A theology professor says there are three ways Christians’ religious beliefs should influence how they engage in politics.
Vincent Bacote, director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College in Illinois, was one of the speakers at the Just Gospel 2020 conference at Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia last week.
The first thing to do, according to Bacote, is to recognize that “a Christian is a citizen of the Kingdom of God”, which means “Jesus is their King”.
“Now if Jesus is their King,” he explained, “it means they have their ultimate allegiance to Jesus as their King, which makes all other obligations relative. All other commitments relative.
“If I have ‘non-negotiable political commitments’, am I willing to have those ‘non-negotiable political commitments’ challenged by this king to whom I have ultimate allegiance? Can he ask me, ‘hey, can we review this?’
Bacote challenged those gathered saying that “if Jesus is your king” then “let him question us all the time”, including political positions.
The second concept is the Christian process of sanctification and the recognition that no Christian sees the world “with perfect clarity” as they grow in faith, which means they “may miss things”.
Bacote sought to apply this process of sanctification to political engagement, saying that “when it comes to your politics, you recognize ‘you know, maybe I’m missing something.’ Which then means whatever you do with their political commitments, you have to have a posture of humility, because you haven’t arrived,” Bacote continued.
“If a Christian is becoming holy, holy in position but living according to what that position is, then we need to be humble people when it comes to how we articulate and pursue our political commitments. . ”
The third concept he shared is the Christian belief in the resurrection, which shows that Christians have “the greatest hope of all” and therefore should not act as “a peddler of fear”.
Bacote spoke out against Christians who openly act like “we’re going to lose everything” if the “political fortunes” don’t go their way, which the professor called “Easter amnesia”.
“Did you just go to church?” Did you just hear that God conquered death? ‘Cause if you believe he conquered death, why do you act like, ‘but he can’t deal with this?’ he asked.
Bacote also focused on how he thinks many Christians form their political opinions, arguing that most do so because of secular concerns made immediate to them by others.
As an example, he noted that African Americans tend to vote for Democratic candidates, even though they are generally more socially conservative than the party as a whole.
“If you don’t understand why a lot of African Americans don’t think much about the issue of abortion, it’s because they just think about trying to survive the life they have,” Bacote said. .
“You know, the people who have at least lip serviced these life concerns are more the people in blue than the people in red.”
The Just Gospel conference was held March 5-7 and focused on how Christians in the United States should approach politics.
“We hope to show how Christians who differ on secondary and political issues can nevertheless do so in a charitable way and in a way that preserves both unity and freedom of conscience,” according to the conference website.
“We need and want healing conversations that serve the Church. We need a pilgrimage policy that bears witness to Christ and the Kingdom to which we are heading.
Other speakers included: Jenny Yang, Vice President of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief; Darryl Williamson, senior pastor of Living Faith Bible Fellowship in Tampa, Florida; Russell Moore, chair of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; and Justin Giboney, an attorney who serves as chair of the AND campaign.
During his address, Giboney explained that he thinks too many Christians involved in politics have “become converted to lesser gods and institutions.”
“We have evangelicals who use terms like ‘patriotism’ to silence calls for injustice. Worse still, some people use the gospel as a reason for not doing justice,” Giboney said.
“Then we have Christians who are rightly concerned with justice, but who are not bold enough to speak of the need for obedience and personal transformation along with liberation.”
Giboney added that he believed “many Christians have placed their trust in methods and ideologies that are built on a foundation that is certain to crumble.”
“We have placed our faith in the principles of conservatism or the anticipation of progressivism,” he continued. “We have entrusted our public witness to secular commentators and think tanks who are now thinking for us.”