Friday, August 04, 2006

Should the church steer clear of politics?

My AgapePress column here...


At 1:11 AM, Blogger Garth said...

I think the problem for the church is the us and them ideology. While our call is to go into the world, christianity has created its own world that we invite people to. The church needs to learn how to be in the world but not of it. Its something that I feel stronhly about and belived we have failed at.

I don't necessarily agree with the 'Christianizing' of a society through political reform rather we are called to make disciples or followers.

Its interesting that the issues that get politcal attention seem to be behavioural and lifestyle choices which people should be largely free to choose themselves. While I don't support gay marriages, abortions etc, should I impose my values on unbeleivers? I think our call is not to enforce some sort of "God law" but rather provide people with credible choices by demonstrating what God looks like.

Social justice issues like poverty, refugees, and wars however, I see as open slather for the church to lobby for as these are not the free will choices of individuals, but the results of other peoples choices that have caused grief and suffering.

All the best

At 6:36 PM, Anonymous Mark Howie said...

I really appreciate your balanced, sober comments here. It is with rarity that I read such from your columns. It was a joy to read.
I also think that Greg Boyd is a breath of fresh air. I don’t see Greg taking sides in the culture war. What I do seem him doing is suggesting that waging culture wars is not keeping faith with the teaching of the New Testament where we are called to love our enemies, and are instructed that our fight is not with flesh and blood, but with powers and principalities. We are taught by Scripture that we are not to “wage war” the same way that the world does.
Now contrast what the Scripture has to say over against the recent Time magazine article about Ralph Reed’s fall from power, James Kennedy’s declaration of war on the ACLU, American Family Association’s right wing radio rhetoric, and Pastor Rod Parsley’s “Taking Back America” campaign. I think what you find is a army of Right-Wing Political Christians who are aiming there guns at the wrong enemy: homosexuals, abortionists, liberals, feminists, and of course the ACLU.
I think that what Greg is saying is that Jesus loves these people too, and demonizing them and engaging in a culture war with them, is not the way of Jesus. I agree with him.
Finally, I think the way forward is to not use politics as the way to advance God’s Kingdom (on either side of the divide), but rather to lovingly engage our culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

At 7:47 PM, Blogger Matt Friedeman said...

"It is with rarity that I read such from your columns."

Uh, thanks, Mark. I don't really know anything about Boyd or his church. But I do know that our church has always adopted "sacralization" and taking on issues like abortion, prison work, crisis pregnancy help, visiting the secular sick, etc.

Perhaps we are not to "wage war" like the world but that doesn't mean we don't "wage war" at all.

And before I go and criticize the "religious right" by name like you apparently feel so at ease doing it might do well to be reminded what D.L. Moody said to the lady who suggested she didn't much care for the way Moody evangelized people. He reportedly offered a soft challenge, "And what is it you do, my dear?" Nothing, basically, was her answer. "Then I like what I am doing better than what you are not doing."



At 8:43 PM, Anonymous Mark Howie said...

Peace be with you.

At 2:07 PM, Anonymous JBryan said...

Greg Boyd represents a lone voice of reason in fundamentalist Christianity.

The rest of the crowd (Falwell, Robertson, Ann Coulter, etc.) see themselves as pitbulls who are sent by the Christian god to shred liberals and anyone else who dares to disagree with them.

"Taking Back America"?!! Fundamentalists control the White House, both houses of Congress, and alomst all of the Supreme Court. How far do they want to take America back? Segregation? Slavery?

At 4:07 PM, Blogger Matt Friedeman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Matt Friedeman said...


Fundmanetalists control the White House? Congress? The Supreme Court? What do you know that the rest of us don't? Take the White House - I don't think being a United Methodist who reads Oswald Chambers before one goes to bed constitutes "a fundamentalist."

Do you?

And which Supreme Court member goes to an "evangelical" or "fundamentalist" church? And how many in Congress do?

And, by the way, slavery bit the dust in large part because the "Bible-thumpers" kept the tension on. Ever see Spielberg's "Amistad?" Heard of Wilberforce? Listened to a Yankee prayer?


At 5:23 AM, Anonymous Dave said...

Greg Boyd is great. His "Letters from a Skeptic" was an inspiring book. I love that he points people to the cross and not the flag, and he doesn't pander to the Religious Right.

Randall Balmer's "Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament" is a must read for any politcally-minded Christian. He factually and accurately exposes the absurdity of the religious right. For instance, they didn't actually form because of abortion, but rather due to the government's removal of the tax exempt status on Bob Jones University. Abortion and gays were eventually the easy target issues because divorce was too close to home for many.

The religious right tries to legislate the Kingdom, and most of their characters who are now self-parodies (Falwell - blamed 9/11 on gays, feminists, the ACLU; Robertson - selling magic protein shakes and calling for the execution of Chavez; Reed and Delay - legal troubles up the wazoo) would be funny if they weren't tragically turning people away from Christ.

