butt out

Here’s Why Christians Must Not Simply ‘Butt Out’ of Politics

3 December 2021

5.2 MINS

Christians are regularly told to butt out of politics. But in church history, the heroes are those who impacted the political realm for the better: people like Bonhoeffer and Niemoller. Meanwhile, those who kept their faith to themselves gave the nod to tyrants.

Enemies of Christ and the gospel have always paid lip service to Christians. They pretend to support our freedom to do whatever we want, but what they really demand is this: “You are free to worship your God, but just make sure it is done by yourself in private. Keep your religion out of the public.”

That, of course, is one thing Christians cannot do. Christianity is a most public religion, and it is meant to have a public impact.

A Gospel for the Whole Person and the Whole World

A purely privatised faith that makes no difference to the surrounding culture is not biblical Christianity. All true believers must reject calls by critics and fake Christians for us to butt out of society, culture, and politics. It just ain’t gonna happen.

Two thousand years of church history proves this. Christians have always sought to change their world for the better. They have not been content with a purely privatised or overly spiritualised faith which makes no difference to the world.

Jesus’ commands to be salt and light and love our neighbours as ourselves mean that our gospel will impact the whole person and the whole world. We can appeal to plenty of Christian thinkers on this topic. 

Norman Geisler is one of these. He said:

What sometimes escapes Christians is the fact that the responsibility to love other persons extends to the whole person. That is, man is more than a soul destined for another world; he is also a body living in this world. And as a resident of this time-space continuum, man has physical and social needs which cannot be isolated from spiritual needs. Hence, in order to love man as he is – the whole man – one must exercise a concern about his social needs as well as his spiritual needs.

Salt That’s Not Salty, Light That’s Not Bright

Likewise, in his 1947 work, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, Carl F. H. Henry wrote,

If historic Christianity is again to compete as a vital world ideology, evangelicalism must project a solution for the most pressing world problems. It must offer a formula for a new world mind with spiritual ends, involving evangelical affirmations in political, economic, sociological, and educational realms, local and international. The redemptive message has implications for all of life; a truncated life results from a truncated message.

Indeed, so many Christians are scratching their heads and wondering why things are getting so bad and why our culture is falling apart. Could it not be because Christians have not been obeying the command to be salt and light? As Chuck Colson warned, “We ignore the complete cultural implications of our faith and then we’re shocked by the state of the culture.”

Francis Schaeffer, in A Christian Manifesto (1981), expressed it this way:

Our culture, society, government, and law are in the condition they are in, not because of a conspiracy, but because the church has forsaken its duty to be the salt of the culture.

The Heroes of Church History Didn’t Butt Out

Believers who know little of Scripture or church history continue to think that their faith has no bearing on society, politics, culture, economics and law. They should know better. They should also be aware that enemies of the gospel are also pushing this erroneous view.

I often have people visit my website trying to push this nonsense on me. They are usually just pagan trolls or those pretending to be believers but who are not. Consider just one recent comment:

Everyone is entitled to their political views. And biblical quotes can always be cherrypicked to support any worldview. So how about some honesty here? Express your political view, protest as you wish, but don’t drag Christianity into it. It’s embarrassing, deceitful and a disgusting corruption of Christ’s message.

This is how I replied to the person who posted this remark:

Hmm, where did I hear that sort of talk before? Oh yeah, from neglected history books. Examples are plentiful. Numerous critics told the English politician William Wilberforce to not drag his Christianity into Parliament as he fought to end the slave trade. Thankfully he ignored these fakes and frauds.

And when Hitler gave the same sort of lousy advice to Martin Niemoller and other German pastors (“You confine yourself to the church. I’ll take care of the German people”), they would have none of it.

Sorry but I will always side with real deal Christians like Wilberforce, Niemoller, Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr and countless others who ignored the unhelpful and unbiblical critics and were fully involved in the political and social issues of the day. Opposing such concerned Christians is really what is embarrassing, deceitful and a disgusting corruption of Christ’s message. So how about some honesty here?

The Church’s Response in Hitler’s Day

Niemoller is undoubtedly relevant for us today, since we now hear the same thing that Hitler told him: “Just butt out of public life and stick to internal church affairs.” Hitler was happy for a church that had zero relevance for the political scene. It was only those in the Confessing Church movement that bothered Hitler. It was only them that Hitler tried to suppress.

It is the same today. Plenty of those in politics, the media and elsewhere are happy for Christians to be around. But there is one condition: as long as Christians keep their pesky views to themselves; as long as their faith does not have any bearing on culture and society. (Ironically, of course, lefty ‘Christians’ are quite welcome to speak out and have an impact!)

Sadly, far too many in the churches today are happy to go along with this unbiblical and un-Christian advice. They are far too similar to most Germans last century. Both groups were and are quite content to live their own selfish lives and not get involved in politics and the surrounding culture.

Even if last century’s German Christians were not thrilled with some of the things they saw happening in the public arena, many refused to speak up, preferring to just go about their daily business. As I recently read in What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany by Eric Johnson and Karl-Heinz Reuband:

Although much of the persecution Jews suffered in Nazi Germany was fueled by propaganda and long-term indoctrination, the reaction of much of the German citizenry was ambivalent. Many Germans reacted negatively to the anti-Jewish propaganda and persecution. With regard to some extreme measures – such as publicly labelling Jews by forcing them to wear the Jewish star – a majority appears to have reacted negatively. 

Many Germans, however, were quick to accept the new situation and concerned themselves only with their own private lives and tended not to think about what was happening to the Jews. Thus it was only a very small minority – though still in the thousands – who helped the Jews hide after the deportations had begun, and, even though many might have felt some pity when viewing Jews wearing the Jewish star, they preferred to keep to themselves.

The Majority’s Tendency to Go With the Status Quo

Does this not sound like Australia today? Everywhere we look, we can see our freedoms being stripped away from us. The rise of Big Government and the persecution of a new class of lepers – the unvaccinated – continues. Yet most people “are quick to accept the new situation and concern themselves only with their own private lives.”

The majority refuses to get involved and refuses to take a stand. Indeed, most people just do not want to know what is going on. These apathetic and uncaring people today – including far too many Christians – are just as guilty as their Christian counterparts were 80 years ago.

This is all a part of the danger of an unbiblical gospel that sees Christianity as being of no concern or relevance to the world around us. 

That never ends well, which is why we must roll up our sleeves and get involved.

Originally published at CultureWatch. Image by Oleg Magni on Pexels.


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One Comment

  1. Leonie Robson 3 December 2021 at 10:10 am - Reply

    So very well expressed Bill. Thanks for your insight and substantive history lessons. Our leaders need to read, digest and implement Righteous government in our country. For every person. Christian, atheist … principles of life and freedom, goodness and mercy enable everyone. A rising tide floats all boats, as the saying goes.

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