Why the Church should not Endorse Political leaders!

Published By UNNGOF |  February 23, 2015

Politics is the way society is organized and managed, a system of governance which entails having leaders on one side and subjects (citizens/voters) on the other side. According to Philip Wogaman in his book Christian perspectives on politics, he writes this about politics; “Politics is basic to the definition of crime and the determination of how it will be punished, it affects the degree to which people will be free to speak, to write, to worship. It also defines who will be accepted as members of community and who will be placed at the margins. It seriously influences the rearing of children by determining the circumstances of family life and establishing much of the subject matter of their education.” From this extract, it is clear that politics plays an important role in organizing society, managing it and also formulate principles on which relationships shall hinge on.

Religion on the other hand is the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power; it is also a collection of belief systems, cultural systems and world views that relate humanity to spirituality. Just as St. Augustine said, “most of us know perfectly well what religion is- until someone asks us to define it”. This means that the definition of religion is too diverse depending on the groups, practices, systems that individuals identify with.

In every culture, religion has been important to people who were most concerned about politics, and politics has been important to people who were most concerned about religion. Attitudes of religious people toward politics have varied enormously and vice versa. Christianity therefore is one of the world’s recognized religions whose followers believe in God as the absolute truth and author of morality. According the PEW STUDY on Global Christianity, it is estimated that 2.18bn of the 6.9 world population are Christians. These are Catholics, Protestants, orthodox, Baptists, Pentecostals who all hinge on God as an absolute truth though may differ in practices.
For long, the church has been influential in the different aspects of human life; social, economic, psychological and sometimes political and it is no doubt that it is an icon of great influence. There has been a line of thought that the church and politics should never be separated as God is the author of politics, this is not disputable but what this paper seeks to explore is that the church should not endorse political leaders.

church in valley

Endorsement entails open declaration, support, funding and campaigning of a candidate by the Christian leaders (Pastors, Reverends, Elders and others with authority in the church).

As it is illustrated in the picture above, the CHURCH OF THE VALLEY openly expressed its position voting a Mormon Candidate.

Four days before the 1992 presidential election, the Church at Pierce Creek in Binghamton, N.Y., placed a full-page advertisement in USA Today and The Washington Times. The advert began with the heading: “Christians Beware: Do not put the economy ahead of the Ten Commandments.” The advert cited biblical passages and stated that Gov. Bill Clinton supported abortion on demand, homosexuality and the distribution of condoms to teenagers in public schools. The advert concluded with the question: “How then can we vote for Bill Clinton?” At the bottom of the advert, in fine print, the following notice appeared: “This advertisement was co-sponsored by The Church at Pierce Creek, Daniel J. Little, Senior Pastor, and by churches and concerned Christians nationwide. Tax-deductible donations for this advertisement gladly accepted. Make donations to: The Church at Pierce Creek.” This open criticism of Bill Clinton shows church’s involvement into politics and it is not an obvious fact that everyone in this church was against Clinton but were beseeched not to vote for him. This is what Christians should avoid, engaging into earthly politics which grossly affects the church by creating divide lines among the flock. According to Thomas Aquinas, man needs a directive principle to guide him towards his end ; this is very useful and very relevant as practiced by most of us in this world ranging from politicians to ordinary citizens, everyone has a driving principle. An example today is that we have different political parties which have different manifestos that act as their guidelines all through their political pulses.

Today the NRM party bases itself in the ten-point programme and prosperity for all ideology which drives them into achieving their goals, perhaps this is what has kept them into power for over 27years. Churches, institutions, labour unions, families and any other social groups have a directive principle that guides them towards their end (goal). However, the churches’ goals are spiritual in nature as they offer spiritual guidance to the citizens but what is important is that they should stick to their limits while pursuing their goal of facilitation of salvation; this does not mean that Christians are being denied of their freedom to choice, it is rather asking the Christian leaders such as pastors and Bishops not to front openly campaign for a political candidate in their church as this is likely to injure the flock’s perception towards the candidate hence their vote might be based on bias since it is evident that the spiritual leaders are highly respected and whatever they say is believed to be of God’s so they should totally refrain from the same.

Political activism is an issue of wisdom and not an issue of morality and thus it is not morally wrong to completely refrain from the political process as most people have affiliated politics to morality. The argument has been that God is the author of politics since the times of Samuel as He influenced the leadership by appointing his Kings to rule on his behalf. The political system as seen in the bible was a monarchy where the king reigned over the people on behalf of God and all other positions were appointed by him and there was no participation of the people at all; this cannot be compared to the systems of governance today which hinge on democratic principles such as periodic elections that usher in new leaders and thus the people chose the leaders they want and as such, influencing people’s decision is detrimental to electoral freedom.

