When Church Becomes Political – Explore the multifaceted dynamics of ‘when church becomes political’. Discover how faith can intersect with politics, understand the historical context, impacts, and the ongoing debates around this controversial issue. This comprehensive analysis seeks to unpack the complexities of church and politics entwining.
In the grand tapestry of human civilization, religion and politics have often intertwined, resulting in a vibrant yet complex pattern. One of the most intriguing instances of this pattern emerges when church becomes political. This phenomenon has shaped societies and spurred debates, leaving lasting impacts on both religious practices and political landscapes. It’s crucial to delve into this topic to gain a nuanced understanding of its dimensions.
Table of Contents
Table: How the Scriptures Teach to Follow God Amidst the Current Politics
|Application in Current Politics
|Love Your Neighbor (Matthew 22:39)
|Engage in politics with respect and kindness towards all, regardless of differing viewpoints. Foster a culture of empathy and understanding.
|Seek Justice (Micah 6:8)
|Advocate for policies that promote fairness and justice. Stand against corruption, discrimination, and injustice in all forms.
|Pray for Leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
|Pray for those in authority, regardless of political alignment. Pray for their wisdom, integrity, and the well-being of the nation.
|Respect Authority (Romans 13:1-2)
|Respect the laws and the political structure of the land, provided they do not contradict God’s commands.
|Be Peacemakers (Matthew 5:9)
|Strive for peace and unity, even in heated political debates. Avoid inflammatory rhetoric and actions that might incite conflict.
|Speak Truth (Ephesians 4:15)
|Hold to the truth in all political dealings. Stand against misinformation, deceit, and dishonesty.
|Prioritize the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33)
|Prioritize God’s values and the advancement of His Kingdom over personal or political gains. Let your political engagement reflect Kingdom values.
|Love Your Enemies (Matthew 5:44)
|Show love and kindness to political opponents. Resist the tendency to dehumanize or demonize those who hold differing views.
|Be Salt and Light (Matthew 5:13-16)
|Let your political participation reflect the values of God’s Kingdom. Influence the political sphere positively by promoting righteousness, justice, and love.
When Church Becomes Political: A Historical Overview
Going back to the annals of history, it’s clear that the intersection of church and politics isn’t a modern concept. The ‘Divine Right of Kings’, the ‘Investiture Controversy’, and even the formation of the Anglican Church, all represent occasions where religious sanctity and political authority have become intertwined.
Table: Comparison of Jesus’ Kingdom to Current Changing Worldly Political Views
|Worldly Political Views
|Basis of Authority
|Authority is divine, originating from God Himself.
|Authority is derived from the constitution, the people, or power structures.
|Jesus, as the King, leads with humility and selfless love.
|Leadership styles vary greatly, with some leaders focused on power, others on policy, and still others on the welfare of their constituents.
|Emphasizes absolute justice, where God’s moral standards are fully realized.
|Justice can be subjective, often influenced by culture, social norms, politics, and personal biases.
|All are equal in the sight of God, regardless of race, nationality, or status.
|Equality is strived for but not always achieved, often affected by systemic bias, socio-economic disparities, and political ideologies.
|Promises lasting peace that transcends human understanding.
|Peace can be temporary and is often disrupted by conflicts, war, or political tensions.
|Truth is absolute and unchanging, based on God’s word.
|Truth can be subjective or relative, often influenced by personal or collective perspectives.
|The Kingdom is eternal, transcending time and space.
|Political views and structures change over time, influenced by societal evolution and historical context.
|Based on faith and spiritual rebirth, open to all who believe in Jesus.
|Usually based on birth, heritage, or legal procedures such as immigration.
|Prioritizes love, forgiveness, righteousness, and service to others.
|Values can fluctuate and may be influenced by ideology, culture, or public opinion.
|To glorify God and establish His reign of righteousness, peace, and joy.
|Goals vary widely, from power retention to societal progress, national security, or economic prosperity.
