By / Feb 7

“The Nations Belong to God: A Christian Guide for Political Engagement” is a resource written to help Christians facing an election year. This guide is a starting point for Christians to think about how to engage the political processes around them.

Download the Guide

Every election is about getting the most votes—whether it is at the local level directly from voters or at the presidential level in the Electoral College.

Anxiety and animosity are a driving force behind a number of candidacies. Think of how many times you have heard an office seeker paint the next election as a battle between “us vs. them” or deploy dehumanizing language against opponents, specific groups, or the media.

Why are election years so difficult?

During election season, there is a tendency to reduce complex issues to soundbites. As a consequence, voters are not required to think deeply about problems and solutions. Instead of substantively engaging, voters are asked to become partisan automatons or polarized performers.

  • So how do we see through the political gamesmanship and grift?
  • What can be done to think more deeply how to steward our votes instead of falling into the lazy “binary choice” framework?
  • Most importantly, how can we honor God as we engage in political decisions on Election Day—or any other day?

What is a Christian Guide for Political Engagement?

This guide titled “The Nations Belong to God,” patterned off the ancient model of a catechism, is a starting point for Christians thinking about how to engage the political processes around them. It is not the end of doctrine or teaching on any of these subjects, but a place to begin, a call to consider anew what it means for us to declare, “Jesus is Lord.” 

Though this political catechism was written to help Christians facing an election year, and in a time when there is a growing sense of fear, polarization, vitriol, and apathy about the current landscape of politics, it is also a guide to how life should be lived every other day besides a Tuesday in November every four years. Our political participation should not be boiled down to a vote cast on one day, important as that vote may be.

Politics is about life in community with others, and those relationships exist even when candidates aren’t vying for our votes, donations, and attention. 

Brent Leatherwood, ERLC President

In the face of an election year sure to be filled with angst, division, and fearmongering, the teachings of Jesus will be all the more important for a witness that is bold and hopeful. The hope flowing from a confidence that no matter who occupies the White House, Congress, or seats of power, our citizenship lies in heaven, and our work as ambassadors continues.

Download the Guide

By / Nov 11

In this episode, Lindsay and Brent talk about the results of the midterms and how Christians can think about them. They also discuss the temptation toward discouragement, the path forward, and the hope believers have. 

ERLC Content

Culture

Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

  • Dobbs Resource Page | The release of the Dobbs decision marks a true turning point in the pro-life movement, a moment that Christians, advocates and many others have worked toward tirelessly for 50 years. Let us rejoice that we live in a nation where past injustices can still be corrected, as we also roll our sleeves up to save preborn lives, serve vulnerable mothers, and support families in our communities. To get more resources on this case, visit ERLC.com/Dobbs.
  • Sexual Ethics Resource Page | Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of entertainment and messages that challenge the Bible’s teachings on sexual ethics? It often feels like we’re walking through uncharted territory. But no matter what we face in our ever-shifting culture, God’s design for human sexuality has never changed. The ERLC’s new sexual ethics resource page is full of helpful articles, videos, and explainers that will equip you to navigate these important issues with truth and grace. Get these free resources at ERLC.com/sexualethics.
By / Nov 8

When you think about the political moment we find ourselves in, what thoughts and images come to mind? What emotions bubble to the surface? What motivations drive your political activity? How we answer these questions has significant implications for how politics is done in this country and how healthy we are as a body politic. And increasingly, we’re trending in the wrong direction on both. 

The results of a new national NBC News poll conducted in mid-October pulled back the curtain on Americans’ answers to some of these questions. And the findings (mostly) aren’t good. What has felt palpable and steadily on the rise over the last several years—anger, fear, and extreme partisanship—is spelled out clearly. In light of the midterm elections happening, the findings show we are a country highly interested in the political process but highly divided in our political calculus. And, alarmingly, we’re being driven to the polls in record numbers by a common motivation: anger. Here’s a rundown of some of the poll’s findings.

Major findings

On a positive note, the poll revealed that “voter interest has reached an all-time high for a midterm election.” Using a scale from one to 10, voters were asked to weigh their interest in this November’s elections, and a whopping 70% scored their interest either as a “9” or “10,” which is “the highest percentage ever in the survey for a midterm election at this point.” Eighty-one percent scored their interest at an “8” or above.

