Summary: As Christians we have a responsibility in the plitical arena - but just what is it?
“The Charge of the Light Brigade: Being Good Citizens”
Prov. 29:2; Mt. 22:15-21
I am so ready for the elections to be over. I’m tired of all the political mud-throwing, fact-checking, partial truth, bold promise ads. It reminds me of the story of a 4 year old who tugged on her dad who had been watching political ads and begged him to stop and read her a fairy tale. Weary of watching the ads, he agreed and began reading the fairy tale. No sooner had he begun, however, than she interrupted him and asked, “Daddy, do all fairy tales begin with ‘Once upon a time?’ He responded, “No, sweetheart, most fairy tales begin with: ‘And when I’m elected…”
Because of this prolonged season of politicizing, it is easy – very easy – to tire of politics, sour on political involvement, and despise politicians. One preacher, in fact, postulated that if Christopher Columbus were around today he could be the greatest politician of all time. After all, when he left he didn’t know where he was going, when he got there he didn’t know where he was, when he came back he didn’t know where he had been. And he did it all on someone else’s money!
And all of this is unfortunate because it warps our view of a Christian’s role and responsibility in the political arena. Therefore, on this Reformation Sunday, just two days prior to a major election, it’s appropriate for us to consider this subject. We must not forget that the reformer John Calvin worked diligently to not only reform the church but to reform and establish Christian governing as well. So this morning I want to briefly address our relationship, as Christians, to the political arena.
To begin let’s ask WHY SHOULD CHRISTIANS BE INVOLVED IN THE POLITICAL ARENA? First of all we need to be involved because SUCCESSFUL GOVERNMENT DEPENDS UPON IT. Consider that government is one of only three institutions God established, the other two being the family and the church. As Paul wrote in Romans 13:1, “…there is no authority except that which God has established.” And one of the major themes I’ve tried to burn in our minds this fall has been the truth that our nation was founded upon Christian principles and designed to function best when Christian principles and character are at the core of our government. The first representative assembly in America convened in the church at Jamestown in 1619, "to establish one equal and uniform government over all Virginia" which would provide "just laws for the happy guiding and governing of the people there inhabiting." When the Pilgrims came one year later, in 1620, they were blown off course and didn't make it to Virginia where they would be governed by the King's charter. So they decided to draw up their own self-governing document, the first created in America, called the Mayflower Compact. It begins: "In the name of God," and gave this reason for their coming: "For the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith." Connecticut is called the Constitution state because the first Constitution in America was enacted in 1639, called the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut; but did you know that it was based upon Pastor Thomas Hooker's sermon on Deut. 1:13? Did you know that the first education law was passed in Massachusetts in 1641 for the purpose of ensuring that children would be able to read and understand the Scriptures? Did you know that the first university in America, Harvard, was named for Reverend John Harvard, or that it was founded to train ministers and that for over 150 years it was distinctly Christian in its mission? Did you know that 93% of our founding fathers who voted for the Declaration of Independence and crafted our Constitution were professing Orthodox Christians, and that even of the handful who were not orthodox Christians, each one respected Biblical morality as the basis for our laws and valued public religion for maintaining order and civility? In fact, President George Washington said that the twin pillars essential for supporting a successful society are morality and religion. What kind of religion? John Adams, our second President, clarified that when he declared that "The general principles on which the fa¬thers achieved independence were... the general principles of Christianity."
Years later, in 1923, President Calvin Coolidge stated “Settlers came here from mixed motives…but those who have set their imperishable mark upon our institutions…were seeking a broader freedom…intent upon establishing a Christian commonwealth in accordance with the principle of self-government…” More recently Walter Maier, longtime voice of the Lutheran Hour radio broadcast, preached: “The United States was settled, not by Communists, freethinkers, atheists, but by Christians. The charters of our colonies were not sealed in the name of Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Lao Tse, but in the name of the Lord Jesus. Each of the thirteen colonies had a Biblical foundation, and each revered the Scriptures as divine authority.” Since all this is true, it is clear that our form of government can only function well when Christian principles and character are operating at its core.