The Age of Divine Rights
In the medieval era, monarchs often invoked the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ to justify their rule. This political doctrine held that kings derived their authority from God, not their subjects. But how did this affect the role of the church and what implications did it have on politics?
Investiture Controversy: Church vs. State
The Investiture Controversy in the 11th and 12th centuries was a clear example of when the church became political. The dispute arose over whether the Pope or the Holy Roman Emperor held the authority to appoint church officials. This conflict demonstrated the clash between religious and political powers and shaped the future course of church-state relations.
Ways a Christian Can Scripturally Walk in a Political World
- Pray for our leaders: We can support our country’s leadership by praying for them. We can ask God to give them wisdom to make decisions that are best for the country. We can also pray for their health and safety. (Deuteronomy 1:13, 1 Timothy 2:1-2)
- Be subject to the authorities: The Bible instructs us to be subject to the governing authorities in our country (Romans 13:1-2). This means obeying the laws and regulations of our country and respecting the leaders who put them in place.
- Support their decisions: Even when we don’t agree with a decision made by our leaders, we can still support them by respecting the decision and working within the law to make sure it is implemented properly. (1 Peter 2:13-14)
- Honor them: We can honor our country’s leaders by recognizing the importance of their service and the sacrifices they make on behalf of the country. We can express our appreciation for their efforts and thank them for their hard work. (1 Peter 2:17)
- Speak positively about them: We can support our country’s leadership by speaking positively about them to others. We can point out the good things they have done and refrain from gossip and criticism. (Ephesians 4:29)
- Get involved in politics: We can support our country’s leadership by getting involved in the political process. We can become active in our local political party, volunteer on campaigns, or even run for office. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
- Be an example: We can set a positive example for others by living a life that is pleasing to God. We can demonstrate the values of our faith in our daily actions and show others that it is possible to be successful in business while still honoring God. (1 Timothy 4:12)
- Give generously: We can support our country’s leadership by giving generously of our resources. We can donate to a local charity or support organizations that are working to improve the lives of people in our community. (Luke 6:38)
The Formation of the Anglican Church
The creation of the Anglican Church by King Henry VIII of England was an outright political move cloaked in religious trappings. Dissatisfied with the Pope’s refusal to annul his marriage, Henry made a bold move that significantly altered the religious and political landscape of England.
When Church Becomes Political: Modern Context
The church’s involvement in politics isn’t just a historical artifact. It continues in many forms in contemporary society, where religion can serve as a moral compass guiding political ideologies, or become a tool for political power.
Table: People in the Bible Who Influenced Political Leaders of Their Time
|Political Leader Influenced
|Pharaoh of Egypt
|Good – Interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams, leading to preparations that saved Egypt and surrounding nations from severe famine.
|Pharaoh of Egypt
|Good – Led the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery after confronting Pharaoh with God’s demand to let His people go.
|Good – Reproved King David for his sin with Bathsheba, leading to David’s repentance.
|King Nebuchadnezzar, Darius the Mede
|Good – Served faithfully and influenced policies and rulers toward recognition of God’s sovereignty.
|Good – Courageously pleaded for her people, the Jews, saving them from a plot to annihilate them.
|John the Baptist
|Good and Bad – Condemned Herod’s unlawful marriage, leading to his imprisonment and eventual execution.
|Roman Authorities, including Governor Felix and King Agrippa
|Good – Witnessed about Christ and the gospel during his trials, influencing early Christian-Roman relations.
|Bad – Betrayed Jesus to the chief priests and elders, leading to Jesus’s crucifixion.
Note: The term ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in this context is used to denote the nature of the influence from a biblical, faith-based perspective. Good signifies positive, beneficial influence, generally in accordance with God’s will. Bad signifies negative, harmful influence, generally contrary to God’s will.
Church Influence on Political Ideologies
Religion often shapes individuals’ political views and values. Churches, as institutions, have immense sway over their congregations. They can use this influence to promote certain political ideologies, fostering a politically engaged congregation.
