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COLUMNIST LLOYD OMDAHL: Christian way is not a defiant way

Before Christians become too enthusiastic about defying government with political endorsements from the pulpit, they should consider the unbiblical and divisive nature of such behavior. Secularization of the pulpits through political action will ...

Before Christians become too enthusiastic about defying government with political endorsements from the pulpit, they should consider the unbiblical and divisive nature of such behavior. Secularization of the pulpits through political action will certainly divide the faithful between those interested in spiritual growth and those who favor political action.

A group called the Alliance Defense Fund recently sponsored "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" to encourage pastors to endorse political candidates in defiance of the IRS rule that contributions to churches may be tax deductible only as long as the churches do not engage in partisan politics. The same rule applies to all nonprofit organizations.

The kind of confrontational defiance of government promoted by the Alliance Defense Fund, even though done in the name of religion, is secular, having no basis in Scripture. In fact, the New Testament teaches exactly the opposite kind of demeanor.

In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul asserted that "authorities that exist have been established by God" and "he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted." In his letter to Timothy, he suggested respect for authorities that "we might live quiet and peaceful lives with all godliness and holiness." To Titus, he reiterated the need to respect authority and to be "peaceable and considerate."

Paul knew that if Christian churches became embroiled in secular issues -- even slavery -- two things would happen. First, the resources of the church would be diverted from the Gospel to secular politics; and second, the church witness of loving God and loving neighbors would be repudiated by the hostility inherent in secular controversy.

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This defiance of government has roots in our secular culture, and many Christians have bought into the idea. Consequently, churches are now embroiled in many public issues, some based on Biblical values and some on political values. Instead of measuring their behavior against New Testament tenets, political Christians find it acceptable to practice the deceit and misrepresentation that are standard fare in contemporary politics.

If politicalization of Christianity continues, it will certainly drive wedges among Christians who have different paradigms for thinking out their political decisions. Churches will experience the same polarization that has gripped the secular society.

Eventually, those who hold minority views will leave, and churches will be left serving congregations that become more and more homogenous in their political orientation. Politics will overshadow the Gospel -- as it has with the Alliance Defense Fund -- and political loyalty will become the litmus test for parishioners.

It is ironic that the Christians who believe that God controls the rise and fall of governments are also the ones most intent on influencing the outcome of elections. This suggests that they either don't really believe that God is in control, or they think God can't do the job if left to himself.

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