When I hear Christians saying we ought not get involved in politics but just “preach the Gospel,” I show them this satellite picture of the Korean peninsula. Here we see a homogenous population of mostly Koreans separated by a well-fortified border. South Korea is full of freedom, food and productivity—it’s one of the most Christianized countries in the world. North Korea is a concentration camp. They have no freedom, no food, and very little Christianity.
What’s the primary reason for the stark difference between these two countries? Politics. The South politically allows freedom, while the North does not.
Ironically, Christians who shun politics to supposedly advance the Gospel are actually allowing others to stop the Gospel. How so? Because politics and law affects one’s ability to preach the Gospel! If you think otherwise, visit some of the countries I have visited—Iran, Saudi Arabia and China. You cannot legally “preach the Gospel” in those countries—or practice other aspects of your religion freely—because politically they’ve ruled it out as they have in North Korea.
In fact, politics affects virtually every area of your life through the laws made by government. So if you care about your family, business, church, school, children, money, property, home, security, healthcare, safety, freedom, and your ability to “preach the Gospel,” then you should care about politics.
Politics affects everything, which is why leaders throughout the Bible—including Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Nehemiah, Mordecai, Esther, John the Baptist, and Paul— “went political” to influence civil governments to govern morally. Even Jesus himself got involved in politics when he publically chastised the Pharisees—the religious and political leaders of Israel—for neglecting “the more important matters of the law.”
Unfortunately, our lawmakers today are doing the same thing. They use the force of law to tell us what light bulbs to use and what the school lunch menu should be, but neglect to put any restrictions on the taking of human life by abortion! What could be more important than life? The right to life is the right to all other rights. If you don’t have life, you don’t have anything.
But what can Christians do? After all, we can’t legislate morality, can we? News flash: All laws legislate morality! Morality is about right and wrong and all laws declare one behavior right and the opposite behavior wrong. So the question is not whether we can legislate morality, but “Whose morality will we legislate?”
The answer our Founding Fathers gave was the “self-evident” morality given to us by our Creator—the same Moral Law that the apostle Paul said that all people have “written on their hearts.” In other words, not my morality or your morality, but the morality—the one we inherited not the one we invented. (This doesn’t mean that every moral or political issue has clear right and wrong answers. It only means that “the more important matters of the law” – life, marriage and religious freedom for example—do have clear answers that we should heed.)
Notice our Founders did not have to establish a particular denomination or force religious practice in order to legislate a moral code. Our country justifies moral rights with theism, but does not require its citizens to acknowledge or practice theism. That’s why Chris Matthews and other liberals are wrong when they charge that Christians are trying to impose a “theocracy” or violate the “separation of Church and State.” They fail to distinguish between religion and morality.
Broadly defined, religion involves our duty to God while morality involves our duty to one another. Our lawmakers are not telling people how, when, or if to go to church—that would be legislating religion. But lawmakers cannot avoid telling people how they should treat one another— that is legislating morality, and that is what all laws do.
Opposition to abortion or same-sex marriage, for example, does not entail the establishment of a “theocracy.” Churches and the Bible also teach that murder, theft, and child abuse are wrong, but no one says laws prohibiting such acts establish a theocracy or are a violation of the “separation of church and state.” In fact, if the government could not pass laws consistent with church or biblical teachings, then all criminal laws would have to be overturned because they are all in some way consistent with at least one of the Ten Commandments.
Second, there are churches on both sides of these issues. In other words, some liberal churches, contrary to scripture, actually support abortion and same-sex marriage. So if church-supported positions could not be put into law, then we could not have laws either way on abortion or same-sex marriage. Absurd.
Finally, most proponents of same-sex marriage argue as if they have some kind of moral right to having their relationships endorsed by the state. They claim that they don’t have “equal rights” or that they are being “discriminated” against. Likewise, abortion advocates claim they have a moral “right” to choose an abortion. None of these claims are true, as I have explained elsewhere. Nevertheless, their arguments, while flawed, expose the fact that independent of religion they seek to legislate their morality rather than the morality.
If you have a problem with the morality, don’t blame me. I didn’t make it up. I didn’t make up the fact that abortion is wrong, that men are not designed for other men, or that natural marriage is the foundation of a civilized society. Those unchangeable objective truths about reality are examples of the “Laws of Nature” from “Nature’s God,” as the Declaration of Independence puts it, and we only hurt others and ourselves by suppressing those truths and legislating immoral laws.
When we fail to legislate morally, others impose immorality. For example, totalitarian political correctness is already imposed in states such as Massachusetts where the implications of same-sex marriage override the religious liberties of businesses, charities and even parents. As documented here and illustrated here, same sex marriage prevents you from running your business, educating your children, or practicing your religion in accord with your Conscience. And soon, as is the case in Canada, you may not be able to merely speak Biblically about homosexual behavior. That is because those who say they are fighting for “tolerance” are often the most intolerant.
Unless Christians begin to influence politics and the culture more significantly, we will continue to lose the very freedoms that enable us to live according to our beliefs and spread the Gospel all over the world. That’s why you should not vote for candidates because of their race or religion, but because they will govern morally on the more important matters of the law—life, marriage and religious freedom. (To see where all the major candidates stand visit the non-partisan website http://www.ontheissues.org.)
If you are a pastor who is worried about your tax-exempt status: 1) you have more freedom than you think to speak on political and moral issues from the pulpit; 2) if you do not speak up for truth now, you will soon lose your freedom to speak for anything, including the Gospel; and 3) you are called to be salt and light, not tax-exempt.
Frank Turek is coauthor of I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, and the author of Stealing from God: Why atheists need God to make their case. See more of his work at CrossExamined.org.