Table: Comparison of the Timeless Qualities of Jesus’ Kingdom and the Transitory Nature of Political Kingdoms
|The Kingdom of Jesus is eternal, unbound by the limitations of time and space.
|Political kingdoms are temporary, rising and falling over the course of history.
|The Kingdom of Jesus is unchanging and stable, rooted in the absolute sovereignty of God.
|Political kingdoms are subject to fluctuations and instability, often influenced by socio-political dynamics.
|Justice in Jesus’ Kingdom is absolute and timeless, based on God’s moral standards.
|Justice in political kingdoms can evolve over time, influenced by societal norms and legal changes.
|Jesus’ Kingdom promises unending peace that transcends human understanding.
|Political kingdoms may experience periods of peace, but these are often interrupted by conflicts and wars.
|The values of Jesus’ Kingdom – love, forgiveness, service to others – are enduring and unchanging.
|The values of political kingdoms can change over generations, reflecting shifts in societal attitudes and ideologies.
|Truth in Jesus’ Kingdom is absolute, based on God’s word.
|Truth in political kingdoms can be relative and subject to interpretation and change.
|In Jesus’ Kingdom, all are equal in the sight of God, irrespective of earthly distinctions.
|Political kingdoms often grapple with issues of inequality, influenced by systemic biases, socio-economic disparities, and historical prejudices.
|The leadership of Jesus, as King, is unchanging, marked by humility and selfless love.
|Leadership in political kingdoms changes over time, often marked by power struggles and policy changes.
|The goal of Jesus’ Kingdom – to glorify God and establish His reign of righteousness, peace, and joy – is unwavering.
|The goals of political kingdoms are subject to change, influenced by various factors such as national security, economic progress, societal needs, and leadership agendas.
Church as a Tool for Political Power
Sometimes, political entities leverage religious institutions to gain or consolidate power. Understanding this dimension requires examining cases where this has occurred, and considering the ethical implications involved.
The Impact of Politics on Church
When church becomes political, it doesn’t just influence politics — it also impacts the church itself. These impacts can manifest in various ways, from altering religious practices to causing schisms within the congregation.
The Attributes of the Jesus Kingdom
The Kingdom is marked by the absolute sovereignty of God. It is God’s rule and reign over all creation, reflecting His omnipotence and omniscience.
Righteousness and Justice
In the Kingdom, righteousness and justice prevail. It’s a place where God’s moral standards are fully realized, bringing harmony and rectitude to all its inhabitants.
Peace and Joy
Peace and joy, transcending human understanding, are defining attributes of the Kingdom. These manifest as inner peace and overwhelming joy in the lives of believers, products of the Holy Spirit.
The Kingdom of God is eternal. It’s neither temporary nor confined to the bounds of time and space. Its eternal nature emphasizes the promise of everlasting life for believers.
The Kingdom of God in the New Testament
Jesus often spoke about the Kingdom of God. Through His teachings, He revealed its nature, how to enter it, and how to live as citizens of it.
Table: Jesus’ Teachings on Politics
|Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (Matthew 22:21)
|Encourages respect for civil authorities and responsibilities as citizens, such as paying taxes, while differentiating between earthly and heavenly allegiances.
|My Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36)
|Emphasizes the distinctiveness of God’s Kingdom compared to earthly political kingdoms. Followers should prioritize the Kingdom of God over political power.
|Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44)
|Promotes an attitude of love and forgiveness, even towards political adversaries. This teaching discourages division and hostility.
|Blessed are the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9)
|Calls for efforts towards reconciliation, peace, and unity, which should guide followers’ political actions and attitudes.
|The greatest among you must be a servant (Matthew 23:11)
|Challenges the typical structures of political power and authority, promoting servant leadership instead.
|Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’ (Matthew 5:37)
|Encourages honesty and integrity, important virtues in political dealings and discourse.
|Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39)
|Teaches respect for the dignity of all people, which should influence followers’ political actions, including advocating for just policies.
|Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6)
|Encourages the pursuit of justice and righteousness, which should guide followers’ political participation and policy preferences.
