I thought about this question the other day and have been chewing on it since. It would seem obvious, but maybe it isn’t? I’m not talking politics here. (Everybody has sucked all the fun out of talking politics lately.) I’m asking the question should Believers in Jesus care one way or another if the President of the United States is a godly follower of Christ themselves? I’m going to say, “NO!” I usually find myself playing the middle ground, and looking fairly at both sides. I’m gonna come right out and give my final conclusion – I don’t think Christians should care if their Presidents or politicians are godly. Here’s my reasoning (in reverse order of importance):
3. Evaluating godliness in a secular leader is impossible.
2. Wanting persecution and not wanting persecution are both bad.
1. It abdicates the church’s responsibility.
Let me elaborate.
3. Evaluating godliness in a secular leader is impossible. The Scriptures were written for showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, and training us to live God’s way. (That’s The Message Bible’s translation/commentary on 2 Tim 3:16). The Scriptures were not written as a manual for political leaders to follow. It tells me about sin, but it doesn’t tell politicians how to deal with sinners. No experiment of a government legislating people to live like Christians has ever been successful or desirous. The New Testament comments on leadership are in regards to fathers, pastors, and church leaders. There’s no section written to Caesar on how he should govern (only how he should live.) When Paul stood before the political juggernauts of his day, he flattered them so as not to be killed on the spot and favor kindness with them, and shared the Gospel with them as he did every other human he came across. He had no call for them to act in a certain way. He honestly just wanted to be left alone to do his ministry, and would certainly use political maneuvers to that benefit.
I’m not even sure how I would evaluate a political leader’s godliness. I guess if they were going to church, reading the Bible and praying that would be a good start. Would I expect them to fight to overturn abortion? I know there are believers who would expect a President to overturn the death penalty. I know there are believers also who wouldn’t want a President to overturn the death penalty. Same is true for war, immigration policies, censorship of pornography, the legality of homosexuality. There are good godly Christians who land on different sides of these political debates. Have there been leaders who went to church, read their bible, prayed, said all the right things, and then committed unbelievable atrocities in the name of God? Uh, yes. Type into Google “Hitler quotes on God.” He thought he was a good Christian. It’s easy for me to say, “bull-crap” on that one; but let’s look at the good dudes. Abraham Lincoln seemed like a good Christian, but invited mediums to summon the dead into the White House and killed a whole bunch of Native Americans. George Washington seemed like a good Christian except for owning slaves and actually not believing in Jesus’ divinity because he was a Deist. Jimmy Carter probably was a Christian, but he let inflation and interest rates hit 18%! The ungodliness!!! (I hope you can see the tongue against my cheek.) I honestly don’t think there’s an objective way to evaluate the godliness of political leaders. The Bible just doesn’t give us enough clarity on this issue. War alone has conundrums for the believer and that’s only one issue. Scripture deals with our individual lives and doesn’t get into whether or not we have political control over lots of lives.
2. Wanting persecution and not wanting persecution are both bad. Hear me out on this one. The easy start is, if you say you want to be persecuted, you are an insane person. No one wants to be persecuted. Jesus and Paul on multiple occasions dodged, dipped, ducked, dived, and dodged persecution. They weren’t going to compromise their faith, message, or purpose, but they would happily avoid a stoning or an imprisonment if they could. For our context, it’s not logical to vote someone into office because you know they will persecute you. No one would want that.
I know that was logical, now for the flip side. The goal of the Christian life shouldn’t just be to avoid persecution. How much time, money, and energy should we put into politics to raise up leaders that will support our agenda? I honestly don’t want to put any time, money, or energy into politics. I want to pour that stuff into God’s Kingdom. Do I think that getting the government more on the Christian agenda will help the church be better at reaching the lost? No. (I’ll make more of a case for this in the next paragraph.) Persecution is honestly really good for the church. It purifies it. It strengthens it. It mobilizes it. I don’t seek out persecution because Christians that want to be persecuted usually just act like butt-heads and then claim they’re being persecuted but really they’re just being jerks. Or they aren’t paying their property taxes because they’re claiming their house is really their church and then go to jail for tax evasion. That is not persecution (well taxation is theft but that’s on a different blog – joeallottathelibertarian.com). My main point would be to evaluate the church growth happening in America vs the rest of the World. In almost all measures, Christianity is shrinking in America. Is that because we are being persecuted here? Nope. We are honestly “too” comfortable here. But, Christianity is growing globally. The top 10 countries experiencing growth of over 5% per year are Nepal, China, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Yemen, Mongolia, Cambodia, and Bahrain. Also, many indicators (although denied by their government) is that Iran is seeing 5% evangelical Christian growth per year. There is either government sponsored persecution in those countries or at least societal persecution in every one of them. Looking only for politicians to make us comfortable is literally slowly killing us.
1. It abdicates the church’s responsibility. This is the point that makes me the most frustrated, and why I wanted to end with it. Christians fight so hard for the politicians we think will do the best job and whether we win or lose the election – we lose in our true mission. I know it might sound like I’m advocating for a separatist mentality to politics like the Amish or Mennonites. I’m not. Be as political as you want to be. Fight for federalism, or the Green New Deal, or building a wall, or school choice, or animal rights, or whatever you care about. Don’t set aside your Christianity in those votes, you’re a whole complete person. But don’t get sucked into assuming that Republican, or Democrat, or Trump, or Anti-Trump policies are the best representative for Christianity. Jesus represents Himself just fine in His Word, and the Great Commission that God has placed on our shoulders is COMPLETELY UNAFFECTED by who’s in office. Why would the President or any politician change the fervor to which you serve God’s Kingdom? Do we ever sit back and relax? No, we’re always pressing onward. If what’s happening in politics kicks us into gear, what were we doing earlier then? Ahhh!!!
The main point is this. No politician should have the ability to change your faith, mission, or fervor to live that mission out. Politicians can only make obstacles but obstacles help us stand out. When we watch sports, we notice the athlete that can hit super hard, or jump crazy high, or run super fast. So, if obstacles get put in our way, people will finally take notice. Let Presidents and politicians do their thing. I hope good ones get voted back in (and stay good) and I hope bad ones get voted out. Doesn’t seem to always work that way I guess though. But don’t worry about it y’all. Follow God. Build His Kingdom for His glory. Let the other chips fall where they may.