Do churches have role in politics?


As a Christian and someone who considers it a privilege to live in this country, I find myself being drawn into questions of politics and asking myself this very question: does faith, in general, and Christianity in particular, have any place in politics?

Honestly, I don’t have a concrete answer. I am at the point where I am trying to understand what appears to me to be a deliberate abstinence of many Christians and churches from politics all together.

But in a political culture, which is plagued, for example, by moral failings and divisive, even hateful, rhetoric, should there be a more deliberate role for the church relative to political matters?

To be clear, I am not saying that the church is to be a political entity. Rather, I am simply asking if the church has any place in politics, and if so, what?

Personally, I rarely engage in political conversations at church, and I believe it is because there is an unspoken understanding that politics is too divisive and often gets ugly, so we won’t go there.

However, in individual conversations, I do occasionally communicate how my faith in Christ does align with my conservative beliefs, but even then I try not to speak in partisan terms.

However, when I look at many of our churches, they seem to shy away from political issues altogether.

This may be out of fear of causing divisions within the church, losing their tax-exempt status, a misunderstanding of separation of church and state, or something else.

Although I can understand the reason for such concerns, it has been my understanding that while churches ought not advocate political parties and candidates, they need not avoid expressing how their faith speaks to today’s issues.

Furthermore, it is ironic to me that a nation that was founded, in part, on religious freedom and whose churches were highly involved in past socio-political movements like the abolitionist and civil rights movements, now seems strangely silent when it comes to key political issues of our time.

Indeed, I wonder if part of the reason we are seeing the caustic nature of our political discourse is due to the lack of engagement of our religious communities. Without such voices, we are often left with partisans and pundits who are in positions that seem less to help our society and more to advance their political self-interests.

In contrast, our society is narrowly defining the significance of one’s faith to being only what one does inside of a church building, rather than identifying faith as a part of who one is and how they engage public life.

The popular culture and, unfortunately, many people within our churches appear to be content with allowing churches to exist as simply a separate subculture that remains silent when it comes to the social and political issues of the day.

At the heart of this silence is a pervading sense of fear, which I do not believe is consistent with Christian faith.

I predict that if this trend continues, our churches will continue to struggle with remaining relevant in politics and our culture, particularly with younger generations.

With so few churches simply speaking out to the issues of the day, is there any wonder why we are experiencing the heightened, political antagonisms that we are experiencing today?

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]