Jesus used parables to describe the Kingdom. Stories like the mustard seed, the hidden treasure, and the prodigal son all illuminate aspects of the Kingdom’s reality and values.
Participation in the Kingdom: The Christian Perspective
Living as Kingdom People
Christians are called to live as ‘Kingdom People’, reflecting the values of the Kingdom in their lives. This involves love, forgiveness, justice, service, and spiritual growth.
The Role of Faith and Grace
Faith in Jesus Christ and the grace of God are fundamental to participation in the Kingdom. They are seen as the means by which Christians receive salvation and enter the Kingdom.
Table: Major World Countries and Their Acceptance of Christians
|Acceptance of Christians
|Christianity is the majority religion, with Christians freely allowed to practice their faith.
|Christianity is the dominant religion. Freedom of religion is enshrined in the constitution, allowing Christians to practice their faith freely.
|Christianity, particularly Roman Catholicism, is widely practiced and accepted.
|While increasingly secular, the UK allows freedom of religion, and Christianity remains the largest religion.
|France is largely secular but guarantees freedom of religion, allowing Christians to practice their faith.
|Christianity is the majority religion, and freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution.
|The Russian Orthodox Church is part of the country’s identity, but other Christian denominations often face restrictions and monitoring.
|Despite the state’s official atheism, Christianity is practiced. However, it faces regulation and oversight, particularly ‘underground’ or unregistered churches.
|Christians represent a minority and can practice their faith, but they face occasional social hostility and legal challenges, especially in some states.
|Australia is a secular nation with Christianity as the most adhered to religion. Freedom of religion is broadly respected.
|The practice of religions other than Islam, including Christianity, is heavily restricted.
|Christianity is recognized as a minority religion, but Christians face significant persecution and restrictions.
|In Nigeria, the north is predominantly Muslim, the south is largely Christian. Intermittent sectarian conflict occurs.
|Christianity is the dominant religion, with Christians freely allowed to practice their faith.
|Christians are a recognized minority, but they face occasional social and legal challenges.
Note: The acceptance of Christians can vary greatly within countries, especially those with significant regional differences. Additionally, acceptance can fluctuate over time due to changes in political climate, societal attitudes, or legal frameworks. This table is intended to provide a broad overview and may not capture all nuances or recent changes.
The Kingdom of God and Eschatology
Present and Future Kingdom
Christians believe that the Kingdom of God is both a present reality and a future hope. It exists here and now in the hearts of believers, but its fullness is yet to be revealed.
Table: God’s People in Major World Powers and Their Influence
|Various Christian leaders, organizations, and movements
|Influenced policies on social issues, human rights, and freedom of religion. Advocated for social justice and morality.
|Various Christian leaders, churches, and movements
|Helped shape social welfare policies, human rights, and education. Contributed to the abolition of the slave trade.
|Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and other Christian figures
|Influenced religious reforms (Protestant Reformation), resistance against totalitarian regimes, and the development of theology and ethics.
|Russian Orthodox Church and other Christian communities
|Helped shape the nation’s identity, culture, and values, despite periods of intense persecution.
|Christian missionaries and Chinese Christians
|Despite restrictions, influenced areas of education, healthcare, and social services. Some have been advocates for human rights and religious freedom.
|Christian missionaries and Indian Christians
|Impacted education, healthcare, and social services. Played a role in advocating for the marginalized and oppressed.
|Various Christian leaders and organizations
|Shaped policies on social welfare, education, and human rights. Played a significant role in charitable activities.
|Various Christian leaders and churches
|Influenced social and cultural aspects of society. Played a role in social welfare and human rights advocacy.
|Desmond Tutu and other Christian figures
|Played significant roles in the fight against apartheid, promoting reconciliation and peace.
|Various Christian leaders and organizations
|Helped shape social policies, education, and human rights. Actively involved in social justice and community service.
Note: The table provides a broad overview and does not capture all the diverse ways in which God’s people have influenced their respective nations. The nature and extent of this influence can vary greatly, and the individuals and groups mentioned represent just a fraction of God’s people in these countries.
