For more than 40 years I have been writings, speaking, and debating the topic of evangelical Christians and politics. I’ve written several books on the subject: God and Government, Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths, and Liberty at Risk: Exposing the Politics of Plunder.
Christians come in a variety of categories on the subject of politics. These different categories will help explain why some Christians who love Jesus and believe the Bible can vote for a man like Donald Trump who is opposed to what the Bible says on so many biblical issues.
Let’s understand, however, that we don’t really know how many self-identified Evangelical Christians are voting for Trump. “More than 4 million people live in South Carolina; of those, 730,000 voted. While this is a record turnout for a primary in South Carolina—only 603,000 voted in 2012—that’s still only 17 percent of the state population.” (H/T: The Federalist) More people in South Carolina voted against Trump than for him.
This article does not answer every question related to Evangelical Christians and politics, but it offers some 40 years of observations.
First, there are Christians who don’t want anything to do with politics. For them, preaching the gospel – getting people saved for the next world (heaven) – is their only obligation and interest. Anything that interferes with that objective is thought to be a distraction. I wrote Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths to counter this objection and others like it.
Read related article: “Do Christianity and Politics Mix?
The problem with the “Just preach the gospel message” is that politics can affect the freedom to preach the gospel and live out the Christian faith as we’re seeing on a regular basis.
Not voting or voting for someone like Donald Trump increases his chance of winning the Republican primary that could lead to a Democrat win in November and at least two more liberal Supreme Court Justices and so much more.
Second, there are other Christians who will not vote based on the “lesser of two evils” principle. A candidate has to be near perfect on all the issues. Anything less than near perfection will either mean no voting or voting for a third-party candidate.
More Evangelical Christians are beginning to take this position because of their continued disappointment in candidates who promised one thing but voted in terms of their own self-interests once they got into office. The operating word is “betrayal.” (H/T: The Blaze)
Third, many Christians who are interested in politics don’t have the slightest idea what the Bible says about the topic. Ask a Christian to explain what the Bible says about economics, and you’re likely to get a blank stare.
Many pastors refuse to address politics and related subjects (e.g., abortion, homosexuality, government schools, etc.) from the pulpit. They are afraid that such preaching might cause dissension in the congregation, and this might affect the financial stability of the church.
Fourth, many Christians only hear from their pastor that they are to “render to Caesar” (Matt. 22:21), submit to the “governing authorities” (1 Peter 2:13-14), and never resist the government where “resist” is defined so narrowly as to mean that a Christian isn’t even permitted to speak out against unjust and unlawful government policies (Rom. 13:1-4).
Read related article: “Christians! We Don’t Live Under Caesar.”
Fifth, many Christians, because of their ignorance on multiple Christian worldview issues, are swayed by non-biblical political principles. While they may be against full-blown socialism (if they even know what socialism is), they have bought into the lie that a little socialism is a good and healthy way to run a nation. Most Christians send their children to “free” government schools and would like the government to make available discounted medical care and college tuition.
Read related article: “Liberal Insists Jesus was a Socialist.”
They like free stuff through wealth redistribution just like many non-Christians and groups like the “Red Letter Christian” movement. Many of them believe Jesus was a socialist. Red Letter Christian advocate Jim Wallis writes, “Red Letter Christians are those who dare to take Jesus seriously; those who believe that if He said it, He meant it; and if He meant it, then we must live it.”
True enough, except that Jesus never said anything about using the government to tax some people at a high rate in the name of economic justice and fairness that is neither just nor fair and only leads to more government dependence. A government can’t be charitable with other people’s money. The Good Samaritan took care of the beaten and robbed man with his own money (Luke 10:25-37). The Good Samaritan is not a symbol for an ever-expansive welfare system, and neither are Jesus’ comments in Matthew 25:31-46).
Many Evangelical Christians act out of a form of manufactured guilt rather than a well thought out study of biblical economics. David Chilton’s book Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators is an effective antidote as well as Dr. Gary North’s multi-volume economic commentary on the Bible.
Read related article: “Ohio Gov. John Kasich Believes the Bible Supports the Welfare State.”
Sixth, a number of Christian intellectuals have developed a two-kingdom approach to politics. While they believe politics is important, they do not believe that there are any explicit biblical principles that can be applied to the secular kingdom of politics. Special revelation guides Christians in the kingdom of the church while an undefined natural law governs everywhere else. We’ve seen this approach before:
“In the nineteenth century . . . German Lutherans made a strong bifurcation between the realm of public and private concerns. . . . Religion was the domain of the inner personal life, while the institutional and external, the public, so to speak, belonged to the worldly power. Redemption was exclusively the province of the church, while the law, determinative for the external conduct of human affairs, was solely the province of the state. Although [Martin] Luther had taught that both realms served one another and were under the same God, the practical effect was that law and gospel were divided and the outer and inner lives of the faithful followed different directives. . . .
“The Erlangen church historian Hermann Jordan declared in 1917 that the state, the natural order of God, followed its own autonomous laws while the Kingdom of God was concerned with the soul and operated solely on the basis of the morality of the gospel.”1
This meant that there were no biblical directives issued against the existing civil government since the church could not speak to that kingdom realm. It was none of the church’s business since it had its own kingdom in which to operate.
Hitler used this unbiblical approach to solidify his political authority and power. “The Church, as such,” Hitler said, “has nothing to do with political affairs. On the other hand, the State has nothing to do with the faith or inner organization of the Church.”2
Hitler was clever. He did not deny that Christians in the kingdom of the church could not hold contrary opinions to what was being advocated and implement in the secular kingdom. We hear it argued like this: “While I’m personally opposed to abortion, I can’t take my personal opposition, even if God Himself is opposed, and impose it on other people.” This is every tyrant’s dream.
This was the approach of New York governor Mario Cuomo in his famous abortion speech delivered at the University of Notre Dame. The title of his message was “Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor’s Perspective,” delivered September 13, 1984.
Read related article: “Mario Cuomo: A Coward When It Came to Publically Opposing Abortion.”
Mitt Romney, who says he is personally opposed to abortion, “presided over a body politic that submitted to, performed, encouraged, and arranged 97,621 abortions during the time he was governor.” (H/T: American Vision)
I wonder what Cuomo and Romney would have said during the time slavery was being debated or when the Nazis were meeting to determine how to exterminate the Jews.
Many German Christians bought into this approach without considering what would happen when Hitler implemented some of the most barbarous practices the world had known up to that point in time. The church had neutralized itself. It had accepted the premise that Hitler was operating under the authority of one kingdom and the church under another, and never the twain should meet.
Evangelical Christians, as Joel McDurmon writes, need “to be aware that while church and state are legitimately distinct institutions, they are not two separate kingdoms. There is only one kingdom of God, there is only one Sovereign over that kingdom, and there is only one law that comes from that Sovereign. Both church and state, as well as the family, are subjects of that one kingdom. As such, they are subjects of the one Law of God.” (H/T: American Vision)
Richard V. Pierard, “Why Did Protestants Welcome Hitler?” Fides et Historia 10/2 (Spring 1978), 3-14. ↩
Hitler’s Speeches: April 1922–August 1939, ed. and trans. Norman H. Baynes (London: Oxford University Press, 1942), 1:380. ↩