Politics and the Prophetic Voice of the Church
As we celebrate the 4th of July and our nation's independence, it's a great time to reflect on the Church's voice in American society. With a quick scroll through my social media feed, I can't help but sense that something has shifted. The voice of the church is sounding less and less distinct, and the talking points of the prophets seem only to echo the talking points of the political parties. God has spoken, and He does not sound like the Republican Party or the Democratic Party.
Prophets and Kings
To clarify, when I say "prophets," I'm not referring to those who claim a prophetic gift or office. That's a discussion for another post. I'm speaking of the voice of the church as spoken by her pastors and leaders. The church has a irreplaceable role in a properly functioning society--we speak on behalf of God to inform the culture of what He has said as it applies to specific issues confronting the culture.
Under the Old Covenant (the Old Testament), true prophets of God played an important role in the nations of Israel and Judah. Men like Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Amos spoke to rulers and governments declaring the Word of God to them. These were passionate men who stood outside of and above the influence of kings and spoke with the authority of men representing God. Although they sometimes predicted future events, often they were simply the voice of moral conscience to the king and nation, commanding obedience to God's Law and declaring the blessings or curses promised in Deuteronomy 27-28 as a result of keeping or breaking the Law. Sometimes they were thanked for their service, and other times they were imprisoned, ridiculed, and executed. Unlike the prophets for hire who occupied the court of the king in order to blindly support and justify his decisions, these were men who took their orders from a higher Authority.
Prophets Parroting Politicians
Politicians play an important part in our society, and we should select them carefully, pray for them whether we voted for them or not, and submit to them as long as they don't ask us to violate a higher authority. But politicians do not determine the message of the church. In recent times, however, it seems that the church is allowing its message to be determined by the politicians. Read our posts--with few exceptions, we have nothing unique to say. We continually argue using the talking points carefully crafted by one political party or the other. Arguments proceed almost identically. First, one Christian posts a talking point developed by the leadership of either the democratic or republican party, and then other Christians respond using talking points from the other party. Bible verses are sprinkled in, but even those verses seem to be selected and distributed by the political parties in defense of their own actions and policies.
Right and Wrong
It seems that we have lost our "otherness." We, my brothers and sisters, do not owe our first loyalties to a political party or even our great nation. We owe our deepest loyalty to a Kingdom that is not of this world, and because it is not of this world, there is no leader, party, nation, or government that will align completely with the standard set by our King and His Kingdom. We stand for what is right, and we stand against what is wrong. We proclaim biblical morality and expect politicians to align their policies accordingly. We do not reshape our morality to support any candidate or policy.
What Do We Fear?
Saying that a political leader or party is wrong about an issue is not the same as saying that leader or party should no longer be in power. In the same way, supporting an action or platform of a political leader or party is not the same as saying that leader or party is perfect OR that you don't want to see a change in power through the next election. In the current cultural and political climate, American Christians seem bound to protect every statement, action, and policy of the leaders they supported as candidates and equally bound to demonize every statement, action, and policy of the leaders they didn't support.
Regaining Our Voice
It is essential that the church and her leaders retake a place of proactivity rather than reactivity. Consider immigration. With a few exceptions, the church has not spoken with a distinct voice on the issue of immigration, and we have so much to say. It's not that we have been silent--we have been far from silent--but when we speak, we speak with the tongues of democrats or republicans rather than a distinct voice that rings clear with morality. What does God's Word say about immigration? What are the moral guardrails that any legislation or executive order regarding immigration must stay within? If we remove the influence of existing politicians and policies, loyalties and alliances, what does a biblically grounded theology of immigration look like? When we can answer these questions, then we can look to political leaders and parties with a clear message. We do not speak for you, we speak for God, and this is what He has said. There is nothing more patriotic than speaking God's truth, in love, to the nation we love.