civic issues. Not to do so would be a denial of that faith. Moses certainly did not see such a dichotomy between the rule of God and the creation of Mosaic law which provided both civic and religious law. Prophets such as Isaiah and Amos certainly did not abstain from commenting on the political and social issues of their day in light of God's will for the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. In light of that, I think it is the responsibility of Christians to be engaged and speak out regarding civic issues. That being said, we have to be very careful where our allegiance lies. Does it lie with a political candidate, party, political spectrum? Or does it lie with God and his word? It is easy to confuse our responsibility to look at issues in light of the scriptures with supporting a party or a candidate. We also have to remember that people can have the same values but differ on ideas of what is the best way to achieve results consistent with those values, and respect that difference. In that case, how do we disagree with someone and still do so in the spirit of grace? Sometimes it is a tough task, particularly when we are emotionally invested in a specific issue. I know there are topics that instantly sets my blood boiling, so I am not immune to this phenomenon. And from a pastoral standpoint, we have to remember that we are called to minister to all of God's people, not just the ones who agree with us. I am no pastor, but I am sure it is a difficult line to walk. That's just my $.02 worth.