When you read the title of this post you probably thought it was another article about some controversial worship issue within the Churches of Christ. It’s not. This is actually a post about politics. Specifically, the growing acceptance of political involvement and political speech within the Churches of Christ.
Several decades ago our fellowship was decidedly apolitical. Growing up, I can’t remember a single sermon from the pulpit on politics. There was never any mention of elections, Republicans, Democrats, who we should vote for, or even why we should vote. It was simply a discussion that did not take place in church. Ever.
I never asked why. I assumed it was the same way in every other church (my Southern Baptist friends have since corrected such naivety). Turns out, the reason had to do with our historical roots in the Restoration Movement and the theology it shaped. Early leaders like David Lipscomb were so apolitical they not only avoided preaching politics, they encouraged Christians not to vote at all.
Lipscomb asserted that we belonged to another Kingdom and should devote ourselves solely to it. He also believed that political parties led to violence and divisiveness. For him, and other Restoration leaders, politics had no place in worship. Nor did the American flag, patriotic hymns or the celebration of national holidays. All of which were noticeably absent in the Churches of Christ.
But I see it changing. This election season, I noticed a few Restoration Movement churches with Yes on 1 signage on their marquee. I’m sure no one thinks much of it because a lot of churches have the same signs, but I see it as evidence of a continuing change taking place within our movement. The same thing happens every December as more and more Churches of Christ, ironically, fight to “keep Christ in Christmas.”
I say ironically because, not that long ago, a Christmas tree in a Church of Christ was as rare as a baby grand. We didn’t celebrate Christmas because we didn’t know when Jesus was born, and besides, we were supposed to remember his birth on way more than just December. To make our point, our song-leader always lead “Joy to the World” sometime around mid-July.
But when the secular-progressives (as Bill O’Reilly calls them) started attacking Christmas, the Churches of Christ suddenly got very pro-Christmas. The same thing happened with other issues. As the culture shifted away from traditional values, we got more interested in protecting and defending those values in the political arena. In some cases, I even heard of Church of Christ preachers openly supporting specific candidates or parties.
Some see it as a needed change. The culture is changing and the church can’t sit on the sidelines. We have to be involved in shaping our country’s direction and the Christian voice is desperately needed in American politics. I get that, but I still lean to the old ways here. Mark it down! I’m a “traditionalist” for once!
I’m not as hard-core as Lipscomb though. I do think Christians need to run for public office and vote in elections. I just don’t think it’s my job to tell them how to do either. Therefore, my preaching is (mostly) apolitical and I don’t align with a specific party. I think it’s a mistake to do so because there are Christians in both and Christian elements in both platforms.
My primary task in preaching is to keep people focused on the Kingdom of God and to encourage them to establish its principles in their families, careers, lives and communities. I see how that can easily cross paths with politics, but I think it’s a dangerous intersection. Whenever I near it, I always look both ways and tread with caution.
I’m curious what others think. Do you see our political involvement changing? Are you hearing more political rhetoric from the pulpit these days? And do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing?