Our top five most commonly asked questions about politics:
- Are Christians obligated to be involved in politics?
- Is there a Christian political party?
- How should I vote?
- How do I stay informed?
- How do I get involved in politics?
1. Are Christians obligated to be involved with politics?
Sunday to Saturday: Yes – declaring yourself a Christian is a political statement.
“Present injustices must never simply be tolerated or accepted as inevitable. We are not meant to resign ourselves to the evils of the world, while waiting passively for God’s coming to sweep them away. Instead, we are to work tirelessly in partnership with God for the greater attainment of justice here and now, knowing that God shall ultimately bring our efforts to fruition in the renewal of creation. God’s coming justice is the culmination of, not a substitute for, human striving for greater justice here and now.” Chris Marshall, The Little Book of Biblical Justice (New York: Good Books, 2005), 29.
“To avoid or dismiss political engagement is to forgo an important opportunity to help our neighbors and to promote the righteousness and justice that are the foundation of God’s throne (Psalm 89:14).” Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, Chris Butler, Compassion (&) Conviction (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020), 7.
“It (the church) is a political institution eschatologically oriented toward the redemption of all things and a social witness to that reality (Matthew 11:5; Romans 8:22). It is commissioned by God as the mediation of his mission and blessings on earth.” Kaitlyn Schiess, The Liturgy of Politics, (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020), 95.
“We have come to care about policies because they affect people, whom we love. Policies don’t solve everything. You can’t legislate love or force compassion. But policies can free people up or hold people down. They can lock people out or open doors of opportunity. Politics is not just about empty rhetoric, stale debates, and broken promises. It may be all those things too. But politics is also about real, concrete, real-time policies that affect our everyday lives.” Shane Claiborne and Michael Martin. Beating Guns: Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violence (Ada, MI: Brazos Press, 2019), 247.
2. Is there a Christian political party?
Sunday to Saturday: No.
“When it comes to political ideology, to be conservative or progressive at all times and on every issue is not only to be intellectually lazy and easily manipulated, but also it’s unfaithful. Theological conservatism and ideological conservatism aren’t always the same. The far left’s conception of social justice isn’t always consistent with the biblical understanding.” Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, Chris Butler, Compassion (&) Conviction (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020), 50.
“No political system or economic order can ever be regarded as the full, or even as an adequate, realization of justice. All human social structures and centers of power are denied ultimate significance. Every human attempt to create justice, when measured against the perfect justice of God’s coming kingdom, is inescapably partial and limited.” Chris Marshall, The Little Book of Biblical Justice (New York: Good Books, 2005), 28.
3. How should I vote?
Sunday to Saturday: With an eye towards every person being made in the image of God and a preferential treatment of the poor, the oppressed, widows, and prisoners. Watch How should we vote? for more information.
“Your vote should not be cast in fear. A fearful vote will lead to harm in two ways. First, it will ensure that your vote is made selfishly; from a desire to protect yourself and your interests rather than a desire to serve and bless others. Second, a fearful vote is usually won by a candidate that employed fear to gain support. Where the fires of fear are stoked, the warm glow of Christian love will not long endure. Those who think making people afraid will result in flourishing are deluded. They are not on a path paved by Christ that leads toward his kingdom, no matter how many Bibles they display or Christian endorsements they secure. A fearful vote is a vote for demagoguery not divinity.” Skye Jethani. The Voting Booth. (Self-published, 2016), 54.
“Scripture teaches that human beings are made in the image of God, and we believe that understanding should be respected in our laws and society.” Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, Chris Butler, Compassion (&) Conviction (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020), 33.
“It’s a mistake to suggest that Christians should always come to the same political conclusions. However, all Christians should make those decisions from a biblical framework.” Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, Chris Butler, Compassion (&) Conviction (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020), 37.
4. How do I stay informed?
Sunday to Saturday: Read critically and broadly from sources that you agree and disagree with. Dig into our How to Read the News learning capsule for more.
“There is no single way to look at political ideas that is going to give you everything. What I advise people is to read as broadly as you can. And to make sure you are reading things that are challenging your political viewpoint. Keep track of your news media consumption over a week or two and if you find there aren’t multiple times over the course of those two weeks where you read something that made you think, ‘Gosh, maybe I am wrong on this issue.’ or ‘I’ve never looked at this way.’ Then you are doing yourself a disservice.” – Michael Wear “People of Faith: Engage 2020 Webinar” YouTube, uploaded by Issue One. 18 August 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mger_UzDenE.
“Choose news sources that hold themselves accountable. Do you use a news source that provides transparent corrections when they’ve gotten something wrong? That’s a good sign. Transparency about what has been edited to reflect new facts or what has been recently updated. Pick one source and engage with it everyday. I don’t think every single story, even big crises…needs to be treated as a research project. Instead of saying, ‘I am going to figure this out’ shifting to an approach of ‘I am going to engage with this in a small way everyday’ is illuminating…enlightening to what is going on. What you realize over that period of time as you are checking with them everyday…it is fascinating to watch what they pick as a top story everyday. It is fascinating to watch how that story shifts and changes over time. Instead of picking information and sort of following an algorithm of information it’s actual human beings making decisions about news…I can watch their decision-making over time. I can disagree with it sometimes and I often do, but I am still getting information that.” “How to be a Citizen: Media Literacy and Ballot Education.” Pantsuit Politics, 28 July 2020, https://www.pantsuitpoliticsshow.com/show-archives/2020/7/28/how-to-be-a-citizen-media-literacy-and-ballot-education?rq=how%20to%20be%20a%20citizen.
