Pentecostals, Pastors and Politics

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Pentecostals, Pastors and Politics

8 May 2019 Hits:3942

Whenever there’s an election, I’m reminded of how little some quarters of the church have learnt how detrimental it is to the Gospel when churches and church leaders make polarising political statements.

While I’m all for Christians engaging with politics, or standing for political office, the church as a whole MUST be above politics, non-partisan, and stick to its central message – the good news about God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Anything that clouds that message is an enemy of the Gospel.

Too Political

Several years ago, the Barna Foundation commissioned research amongst young adults (16-29) to find out why they didn’t engage, or ceased to be involved, with a church. One of the six reasons given was that the church was “too political”.[i]

So, I find it gobsmacking that some church leaders are still making politically divisive statements and actions even though the evidence is in that this harms the cause of Christ.

Christian Values?

Last week, I saw a post on a pastor’s Facebook page encouraging their followers/congregation to, “Let righteousness reign. Put Labor and the Greens last!”  I realise this reflects many conservative Christians’ views, but my question is, what message does this send to people in that church who may disagree? What about people who do vote Labor or Green and still love Jesus? What about people in the broader community who are considering Jesus and the Church but are then put off by this statement? Isn’t the Gospel inclusive or do you have to change how you vote when you become a Christian? Also, why is it “righteous” to vote for a conservative party?

This same leader posted the attached chart compiled by the Australian Christian Values Institute.

The Christian Values Checklist informs voters of what each political party stands for on various issues. The report concludes that, if you’re a real Christian, you’ll vote for Christian Democrats, DLP, or Rise Up Australia. If you can’t stomach any of these parties then Australian Conservatives, the Nationals or the Libs would be your choice. But whatever you do, “Let righteousness reign. Put Labor and the Greens last!”

Let’s examine those Christian values. Predictably they’re what you’d expect from conservative Christianity in Australia which has been highly influenced by American evangelicalism. In this tradition, the two main things Christians should focus on are anything to do with abortion or gay people (stop both as much as you can). While the chart helps you understand what various parties advocate on these issues, I can’t help notice the things that are missing. Are not refugees, the homeless, those living with a mental illness, and victims of domestic violence unworthy of the Christian vote? Why are Indigenous people and foreign aid absent? Didn’t Jesus say that the Gospel was good news for the poor? And which party/parties would have the best policies in place to help those on the margins of society? It also appears that poverty and the environment were added on as an afterthought! Maybe I’m wrong, but are they less important than opening parliament with Christian prayer for example?

And consider what’s been happening lately with Liberals in Victoria claiming “the party’s religious right is stacking branches with Mormons and Catholic groups in a drive to pre-select more conservative candidates [who] are often motivated by “single issues” like same-sex marriage or euthanasia. Members of conservative parties, including Family First and Australian Christians, have also been recruited,”[ii]as have people from Pentecostal Churches. Imagine the outcry if these same Christians found out that branches were being stacked by Muslims.

Last week, “the Liberal candidate for the inner-Melbourne seat of Wills … resigned over anti-gay comments … In comments on a conservative right-wing “Christian” blog post, Peter Killin said he would’ve voted against the preselection of Goldstein MP Tim Wilson because of his sexuality and described the homosexual lifestyle as ‘distressingly dangerous.’”[iii] I know Tim Wilson, and he’s a fine man with a passion for serving his local electorate. He responded very graciously by saying he would, “turn the other cheek and leave judgment to others.”

I realise that several candidates have been dropped from various political parties in the last few weeks, for all sorts of appalling behaviour, but when this conduct comes from Christians who want righteousness to reign, I feel compelled to speak out against such hypocrisy.

Stand for the Gospel

Let me repeat, I’m all for Christians engaging with politics, or standing for political office, but the church as a whole MUST be non-partisan. The Gospel is good news for ALL people (Luke 2:10). The church never does well when it’s in charge, it’s not meant to rule nations and manipulate political systems, it’s intended to proclaim a message of reconciliation with a God who loves people and a Saviour who died and rose again to bring forgiveness. I appeal to my fellow Christians and pastors to never lose this focus and to please stop muddying the waters.

 

[1] Kinnaman, David and Gabe Lyons, Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity … and Why It Matters.