The danger of endorsing a political candidate by a certain priest or pastor is that the two will have been treated the same yet they ought to be different. Much as the functions of both are important and ideally, the church would support the government in implementing its policies, it is very inevitable that sin will be avoided especially temptations to be compromised by a certain political party. 

All Christians participate equally in the kingship and priesthood of Christ by their baptism into one gospel and one faith. The differences and inequalities of authority among Christians arise from their diverse temporal offices stations (spouse, parent, servant, ruler, subject; pastor). This means that the church already faces challenges of inequalities based on the various categories of the flock and thus by introducing a new concept of openly declaring support for a particular candidate, this will intensify the inequalities and differences hence breaking the body of Christ.

The struggle for political power can be portrayed as the essence of the religious life and, at the other extreme, politics can be conceived, religiously as the summary of all the evil against which the righteousness of God is ultimately arrayed. If the aim of the church is to extend the goodness of God to all nations, rallying behind a candidate who is not everyone’s favorite defeats the purpose of church. In an informal interview, one individual had this to say “The church is enjoined to advice its flock on the qualities of a good leader and leave the decision to the people and should never at any one point in time be seen to front a candidate.” This clearly affirms the position that the churches offer guidance to its flock and not openly endorse any political figure.

Jesus’ principles are seen in his parables and these have different understanding and it is unfortunate that much as the political language is about freedom, democracy, equality among others, Jesus’ principles either float in the ether or have too many exceptions. We accept equality in voting-one person, one vote-but if he can get away with it, one man will happily pay himself a thousand times more than he would pay an employee. Principles are therefore devalued currency. Those who hold them are likely to be shortchanged. This extract simply helps us to understand the concept of today’s politics vis-à-vis the past biblical expositions of Jesus’ Political teachings.

The Bible sets different roles and mission Christians should ensue and not direct us toward political activism. The most important reason why the church should not get involved into politics by approving a particular candidate is due to our mission. We have been called to reach the world with the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. We have not been called to choose what is right and not for the society. The fact that the Bible does not encourage us to attempt to use means to bring governmental change should lead us to conclude that political activism must not be very important to God rather focus on God’s mission and feed the afflicted soul with the healing word. It is true that Jesus Christ did not seek to bring change in the political realm but transform mankind, prepare them for the kingdom of the Father.

Jesus did not join with the Zealots, who were Israelites seeking to bring better Government to the Jews, He did not suggest his disciples seek positions in public office, He did not speak out against the oppressive Roman government, He did not attempt to lead a movement to restore Israel as a nation for God. He did not organize a National Day of Prayer; Christ did call sinners to repentance, which made them citizens of heaven and so why should the church involve it in partisan politics which will only breed lives of double standards.

The pattern of the apostles’ ministry to the world was to preach the gospel, not reform the government. Not only does the Bible not encourage us to pursue political means for governmental change, the followers of Jesus did not even attempt to reform the government. This pattern of ministry should lead us to function in the same way, making the preaching of the gospel the vehicle for societal improvement and not showing political sides which have proved to be very dangerous to the church.

Biblical and political issues become confused together and as such, there is a risk of tearing the church apart. It is very evident that the church is composed of different people from all shades of life with different political aspirations; so if the church leader presents his suitable candidate and the congregation is not in agreement; this will cause confusion within the church hence causing divisionism.
Political reformation subtly substitutes for spiritual transformation. As gains are made in political realm there can be a sense of accomplishment. Yet no government can change the heart of man. Only God can transform our spiritual life and this spiritual transformation results in our service to others. The real answer to national decay is not found in our laws but in our hearts. No law can save a person and no law can save a people either.

Origen writes that if Christians do avoid responsibilities- it is not with the motive of shirking the public services of life but they keep themselves for a more divine and necessary service in the church of God for the sake of salvation of men. He suggests that let those who are righteous take on positions and that there is need to force some people into the leadership positions. Origen’s assertion should be viewed with extreme care; his suggestion is a call for revival by Christians to join offices so as to re-birth righteousness. This angle of reasoning is well appreciated, he gives underlying guidelines for what Christians should do with their freedom to political engagement at the level of participation and not simply fronting a certain character presented by a different group of people for his fear is that righteousness should prevail at all times and that is what Christians should fight for wherever they are as they shine for Jesus Christ. The difference between Christians taking up different roles in various places and spiritual leaders fronting a certain candidate should be drawn as the latter is what I discourage as it will breed fragmentation of the church into small groups which may rise against each other simply because politics has been given a platform in church.

It should be noted that the purity of the Christian message is lost through political cooperation. The axiom that “politics makes strange bedfellows” is never more true than when religious people join together for common political purposes. It is extremely tempting to refrain from the clear proclamation of the gospel when you are in a partnership with those who are opposed to Christ. Also, as cooperation occurs it is easy for even those in the church to assume that those who join with us to share similar social concerns are also joined theologically. The political cooperation can make it extremely difficult to maintain a theological conviction that our comrade is in error and even bound for destruction.

