Christian Political Engagement in a New Year

This article was originally published in Capital Commentary.

I entered college with two main passions: God and politics. However, throughout college I often found myself having to defend and justify the combination of these two passions—mostly to other Christians. I was often under the impression that not only was there a lack of understanding among my Christian peers when it came to political involvement, but that some thought I would be better able to serve God if I stayed away from politics altogether.

God says in Isaiah 1:17 that we are to “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” This verse makes it clear that God’s purpose for us is so much more than just about us: He desires us to join with Him now in His work of redemption in the world, working for the same things He worked for on this earth. This helped me understand that God does indeed want to use my interest in politics and government and that He, in fact, desires all people to utilize this tool He has given us to seek justice and encourage the oppressed.

Unfortunately, I continued to sense apathy and outright resistance to these thoughts from some fellow Christians. I realized there are two main problems that exist in our Christian culture today that cause this frustrating resistance among genuine believers:

The first problem is that many Christians just do not care about political involvement. This tells us that we as the Church need to do a better job of teaching the importance of public engagement. Loving those around us and speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves is an important sign of true faith, as we see Jesus explain in Matthew 25. Then we need to do a better job of showing the connection between engagement and political engagement: political involvement is not something we pick and choose to do based on interest or time, etc. We should be involved politically because we love God’s people and we have a means at our fingertips to love them better: the tool of government. It is a serious matter that such a large group of Christians in this younger generation have no idea of the wrong being committed by not using their voice for the oppressed.

Students at the University of Missouri encourage their peers to register to vote.

Students at the University of Missouri encourage their peers to register to vote.

The second problem that exists in our Christian culture is purposeful disengagement because of the sinful nature of politics that exists today. While I cannot blame them much for their disgust, this attitude needs to be addressed. By taking ourselves out of the ugliness of our culture, we are actually doing the opposite of what God desires. We are withdrawing from the world with the purpose of protecting ourselves, rather than bringing Christ’s truths into the world to help save it. Instead of showing how much God loves the world, we are telling the world that God does not care.

To counter these two problems, we, as politically engaged believers, must use our voices all the more. Seek out opportunities to speak to others on campus, in your church, or in our workplace of the importance of political engagement. Write studies—or use one of the many wonderful resources that have already been provided on this topic (National Association of Evangelical’s “For the Health of the Nation” is a great place to start)—and teach on the necessity of Christian involvement in the world for the survival of the nation and the betterment of the Church. Narrow in on a few specific issues and how to engage biblically on these issues. Provide practical advocacy opportunities to help lead others to utilize government to bring Christ’s truths to these issues. Make it your goal to help teach and mobilize a group of people in your life to actively use their voice for Christ’s purposes.

If Christians collectively and actively speak out about issues close to Christ’s heart, I believe the political landscape, as well as the Church, will look very different. To get us there, we must continually be leading others to love this world through the tool of political engagement.

Blythe Scott works at The Expectations Project, a faith-based public education reform non-profit that works to mobilize faith communities to close the achievement gap.