Are politically active Christians a critical force in changing public policy towards a more biblical perspective or are they getting drawn into ugly political infighting that distracts them from sharing the gospel and ultimately damages their witness to unbelievers? America’s most widely syndicated columnist fears it’s the latter.
In his latest column, longtime conservative activist and writer Cal Thomas says many Christian conservatives get so immersed in politics, they become convinced they are indispensable to God’s plans.
“There is an unstated conceit among some evangelicals that God is only at work when a Republican is elected, even a Republican who does not share their view of Jesus, or practice what He taught. It is the ultimate compromise, which leads to the corruption and dilution of a message more powerful than what government and politics offer,” writes Thomas.
In an separate interview, Thomas says the endless flurry of controversies and scandals keeps believers away from their primary mission.
“The first thing we learn about Satan in scripture is not that he’s evil – that comes later – but that he’s subtle or crafty. And I think there’s a lot of effort in this country to get evangelicals especially off their focus on Jesus of Nazareth and onto the kingdom of this world,” said Thomas.
While the debate plays out over the allegations against Alabama U.S. Senate Roy Moore, some Christians in Alabama have used scripture to defend Moore even if he did engage in sexual contact with a 14-year-old., with the state’s auditor comparing the alleged relationship to Mary and Joseph and other likening the offense to stealing a lawn mower.
Because of the political, cultural, and moral issues at stake, Thomas says many believers they have no choice but to vote for Moore no matter the facts from 38 years ago. Thomas disagrees.
“The argument I’m getting on Facebook and other social media is, ‘Well, the Democrat opponent is pro-abortion and you want to continue the murder of babies and Judge Moore is pro-life.’ Well, I don’t think that’s the real issue.
“Even if Moore got elected, one more vote in the Senate is not going to stop the killing of babies in this country. The pregnancy centers and sharing the gospel for a changed life is what’s going to change them. And that’s the greater power,” said Thomas.
The bottom line, says Thomas, is that too many Christians are looking to politics for the solutions to life’s problems.
“Too many of us are worshiping at the shrine of Washington politics and especially the Republican Party. That is always bound to disappoint, as we’ve seen with a Republican majority in both houses of Congress and a supposed Republican in the White House that [are not] getting anything done,” said Thomas.
Thomas has plenty of experience at the intersection of faith and politics, teaming up with the late Rev. Jerry Falwell in the late 1970s to urge evangelical Christians to get involved in politics and to make a positive difference.
He says he learned some hard lessons from that experience.
“I was vice president of Moral Majority. I was there. We thought we were going to organize conservative evangelicals and conservative Catholics and Orthodox Jews into a voting bloc that would give trickle-down morality from Washington. It didn’t work because none of that changes the human heart. The gospel of Jesus Christ changes human hearts, and when hearts are changed, nations are changed,” said Thomas.
So what is the proper role of Christians in the public square? Thomas says there are some things they should be doing.
“We should vote. We should pray for those in authority, but we shouldn’t expect more from government than it can deliver,” said Thomas.
What believers should not do, according to Thomas, is mistake earth for their permanent home.
“This is not our kingdom. This is not where we’re going to spend eternity. The world is going in the direction that the scriptures forecast. These people who say they’re going to make the world a better place, no you’re not. That’s left up to Jesus when he returns.
“He’s the only one who’s going to make the world a better place because he’s going to restore it to the way it was. We’re not going to be able to do that through the political system,” said Thomas.
Many Christian conservatives push back on that argument by pointing out they are active precisely to resist movements antithetical to scripture, including abortion, the changed definition of marriage and other secular movements aimed at culture and their children.
Thomas says Christians have always been persecuted, including the crucifixion of Christ Himself, and urges Christians to live out the gospel rather than responding in kind in contentious debates.
“We should turn the other cheek. We should be respectful and kind to our enemies. We’re to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, visit those in prison, care for widows and orphans, feed the hungry and clothe the naked.
“Not as a social gospel as our friends on the left do – salvation by works – but as a means of demonstrating God’s love for the physical self so that you can share the greater message of their greater need, which is transformation, not reformation,” said Thomas.
Thomas says embracing Christ’s commands to love God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourself would give non-believers a radially different view of what it means to be a Christian.
“The average unbeliever looks at believers today and what do they see? We’re against all kinds of stuff. We’ve got a long, long list of everything we’re against, but what are we for? Who are we for? [Jesus’ commands] are the greatest evangelistic tool that Jesus ever gave us. But how many people actually apply it?” asked Thomas.
“If we obeyed the calling of Jesus and His instructions, this world would be turned upside down,” said Thomas.