I've never understood why some people spend more time "defending the faith" than living it. Rob Bell writes beautifully about this in "Velvet Elvis."

At 5:41 AM, Blogger Dave said...

How about this bit of foreshadowing from Billy Graham in 1981?

"I don't want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it." - from Parade magazine...

And here's where Balmer disputes the myth of the religious right as the "new abolitionists."

The abortion myth serves as a convenient fiction because it suggests noble and altruistic motives behind the formation of the Religious Right. But it is highly disingenuous and renders absurd the argument of the leaders of Religious Right that, in defending the rights of the unborn, they are the "new abolitionists." The Religious Right arose as a political movement for the purpose, effectively, of defending racial discrimination at Bob Jones University and at other segregated schools. Whereas evangelical abolitionists of the nineteenth century sought freedom for African Americans, the Religious Right of the late twentieth century organized to perpetuate racial discrimination. Sadly, the Religious Right has no legitimate claim to the mantle of the abolitionist crusaders of the nineteenth century. White evangelicals were conspicuous by their absence in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Where were Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington or on Sunday, March 7, 1965, when Martin Luther King Jr. and religious leaders from other traditions linked arms on the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to stare down the ugly face of racism?

Falwell and others who eventually became leaders of the Religious Right, in fact, explicitly condemned the civil rights movement. "Believing the Bible as I do," Falwell proclaimed in 1965, "I would find it impossible to stop preaching the pure saving gospel of Jesus Christ, and begin doing anything else—including fighting Communism, or participating in civil-rights reforms." This makes all the more outrageous the occasional attempts by leaders of the Religious Right to portray themselves as the "new abolitionists" in an effort to link their campaign against abortion to the nineteenth century crusade against slavery.

At 9:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Give unto Caeser what is Caesers, and unto God what is God's"

This means to me, keep government things including politics in the governments corner. Keep the things of God in God's corner.

I wonder sometimes, what is the goal of the Christian Reconstructionist Fundamentalist? To turn the United
States into a Fundamentalist Theoracy??? And if that is the goal of the Christian Reconstructionist, then what do we do with the Wiccans, Jews, Islamic Peoples, Etc? Jail them?

What I see, Is Fundamentalist Big Wig Family Rights Groups CEO's sleeping with Senators, in order to gain influence and Power with them. And this is not a good thing. Why aren't these same Big Wigs out witnessing to the poor or donating their Billions of dollars (From their own personal Checking accounts) to help feed the poor and help poor churches build good

Heck why do fundamentalist feel they should spend more time politicing than Witnessing?

Or is it that the Main Line Christians are the only ones who know what the Great Commishion means?

Fundamentalist should stop sleeping with senators, presidents and congressmen and should get out and
start street witnessing. This is what the pastor of the mega church up north was talking about.


At 1:15 AM, Blogger Thinking in Ohio said...

All I can say is "WOW!" You really hit a nerve here, Matt. In your defense, I don't really recall you pandering to any political party down in MS. You always seem to shoot straight to me.

Personally, I see political action as a duty aligned with good "Kingdom" and good "earthly" citizenship... and, of course, my faith informs the platform I choose.

Having said that, I'm not convinced that all morality needs to be legislated by congress. The NT doesn't give us any guidelines on how rule or govern a nation or an empire, only how the live "quiet lives" winning men over by the integrity of our lives and the word of our testimony.

The emergent church tries to maintain a posture of political aloofness, not choosing sides or becoming another "religious right"... but their partiality bleeds through like a ball point pen pressed to long on paper. One thing they continually emphasize is the "morality" of other issues and causes besides abortion or gay rights. They give the clear impression that there are issues that have been neglected by Republicans and bannered by Democrats... like poverty, the environment, civil rights, war-mongering... I could go on. I have yet to read an emergent author really speak out on the issue of abortion... but most are extremely alarmed over the destruction of the environment.

Maybe they'll help bring balance back to the evangelical church? But I still believe there are some issues that are especially important to God... the murder of children being one of them.

At 9:18 PM, Anonymous Holly said...

Hmm, Matt. I'm going to have to say that I agree with you. I read too much these days online about how we need to disengage from any sort of politics.

I think we can do both. I think we need to take a stand legislatively for those things which will make our nation better, yet not beat people over the head on an individual level. I believe Christians need to serve, to be involved politically, but that politics should not be their main purpose in life. I simply think we need more Christians actually living the life....not saying one thing, then doing another. Yes, yes, yes to reaching out with compassion.

