Texas Gov. Rick Perry has worked to distance himself a bit from Robert Jeffress, a senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, who called Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s Mormonism a “cult.” Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain are all seeking the votes of not just the conservative Right, but specifically of the Christian Right. Even Newt Gingrich has openly confessed his past marital failings to pastors. Faith plays a massive role in United States elections, but Christians need to be careful about assuming the hand of God behind any one candidate.
“A lot of pastors and social conservative activists are looking at each other and asking, ‘What horse do we bet on here?’ My sense is right now it’s fairly muddled,” said Ralph Reed, founder of the national Christian Coalition who now heads the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan both described themselves as born again Christians, yet they had vastly different foreign policy approaches. On the other hand, the administrations of both George W. Bush, the compassionate conservative, and the not-so-godly Bill Clinton contributed to the sub prime mortgage housing bubble that popped messily all over the US economy. A host of Christians are gearing up to run for the office of US President in 2012, but their faith or lack thereof does not guarantee they will do their jobs well.
America does need a righteous leader, one who is wise and capable and experienced, one with strong leadership ability. Ultimately, elected officials remain responsible under God for their actions and decisions, and we need to pray for whoever ends up in office. The issue is not whether we want a God-fearing president who will lead America well. Of course we do. The issue is that a church leadership or church body might back one candidate over all the others, as though the voice of God had spoken. One pastor may support the candidacy of Rick Perry and another pastor might support Barack Obama. The fact that a church leader backs a particular candidate does not necessarily give God’s view on the matter. Voters need to do their homework.
The Bible and Politics
The Bible is not silent about political matters. Civil government exists by God’s command and not because a group of men got together and created a social contract. In Proverbs 21:1, Solomon says that God can turn a ruler’s heart. In Daniel 2:20-21, Daniel declares that God both removes and sets up rulers. Ultimately, God is in charge of the institutions of human government, and He has power over them. Paul writes in Romans 13:1:
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”
In fact, Paul calls civil rulers the “ministers of God,” who were to be respected (Rom 13:3). Civil leaders are doing the will of God by maintaining civil order and upholding justice. That’s their job.
The Bible constantly treats the position of authority as one that is given by God for His purposes. “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another” (Psalm 75:6-7). That does not mean that those who became leaders obeyed God or served Him well. There are plenty of kings and rulers in Israel who turned away from God and followed their own desires. Yet, God still gave them the position for His purposes. And while there were many leaders in Israel’s history who made evil decisions, there was Esther, who came through for her people after she was made a wife of the king of Persia, “for such a time as this,” (Esther 4:14).
Christians who are American citizens hold a certain responsibility in the governance of their country and states and counties. The United States is a representative form of government, which means that the people of America have far more control – and therefore responsibility – over what happens in their government than do the citizens of a kingdom or a dictatorship. The United States is a government of, by, and for the people, and Christians have the same civic duties as all citizens: to serve on juries, to give direction to their legislatures about which bills to pass, to pay taxes, to vote, to support those political candidates they consider most qualified.
Where Our Trust Lies:
Ultimately, though, the salvation of this world does not come through the messy business of politics. Governmental decisions are important, but salvation for the human race comes through Jesus the Messiah. As the Psalmist says, “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes,” (Psalm 118:9).
As we wait for Him, we are to keep praying for the leaders that are in place.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;” (1 Tim 2:1-3).
Our civil leaders and representatives carry a lot of responsibility. They need us to uphold them so that they can make wise decisions that are good for the country and pleasing to God, whether they are the leaders that would have been our first choices – or not.
• Evangelical Pastors Divided Ahead of 2012 Caucuses – AP
• The Role Of Faith In President Jimmy Carter’s Life – Fox News
• Ronald Reagan’s Faith, Not Just Policies, Undermined Communism – Christianity Today
• Topical Bible Studies On America – Koinonia House