NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Christians must work to uphold God’s standards, not withdraw from the civic arena, said Southern Baptist theologian Russell D. Moore.
“Salvation does not mean a flight from creation,” said Moore, senior president for academic administration and dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. “That is a heretical Gnostic notion, not a Christian one.
“Instead, salvation means restoring sinners to the task for which we were made, a task that includes caring for the created order and for one another,” Moore said in an interview with Baptist Press. “The Scriptures tell us that God has ordained the governing authorities to rule justly. In a democratic society, the people are these structures. If the government is unjust, we are responsible before God.”
Despite believers’ responsibility to impact culture by participating in government, more than 4 million evangelicals failed to vote in the 2000 presidential election. Such disengagement among Christians undercuts the cause of justice in our nation and invites divine judgment, said Ken Connor, a Washington, D.C., attorney and coauthor of “Sinful Silence: When Christians Neglect Civic Duty,” a new book on Christian civic responsibility released by Ginosko Publishing.
“It’s not enough to be mere hearers of the Word,” said Connor, who formerly served as president of the Family Research Council. “We are called to be doers also. The Scripture is very clear. The Lord may shut up His ears to our cry. Our efforts at worship and our attempts to glorify Him may be deemed worthless because we are undercutting other principles of justice that He’s outlined.
“We know that the Lord uses calamities to bring judgment on people and nations who disregard His laws and who mock the things that He calls for. So the implications for civil society are significant,” Connor said.
The ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God is not contingent upon the political activism of believers, Moore said. But Christians must realize that governmental policies have important implications for the church, he said.
“A hostile and unjust government has implications for the mission of the church even in places where there is no physical persecution of believers,” Moore said. “How is the doctrine of justification heard in a culture where the court systems don’t recognize the claims of justice? How much harder is it to pierce through consciences seared over by government-funded sex education campaigns? How much harder is it for the church to point to the mystery of the one-flesh union between Christ and His church in a culture where the courts have eviscerated the meaning of marriage?”
As believers seek to advance the Kingdom of God, their minimum duty in the civic realm is to vote for leaders who will uphold God’s standards of justice, Connor said. In order to elect just leaders, Christians must examine the issues from a biblical worldview perspective, he said.
Among the most important issues for voters to consider are the sanctity of human life, the sanctity of marriage and the appointment of federal judges, Connor said.
The sanctity of human life has implications for a wide array of issues, including abortion, stem cell research and human cloning, Connor said. He also noted that the next U.S. president may have the opportunity to appoint as many as three Supreme Court justices who will rule on issues pertaining to the sanctity of human life and the sanctity of marriage.
For Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, casting an informed vote is a part of obeying Jesus’ command to be salt and light.
“The way I look at Scripture and the way I look at our worldview, we don’t have a choice but to be engaged,” Sekulow said. “That’s even when things aren’t going particularly our way. Our job is to engage the culture as Jesus did, and that is to be salt and light.”
Pastors play an important role in leading congregations to be salt and light through political participation, Sekulow said.
“A pastor does [two] things,” he noted. “First, encourage his members to register and then encourage his members to vote. While he cannot endorse a candidate or oppose a candidate for public office as a church official … he can address the cultural and contemporary issues of the day from a biblical worldview without any problem.”
Connor said pastors must teach their congregations that casting a vote for policies contrary to God’s Word may have serious consequences.
“The pastor does well to help the congregation understand that they have duties as Christian citizens and that their actions have consequences, that their support of a position that may be contrary to God’s Word has consequences,” he said.
There is room for political disagreement among Christians, Moore said. “But there are some issues clearly revealed in Scripture that must be at the forefront of a Christian’s mind when choosing a candidate….
“Such issues as the right to life for unborn Americans and the protection of marriage are central, defining issues, on which we have a clear word from Scripture,” Moore said. “I might vote for a candidate who disagrees with me on the balanced budget amendment or congressional term limits, but I won’t vote for a candidate who disagrees with me on the injustices of racial bigotry, abortion or same-sex ‘marriage.’ Each of these is not just ‘one issue’ among many, but speaks to the heart of a biblical view of justice.”
Sekulow agreed with Moore’s assessment and noted that in 21st-century America, the Republican Party often is more consistent with Christian cultural convictions than the Democratic Party.
“I don’t think that our Christian convictions flow to a particular party,” Sekulow said. “It happens to be in the United States that the Republican Party is more generally in tune on the cultural issues with the Christian worldview than the Democratic Party.”
While Christians must insist that candidates support policies that conform to scriptural truth, they must not demand that all believers vote for the same candidate, Connor said. In any election, many godly men and women cast votes for opposing candidates, he said.
“I do think conscientious, God-fearing, well-intended, well-informed Christian people can come up with different conclusions about the same issue,” Connor said. “But while I believe in the freedom of conscience and liberty of conscience, I do think the Scripture is an objective, propositional tool by which we can gauge whether their decisions are right or wrong.”
Though Christians may disagree on specific nuances of certain issues, Sekulow, Moore and Connor agreed that one point is indisputable: believers must vote.
“I think the biggest problem that we have as a church group is the lack of engagement in the political process,” Sekulow said. “There were reports of upwards of 4 million evangelicals not voting last time. That’s a very significant number.”
“Our action or inaction,” Connor said, “will have a profound impact on the future of our country. Society will feel the consequences if Christians sit out.”