Schleitheim also writes there should be a separation between the good and the evil and the evil should be restrained and all the evil people should be avoided. He further suggests that Christians should not even associate or participate with the evil people in their activities; the evil people are those that have not received Christ to be their savior. In the new testament, Christians are compelled to stay away from the evil, the darkness and live to the light and refrain from the worldly Babylon and Egyptian ways; politics is one of the earthly evils that cause murders, hatred, disunity and confusion so if the church is to directly endorse the political figures in front of masses that do not engage in politics at all, they will lose their identity in such a church hence causing the secessions and fragmentations hence the downfall of the church fueled by the church leaders.

Our political viewpoints can hinder our ministry to those who disagree. To advocate a particular political party or campaign for a particular issue will cause an unnecessary division with those who need Christ as their Lord and Savior. When we join with the Democrats or NRM or any other group, we will find we are unable to speak the Word of God to every group. The consequence of political activism is that the very ministry that God has called us to will be negatively affected therefore politics should stay out of church.
When church leaders endorse a particular political candidate, after this candidate is elected, it is inevitable that he will live a double life; this means that he has to certify interests of the church as well as the general citizenry that voted him into power and thus he has a strike a balance between whom to serve first. As a person, he may find it difficult to live a Christian life and yet pretend to be entertaining the other voters who practice secularism. Therefore, the church should not approve their own political candidate.

Political gains are only on the surface and can be very short-lived. Political gains are expected when there is a clear majority of support. But we know that as Christians we will always be the few, not the many. The many often resent attempts to moralize them and may react against those they see as pressuring them. This can lead to overturning certain political gains with a vengeance. In the end the moral agenda may be better served having not even attempted to use political means.

A real danger in aligning with one party is that political parties will focus on a very emotional issue until they get the backing of religious leaders and then turn their attention to their real agenda and this will affect the Church’s image since t will be obvious that the church fronted their “best” candidate and he has turned out to be disappointing.

The church as a whole needs to stand up for the Word of God and defend its principles at all costs. The body of Christ, individually, needs to take those principles to the polls. Votes should be cast not necessarily along party lines, but rather along the dividing line of a candidate’s principal beliefs. But, when the Church gets involved in campaigning for a certain candidate or party, it can only cause disaster and division.

We preach to the people of God, and God said do not be entangled in the affairs of this world.
Politics does not belong in the church. The Holy Ghost does not preach politics. The ungodly preachers who do not know the word more have the real Holy Spirit usually do and only the people of God are going to abide by his word. Until they are filled with the Holy Ghost they cannot and should not be subject in trying to comprehend what the spirit is saying to the church. The danger of such a preacher in endorsing a certain candidate is that he will lure more citizens to voting for that particular candidate regardless of their character and behavior.

It still is disobedient of the churches to front their own candidates to the flock.

The true churches do not get entangled with the affairs of this world. The house of God is to discuss the word of God and church issues. What the world can comprehend is the arguing of politics and the spirit is not preaching about politics at all.

The preacher is wasting his breath on the lawless because they do not have the spirit of God, and they believe the church needs to rave about the worlds issues. The world believe in the things of the world. Which is politics and all the other bad news in the world.

Politics uses ungodly tactics to devour each other for the vote. The true church will not touch politics with a ten foot pole. The Holy Ghost itself will condemn the preaching of anything other then the word of God in the house of God.

Because God said not to be entangled with the affairs of this world. God did not say not to vote he said not to be entangled with affairs of this world. The preacher who preaches politics is a hireling and not a Sheppard he do not have the right spirit he do not have the Holy Ghost he cannot separate between church and state!!!!

One of the more common strategies any candidate or campaign seeks to employ is to use the endorsement of high profile individuals who are willing to lend their name and personal support to a candidate with the intention of influencing others to do the same. But the issue gets a bit sticky when those endorsing are connected to a church or a major religious organization.

When religious leaders endorse particular political figures, this in away rapes individual political will and independence preach about religious matters that are part of an individual church’s belief system, even if these happen to be politically debatable? Members of any religious body should be aware of that body’s teaching. Then they can make up their own minds about an individual candidate.

In conclusion, it is not the role of a pastor or other religious leader to endorse a particular party or candidate in any political contest. As leaders in the community, it is our role to help shape the thought process that is underlying the voting process, but direct political endorsement violates the call that God has placed on our lives.

The church should be leading our people to pray and respect the leaders of our city, county, state and federal governments. God commands that his people support and pray for our civil leaders (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; 1 Peter 2:13-17). As leaders of God’s church we should be praying for our leaders, voting in elections, but trusting in the Lord Jesus and His kingdom and not approve them before congregation.

By Michael Aboneka Jr.
Support officer, Policy and Advocacy and also Associate Partner at Tegulle, Opoka & Co. Advocates

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