Like it or not, it’s another election year. Which means it’s time for Christians to think clearly about political engagement.
Fellow Christian, it’s time for a “DTR” with politics. Christian college alums like me will know what that means. “DTR” stands for “define the relationship.” It’s that talk a young man and a young woman must have to clarify one another’s romantic intentions. Every Christian college in America has a “DTR spot,” a designated place for these important talks: the chapel, the quad, the gazebo, or the lake.
Well, when it comes to politics, the Church is long overdue for a DTR.
Debates are raging about how we, as Christians, should relate to politics and government. Some have called for a hiatus, for Christians to step away from politics, to refocus on the Kingdom of God, and to work on our damaged reputation. Others have called for a heightened national allegiance in Jesus name, especially to our current leadership, with some even proclaiming that to question our leadership is to question God Himself.
Well, neither of these are appropriate responses for Christ-followers.
There’s no question that the last presidential election has made this DTR all the more necessary, and all the more complicated. Self-identified evangelicals are constantly told how hypocritical they’ve been for voting for and now continuing to support Donald Trump, given his moral failings.
On the other hand, the Democratic Party, particularly the previous administration, has made abortion, the advancement and expansion of new sexual ideologies, and the compromising of conscience rights, its top policy priorities.
Given where we’d be had the other candidate been elected, it’s important to note that Trump has kept key campaign promises to Christians, such as rolling back outrageous Obama-era policies that threatened religious liberty and placing a staunchly pro-life justice on the Supreme Court.
And yet, accusations of past immorality, and, shall we say a “Twitter problem,” have plagued this President, not to mention that yet another Republican Congress has failed to provide a budget that defunds Planned Parenthood—something the GOP has pledged to do for years.
So we’re back to the tough question: What should our relationship with politics be, as Christians?
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Let’s begin with this: to expect a government or a political party to fix problems that are non-political at root is indeed a form of idolatry. The most pressing cultural issues we face as a nation are cultural, upstream of politics. And yet, policies will either contribute to, or counter, our cultural confusions. So politics matters. Still. A lot. We must stay engaged.
And in doing so, here are three things worthy of our attention.
I’ve just mentioned the first: policies. If we are to love our neighbors as Christ commanded, we should care deeply about policies that impact their lives.
Another is character. It matters. Still. A lot. And it matters on “our” side as well as “their” side. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. It’s perfectly consistent to be critical of moral failings, while applauding decisions and policies. It may even be necessary at times to thank a candidate or officeholder for some good work, and still call on him or her to step aside to make way for someone with less baggage.
A final consideration is company. Every candidate comes with a team, and that’s especially relevant when we’re talking about the 2000 or so folks that come along with highest office in the land. We’d never vote for Nebuchadnezzar, but wouldn’t we be glad to have Daniel in an influential position? We have to evaluate a candidate’s company in our electoral decisions, urge our leaders to surround themselves with wise advisors, and warn, when necessary, of dangerous ones.
Heading into yet another election year, this “DTR” talk is long past due for all of us. But Christians can faithfully live out our dual citizenship, without moral compromise.