SHOULD CHRISTIANS PARTICIPATE IN POLITICS?


I hate politics and the belief in politics because it makes men arrogant, doctrinaire, obstinate, and inhuman – Thomas Mann. 

Politics is a blood sport Aneurin Beran. 

A politician is the devil’s quilted anvil-

He fashions all sins on him and the blows.

Are never heard – John Webster.

I believe that the average Nigerian Christian will unanimously agree with the German writer, the Welsh politician and the English playwright quoted above. Within and outside the church, there is a widespread impression that politics (particularly in the African continent) is synonymous with nepotism, tribalism, assassinations, electoral fraud, thuggery, corruption, double talk, godfatherism, micro-nationalism and every other vice that is possible under the Nigerian State. It is also an infamous fact that most hasty generalisations, misunderstanding and misconceptions of the political class, emanates from the activities of discredited politicians in the First, Second and Third Republics, who regard their political mandates to political offices as swashbuckler missions for personal/family enrichment and aggrandisement.

Is God apolitical?

A common perception of the church is that our God is apolitical – at least as far as the politics of this world is concerned. Jesus’ response to Pilate during his trial that His kingdom is not of this world and His earlier avoidance of worldly kingship in John 6:15 is often cited as a clear indicator that God is apolitical. The Bible reveals that God is a supreme monarch and sovereign over every visible and invisible creation. Of course, the unity, purpose and oneness of the Trinity or Godhead would certainly not be comparable to the politics of the most united government on earth, and the purpose of this essay is not to assert that any government on Planet Earth can or will ever equate the God’s government. As a Christian, I long for God’s perfect government in the New Heaven and a New Earth according to Revelation 21:1-3, nevertheless, I believe that God is interested in the politics of this world which I am a part of, either as an elected leader or a tax paying citizen.

Let us take a trip back to Ancient Israel. In Deuteronomy 17:14-20, God was directly involved in Israel’s monarchy. Although the establishment of a monarchy was presented then as a non-essential but permissive government, it was clear that a human monarchy was not antithetical to the principle of theocratic government (Genesis 17:1-16; 35:11; 49:10). What was an issue was what kind of monarchy that could emerge from God’s permissive will. If the king acknowledged and obeyed the statutes of God, he even enhanced the Old Testament’s symbolic prefiguration of the Messianic reign.

Is God democratic?

It may be argued that democracy, as a form of government, is a contrast to monarchy, which aptly represents God’s kind of government. However, the Bible is filled with democratic principles that God Himself approved. The casting of lots was a practice common in Bible times which is more akin to a lottery than a vote. It is a random selection of nominated or predetermined choices that lumped into a single source. The practice is best seen in the Old Testament in Leviticus 16:8-10; Numbers 26:55-56; Joshua 7:14-18; 14:2; Judges 1:3; 20:9; Nehemiah 10:34; 11:1; and I Chronicles 24:5-19. It is less common in the New Testament before the Pentecost as seen in Acts 1:26 and seemingly absent after the Pentecost. Then, lots were used only when the decision was important and particularly where wisdom or Biblical injunctions did not give sufficient guidance. The major advantage of the casting of lots was the impartiality of choice. According to Proverbs 16:33, it was widely believed that the Lord directed the lots. Noteworthy is the fact that God never condemned the practice. In fact, on several occasions, He even sanctioned the practice (Leviticus 16:8; Proverbs 18:18; Isaiah 34:17). The casting of lots may not exactly reflect today’s voting pattern since a voter squarely decides his or her choice as compared to a random selection. Nevertheless, the thread between the two processes lies in the human ability to make choices; one is random and limited while the other is definite. After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church, the practice of casting lots ceased. The reason is not hard to find. There was obviously no need for the practice to continue as the Holy Spirit guided the church in its decisions.

In a secular country like Nigeria, it is virtually impossible to think of the Holy Spirit overtly determining our next President, Governors and Legislators by His choice. Non-Christians would cry foul, and the country would gradually sink into chaos. Note that I am not contradicting the scriptural assertion that every de facto government is permitted by God (Romans 13:1). I am only stressing that a theocratic endorsement of our leaders is not available in a secular country like Nigeria where religious fanatics lurk in the shadows of the political landscape. Any government can only continue to exist either by veiled dictatorship or regular election, in its quest for legitimacy.

Democracy is all about making choices. God created man a unique being with a prerogative of choice between good and evil, even to the extent of disobeying Him the Creator. Since God permits choices with its antecedent consequences, I believe that He is democratic in the affairs of men, intervening from time to time to mete out justice and protect His holy name. The church today, particularly we the Pentecostals, have become so spiritual that we avoid politics like leprosy. We need to remind ourselves that the Bible manuscripts in Greek used the word “Ekklesia” for the church. It came from a political jargon that described people who ruled. The Holy Ghost did not make a mistake when He picked that word for the church. Whether the church accepts it or not, we are better off taking our positions of authority on the political terrain, while praying out bad governments. When the church participates in governance, there will be harmony, stability and peace.

The Constitutional rights of freedom of speech, freedom of association and the secular nature of a state can only be protected by the presence of thriving democracy. Political stability is a sine qua non of good government. A good government, in turn, provides a healthy and robust basis for welfare.  All tiers of government play a role in propagating God’s kingdom on earth because a stable government encourages an environment conducive to peaceful living, whereas evil autocratic dictatorships foster fear, unrest and instability. The church has to reassert her influence and redeem government to promote good and restrain evil. A Christian in a political office ought to desire a proper administration, which involves effective and efficient implementation of government policies and programmes. Such a government would mould and develop a vibrant and productive citizenry. Citizens who know their rights, duties and obligations of their government are a pre-condition for good government. When citizens do not know their rights and responsibilities, they are exploited by the government. The citizens, in turn, immobilise the government and rebel against a government they do not trust.

We need to prayerfully study the manifestoes of political parties before joining any one of them. The church does not have to be lumped into one political party but our ideals and values can run through any political party we join and knit us into a formidable force that will lead our country to greater heights until His second coming.

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