At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm visiting my family up in NY and what I'm hearing and seeing isn't pretty. I came up here to show them what Jesus has done in my life and now I know why. The Bush administration has been what they have been viewing "Christians" to be.
They thought that "Christians" were so wrapped up in forcing others to live according to their beliefs that nothing else mattered. They see that all we care or vote on is christian value issues, things like lies the government tells us aren't even relevant.
My family asks me why are we still in Iraq when there aren't any "weapons of mass destruction there?" "why are we backing Isreal in a war that they started and not using our influence to cause them to back off, standing in the way of the UN when they demand a ceasefire?" "why are we praying for isreal when its the lebanese that are suffering" "why are we so concerned in gay marriage and abortion which are life choice decisions when God gave us a free will to chose as we see fit? instead of looking at issues such as, "why are we allowing our poor to go without by not voting to raise the minimun wage and allowing so many foreigners into our country that our own people can't get jobs?" "why are we allowing tax cuts that benefit the middle class only slightly and pay off the rich people tremendously?" "why are we allowing our country to go into other countries and put governments in place that serve our needs instead of allowing the people in those countries to vote and select their own governments according to their own beliefs?"
What kind of "example" are we being for nonbelievers? Obviously not a very good one if this is what they think of "Christians".

At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Goodness... I started out wanting to voice my opinion with the topic, but now feel I ought to defend the right! (From hearing some blog at the bottom.)

Danger in our society is that Christians are being considered "the bad guys," at least the ones with conservative views. Prayer is being eliminated from school, along with all mention of God. Homosexuality is being taught to the very young "as a choice." And really, how do you handle it.. because you don't want to raise children who are prejudiced against others' life choices, but you don't want to teach your children to think worldly choices-- free sexuality, freedoms to if if feels good just do it. And we cannot have a theocracy, but what will we have if we "erase" God from our schools and our government?

My main thought that I originally intended to post is that I have a friend whom would not attend a church service at a church that I was visiting due to a comment that the pastor made to the press. He felt the law pointing its ugly finger at him, based on something a pastor said publically. A church should maybe stay out of the media circus? Maybe get the people praying for the lost? If you are praying for those who are caught in alcoholism, loose sexual habits, all different sins of this world... maybe a little of that judgement plank in the eye would turn to love and the H.S. would be awakened by the body of Christ calling out to God to deliver the lost .. they might venture in the doors and find the healing and deliverance that is free by grace thanks to Christ's sacrifice on the cross for us. And maybe we could pray for our corrupted government and political parties too, because it is glaringly obvious that BOTH sides are one-sidely missing important issues where they are wrong.

in tx, God bless.. in a country where we are are free to worship Him.

At 4:43 PM, Blogger Matt Friedeman said...


Your comments remind me of E. Stanley Jones and his being challenged by the Jain lawyer in India. He had a list of a hundred or more questions written on a long piece of paper about the West, the church and the Old Testament.

Jones politely perused the list, laid it aside and asked "What do you think about Jesus?"

Jones had a way of doing that. What is the issue in your family? Is it these lesser issues, or Jesus? Once convinced of Him, let Christ take them where He wants to through His Word on this or that item of international interest.


At 12:25 AM, Anonymous Mark Howie said...

Should the church steer clear of worldly politics? Right or Left Wing?
How does this relate to Evangelism Today?
What does the Bible Say about how we are to conduct our evangelistic efforts?
What does the scriptures say about the end justifing the methods?

If we are to believe the Word of God as inerrant, then there should be clarity on this issue.

My concern with this particular blogg topic, is that the hardened, and brittle warriors for the two main sides (Right and Left Wing)are willing to cut anyone who mildly disagrees with them.

Matthew, I disagree with you, only mildly. I disagree with the Right Wing and the Left Wing. Yes, I name them, and I do not hide my opinions behind quotes from others. (a droll technique used by debaters to shut their opponets down)

I do apologize if my former entry caused you to rattle your sabre. I stand behind what I said. Although, I do not know you, I consider you on the same team.

You do matter to the Kingdom of Christ, and to our movement of the Church. Please realize that those who disagree with you matter too.

Back to the church/politics question:

I believe that the right and left need each other, dearly. Why? Because they have defined themselves by each other.

Their distinctives are not distinct. When arrogance drums the same drum long enough, no one listens; that is, until humility and the fear of the Lord changes the tone. It is over due for the two political extremes to change their tones. America is not listening.

The church pastor who engages in politcal militantism, sets him/herself up for intellectual dishonesty when confronted with issues of sin in his/her own party. (Consider the tone one uses to semi excuse the sexual sins of his own party, while lambasting the other for their sexual sins).

-As the World, so goes the church.

The church engaged in worldly politics is a distraction from the specific evangel calling of the church.

Militant activism causes the church to get behind the wrong cause. This tends to form mitigated dualism on the right wing, and theosophy on the left.

Humility and the fear of the Lord must change the church's tone. America is not listening.

May anyone who reads this know that no harm is intended. This is only one Pastor giving his opinion on the subject matter presented.

