Our Position in the Political Debate
In this election year the question is often asked, “What should be our approach in taking a stand or position in the political debate around candidates?” Here are a few pointers that I have found helpful:
- Don’t air your private political views in church. Why? Listen to the words of wise counsel from the inspired author, Ellen White: “Those who teach the Bible in our churches and our schools are not at liberty to unite in making apparent their prejudices for or against political men or measures, because by so doing they stir up the minds of others, leading each to advocate his favorite theory. There are among those professing to believe present truth, some who will thus be stirred up to express their sentiments and political preferences, so that division will be brought into the church.” (Counsels for the Church, p. 316)
- On political questions, silence is eloquent. “The Lord would have His people bury political questions. On these themes silence is eloquence. Christ calls upon His followers to come into unity on the pure gospel principles, which are plainly revealed in the word of God. We cannot with safety vote for political parties; for we do not know whom we are voting for. We cannot with safety take part in any political scheme.” (Counsels for the Church, p. 316)
- Mingle without partaking. We are admonished to mingle with people, as Christ taught us (Ministry of Healing, p. 143), but not to partake in worldly pursuits. “There is a large vineyard to be cultivated; but while Christians are to work among unbelievers, they are not to appear like worldlings. They are not to spend their time talking politics or acting politics; for by so doing they give the enemy opportunity to come in and cause variance and discord.
God’s children are to separate themselves from politics, from any alliance with unbelievers. Do not take part in political strife. Separate from the world, and refrain from bringing into the church or school ideas that will lead to contention and disorder.” (Counsels for the Church, p. 316)
- Is all public office taboo? Apparently not. Daniel and Joseph are two well-known public servants called and used by God to fulfill His purposes. Both, however, were able to keep themselves above the wrangling of party politics. They were there to fulfill God’s purpose, not their own political agenda.
- Be law abiding. Should we obey the laws of man? We are admonished to “teach the people to conform in all things to the laws of their state when they can do so without conflicting with the law of God.” (Counsels for the Church, p. 316)
- Don’t attack the government. Some say that we should be aggressive to point out the errors of government. Inspired counsel has this to say, “By some of our brethren many things have been spoken and written that are interpreted as expressing antagonism to government and law. It is a mistake thus to lay ourselves open to misunderstanding. It is not wise to find fault continually with what is done by the rulers of government. It is not our work to attack individuals or institutions. We should exercise great care lest we be understood as putting ourselves in opposition to the civil authorities. It is true that our warfare is aggressive, but our weapons are to be those found in a plain “Thus saith the Lord.” Our work is to prepare a people to stand in the great day of God. We should not be turned aside to lines that will encourage controversy or arouse antagonism in those not of our faith.” (Counsels for the Church, p. 316)
- Take care not to make rash, impulsive statements. “The time will come when unguarded expressions of a denunciatory character, that have been carelessly spoken or written by our brethren, will be used by our enemies to condemn us. These will not be used merely to condemn those who made the statements, but will be charged upon the whole body of Adventists. Our accusers will say that on such and such a day one of our responsible men said thus and so against the administration of the laws of this government. Many will be astonished to see how many things have been cherished and remembered that will give point to the arguments of our adversaries. Many will be surprised to hear their own words strained into a meaning that they did not intend them to have. Then let our workers be careful to speak guardedly at all times and under all circumstances. Let all beware lest by reckless expressions they bring on a time of trouble before the great crisis, which is to try men’s souls.” (Counsels for the Church, p. 317)
- Should we vote? The answer is yes, but there are conditions: “Keep your voting to yourself. Do not feel it your duty to urge everyone to do as you do.” – Letter 4, 1898. (2SM 337.1) Ellen White also encouraged church members to vote in favor of certain temperance laws during the abolition period. “In our favored land every voter has some voice in determining what laws shall control the nation. Should not that influence and vote be on the side of temperance and virtue?” (PH093 8.2)
There is much more that can be said on the topic of voting, but the essence seems to be that we not get entangled or embroiled in political in-fighting, that will break the unity of the church and cause dissention and conflict between brother and brother, sister and sister. We should be loyal and law-abiding citizens of the country where we reside, but always mindful that we are first and foremost citizens of a better country, a heavenly one (Hebrews 11:13-16).