The Politics of Politics

Gary Campbell Jr.
4 min readMar 11, 2024

What is the goal of the gospel and the role of the Church where politics are concerned?

GBC has long been a church that has approached our place within the culture, where politics are concerned from an apolitical methodology. This is very much on purpose and will continue to be our posture. There are multiple reasons for this; here are a few, followed by the implications for us as those who make GBC our church home…

First, the New Testament gives no theological basis for a local church to declare political affiliation and promotion:

  1. Jesus avoided affiliation with the politics of His day, much to the chagrin of His followers. In fact, Jesus died for those He came to rule, setting up an expectation for the Church in the world that is counterintuitive to cultural norms, where power is concerned.

As such, the Church is Christ’s ambassadorial representation to the world of this “other” kind of Kingdom. A kingdom that serves and gives of self, rather than making demands and ruling others.

2. In their letters, Paul and Peter essentially never confront the rampant corruptions of the surrounding cultures within which they ministered. This was a time and culture that violently persecuted Christian’s to their deaths! Paul and Peter’s passion was instead sharply confronting false teaching — that is thee need for purity of doctrine, as well as sinful behavior — that is a need for sanctification, within the people of God, the Church. As Jesus says, “might see your good deeds, and glorify your Father in Heaven.” (Matt. 5:16), and Peter echos- “Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles,[a] so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits.” (1 Peter 2:12)

Second, political endorsements and affiliations always degrade the witness of the church:

Our former Senior Pastor used to say, “When religion and politics compete, politics always wins.” (I’m pretty sure that quote wasn’t actually original to him). When we begin to declare allegiance to parties and candidates, Jesus is always diminished, one group is always shoved to the margins, and the gospel is often neglected.

The fact is that there are policies and personalities on both sides of the political aisle that are objectionable, and those that are redeeming. Despite my personal opinions (and I certainly have them), this is absolutely true.

Let me digress for a sec here…

Through the late 80’s and early 90’s American evangelicalism, known as the “Moral Majority” held significant political influence in our country.

Anecdotally, as a result of that, we are not better for it as a country, and certainly not in terms of the Church’s witness to a redemptive and restorative message.

Can we just be honest about that?

On a personal note, I grew up in this time and this was the period of “performance Christianity” and “behavior modification,” within the Church, what researcher Christian Smith later coined as “moralistic, therapeutic deism.” This was a huge mistake and a giant distraction, causing so many young people in the Church to abandon, or in many cases never truly understand the Biblical Gospel. It’s also arguable that the tactics of this time did more to drive young people out of, and away from the Church than the sinful decline of the surrounding culture. There is definitely a tendency for many to view these years with a subjective nostalgia, forgetting the hypocrisy, corruption, and scandal after scandal within the people of God that failed to line up with the positions being fought for by those very religious conservatives (obviously not in all cases).

The question we must ask ourselves is: Are we more concerned about our family or our church failing to uphold republican or democratic ideals and values, or about souls being redeemed from a destiny of eternal separation from God and upholding the Christ and His Cross? (Some will argue that we can do both, that’s a topic for a future, so stay tuned to our early fall preaching series!)

Finally, as a balance to all of this, let me end with three imperatives for the Church — for you and me:

  1. Christians should vote. In our system of government we have a participating role. This is unique and special. So while GBC doesn’t position ourselves behind a particular party or candidate, it is consistent to say that we ought to be engaging in the process of our form of government, and to vote according to the principles and values that we see in Scripture just the same. Our democratic republic is ours (the people’s), as Benjamin Franklin famously said, “if you can keep it,” but we ought do so without anger or agita, looking beyond the folks we’re voting for, “since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God.” Romans 13:1 (CSB), to the One who rules the universe.
  2. Christians should be involved. Perhaps the biggest difference we can make as believers in influencing policy, in a manner we see consistent not just with Christian values, but with human flourishing, (which is the ultimate aim of the Gospel) is by getting involved in the politics of our community. Join the PTA, run for the Board of Ed, or Town Council. In so doing, you’ll serve the community — the whole community — and you’ll serve with people who believe entirely differently than you. And in this there is wonderful gospel opportunity!
  3. Christians should prioritize the Gospel. Finally, when wrestling with where the world is heading, look to the Cross, not the sword (the donkey or elephant). Yes, Jesus IS coming again to judge the world, the Psalmist tells us to rejoice and sing about this (without spite!), in Psalm 98:9, but He has not returned yet, and so it is the Cross and the Resurrection that informs our response a lost world in this time. God’s Kingdom come, to one human heart, one lost and hurting soul at a time (John 3:16), this is what ought to consume our time, energy, and passions! Let’s keep our focus here, where it should be as the next election cycle draws near.

--

--

Gary Campbell Jr.

Writing for Groton Bible Chapel & the larger Body of Christ on cultural issues, parenting, marriage, theology & other light-weight topics.