Oct 132014 7 Responses

Why I Discourage Christians from Politics

On occasion people call me and ask for advice. It is my job to give the best advice I can based on the information I have and the person to whom I am speaking. Sometimes this leads to conflicting advice.

The leader of a corporate search committee called me. His organization was in chaos and the board needed a strong CEO who could dramatically change the culture. He asked if I had any ideas. I did. Without hesitation I told him exactly who the company should hire. The candidate was smart, strong, and savvy. She would not only make a stellar CEO, but would also be a tremendous asset to the community.

The next week I received a call from my suggested candidate. Out of the blue she had received a call from a company about becoming their CEO. The search committee told her I recommended her. She called to ask why I thought the job was right for her. “It’s not,” I said. (See: Jesus, Leadership, and the Courage to Serve)

Confused she asked me to clarify. I told her in my opinion they should hire her but she shouldn’t take the job. She is exactly what they need, but they are the last thing she needed. The company was in too much disarray and it just wouldn’t be worth her effort. However, if she wanted the job, she was the perfect candidate.

Whenever I think about the current state of American politics and Christian faith, I think the situation is similar to the corporate job and my friend.

Never has there been a time in which I would encourage the need for good people of faith to be involved in the world of politics.

Never has there been a time in which I would discourage good people of faith from involving themselves in the world of politics. 

I cannot fathom a situation in which I would encourage an individual to run for political office. (See: Jesus Isn’t as Conservative or Liberal as You Think)

In today’s climate it is impossible to abide by Biblical teaching and get elected to public office.

To encourage a Christian to run for state-wide or national office is to encourage them to endure one of two fates:

1. Certain defeat.

2. Disobedience to basic Biblical principles.

Neither seem like something I can in good conscience encourage a friend to endure.

These are the options because the current political climate does not tolerate truth, honesty, discernment, nuance, or wisdom. Instead, it values deception, immediacy, denial, and everything contrary to well-thought-out truth.

Consider: (See: Read This Before You Die)

  • Can someone become President or Senator without lying?
  • Can they win without turning a blind eye to evil done in their name (think outside political action committees)?
  • Can they be successful without twisting the words or votes of an opponent?
  • Can they gain votes without simplifying their opponents objections?

Sadly, many Christians and pastors have concluded the “ends justify the means.” Of course this idea is in no way Biblical. Jesus would never make that case. Yet seeing the great need in Washington and our state capitols, good men and women have chosen to do whatever necessary to get elected while assuming they will operate truthfully while in office.

Of course all evidence points to the opposite. Washington is not full of bad people (although there are many bad people there); instead the system of Washington doesn’t allow good people to operate the right way. Our system takes good people and makes them do bad things. Each individual is responsible for their actions, but we are responsible for the system.

It’s possible for Christians to be involved in local politics without acting against their faith. But I see no evidence that it is possible to do so in national politics.

I just watched a debate between two people I like running for a prominent office in my state. Both men seem good at heart. But both are lying. Both are doing whatever it takes to gain votes. Both are ignoring what outside groups are doing in their name to smear their opponent. I eventually turned off the debate because if I kept watching I would have ended up disliking both candidates.

That isn’t fair to the candidates. They are good men with good hearts. But the system is broken. We would never vote for someone who told the truth, who: (See: This Would Change Politics as We Know It)

  • called us to make difficult sacrifices for the sake of the future
  • told us what we didn’t want to hear even though it’s true
  • listened to others and changed his/her opinion based on new information
  • ignored party leaders and did what was right
  • humbly considered the opinion of others

If a candidate did that, they would certainly lose. So good people have the option—they can lose or they can lie. Sadly, many choose to lie.

I know many will disagree with my opinion. They will decry the current state of politics of our country and will scream of the need of good people involved in politics. I understand and appreciate their thoughts. But I strongly disagree that a Christian can claim the “ends justify the means.” Either a Christian gets elected while living out his/her faith in the election process or they reject office all together.

Unfortunately, I can’t imagine a scenario in which success is possible. So a Christian can either try to make a point by losing or they can simply choose not to run. (See: Three Loves to Change Your Life)

If the leader of a political party called and asked who should run for Governor, Senator, or President, I would have a short list of several people who would make the perfect candidate. Yet if that person called and asked me if they should run, I would say, “never.”

7 Responses to Why I Discourage Christians from Politics
  1. stevebrawner Reply

    Good points as always, but …

    What’s wrong with losing to make a point? On Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion of World War II, men died at the edge of the beach. Others stepped over them, ran a few feet farther, and died. By the end of the day, Omaha Beach was liberated.

    The men who died were husbands, fathers, sons. Their lives were lost, but not wasted. So what if a candidate ran, refused to lie, refused to smear his opponent, and condemned those who did? And what if he lost, but he won 30 percent and set an example for someone else, who won 40 percent? Eventually, someone would win.

    I think it’s a worth a shot. If the men of Omaha Beach could give up their lives, some of us could run for office honorably, even if it meant losing.

  2. Kevin A. Thompson Reply

    Good point Steve.

  3. […] The difficulty is that it’s not always easy to tell the two apart. (See: Why I Discourage Chri... kevinathompson.com/its-not-racist-to-disagree-with-the-president
  4. […] Political courage happens when those with little political influence are protected at the risk of of... kevinathompson.com/political-courage-vs-political-cowardice
  5. Jan Reply

    Having run for local office and served there, you are right in stating it may not be good for the individual. I recognized and was always very aware of the power that I had as an elected official. I saw good men cave and do things that I know they wouldn’t have done otherwise. I was run out by those I served with because I would not cave in . I have often said I would like to have a test for those seeking office that could determine if they were seeking the power or seeking to serve. I do understand the point you are making, but if good people will not run and cannot get elected then who will serve?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      That’s the catch, Jan. Thankfully some ignore me and run anyway. I’m grateful when they do.

  6. Ron Stauffer Reply

    Thanks for a thoughtful article. I have run for a state public office before, maintained my integrity, and lost, by a significant margin. I know whereof you speak!

    Even so, it was worth it. I had many chances to speak on the “rubber chicken circuit” of fundraisers and candidate debates. I got to be used by God to explain (Biblical) principles for life, family, society, and government. Was I making a point by losing? Well, I didn’t set out to lose, but my goal was to run a campaign with integrity and then leave the outcome up to God. I reasoned that I really had no right to approach God’s Throne to ask Him to put me in public office, unless I was truly “God’s man.” And I can’t be “God’s man” unless I am “godly.”

    So, my counsel to Christians is this. Run for office ONLY IF you can truly say that you are not running to win, but you are running to be the kind of man or woman for whom God might fight. Run a campaign according to God’s principles and holiness and let the media and your opponent assault you, lie about you, smear you, and misrepresent you. And your campaign staff must be in 100% agreement with you, and hold your feet to the fire. Then let God fight your battles for you. If you win the office, you can know for a fact that it was ONLY because God put you there. Now you owe HIM, and not your outside political action committees and big donors.


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