When Did 'Evangelical' Become a Political Label?
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More and more these days, people are associating Christianity with a political movement. If you scan the headlines and listen to newscasts, you will often hear the words “Christian” and “evangelical” used with a set of political beliefs, a group of voters, or in combination with an agenda.
To some degree, this association is warranted. Through the years, particular Christians have identified themselves as members of the self-described Moral Majority, Christian Coalition, and other groups whose agendas are to influence voters. There are also Christian Political Action Committees dedicated to influencing congress on social and other political issues. Even churches are hosting nationally televised debates for political candidates.
Is it wrong to influence people toward a viewpoint that we believe aligns with biblical principles? Absolutely not! But what if our efforts to influence them towards biblical principles are greater than our efforts to share the gospel with them? Worse than that, what if a watching world begins to equate our political views as the sum of Christianity? In many cases that seems to be happening, and I think we run the risk of winning people to a point of view instead of to a personal Savior.
I am not necessarily promoting the idea that Christians should abdicate the realm of politics. We are called to be a light in the darkness within all areas of life. However, I think we have to ask ourselves, “Is there an appropriate balance between our involvement in fulfilling the great commission and our involvement with political movements, issues, or candidates?”
This is a complicated and controversial issue. Here are some cautions and questions to consider.
First of all, as alluded to before, there is a danger in Christians becoming more known for their political beliefs than their Savior. It is concerning when Christian leaders refer more to “Judeo Christian values” than to the name of Jesus Christ. Anytime a believer, church, or denomination is known more for anything other than Jesus Christ, there is a major problem. That includes political issues, opinions, and agendas. People should know that your principles are tightly tied to your personal Savior.
Secondly, if we are not careful, our involvement in the political process can distract us from our true mission in life, to know Christ and to make Him known to others. Christians have every right to be involved in the political process, but we should always weigh the opportunity costs of doing so. Here’s a question to ask: “Is my devotion to politics keeping me from following Christ well in other areas of my life?”
Thirdly, the volume and nature of politically based email and social media communication can quickly become concerning. Most of it is in the form of modern-day chain letters, closing with something like “If you really love America (and/or the Lord), you WILL share this.” Unfortunately, many of these posts and emails turn out to contain misinformation, half-truths, or innuendos about a political figure or group. No wonder Christians are becoming much more known for what and who they are against rather than Who they are for, the Lord Jesus.
In light of these trends and that has been said above, here are a few questions for self-reflection and evaluation:
- In your conversations with others, are you more willing to share your political opinions than the gospel?
- Do you complain about your governmental leaders more than you pray for them?
- When you receive a political message, do you check the facts before forwarding/sharing it?
- Have you limited your realm of influence for the gospel by only associating with people who hold your political views?
I pray you’ll think through each of these questions carefully, as I have as well. Moreover, I hope that in this political season – as in every season – we as Christians can work to keep the main thing the main thing: pointing people to the Lord Jesus.
Copyright © 9/2020 David Souther, used with permission.
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