So, to clarify things a bit, I believe that Christians have every right to participate in politics. Indeed, I believe that they should participate. They should also be guided by their prayer, their study of God's Word, and their Christian sensibilities as they vote, donate to candidates and causes, and so on.
(In the past, I've also stated the belief, held by Declaration of Independence signers John Adams and John Witherspoon, that in order for democracy to work, the vast majority of the populace must be Christian. Only the Judeo-Christian view of life takes practical, realistic consideration of the sinfulness of humanity and its susceptibility to redemption through the grace offered by the God seen in Jesus Christ!)
What I object to, and object to strenuously, is the attempt by some clergy types and Christian leaders to hijack the Gospel, presuming to enlist Jesus in support of their own specific political agendas.
I object to them allowing politicians to use the church, as is happening this year in Ohio's gubernatorial race, to collect funds for political campaigns or to let candidates make campaign appearances during worship.Faithful, Bible-believing, Jesus-following Christians can and do disagree about political issues. For example, the party to which I belong--the Republican--generally advocates an end to abortion, certainly a position rooted in Christian ethics. But Democrats frequently oppose capital punishment, also because of the value they place on human life. You could go down a list of issues like these and show the Christian underpinnings of opposing views.
I object to preachers who presume to tell their flocks that Jesus Christ prefers Candidate X or Party R or D.
Rare is the political issue on which a "Christian" position is unambiguously clear.
The late founder of a worldwide adult literacy movement, Frank Laubach, was also a man of constant prayer. Three years ago, I posted something about one of Laubach's books on prayer. It bears some relevance to this subject. Here's what I wrote:
"I keep a file of meaningful quotes drawn from the books I read. Prayer: The Mightiest Force in the World is full of great quotes. In the current international crisis though, several stand out:Of course, Christians can and should be involved in political affairs. But, except in the rarest of instances, no official church body, clergy person, or Christian leader should say more than, "As Christians, we think this. But we can't claim the imprimatur of heaven for it."
"'Most of us will never enter the White House and offer advice to the President. Probably he will never have time to read our letters [or our e-mails, I thought, as I read this]. But we can give him what is far more important than advice. We can give him a lift into the presence of God, make him hungry for divine wisdom...We can visit the White House with prayer as many times a day as we think of it, and every such visit makes us a channel between God and the President.'
"He also says that in our praying for the President and other leaders, '[w]e do not 'persuade God to try harder'...; it is our world leaders, our statesmen and church men [sic] whom we persuade to try harder. We help God when we pray. When great numbers of us pray for leaders, a mighty invisible spiritual force lifts our minds and eyes toward God. His Spirit flows through our prayer to them, and He can speak to them directly.'
"I laughed out loud when I read this assertion by Laubach: 'We can do more for the world with prayer than if we were to walk into Whitehall, London, or the Kremlin in Moscow, and tell those men [sic] what to do---far more! If they listened to our suggestions, we would probably be more or less wrong. But what God tells them, when they listen to Him, must be right. It is infinitely better for world leaders to listen to God than for them to listen to us.' These lines made me laugh because I thought how right Laubach was. I remembered how many times I held doggedly to an opinion about a political matter only to learn how misguided and wrong my view had been. How much better it is to humbly and trustingly place matters in God's hands, confident in His infinitely superior judgment. And how much better it is to put frail human leaders in God's hands than trying to manhandle them with my very fallible opinions and judgments!"
Most of the time, except on those things directly addressed in Scripture, nobody has the authority to say, "Thus says the Lord..." That's not only preumptuous. It borders on the idolatrous, idolizing either our selves and our own intellects or idolizing the ideologies to which we dare to subordinate Jesus Christ.
[For further reading, you might be interested in my series, Habits of the Heart, rooted in Alexis de Tocqueville's observations of the United States in the early nineteenth century, Democracy in America: