CHRISTIANS MUST PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION to several basic issues regarding political involvement, especially in an election year. Understanding these issues will affect the political behavior of each American citizen.
Following are some questions that you or others may be asking.
The answers may surprise you.
Q: What is the most important “political” verse in the Bible?
A: I believe the most important “political” verse is Luke 20:25, where Christ said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (see also Mark 12:17 and Matthew 22:21). He could have said to render just to Caesar, thereby endorsing a secular state. He could have said to render only to God indicating a theocracy or to Caesar and God together indicating a church state. However, Christ said to render to each their due indicating that there is a difference between church and state. This is most closely approximated in the United States.
Q: Who or what is “Caesar” in the United States?
A: In Bible times, Caesar represented the highest political authority. In the United States, the highest political authority is the Constitution. Our constitution makes the people the government. In rendering to Caesar (the Constitution), we give to the common good through personal involvement.
Q: Is our form of government a democracy?
A: No. Our form of government is a republic, which places legislative power in elected representatives. A democracy
places it directly in the people.
Q: How many social institutions did God ordain?
A: There are three institutions ordained by God—the family (Genesis 2:21-24), the church (Acts 2) and government (Romans 13:1-7).
Q: Are civil servants ordained ministers?
A: Yes. In Romans 13, where Paul says that “higher powers” are “ordained of God” (vs. 1), a ruler is called a “minister of God” (vs. 4).
Q: Why is North America more blessed than South America?
A: Christian economist Howard Kirschner said, “When men came here they were seeking God. When they went there they were seeking gold.” Our political system is based on spiritual foundations. The United States is the oldest working constitutional government in the world.
Q: On what Bible verse is our three-part system of government based?
A: It is thought to be based on Isaiah 33:22, where the Lord is called “our judge” (judicial), “our lawgiver” (legislative) and “our king” (executive).
Q: Is it possible to be an American and not be involved in politics?
A: No. Everyone is involved in politics regardless of whether we vote in elections. If we pay taxes, send children to public schools, drive on public roads, accept police protection, allow ministers to marry with state authority, accept government assistance or scholarships or say the Pledge of Allegiance, we are politically involved. If religious institutions grant state-authorized degrees, place the United States and Christian flags together in church or accept tax exemption, they, too, are politically involved.
Q: What are the general Biblical areas of political participation?
A: The Bible indicates four areas of involvement:
* Precedent – God governed as dictator in Old Testament times. Daniel and Joseph rose to high positions in pagan
governments. Jeremiah 29:7 enjoins prayer for the well-being of pagan societies that believers might be blessed.
* Passive – This is outlined in the previous question.
* Prayer – God’s Word commands that we pray “for all men, for kings, and for all that are in authority” (I Timothy 2:1
& 2) “All men” is the electorate. “All that are in authority” includes any elected or appointed official.
* Personal – Paul accepted and appealed to Roman protection as a Roman citizen (Acts 21:35) and as a means to
evangelism in Europe (Acts 25:10-12).
Q: Does “separation of church and state” appear in the Constitution?
A: No. The phrase “wall of separation” was used by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to church officials affirming that government would not interfere with the churches in America. People have mistakenly used the phrase to mean that the church should not be involved in government.
Q: Can there be an absolute separation of church and state?
A: Absolutely not—for the reasons outlined above and, most obviously, because Christians are the embodiment of the heavenly/earthly combination as members of the body of Christ and citizens of the United States.
Q: Does it really matter if Christians vote? Does a single vote count?
A: Yes! But even if it did not, obedience to God and “Caesar” dictates that we should. Consider these examples:
1645:One vote gave Oliver Cromwell control of England. 1649:One vote caused Charles I of England to be executed. 1776:One vote gave America the English language instead of German. 1845:One vote brought Texas into the Union. 1868:One vote saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment. 1875:One vote changed France from a monarchy to a republic. 1876:One vote gave Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency of the United States. 1910:Charles Bennett Smith defeated incumbent DeAlva Stanwood Alexander by just one vote in New York’s
1916:Woodrow Wilson won California by less than one vote per district, giving him the votes needed to win the
1923:One vote gave Adolph Hitler leadership of Germany. 1939:One vote elected Marcus Morton governor of Massachusetts. 1941:One vote saved Selective Service just 12 weeks before Pearl Harbor. 1948: A Texas party convention voted for Lyndon Johnson in a contested Senate election by just one vote and
launched his political career.
1954: Averill Harriman was elected governor of New York by only one vote per district.
1960:Richard Nixon lost the presidential election to John Kennedy by less than one vote per precinct. George McGovern was elected senator from South Dakota by only one vote per district.
1974: The New Hampshire U.S. senate race was so close that it took a whole year and a new election to
decide the winner.
1978:John Warner was elected senator from Virginia by one vote per district. 2000: George W. Bush officially won Florida by 537 votes—less than one vote per precinct. Florida’s electoral votes gave Bush the presidency (the closest presidential election in U.S. history).
I felt the impact of how just a few votes can change an election. I lost a local school board election in 1975 by 31 votes. My campaign manager told me that, off the top of her head, she could think of 31 Christians who hadn’t bothered to vote.
In the mid-’90s, a single vote decided a Dover, New Jersey school budget of $7.3 million. The outcome came down to whether one voter had properly registered.
Q: What is at stake in a presidential election?
A: More is at stake that one might think. The most pressing issues include:
* Moral issues – Among the most prominent are abortion, gay rights and the definition of “family” and “marriage.”
* Religious freedom – Restrictions can affect freedom to worship, pray and evangelize.
* National security – Military preparedness and foreign policy will continue to be key issues in local, state and national elections.
* Public school system – Issues affected are federal intervention, the teaching of humanism vs. theism and the influence of the National Education Association.
* Private and home schools – Vouchers, federal regulations and curriculum mandates will be affected.
* Economics – Inflation affects personal finances and contributions, which affects church and non-profit organization finances.
* Christian broadcasting – Under the Fairness Doctrine, controversial issues of community interest must be identified and all sides presented. When implemented, the regulation greatly hinders Christian broadcasting. The Doctrine was rescinded under Reagan, and Clinton tried to restore it.
* Free speech – Speaking out against sin conflicts with “politically correct” views and may be considered a “hate crime.” This can affect tax exempt status.
* National sovereignty – The influence foreign governments and authorities have over the U.S. will be affected (e.g., U.S. soldiers swearing allegiance to the United Nations).
* Appointments – The election of our highest government officials also puts in place people who will hold tremendous influence years down the road. After the 2000 election, university instructor and political analyst Susan Estrich frankly declared, “I’m now telling everybody what I’ve told my political science classes. When we elect a president, we also elect Supreme Court justices.”
Some estimate that the President of the United States appoints as many as 2,500 people to government positions, including federal judges and justices to the Supreme Court—the same court that ultimately decided the 2000 election.
Governors appoint state supreme court justices and other state positions. A stunning example of the effect of these appointments is the 5-4 ruling by the Massachusetts State Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage in that state.
Q: Does it really matter if Christians vote? Does a single vote count?
A: Yes! But even if it did not, obedience to God and “Caesar” dictates that we should register and vote. Consider these examples:
Marcus Morton was elected governor of Massachusetts by one vote in 1839. Charles Bennett Smith defeated incumbent U.S. congressman DeAlva Stanwood Alexander in 1910 by one vote in New York’s 36th district. Woodrow Wilson won California by less than one vote per district in 1916, giving him the electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Averill Harriman was elected governor of New York in 1954 by only one vote per district. In 1974, the New Hampshire U.S. Senate race was so close that there was no clear winner, and a special election had to be held.
A single vote by elected officials can have long-term impact. The U.S. Senate approved the purchase of Alaska by one vote in 1867. One vote in the Senate also saved President Andrew Johnson from being removed from office following impeachment in 1868. In 1876, one vote by a committee to accept the electoral votes gave Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency of the United States. A Texas Democratic party committee voted in favor of Lyndon Johnson by just one vote in a contested 1948 Senate primary election and launched his political career.
The education of children can be affected. In the mid-’90s, a single vote decided a Dover, New Jersey school budget of $7.3 million. The outcome came down to whether one voter had properly registered. In 1975, I lost a local school board election by 31 votes. My campaign manager told me that, off the top of her head, she could think of 31 Christians who hadn’t bothered to vote.
Other issues can also be affected be a single vote. In 2003, one of the ballot questions in Spencer, New York on the sale of alcohol in what was then a “dry” town passed because the vote was a tie. One more vote against would have defeated the measure. It went all the way to then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who upheld the interpretation of the law.
In the 2000 election, George W. Bush officially won Florida by 537 votes—less than one vote per precinct. Florida’s electoral votes gave Bush the presidency in the closest presidential election in U.S. history.
One of my daughters is a resident of Palm Beach County, Florida, which was a focus of the intense vote recount efforts in the 2000 presidential election. She said that she could “see” her vote posted every time the TV flashed the count. She also shared how, just days before the election, a co-worker said, “I’m not registered, and I’m not going to vote. My vote doesn’t count anyway.”
Someone once said, “The most important thing we do is doing nothing.” That’s what about 49% of registered voters did in the 2000 presidential election and what 45% did in 1996 and 1992. In 2000, approximately 4 million evangelicals did not vote, and it is estimated that 40% of evangelicals are not even registered to vote.
Of some encouragement is the fact that in 2004, about 60% of registered voters went to the polls—more than any election since 1968. Columnist Cal Thomas said that it appeared that “many of the 4 million Evangelical Christians who sat out the 2000 election turned out for this one…”.
In his 1981 inaugural address, Ronald Reagan declared, “I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.”
In studying the importance of a single vote, consider this stunning story.
In July 1776, Delaware delegate Caesar Rodney was alerted that a vote was to be taken for or against independence from England. At home, miles away from Independence Hall, Rodney was suffering from terrible face cancer and would have been better off staying where he was. However, he rode on horseback all night through torrential rain and was carried into Independence Hall in time for the vote. At John Hancock’s question, Rodney voted “Aye”, and independence was approved.
In his book, The Light And The Glory, Peter Marshall wrote, “If Rodney had voted no, Delaware would have voted no, Independence would have lost, and the delegates would have packed and gone home. Rodney’s vote made all the difference.”
The prophet Ezekiel recounted how one person would have made a difference in God’s judgment of Israel. “And I [God] sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge and stand in the gap before me for the land that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 22:30, 31)
God thinks one person is important. Shouldn’t we?