While having record-high voter interest and engagement is a positive development, the poll’s revelations about voter motivations and outlook are troubling. According to Mark Murray, “what stands out in the poll is the bipartisan anger among Democrat and Republican voters.” Furthermore, “Eighty-one percent of Democrats” and “an almost-identical share of Republicans” (79%) “say they believe [the other party’s] agenda poses a threat that, if not stopped, will destroy America as we know it.”

With findings like these, it’s no wonder voter interest has reached an all-time high—we have likened our political moment to an “existential crisis” of sorts. And when we view politics this way, as apocalyptic, then our political engagement becomes something resembling the Hunger Games rather than an exercise in bringing about public good. But Christians should know better. We should model a better way.

Anger isn’t the way

What’s clear from the NBC News poll is that American voters, both Republican and Democrat alike, are motivated primarily by their anger. Unhappy with the direction the country is heading and incensed by the opposing party’s platform and its leaders, voters intend to turn out in droves to make their indignant voices heard come election day. But this angry polarization and extreme partisanship is no way to get the country back “on the right track.” It only steers us further in the wrong direction and, when taken to its extreme, leads to senseless and tragic acts of violence like we witnessed with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband

Christians should not be driven to the polls by anger. While episodes of appropriate anger may be warranted at times—as a response to injustice, for instance—an unremitting posture of anger and outrage is at-odds with the Spirit who lives in us. It means we are given over to “the works of the flesh,” as Paul outlines in the book of Galatians. We are not to check the fruit of the Spirit at the door of our local polling place, but are to “walk by the Spirit” right to the voting booth and exercise our Constitutional right for the good of our neighbor and the “welfare of the city. . . for in its welfare [we] will find [our] welfare” (Jer. 29:7). Instead of anger motivating our political engagement, we should be driven by love; love for God and love for our neighbors. 

American politics isn’t ultimate

Underneath voter anger and the hostilities associated with our extreme polarization is a phenomenon one political commentator calls the “ultimatizing” of politics. When politics are ultimate, as we seem to have made them, then each and every election is viewed through apocalyptic lenses. And when apocalypticism colors our view of politics, then it becomes a no-holds-barred contest of us versus them, where “we” view “them” as enemies of the state coming, as the poll shows, to “destroy America as we know it.” 

This kind of thinking inevitably turns our politics into an immoral maelstrom. And, at the personal level, it opens the door for moral compromise, a sort of win-at-all-costs mentality. When we freight elections with ultimacy, describing each one with phrases like “the most important in our lifetime,” we can develop a tendency to overlook or excuse the moral failings of the candidates on our side while trumpeting the purported missteps of those we oppose. We shuck prudence and our moral principles for political expediency, turning our political engagement into a form of moral gymnastics.

But politics shouldn’t be ultimate, every election shouldn’t be apocalyptic, and we shouldn’t see people who disagree with us on political issues as enemies of the state. Instead, as Patrick Schreiner argues, Christians need to put politics in its proper place. And we are to do that by “bring[ing] every part of our lives in conformity with Christ“—which most certainly includes the way we think about and practice our politics.

Politics in the way of Christ

Politics is important but it is not ultimate. When we ultimatize politics we pledge allegiance to the wrong kingdom and we lay moral burdens on ourselves and our fellow voters that politics simply isn’t built to bear. What’s more, our undiluted allegiance to party and politics forms and disciples us into an image at odds with Christ and his kingdom. But there is a better way. 

At a time when American politics has gone haywire, our system “needs people with joyful confidence who seek security not in politics but in Jesus.” In a system presently preoccupied with grabbing and holding power at all costs, the balm for our political milieu is a fresh dose of the fruit of God’s Spirit. In place of the moral compromise that is so normative, we need men and women of goodness and integrity; in answer to our vicious polarization, we need citizens who are committed to being kind and tactful; and instead of anger and outrage, we need a body politic compelled by love. 

While things continue to devolve, as the NBC News poll indicates, Christians bear the responsibility for showing the American electorate a better way, and for holding our elected officials to a higher standard. But in a culture where anger and outrage are growing, and where polarization is presumed to be a political requirement, it’s a task that demands courage and perseverance. Yet we are those who’ve been commanded to walk by the Spirit whose fruit is love, not anger; whose way is marked by kindness and gentleness, not outrage; and who lives inside us, empowering us to live “every part of our lives in conformity with Christ.” In American politics, as in all of life, we should not be known by our anger, our party, or even by our voting record. We should be known by our love: love of God and love of neighbor.