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The rules/laws of a nation is always controlled by the Religion of the Majority.

During the time of the Old Testament, The Mosaic Law was the Government Law. The New Testament is different.

1 Peter 2:13-17 (NIV) 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Does the New Testament has anything to say about the authority of the Church to question and change the government rules? Some examples:

  1. Abortion
  2. Gay marriage
  3. Birth Control
  4. Capital punishment
  5. Women in military
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From what tradition? A Baptist would have wildly different views than a Catholic here... –  Affable Geek Mar 26 '13 at 11:35
    
This is a very broad and general question, and rather unreasonable to expect that a "right" answer could be provided given the contentiousness of the topics. At minimum, specify a denomination or tradition, like Affable Geek just said. –  El'endia Starman Mar 26 '13 at 11:36
    
I don't think he's asking for individual thoughts on all the examples listed, but rather whether the church as a whole has a right to be politically active. Doesn't seem to broad to me. –  David Morton Mar 26 '13 at 11:38
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Am I also allowed to say there is a politics.se? I hear the moderator there is a real jerk, but it exists. This question is better here, however... –  Affable Geek Mar 26 '13 at 11:49
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"Interfere" is a very poor choice of words. –  Narnian Mar 26 '13 at 15:38
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closed as not constructive by David Stratton, Narnian, Bruce Alderman, Andrew, MaskedPlant Mar 26 '13 at 20:07

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2 Answers

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For Evangelicals*, the seminal work on this very question is Kingdoms In Conflict by Chuck Colson. (Note, the book has been since released for those unable to handle anything less than a summary in its title, as God and Government: An Insider's View on the Boundaries between Faith and Politics.)

Chuck Colson - special assistant to President Nixon during the Watergate coverup turned Christian after his involvement became public - had a unique perspective, in that he was a high ranking government official who became a committed Christian.

In a nutshell, the thesis of his book is that Government was ordained by God for one thing - namely to keep order, and the Church for another - to point souls to God. The conflict between these two stems from those times that the two purport to invade the other's sphere of responsibility.

That citizens are afforded the right to vote, however, informs Colson that individuals are vested in each sphere too. Although we are "aliens and strangers" (Hebrews 11) in this world, we are also called to "pitch our tent here" and be the incarnation. We show love to our neighbors by participating in the process.

Ulitmately, where each individual draws that line - between being "in the world" but not "of it" - is one that is not clear in Scripture. David was wholly political, but also a man after God's own heart. William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King, Jr. were political precisely because they were Christian. Conversely, Baptists would also lift up Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, who started his own colony precisely because he felt the Puritan Reformers of Massachusetts had so thoroughly negated this line.

That we have been afforded the right, as citizens, to influence government in this time and place is a privilege that many would see as a gift of God. To spurn that offer seems rather ungrateful to many.


Note: What separates Evangelicals from Fundamentalists is precisely this point. After the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, most Fundamentalists retreated from the culture as a whole, eschew political involvement. Evangelicals like Billy Graham and Carl Henry were muchly responsible for pulling a segment of that tradition back into the place where they would engage the culture, forming the basis of the modern evangelical movement.

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"Submit" in this passage doesn't mean "behave as a doormat" or "never speak critically of". It means don't rebel. If your "human authority" allows you to take an active part in public discourse, to campaign, to try to influence your fellow voters (which democracies of course do, for people of all faiths or none) this passage doesn't prevent people doing it.

Examples of this include Jesus not obeying the priestly authorities to stop teaching, and similarly the Apostles. Paul argued his case with Felix, and Festus and Agrippa, and then appealed his case to Caesar, making use of his right to do so, instead of meekly submitting to the whim of the local leader. (Acts 25 and 26)

A church that never spoke up for the poor or oppressed would be pretty ineffective.

In terms of differing Christian views on the subject, at one Extreme you have some branches of Mennonites that believe Christians should not play any part in politics at all - they don't run for office or even vote. At the other extreme you have Dominion Theology which holds that all governments should be run according to Christian principles.

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