Peace be with you.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger Matt Friedeman said...


A few points:

Don't worry. I always consider the source when reading.

Droll technique? Like, say, Jesus and story-telling?

My name is not "Matthew."

I have no interest, really, in right-left. Only right-wrong. Thus, I don't get very interested in GOP vs. Dem except, of course, the majority rules substantially when Congress gets elected (where there is a vast difference between the parties on such items as abortion, homosexuality, taxation, etc.) and there is a difference in a Republican nominee to the court system and and Democrat nominee. These are necessary "Christian" considerations.

Jesus instructed us to go into "all" the world and preach the gospel. Might this also include political arenas and the world of issues debate?

If Christians had been more involved in the early 70's, we would have avoided legalized murder in the form of abortion. If Christians hadn't been involved in politics in the 1800's we might never have rid ourselves of slavery. Christians impact other issues, of course, and should, I think you would agree: prostitution, drug use, education, rape and molestation, war and peace, monetary policy, prison reform, etc., etc., etc.

Christians are supposed to have a voice in these issues. This is the stuff of the Wesleyan reform movement. Not to have a strong and righteous voice is the height of irresponsibility.

Thank you for your lessons in arrogance.


At 10:38 AM, Anonymous Mark Howie said...


Since this is my last entry on this specific blog topic, I will give you the last word. (Why not? It's your blog!)

The only point I feel you missed is this: I am not your opponent. I am not against you. You are loved.--Mark

At 8:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I just taught on political involvement of Christians at my church two weeks ago. I was the children's pastor (Volunteer) at our Calvary Chapel when I felt the lord calling me to be involved more in our community. Our Pastor agreed with my calling and brought me in of the church and had the elders laid hands on me and ask God to lead me.

That was two years ago and it has been very exciting and God has truly been blessing me. I am now the chairman of the planning and zoning commission in our town, a director of the chamber of commerce, and member of the local community collage foundation board. All these happened in a whirlwind after being prayed for in front of the church.

It is my conviction that to debate political involvement in America only illustrates a lack of biblical understanding and an acute lack of historical knowledge.

First Romans 13:1 is quite clear that God Establishes all authority. All appears to be clear in the passage: USA, Israel, even Iran.

Second the authority in the United States rests with the People. " When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one People...That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the Governed," US Declaration of Independence. "We the People" US Constitution first three words.

The great American experiment a government of The People, by The People, for The People.

God has clearly given authority in USA to the people. If our country goes to hell it is our fault, we can not blame the president, or the congress or the supreme court (all uncapitalized), and when God (Capitalized) removes his mantle of power from our country he will be taking it away from (The People) If we are one of (The People) it is our responsibility to exercise authority, and by failing to do so God is taking the authority away from his people even now.

A clear strategy in War is to divide and conquer. Christians have been told to leave their faith at home, to separate Church from State. We have taken this bate hook line and sinker and are voting the issues with little regard for our faith. Following are a few quotes from some old guys

“Of all the habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are the indispensable supports. In vain would men claim the tributes of patriotism who would work to destroy these great pillars of human happiness… It is impossible to govern rightly without God and the Bible.” George Washington 1st President

I personally Study the Scriptures every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday Mornings.’ John Adams 2nd President

The Bible is “ the rock on which out Republic rests” Andrew Jackson 7th President

“A Republic once poised must either preserve its virtue or lose its liberty” John Witherspoon Signer of the Declaration of Independence

If we are not governed by God then we will be ruled by Tyrants.” William Penn Signer of the Declaration of Independence

“We are Christian People, and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity” Chief Justice Kent New York State Court 1811

There never has been a period in which Common Law did not recognize Christianity as laying at its foundation.” Joseph Story Dane Professor of Law Harvard 1829

“America Is Great because America is Good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great” Democracy in America 1831 Alexis De Torqueville

In regard to this great book, the Bible, I have but to say it is the best gift God has given. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.” Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States

In God We trust is engraved on all our money”

The Ten Commandments are written on the walls of our supreme court.

1 Chron 28:9 Solomon (The People) is told "acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and a willing man, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts."

We not only fail to acknowledge him but we separate him from our government affairs. He is noticing.

Proverb 29:2 "when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

Matt 7:17, 20 "Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. Thus by their fruit you will recognize them"

We need to support and elect godly leaders.

Finally Hebakkuk 1:1-6 is awsome. It seems like with was written just yesterday. And the best part is
verse 6 " I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own" God raised up the terrorest to punish the Godly. God has no problem using the ungodly to punish the Godly.

God gave the authrority in America to his people we are graciously giving back to the pagens. It does not appear that God is happy about that. When we report to God in Heaven and he asks us what we have done with what we were given I fear our answer. Sorry God "They made me do it"

Faith First, God First, There is no separation between church and state for a believer.

Keep up the good writing.

In his service,



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