[ii] https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-30/victoria-liberals-religious-right-branch-stacking-fears/8667756?pfmredir=sm

[iii] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-01/federal-election-2019-liberal-candidate-advocates-against-gay-mp/11063002

 

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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12 replies on “Pentecostals, Pastors and Politics”

Martin Jsays:

The thing about the prayers in Parliament thing is weird. Do we really want to fight for this?
Jesus warned people about standing up and repeating rote prayers publicly. Do I really want to force an atheist member of Parliament to mouth the Lord’s prayer word by word? Do I think that it will transform them? This was a prayer Jesus shared for people who wanted to pray.
How do I feel about a parliamentarian standing to say the prayer and in their heart wanting to stab their fellow parliamentarian in the back? Is this a good use of the Lord’s prayer?

Gailsays:

I really want to reply to so many of your statements, but we have had this conversation before and I agree that you are entitled to YOUR OPINION, but definitely see hypocrisy in your statement that says for us to have our own opinions except when you are telling pastors and other Christians how to believe about our political system. Shame you don’t fully understand it yourself. Just so you know putting out a list of how parties and independents voted for or against the things that matter in our society is also public information not something thought up by someone pushing their opinion. Take special care to check your facts so as to not show yourself foolish. I will miss you when you visit my church in Hobart because I’ll be on a well deserved holiday after supporting my daughter in this election. Blessings…

Rob Buckinghamsays:

So true, Martin. I think The Golden Rule would be a much more inclusive and profound statement at the beginning of parliament. Imagine our politicians treating each other as they would like to be treated 🙂

Gregsays:

Should we be voting for someone who most represents the values that I/we stand for, that is, another Christian?
Now it is just a rhetorical question that does not necessarily require an answer. The chances are that this person might have all the elements that you suggest above, in their tool kit!
Cheers

David Vowlessays:

I heard recently that, in the USA, only 50% of evangelical Christians are registered to vote and, of those, only 50% choose to vote. If voting wasn’t compulsory in Australia I suspect it would be much the same here. It is this apathy towards the political process by Christians that has enabled other activist groups to set the agenda in our society. At the very least we all should be aware of the policies and agendas of the parties and place our vote accordingly. In this current election the prospect of further loss of religious freedoms – including the ability to proclaim the gospel – is very real.

James Parsonssays:

I find it hard to understand why many Christians go along with the ill informed rhetoric of the extreme right. And get so angry when you correct their errors!

Audrey Davidsonsays:

Thanks for the checklist. My friend from Warragul also sent me the same! I definitely will be using it.

Rob Buckinghamsays:

Thanks for the comments, David. While I hear the concerns expressed in this article, I am concerned that the only two issues raised here ~ abortion and anything to do with gay people ~ reflects the narrow view of morality held by American evangelicals. I’m saddened to see some of the church buying into this here in Australia. While we should certainly be concerned about what Andrew expresses in this blog, if we are to resonate with Jesus’ teachings at the start and end of His ministry (Luke 4:18-19; Matthew 25:34-40), our advocacy in politics should be on behalf of those who are poor, marginalised, oppressed, and voiceless. There is no mention by Andrew of which political party(s) will best care for the homeless, sick, those in prison, victims of domestic violence, asylum seekers, and those living with a mental illness (to name a few). Our faith in Jesus must cause us to vote on behalf of others who have little or no power themselves. For example, what party(s) will care for the poor of other nations through increasing foreign aid? I am concerned that Christians / churches are sometimes seen as only wanting to look after their own interests, that they fail to look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).

David Vowlessays:

Thanks Rob for your considered reply. You noted that ‘our advocacy in politics should be on behalf of those who are poor, marginalised, oppressed, and voiceless’. Many christians would contend that, among the poor and voiceless, the 70,000+ babies aborted in Australia each year should also share our concern. On another front, today’s sacking of Israel Folau also speaks volumes about the future of religious freedom in Australia.

On Donald Trump: the importance of praying for our leaders | My Christian Dailysays:

[…] or inappropriate. I have consistently made it clear in my writing and speaking that I’m all for Christians engaging with politics and standing for political office. I have called on Christians to focus on our central message – […]

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