The Second Coming and Eternity
The Kingdom’s consummation is associated with Christ’s second coming, when He will establish His Kingdom in its full glory. This marks the beginning of eternal life for believers.
The Kingdom that Christians belong to is not merely a future destination but a present reality. It is God’s reign, marked by divine sovereignty, righteousness, and peace. It calls for living as Kingdom People and centers around faith in Jesus Christ. As the Kingdom’s fullness awaits in eternity, Christians live in anticipation of Christ’s second coming, carrying the Kingdom’s attributes in their hearts and lives.
Alteration of Religious Practices
Political involvement can lead to shifts in religious practices. This may include changes in religious doctrines to align with political ideologies, or adaptations in worship methods to reflect political leanings.
Schisms Within the Congregation
Political involvement can lead to internal conflicts within the church. Disagreements over political issues can cause division among the congregation, affecting church unity and community relationships.
The Debate Around Church and Politics
The intertwining of church and politics raises numerous ethical, legal, and moral questions. These debates form an essential part of the discourse surrounding ‘when the church becomes political’.
Separation of Church and State: A Legal Perspective
The principle of separation of church and state forms a cornerstone
of modern democracy. But what happens when the church becomes political? This raises questions about the role of religious institutions in a secular state.
The Moral Quandary: Should Churches Be Political?
There’s also a moral debate to consider. Some argue that churches, as moral institutions, should take a stand on political issues. Others contend that politics can corrupt the sanctity of the church. So, should churches be political?
- What happens when the church becomes political?
When the church becomes political, it can influence political ideologies, serve as a tool for political power, and alter religious practices. It can also lead to divisions within the congregation.
- Is the involvement of the church in politics a new phenomenon?
No, the church has been involved in politics since ancient times, from the Divine Right of Kings to the Investiture Controversy and beyond.
- Can politics impact the church?
Yes, politics can significantly impact the church, leading to changes in religious practices and causing divisions within the congregation.
- What is the ‘Separation of Church and State’?
This principle asserts that religious institutions should not interfere in the functioning of the state, and vice versa, to ensure religious freedom and maintain a secular state.
- Should churches be political?
This is a subjective question and is the center of ongoing debates. Some believe that churches should engage with politics as a form of moral responsibility, while others think that this can jeopardize the sanctity of the church.
- What are some examples of ‘when the church becomes political’?
Historical examples include the ‘Divine Right of Kings’, the ‘Investiture Controversy’, and the formation of the Anglican Church. In modern times, churches often influence political ideologies or are used as tools for political power.
- 1. What does ‘Kingdom of God’ mean in Christianity?
- The ‘Kingdom of God’ in Christianity refers to the reign or sovereignty of God. It’s perceived as both a spiritual state and a future physical realm.
- 2. How is the Kingdom of God described in the Bible?
- The Bible describes the Kingdom of God as a place of righteousness, peace, and joy. It emphasizes divine sovereignty and the Kingdom’s eternal nature.
- 3. How do Christians participate in the Kingdom of God?
- Christians participate in the Kingdom by living as ‘Kingdom People’, reflecting its values in their lives. They enter the Kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ and the grace of God.
- 4. Is the Kingdom of God a present reality or a future hope?
- It is both. Christians believe that the Kingdom exists now in the hearts of believers, and its fullness will be revealed in the future.
- 5. What is the role of Jesus in the Kingdom of God?
- Jesus is central to the Kingdom of God. He revealed its nature, taught how to enter it, and will establish it in its fullness at His second coming.
Final Thoughts – When Church Becomes Political
The phrase ‘when church becomes political’ encapsulates a multifaceted issue that has evolved over the centuries. While there is no definitive answer to whether this blend is beneficial or detrimental, it is clear that the interaction between church and politics is an enduring part of our societal fabric. As such, understanding the dynamics of ‘when church becomes political’ is critical in navigating the complexities of the society we live in today.