“Don’t fall for clickbait headlines and deceptive copy that frame a story in ways that make the subject look bad. Watch out for all publications, including Christian ones, sadly, that are built on sensationalism and half-truths. If a headline is too good or too bad or too sensational to be true, it probably is. And even among more established media outlets, it’s good to know which journalists and voices are fair and which ones are pushing an agenda.” Daniel Darling, “6 Questions to Ask When Reading the News.” Lifeway Voices, 13, February 2020, https://lifewayvoices.com/culture-current-events/6-questions-to-ask-when-reading-the-news/.
“Christians must be critical thinkers and question the assumptions and conclusions presented to us. We shouldn’t simply accept the issues as they’ve been framed by political parties, ideological tribes, or the media – because these sources usually aren’t analyzing the issues from the standard of the gospel.” Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, Chris Butler, Compassion (&) Conviction (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020), 40.
“There is this idea of information hygiene…practicing good information hygiene involves actually engaging with the news, a lot of people don’t know because they don’t trust it. The second principle is to avoid information echo chambers…get information from different perspectives. The third point of good information hygiene is to verify the information that you are getting through other sources. The last one is to refuse to amplify unvetted information.” “Trust in the Media, Hyperbole and Lies.” The Church Politics Podcast. 27 Jan, 2021. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/trust-in-the-media-hyperbole-and-lies/id1289898626?i=1000506782872
“If your response to the news fits perfectly with any partisan narrative–whether a nostalgic longing to restore some idyllic time or a woke fury at those on the wrong side of history–it’s unlikely to be keyed to God’s eschatological victory. Christians have the difficult task of learning to read the times ‘according to the grammar and logic of eternity.'” Jeffrey Bilbro, Reading the Times (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021), 106.
5. How do I get involved in politics?
Sunday to Saturday: Vote and hold the people, whether you voted for them or not, accountable. Small, local actions have the greatest impact. Get involved on a school board or city council (Watch For Love of Neighbor for an example). Pick up trash in your neighborhood. Partner with an organization or church in your city (see The Ordinance documentary for an excellent example).
“The discipline of hospitality might be the greatest example of this idea I’m desperate to advance: our political beliefs and advocacy are not primarily built on grand, sweeping claims to which we mentally assent; they are often built on ordinary impulses and biases that we inherit and absorb in small, everyday actions.” Kaitlyn Schiess, The Liturgy of Politics, (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020), 150.
“Join institutions to keep that pressure on. Sometimes, the truth of the matter is, they (politicians) want to hear from people who are not so extreme. They want you to be able to push back. That’s really what is happening today. The story that I heard John Lewis (Civil Rights leader and Georgia Senator) tell was that when they first went to LBJ (36th president of the United States Lyndon B. Johnson) for the Civil Rights Act and they said, ‘Hey man we need you to pass this,’ he looked at them and said, ‘Make me pass it. Make me go to the other side and say I don’t have a choice but to pass it. Make me do that.’ And that is how politics work. We need to really get past the idea, I don’t care who the politician is, that once we get somebody in office, we just leave them to their own devices. That is not how politics work. That is the main way for whatever movement or agenda that you are pushing – that is how you get it co-opted. Somebody is going to be pushing them. Somebody is going to be holding them accountable and it needs to be you if you want to impact change.” “Not Another Hashtag.” Jude 3 Project. 5 June 2020. https://jude3project.org/podcast/hashtag.
“Our political actions should be honest, humble, respectful of human dignity — even those we disagree with — and free from guile.” Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, Chris Butler, Compassion (&) Conviction (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020), 108.
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.” Martin Luther King Jr., “A Knock at Midnight” 5 June 1963. https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/knock-midnight
“All civic and political (especially if it is going to be effective and long term) must be rooted in a clear and compelling why. The why is the great purpose that drives a person to think critically, speak clearly, act boldly and endure the challenges inherent to the beautiful mess that is government in a democratic society.” Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, Chris Butler, Compassion (&) Conviction (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020), 128.
More curated resources on politics:
BOOK: Bad Faith
How did the Republican party and white evangelicals become synonymous? Has abortion always been the focus of the Republican party and white evangelicals? In a tight, accessible 140 pages, author Randall Balmer traces the roots of the Religious Right and its wedding to the Republican party from the 1830s through the 1970s before linking the…Read more
BOOK: Scandalous Witness
Hope in Jesus. Trust in Jesus. Most Christians would unequivocally agree that those two statements are an important part of being a Christ follower. Therefore it is sobering that a large part of Scandalous Witness takes aim at patriotism being conflated as a Christian orthodox principle.Read more
PODCAST: Justin Giboney on being Pro-life and Pro-justice
Senior vice president at National Religious Broadcasters Daniel Darling and attorney and political strategist Justin Giboney knock it out of the park in what is one of the best 25-minute podcasts of all time. From the need for truth and love in politics to tribalism to human dignity to why institutions are important Giboney and…Read more